We spoke to Marta Laurent Veciana, a private tour guide in Barcelona, about the city she knows and loves, and this is what she had to say:
I love it every time that I get a client who didn’t really know what Barcelona was going to be like. When they discover the variety of the city and its beauty, their expressions of fascination and surprise are great! We’ve got old and new, seaside and hills, sport and museums, great food, fine shopping… But if I have to choose one thing, the Gaudí architecture is what surprises everyone the most, even those who already knew about it!
The best way to see as much as possible in little time, and get to understand and love what you are seeing at the same time, is hiring a (good!) private guide – someone that has experience, speaks the local language(s) and has plenty of good reviews. You’ll be taken by the hand by a local and be able to ask as many questions as you want. Your guide will know the shortcuts that make your itinerary the most time-efficient, and most likely he/she will be able to cut the lines into museums and attractions.
Reviews are important, but above all, trust your gut and chose someone whose style you like. Choosing the right person will totally determine how much you’ll be enjoying your tour!
If a visitor to Barcelona could only eat one thing… only one? No way! There are so many things to eat! Super thick hot-chocolate with churros (top it with whipped cream to make a “suís”!), a wonderful rice dish by the port, “pa amb tomàquet” (tomato bread) with jabugo ham or some wonderful local cheese, a glass of cava sparkling wine… can’t just chose only one!
My favorite park is still the Parc Güell, even if I go there almost every day with clients, because it is so colorful! It takes me to those fairy-tale lands of my childhood (but if you can, go in the afternoon to avoid the crowds). My second favorite park, La Ciutadella, is full of people in the weekend relaxing, outdoor dancing, and sunbathing. It’s a great place to hear the city’s heartbeat. My third favorite park is El Laberint d’Horta. Not many tourist get there, but it’s a secret gem and easy to get to by subway. It’s so much fun entering the little cypress-tree maze and getting lost for 5 minutes before you find your way out!
For shopping, I recommend most often to visitors… the creative Escribà cake shop or the trendy ones from Bubo. How can I say only one? And, also Torradors Gispert: I love their 160 year old wood oven where they still roast all kind of nuts in the mornings. I’m all about the food!
My favorite museum in Barcelona is… definitely the Picasso Museum! When people tell me they don’t like Picasso because he’s too weird, I tell them that they’ll enjoy this museum anyway, because it’s mostly about his early works when he hadn’t “gone crazy” yet. And once inside, after seeing his early evolution, I have them ready to understand (and even smile at!) his late works. I love when little miracles like this happen.
However, if you are not visiting the museum with a good tour guide, make sure you get the audio guides or the museum guidebook before going in as there isn’t much information inside the rooms. Also, if you are looking for masterpieces here, you might get a bit disappointed. True, no big masterpieces are in this museum, but… there is a cool story behind almost every painting, and that’s what makes me love this place so much!
If a visitor only had one day in Barcelona, they should… head to the Sagrada Familia church first of all! You should never leave Barcelona without having entered it, especially now that the inside is completed and there is no scaffolding, building materials, or works in progress anymore.
You’ve never been anywhere like it before!
After that, take a stroll down Passeig de Gràcia passing by other Gaudi sites such as Casa Milà and Casa Batlló, walk around La Rambla and maybe stop for lunch at some vibrant bar of the Boqueria Market. In the afternoon, stroll around the Old Town getting lost in its medieval alleys, and finish the day in the harbor having a fantastic dinner by the sea. Is there a better plan?
Marta Laurent Veciana says it is her extensive travel experience around Europe, the Middle East, and even Russia, that has helped her add that special touch to her own local tours of Barcelona. Marta loves meeting new people and has been doing so as a Barcelona tour guide since 2000. Private tours are her specialty, and she prides herself on being able to create the perfect customized tour of Barcelona on just about any theme: tapas tours, old stores tours, garden tours, gourmet tours, and legends tours to name a few. However, her tours are never limited to just the city; discovering the Catalonia region, and hot spots such wine country, the seaside, and nearby Dali Museum, are all options, and Marta is always ready for the challenge!