By Regina W Bryan in Barcelona—
There is a feeling among some backpackers and DIY-type travelers that tours are for, well, tourists. Granted, I don’t want to be one of 75 people following a guide’s orange flag through the city streets of Rome or London. Not only do those sorts of tours make me feel embarrassed, it’s almost impossible to hear what the guide is saying with that many people.
This is not to say I don’t like tours. I love tours. Tours with a local in Barcelona (or any city) are excellent ways to A) meet a local (the guide), B) pick his brain about where to eat dinner, and C) learn all sorts of weird stuff about the place you’re visiting.
In Barcelona I have taken quite a few tours even though I live here. These tours have opened my eyes and helped me to see a side of the city that I never would have experienced otherwise. Here are my suggestions for local, small, savvy city tours in Barcelona:
George Orwell Tours
Before booking with Alan Warren of George Orwell Tours, read Homage to Catalunya by George Orwell. Warren’s tours focus on Barcelona during the Civil War, a fascinating time in Spanish history which has not been forgotten by the older generation and has certainly shaped current culture in Barcelona and Catalonia.
Many foreigners from the United States and the United Kingdom came to Spain during the Civil War to fight for the Republic and against fascism (a little known fact), and George Orwell was one of them. Later, Orwell went on to write Homage to Catalunya about his experiences in Barcelona and on the front.
Warren’s tour takes visitors on a stroll through 1930’s Barcelona visiting important Orwell sights, such as the hotel he stayed in, battle grounds, and the George Orwell Square. If you’re interested in anarchy, the Civil War and Spanish politics, this is the tour to go on. It’s also very affordable.
Secrets and Legends Tour
Juan J. Pardo Eimil took me on one of the best tours I’ve ever done. What’s more, the tour was of the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona, an area I’ve trod extensively over the last six years. His Secrets and Legends Tour, which explores the Roman and medieval center of the metropolis, is the ideal way to get to know Barcelona. Book him on your first or second day in the city to gain your bearings.
His tour company, Juan Ciempies Turisme Cultural, offers several tour options. Those already familiar with the city may want to ask him about his El Raval neighborhood tour to see a less “touristy” part of the city, which is rich in history and incredibly trendy with young people these days.
Here are some more options for touring around Barcelona:
Runner Bean Tours - “Free” tours of the city; tipping expected at the end.
El Moli Tours - Not in Barcelona, but just outside the city in wine country. Tours by bike and foot. Lots of wine tasting!
Barcelona By Bike - Bike tours of the city daily.