Everyone knows Barcelona. The home of great beaches, even better food and some of the most incredible architecture you’ll find anywhere, not least La Sagrada Familia – Gaudí’s staggering, soaring basilica.
But how many people really know Barcelona? Who can – with authority – advise you on the best places to stay, the best sights to see and the best restaurants to visit, and through their recommendations help you to experience the city in a truly authentic way?
At Inntravel, a number of people fall into the above category, but none are more qualified than Raquel Lamazares and Mariana Mier y Teran, both of whom call the Catalan capital home. Earlier this year, Raquel and Mariana joined forces to create two new self-guided walking trails around the city – each packed with their expert local insights.
When we heard what they’d been up to, we were intrigued, and keen to find out more about how they designed these new tours. So we tracked down Raquel to – where else? – a bustling Barcelona café, and asked for her side of the story…
Inntravel: So, first question – why did we need the new trails?
Raquel: Barcelona has so much to offer, and we weren’t doing it justice. Now, as well as the main sights, Inntravel customers will have the opportunity to visit some really remarkable places, including my favourite neighbourhood – an area away from the centre that few tourists get to see.
Inntravel: Sounds great! Can you tell us a little more about each trail, and how you came to put them together?
Raquel: These trails have been a long time in the making! I first started leading tours around Barcelona as a student, and some of the routes I used to take have made their way into the first trail, which is a gastronomic journey across the city centre, combining wonderful food markets, restaurants and bars with art galleries, Gothic masterpieces and Roman ruins. As for the second trail, it explores a neighbourhood I know even better – where I grew up and where you’ll still find me today! It’s not in the city centre so it’s not a place many guidebooks take you to, but it’s brilliant, full of character and local life.
Inntravel: You mentioned that the first trail is a gastronomic journey; what can customers expect?
Raquel: This trail combines and connects three key city centre areas in a really nice way – and as it moves from vibrant El Raval to the historic Gothic quarter to fascinating El Born, it traces Barcelona’s history through food. Customers can expect plenty of recommendations from us – including the most exquisite place to enjoy tapas and the fabulous El Xampanyet bar, renowned for its anchovies and sparkling wine – as well as visits to city institutions, from La Boqueria, one of Europe’s largest and most famous food markets, to the much-loved Carrer de Petritxol, where chocolate shops started popping up as far back as the 17th century, and where we know just the place to enjoy a traditional Catalan hot chocolate.
Inntravel: Any foodie highlights to look out for on the second trail?
Raquel: Definitely! The bars and restaurants I’ve suggested customers visit on this tour are those I go to with my family, or where you’ll find me most evenings with friends. I’ve only held one restaurant back, my very favourite place – I have to keep some secrets!
Inntravel: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Raquel: Just two things – I need to mention El Born, one of the areas explored by the first trail. This medieval neighbourhood was once home to the city’s guilds, and the streets continue to bear their names, such as l'Argenteria – the street of the silversmiths. There is so much history contained within El Born’s narrow, winding alleyways, and it’s a part of the city centre that doesn’t feel overly touristy and which has managed to maintain a distinct identity – you can still see craftsmen and artisans at work today, and buy their wares.
Inntravel: Two things?
Raquel: We also have a new hotel in Barcelona, and I’m very excited about it. This hotel has a great on-site restaurant – one which is very popular with locals – as well as an ideal location: close to the city centre but in a thriving neighbourhood brimming with shops, bars and restaurants. It’s also just around the corner from some of Barcelona’s most celebrated buildings, including Gaudí's iconic La Pedrera. Oh, and did I mention that the hotel comes with a rooftop pool?!