If you’re planning a visit to Barcelona, Spain, chances are you’ve read that sentence — or a similar one — in every guidebook and on every suggested itinerary. And while yes, Sagrada Familia is a must-see (along with Antoni Gaudí’s other architectural masterpieces like Park Guell and Casa Batlló) and exploring the Picasso Museum and La Rambla are amazing ways to spend a day, there’s more to Barcelona than modernist art and architecture.
In fact, for the more adventurous visitor, Barcelona is a treasure trove of the unusual and unique. Why not spend some of your Barcelona holiday doing something out of the ordinary? When you return home, you’ll still have photos of Gaudí’s famous cathedral — as well as some you might not expect.
Dine in the Dark
Studies indicate when you lose one sense, the others become more receptive to stimuli. So it makes sense, then, that some restaurant owners are opening spots where diners eat in the dark. When diners cannot see their food, they are forced to focus on the flavor, textures and aromas, making the meal a more sensory — and in some cases, sensual — experience than in a traditional restaurant.
When you’re in Barcelona, make a reservation for Dans le Noir?, a legendary restaurant that pioneered the concept of dining in the dark. You’re brought to your table in the pitch-black dining room by a blind waiter, who deftly leads you through the multi-course meal.
If you’d rather see what you’re doing, but still crave a unique experience, head to Barcelona’s Ice Bar, on the beach near Port Olimpic. Don one of the cozy fur-lined coats supplied by the bar, and enjoy a cocktail or two in the subzero temperatures. At the Ice Bar, even your glass is made from solid ice, and the entire experience is a welcome respite from the sweltering temperatures outside.
Go Back in Time … Way Back
Nearly every city has an unusual museum or two, and Barcelona is no different. The newest, and most unique, collection is the Mammoth Museum. No, it’s not an exceptionally large museum; the facility is devoted to everyone’s favorite prehistoric creature, the wooly mammoth. Nowhere else in the world can you find more (or better) preserved specimens artifacts related to proboscideans (that’s mammoths, for non-paleontologists). While the life-size skeletons and reproductions of the prehistoric creatures are major draws, what makes this museum truly special is the fact that it’s a hands-on facility. That’s right — go ahead and touch that tusk.
Get (a Little) Lost
You might think of hedge labyrinths as something you’d find behind an English country manor, but you’ll find one of the world’s most unusual on the outer edge of Barcelona, in Horta. The Parc del Labirint is rarely visited by tourists (or locals) and features a 300-year-old hedge maze designed by architect Dominic Bagutti. A favorite of the kids, the labyrinth is a fabulous place to lose yourself and burn off some of the paella you’ve stuffed yourself with.
Poble Espanyol Village
While Gaudí gets much of the attention in Barcelona’s architectural circles, the city hides another architectural treasure. The Poble Espanyol Village was constructed in 1929 as part of the World Fair and Exposition, which Barcelona hosted that year. Located on Montjuic, a mountain outside the city, the village is designed to be an ideal representation of all Spanish architectural styles. The village now houses shops, restaurants and clubs, and hosts a variety of events throughout the year. No visit to the village is complete without taking in the flamenco show “El Tablao de Carmen.” The show is not choreographed; dancers improvise to the music and rhythm of the music in each show, making each performance unique.
While you might find a bed and breakfast in Barcelona is an ideal spot for sparking romance, you can enhance your connection with a chocolate massage. Yes, it’s just what it sounds like: You (and your corazón, if you choose) can be rubbed down with warm, melted chocolate at Barcelona Massage. A chocolate massage isn’t only good for inspiring your sweet tooth; it’s actually good for the skin, offering anti-aging and cellulite properties. If nothing else, a chocolate massage is one way to enjoy a sweet treat without gaining any weight.
If you’re a first-time visitor to Barcelona, or you’ve visited before and want something new to try between rounds of sangria, consider one of these out-of-the-ordinary experiences in between trips down La Rambla and the more popular tourist spots.