See Barcelona like a local: My six favorite off the beaten path experiences

Barcelona beach at sunset

Barcelona is without a doubt one of Spain’s most popular cities, and it’s easy to see why. Located right by the Mediterranean Sea, it has some of the best city beaches I’ve seen anywhere in the world so far, the bar scene is exceptional and the architecture outstanding. With Gaudi’s spectacular constructions, the marvelous Gothic Quarter and the notably different neighborhoods, Barcelona is more diverse than most other Spanish cities and can keep you entertained for weeks. Most people only have a couple of days to explore the main sights, such as the Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia Church, Park Güell and Modernist buildings, the Ramblas pedestrian street and La Boqueria Market, the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc, and not to mention all the world-class museums and art galleries. If you have more time though, I highly recommend trying to include a few Barcelona off the beaten path experiences and visit some of the places that most tourists don’t get to see.

How to Go Off-the-Beaten Path in Barcelona

barcelona off the beaten trackBarcelona off the beaten pathThe great thing about Barcelona is that most of the city’s hotels are located very centrally, particularly which means you can do a lot of exploring by foot, and for the further-out places you can use the reliable metro system.

But the best way to see Barcelona like a local is by staying in an Airbnb – and luckily, there are plenty of Airbnb’s in Barcelona. They’re usually located in local neighborhoods, which allows you to get a glimpse into authentic Barcelona life. Staying in an Airbnb also saves you a lot of money—you can see on the map that there are plenty of Airbnb’s for less than $50 a night!

Here are my six favorite Barcelona off the beaten path experiences:

1. Els Encants flea market

Els Encants is not only Barcelona’s biggest, but also its oldest flea market. Over 500 vendors gather here to sell everything from vintage clothes, jewelry, accessories, furniture and antiques. You can find some amazing deals here, and if you speak at least a little bit of Spanish, you’ll be able to snatch some real bargains at Els Encants.

When? Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 9am-5pm.
Where? Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes (Metro station Glòries on the L1)

2. Hang with the hipsters in Gràcia

Trendy Gràcia has become Barcelona’s hipster hangout over the past few years, and you find countless trendy coffee shops, quirky independent stores and creative eateries in this neighborhood. The area is great for shopping – especially fashion – but also people watching: Sit down in one of the many cafés with outdoor seating and watch Barcelona’s hip and beautiful crowd go about their day – see Barcelona like a local! Coming from central Barcelona, Gràcia with its narrow alleys was able to maintain some of the village feel it used to have when it was a separate village from Barcelona. If you’re a fan of ethnic food, you’ll love the big range of international restaurants here, ranging from Lebanese to South East Asian cuisine .

Gracia by Steph on

When? Anytime
Where? The closest metro stations are Fontana and Lesseps on L3

3. Santa Caterina Market

If La Boqueria is too touristy and too crowded for you, head over to Santa Caterina Market in the Sant Pere neighborhood instead. The neighborhood itself is worth a stroll, and Santa Caterina market is also very photogenic with its stunning architecture, specifically the wave-shaped multicolored ceramics roof. This is a very local, typical fruit and vegetable market where the locals shop for fresh produce, meat, cheese, flowers and fish. Pick up some local ham, olives, cheese and wine and head over to Parc de la Ciutadella for a picnic. Or alternatively: Right across the main entrance from the market you find Cuines Santa Catarina, an excellent taps bar.

When? Mondays 7.30am – 2pm; Tuesday & Wednesday 7.30am – 3.30pm; Thursday & Friday 7.30am – 8.30pm; Saturday 7.30am – 3.30pm; closed on Sundays
Where? Francesc Cambó, 16 (closest Metro Jaume I on the L4)


4. Explore multi-cultural Barcelona in El Raval

El Raval is the most ethnically mixed neighborhood and while it’s located right in the city central and very close to Las Ramblas, not a lot of tourists make their way here. The area is a little seedier than the rest of the city, and while that might scare off some people, it actually shows you an authentic corner of the city and makes you feel that you’ve found Barcelona off the beaten path. The area is becoming more and more gentrified as well, and the clash of hipsters and immigrants is interesting to see. The narrow streets invite to wander and get lost, cheap kebab shops make for cheap (and delicious!) lunch stops and thanks to the gentrification, some cool stores have moved into the neighborhood as well. If you’re into art, don’t miss the MACBA (Contemporary Art) and the CCCB (contemporary culture center with changing exhibitions).

Where? The closest metro stops are Drassanes or Liceu on the L3, Sant Antoni on the L2, Paral-lel on the L2 or L3.

Barcelona El Raval 064
El Raval by Alain Rouiller on

5. Get lost in the labyrinth park of Horta

The Parc del Laberint d’Horta is the oldest garden in Barcelona, and is a gorgeous place to bring a date to! The labyrinth opened in 1791, and is a wonderful quiet space away from the hustle and bustle in the city center. In addition to the labyrinth, you’ll find beautiful sculptures, gardens and ponds. Do as the locals do and bring a picnic and enjoy one of the most underrated green spaces in the city.

When? May to September: 10am – 9pm; March & October: 10am – 7pm; April: 10am – 8pm; November – February: 10am – 6pm.
Where? Pg Castanyers, 1 (Closest metro stop: Mundet on the L3)

6. Discover a lesser known Gaudi

Eusebi Güell, one of Gaudi’s main patrons, actually gave Gaudi his first commission when Güell wanted to extend his family vacation home in Barcelona’s Sarrià neighborhood. He landscaped the vast garden and built two gatehouses, plus a remarkable wrought-iron gate in the shape of a dragon between 1884 and 1887. The gatehouses, known as Güell Pavilions, have the for Gaudi typical colorful ceramic decorations in geometric shapes.

While you’re here, you can add another Barcelona off the beaten path experience: Take a stroll around the Sarrià and Pedralbes neighborhoods, two quieter neighborhoods of the city up in the hills, with silent squares and narrow streets sloping downwards to the city center. Apparently Bar El Tomas de Sarria () has the best patatas bravas in all of Barcelona!

Güell Pavilions
Güell Pavilions by Kent Wang on

When? Open only for guided visits; Saturdays and Sundays tours in English start at 10.15am and 12.15am- you can see the gatehouses and the gate from the outside for free, though.
Where? Av. Pedralbes, 7 (closest metro stop is Palau Reial on the L3, closest bus stop is also Palau Reial on the following lines 7, 33, 63, 67, 75, 78 and H6)


Barcelona hotels

Have you been to Barcelona? What’s your favorite Barcelona off-the-beaten path experience? Share in the comments below!

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Hotel Tip of the Week: Hotel Hesperia Sevilla | Spain

hotel tip of the week

Welcome to our Hotel Tip of The Week series. Being on the road every day of the year means we stay at countless hotels along the way. For all the disappointing  digs, there are as many accommodation gems. We post one hotel tip of the week, every week, of places we feel confident recommending after having tried and tested them ourselves. This week: Hotel Hesperia in Seville, Spain.

Hotel Hesperia Seville
A few years ago we flew in to Seville for the first part of our Train through Spain vacation and, both enamored by this steamy southern Spanish city; we knew we would be back. When the time came for us to visit again this year, we also knew that we would again book in to the Hesperia Sevilla. The Seville hotel sits right in that sweet spot of location, price, service and room quality that made our decision to stay there again this year easy to make.

After a quick 15-minute ride from the international airport, we found ourselves standing in the cool marble lobby at the Hesperia Sevilla, which oozes Spanish style from its public spaces to the Art-Deco style rooms. Because the hotel is located outside the historic center, the bright rooms here are a spacious, purpose-built 24 square meter size with deep, comfortable beds, making it just as satisfying to spend time in the room as enjoying Sevilla. The bathrooms are equally spacious and bright, towels are perfectly fluffy, and toiletries include everything from the sewing kit to a full-size toothbrush.

Hotel Hesperia SevillaThe free in-room wi-fi connection worked without a hitch. Simply pick up a password at the front desk and sign-in one time and you are connected for the duration of your stay. The staff at Hesperia Sevilla, though not masters of the English language, is guest-oriented and helpful, while the large leather couches arranged in the lobby are great to sink into meet with friends at night or read the paper in the morning. The on-site parking lot is great for those guests traveling by car. We opted not to eat at the hotel Tapas bar, choosing to dine instead at a couple of ‘cervecerias’ nearby.

We appreciated the location of Hesperia Sevilla, in a bustling neighborhood where locals drink their morning coffee, gossip over late lunches with friends or enjoy tapas late into the night at the many tapas bars. The four-star Seville hotel conveniently sits right on the main Avenida Eduardo Dato so cabs are readily available, but Hesperia is only a 15-minute walk to the center of the Andalusian capital, just up the road from the train station where high-speed AVE trains leave for destinations throughout Spain, and around the corner from good shopping/dining options at the El Corte Ingles shopping mall, a Spanish shopping institution.

Stand-Out Feature: Value For Money

Hesperia Seville offers competitive rates for a four-star Spanish hotel. The hotel works closely with several booking websites and also offers deals and packages on its own website. When a bed in a shared dorm room can cost around $25-35 per person in most European cities, a rate of $70 for two at Hesperia Sevilla is that much more attractive. The hotel is perfect for business travelers (offering business & meeting facilities) but the price and location make it also perfect for families, couples and even large tour groups.

Room for Improvement: The Noise Factor

In a city like Seville, where there are ways to fill your day from morning until the wee hours, most guests spend limited time inside the hotel. If that sounds like how you travel, the paper-thin walls might not bother you in the least. But for loved-up couples or parents with vocal children – your neighbors will hear you and you will hear them.

Overall – Hotel Hesperia in Seville, Spain

We found Hesperia Sevilla to be a bright, stylish mid-range hotel in a great location with all the necessary services and facilities to meet the needs of both business travelers and tourists to Seville.

Hotel Hesperia Seville

Location: Avenida Eduardo Dato, 49, Sevilla, Spain
Price: from 50 Euros for a double room
LGBT Friendly: yes
Digital Nomad Friendly: Yes
Amenities: wi-fi, meeting rooms, desks, mini-bar, oversized bathtubs

Like this hotel? Book it here.

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Everything you kneed to know about La Sagrada Família

barcelona la sagrada familia

The Sagrada Família, located in Barcelona, Spain is hands down an architectural masterpiece. Designed by Antoni Gaudí in the 1880s, it is still under construction today after 135 years since the cornerstone was first placed. The project is estimated to be finally finished by 2026. The Sagrada Família is part of the history of Barcelona and a must-see on your trip to the city.Sagrada Familia Gaudi Barcelona

From the Vatican to Barcelona

Known today as one of Gaudí’s most recognizable works, originally he was not the architect in charge of the project. In 1882, Josep Maria Bocabella had returned from the Vatican inspired by its iconic churches with a desire to build a religious building that would stand out and mean something, inspired from the basilica at Loreto. He founded the Spiritual Association of the Devotees of Saint Joseph, and he began the campaign to build a temple dedicated to the Holy Family.Sagrada FamiliaThe architect in charge was Francisco de Paula del Villar, whose original plan was a Gothic revival church of standard form. The crypt of the church started in 1882 with the original design. After six years, Francisco resigned from the lead role. He had had several disagreements with Joan Martorelli, and then it was offered to Antoni Gaudí who assumed the role on the design in 1883, but obtained the lead of the project as Architect Director in 1884.Sagrada Familia

Under Construction Since 1882

When Antoni Gaudí assumed the design of the temple, the original plans changed drastically although he kept the Gothic concept combined with Art Nouveau, impregnating his own touch to the plans. One of the most remarkable features of the Sagrada Família is has never been a rushed construction, in the words of Gaudí himself: “My client is not in a hurry.”Sagrada Familia

Over the years, although Gaudí worked on other projects as well, the Sagrada Familia was still his main focus. And from 1915 he devoted himself almost exclusively to his masterpiece, which in essence was a synthesis of his architectural evolution. 

By the time of Gaudi’s death in 1926, the basilica Sagrada Família was between 15 and 25 percent complete. After his demise, the work was continued by Domènec Sugrañes i Gras, who was his assistant, up until the construction was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War in 1936. Domènec was known for his modernist architecture, but he stayed true to Gaudi’s designs and finished the façade of the Nativity. During the war, parts of the still unfinished basilica most of Gaudi’s models and workshops were destroyed by Catalan anarchists. The current design is based on reconstructed versions of those plans that were destroyed and other modern adaptations as well.Sagrada Familia

Four catalan architects –Francesc Quintana, Puig Boada, Lluís Bonet i Garí and Francesc Cardoner– took care of the work once the war was over: the illumination was conceibed by Carles Büigas. The current director and son of Lluís Bonnet, Jordi Bonet i Armengol, has been introducing computer technology into the design and construction process since the 1980s. The Executive Architect and Researcher is Mark Burry from New Zealand. The façade has been decorated by the following sculptors J. Busquets, Etsuro Sotoo and Josep Maria Subirachs. And Jordi Fauli who is native to Barcelona, took over as the chief architect in 2012. 

Since then, the work has been concentrated of the crossing and supporting structure for the main steeple of Jesus Christ.Sagrada Familia facade

Design of the Sagrada Família

After the completion of the apse and the crypt, still intended to be lifted in Gothic style, the rest of the church would be conceived in an a more organic style in an attempt to imitate the natural shapes with their abundance of ruled surfaces. The intention of the interior was to resemble a forest, with inclined columns to resemble branching trees, creating a simple but sturdy structure. Sagrada FamiliaGaudí put into practice all his previous experiments, including designs such as the Park Güell and the crypt of the Colònia Güell. His intention was to create a church with a perfect structure, with decorative elements in perfect harmony and aesthetically pleasing. The architectural plan of the Sagrada Familia is cruciform: a large nave composed of five smaller naves, a transept with three naves and an apse with seven chapels. It also has three facades that are dedicated to the birth, passion and glory of Jesus Christ, and in its final design 18 towers are contemplated: four on each side (twelve in total, representing the twelve apostles), four on the transept (representing the evangelists), one in the apse dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the central tower in honor of Jesus, which is planned to reach 172.5 meters in height. 

Although it was not designed to be an actual cathedral, the Sagrada Familia was conceived to be the size of one. There are no exact angles to see it inside or out and there a few straight lines in the design.Sagrada Familia

Current Construction Status

In 2015, the current chief architect Jordi Fauli announced that 70% of the construction of the Sagrada Familia had been completed and that it had entered the final phase, in which it is contemplated to raise six immense steeples. Most of the structure of the church is to be completed by 2026, which marks the centennial of Gaudi’s death. In 2017 it was estimated that the decorative elements should be completed by 2030 or 2032. To be able to accelerate the construction of the building the architects have relied heavily on computer-aided design technology. Detail in Sagrada Familia

Why You Should Visit the Sagrada Família

The Sagrada Família is an essential part of the history of Barcelona, although construction began in the 1880s, it is still being built today. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to explore it when you visit Barcelona, it is an iconic building that beautifully represents the vision and boldness of Antoni Gaudí. It is a definite must-see building that you should take the time visit and admire the greatness from the outside and the inside as well. The visitor entrance fees that vary between €15 to €20 finance the annual construction budget of €25 million, which has always been funded by investors and the public.DetailPhoto Credit: All images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Sagrada Familia by Neusitas; (2) Sagrada Familia details by NH53; (3) Sagrada Familia by Ted & Dani Percival; (4) Sagrada Familia facade by Alper Çuğun; (5) Sagrada Familia facade by Valerie Hinojosa; (6) La Sagrada Familia inside by Michael Levine-Clark; (7) Familia Sagrada inside by Iwao Kobayashi; (8) Detail in Sagrada Familia by Brian; (9) Sagrada Familia Detail by Tamara Polajnar

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The Five Prettiest Places To Visit In Mallorca

In recent years the Spanish Balearic island of Mallorca has moved away from the package holiday crowd with the island’s capital Palma de Mallorca leading the charge with its swanky designer boutiques and Michelin star aspiring restaurants. Elsewhere the rest of the island has followed suit with properties being snapped up by wealthy Europeans looking for a home in the sun.

Mallorca has of course for all intents and purposes remained a summer holiday destination, it’s just that now they want to distance themselves from the bad press of young Brits behaving badly in while out partying in Magaluf. In fact, if you were to stay in the north-eastern corner of the island you would think you were the only one to succumb to Mallorca’s many charms.Mallorca
For Spanish artist Joan Miró Mallorca was all about the pure Mediterranean sunlight and the colors reflected off the mountains and sea which is the inspiration for my top 5 prettiest places to see while holidaying in Mallorca.

The best way to get from Palma’s Son Sant Joan Airport to your holiday accommodation is by taxi transfer. It’s wise to read the tripadvisor reviews about Mallorca’s taxis first, as prices & standards on the island can vary greatly. A taxi provides the most direct, fastest & convenient way to get the around the island to any of the pretty destinations listed below. in Palma, Ausblick vom Hotel

Almond Blossom

My number one choice may come as a bit of a surprise as it is an event that occurs annually between the months of January and February. I am of course referring to the almond blossom when Mallorca’s nearly 5 million almond trees spring to life with their brightly colored pink, white and cerulean flowers. Almond trees grow all over Mallorca but the best place to see the trees in full bloom is in the central Raiguer District.Mallorca

Cap de Formentor

The lighthouse at Cap de Formentor offers incredible views out to sea any time of day but comes alive in the evening when people gather to watch the sun gently disappear into the sea. The 20-kilometre drive up from Port de Pollenca is not for the faint-hearted and will have your palms sweating as you grip the steering wheel while navigating the hairpin bends. In the end, though it is worth it when you will feel as though you are standing on the edge of the world.Cap de Formentor Panorama

Calo d’es Moro

As you descend into Palma’s Son Sant Joan Airport you will be blown away by how blue the sea looks from the aircraft’s window and of all the coves and beaches on Mallorca my favourite has to be Calo d’es Moro. Located in the south-east of the island six kilometres from the town of Santanyí, Calo d’es Moro is a small beach surrounded by steep cliffs with some of the clearest turquoise coloured water you will find anywhere on the planet. With limited space available for sunbathing it is best to get there early to claim your spot.Caló des Moro, Mallorca


Often described as being the prettiest village in Spain, Fornalutx is nestled in the Tramuntana Mountain’s surrounded by orange and lemon groves. The stone village buildings and their red-tiled roofs appear to be locked in a time warp where nothing has changed for hundreds of years. Ideally suited for hikers and mountain bikers the town attracts hundreds of tourists each summer to come and wander around its narrow cobbled streets.Todo principio es duro.

Port de Soller

Of all the seaside towns in Mallorca Port de Soller has to be my favorite. Situated on a horseshoe-shaped bay on Mallorca’s west coast, Port de Soller managed to escape the over-development that occurred during the 70s and 80s keeping its traditional old world charm. The town boasts a lovely waterfront promenade alive with restaurants and bars where you can spend a leisurely lunch watching the traditional Llaut fishing boats bob up and down in the harbor. Getting to Port de Soller couldn’t be more fun either with an award-winning 100-year-old wood paneled tram running between Port de Soller and the capital Palma.Port de Sóller

Photo Credit: All images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Mallorca by Kyle Taylor; (2) Mallorca View by PercyGermany; (3) Mallorca Almond Blossom by Tobias Leeger; (4) Cap de Formentor by Vaidotas Mišeikis; (5) Calo Des Moro by Tommie Hansen; (6) Fornalutx by Emilio Vaquer; (7) Port de Soller by John Mason

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Gaudí in Barcelona: A Primer

Barcelona gaudi park guell

Any itinerary for exploring Barcelona, Spain, should include a visit to La Sagrada Familia, one of the most notable (and controversial) buildings in the entire world. The still-as-yet-unfinished church, which has become the symbol of Barcelona, has been called everything from the greatest architectural achievement of all time to the strangest, most hideous building in the world. If you’re a Gaudí fan, you won’t stop at La Sagrada Fimilia though – there’s so much more of Gaudí in Barcelona. Here is a primer to help you plan your Gaudí-themed trip:

Sagrada Familia Barcelona

Gaudí in Barcelona

The Sagrada Familia was designed by Antoni Gaudí, a Spanish architect credited with extending the concept of modern architecture and developing a new style, largely influenced by nature and organic forms. However, his style defies any definition, making his buildings some of the most imaginative and unusual anywhere in the world. For a student of architecture or anyone interested in art, Barcelona is a veritable treasure trove of Gaudí’s work, well beyond the Sagrada Familia.

Sagrada Familia Gaudi Barcelona

Gaudí: “God’s Architect”

Born in 1852 in Spain’s Catalan region, Antoni Gaudí began studying architecture in his early 20s, after completing his compulsory military service. He wasn’t a good student and often failed his classes, but when he received his degree, the headmaster noted that Gaudí could in fact be a genius.


Signs of that genius weren’t exactly obvious in his early work, which included lampposts and newsstands, but as word of Gaudí’s talent grew, so did his commissions — including the Sagrada Familia, a project that began in 1882. By the turn of the 20th century, the influence of nature on his work became more prevalent. It was at this point that he worked on projects including Park Guell, Casa Milá and Casa Batlló, some of his most iconic works.

Gaudi balconies BarcelonaIt’s the Sagrada Familia, though, that is most emblematic of Gaudí’s growth and the changes in his style. The early parts of the building maintain a more classical, neo-Gothic style, which evolved into a more modern style as construction progressed. He also began incorporating additional crafts into his designs, including ceramics, stained glass and ironwork, and he developed new techniques for using materials, such as trencadis, which used waste ceramic pieces.

Gaudí in BarcelonaAs Gaudí’s talent grew, so did his faith, and much of his work incorporates religious imagery. He lived a life of piety and simplicity, despite the grandiosity of his designs, choosing to devote himself to God and his profession, which resulted in the nickname “God’s architect.” In fact, despite his wealth, Gaudí maintained a shabby, almost dishevelled appearance, leading many to mistake him for a beggar. His appearance may have inadvertently contributed to his death. In 1926 he was struck by a tram, and thanks to his appearance, mistaken for a beggar he was only given basic medical care. By the time he was recognised and doctors determined he could afford treatment, it was too late.


Must-See Gaudí Masterpieces in Barcelona

While the Sagrada Familia should be at the top of any Barcelona tour itinerary, there are other notable Gaudí landmarks to explore as well.

  • Park Guell. When you’re looking at Barcelona hotels online, you’ll find some listed near Park Guell, an ideal location for visiting the unusual park and other Gaudí-designed locations. The park contains stone structures, unusual buildings, terraces and mosaics designed by Gaudí, and it is the ideal place to explore his nature-inspired structures.

Gaudí in Barcelona

  • Casa Batlló. From the street, this unusual building, designed for aristocrat Josep Batlló, looks as if it was constructed from bones and skulls. The façade uses colours inspired by marine life, and the entire structure is a shining example of the use of natural light in architecture. There is a fee to tour this home.
  • Casa Milá. At the time it was built, Casa Milá was controversial, as Gaudí eschewed the traditional building style of flat, rectangular walls in favour of an undulating façade punctuated by wrought iron balconies and decorations. However, Casa Milá, also known as Le Pedrera, is one of the world’s most famous buildings, and it has been fully restored to its original glory.

Gaudi BarcelonaWhile these are among the most notable of Gaudí’s works in Barcelona, other sites to consider visiting include Casa Calvet as well as the museum of Gaudí’s life and work in Park Guell.

The works of Antoni Gaudí are unlike any others in the world — and certainly worth exploring when visiting Barcelona. Even if you aren’t a student of architecture, it’s easy to appreciate the shapes, colour and style used by this legendary designer.

Gaudi in Barcelona

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Six surprising facts about Ibiza

romantic sunset

This is not your typical travel article about Ibiza – while I do share a few places that I think are great to experience Ibiza away from the tourists, I want to focus on six surprising facts about Ibiza – facts, that not a lot of people know.

Many of you don’t know that I lived in Ibiza for a while, and my summer on the little island in the Mediterranean was actually was planted my wanderlust. The idea for a long-term trip and my love for Latin America (I worked and lived with Argentinians) evolved when I was living on this irresistible little island, and I already shared that it is one of my top three places in Spain for a winter getaway.

What I discovered during my time on the island was something that I hadn’t discovered during the short package holidays I’d had on Ibiza before I moved there: that there is a hidden side of the island – an Ibiza away from the tourists. I thought it was time to share some little known facts about Ibiza, one of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean.Ibiza Cala VadellaSo without further ado:

Six surprising facts about Ibiza

Ibiza is not (only) a party island

Over the past few years, every time I mentioned that I lived in Ibiza, people start talking about how they want to experience one of the epic parties there. The island is well known for its electronic music scene, its mega clubs that hold crowds of up to 10,000 people, the chill-out sunset bars – Ibiza even made it into a J Lo song! And admittedly, I came for the parties as well, at least partially. But during my three-week visit to Ibiza a couple of years later, I didn’t go to a club once. Because Ibiza is so much more than a party island! There are only a handful of these mega clubs on the island, and the main DJ season only lasts from late June till mid-September. If you are looking for a tranquil island getaway, you can still have that during this time – simply stay outside of San Antonio or Playa d’en Bossa. In fact: the further away you get from the island’s bigger towns, the more likely you’ll be to find the Ibiza off the beaten path that I’ve come to love so much. surprising facts about ibiza

Ibiza has Sophisticated Tourism

Many people don’t know this, but Ibiza has considerably pushed high-end tourism over the past few years. As much as the island loves the revenue that the clubbing crowd brings in, Ibiza is actually looking to attract a more sophisticated clientele, and to be a year-round destination instead of depending on the club season. To learn that Ibiza is actually a winter destination is a surprising fact about Ibiza for many.

In 2007 a bill was introduced that every new hotel built had to be a five star property – the £30 a night cheapie package tourists aren’t what Ibiza is after. The yacht marina has been enlarged and modernized, expensive boutiques line the streets of Ibiza Town and fine dining establishments have been popping up increasingly over the past few years. ibiza away from the tourists

Accommodation has changed from the large concrete hotels in Playa D’en Bossa to small boutique hotels and villa rentals have become more and more popular. Some of the best boutique hotels in Ibiza are:

  • The Giri Residence – an intimate and stylish boutique hotel with luxurious suites & a spa, located in San Juan, in the north of Ibiza.
  • Ca Na Xica Hotel & Spa – a former country estate converted into a luxury hotel in San Miguel de Balansat
  • Es Cucons – small exclusive boutique hotel in an old farmhouse (built in 1652) with only 15 rooms. 10 kilometers north of San Antonio
  • Ses Pitreras –  chic and sleek 5* hotel located in Sant Agustí, only a 6-minutes walk from the beach
  • Can Curreu – enchanting rural hotel & spa. Located in the heart of the island in San Carlos surrounded by tropical gardens
  • Atzaró Spa Hotel – agroturismo with individually styled rooms, a gourmet restaurant, a spa, outdoor pool. One of the most stylish and most divine agroturismos in all of Spain. Located in Santa Eularia des Riu
  • Cas Casi – Luxury boutique hotel in a small rural house with large porches and terraces. Spa treatments available, lovely outdoor pool, restaurant with Mediterranean dishes. Located in Santa Gertrudis de Fruitera in the center of the island

Villas and vacation rentals in Ibiza are more sought after than ever, for one thanks to the rich and famous that visit the island every year and have an entourage of friends, chefs and assistants with them, but also regular vacationers appreciate the amenities of a vacation villa: having your own kitchen, space for dinner parties, a private pool and several rooms so that people can have an exclusive getaway with their friends instead of staying in hotels. Staying in a remote villa also allows you to experience Ibiza away from the tourists. Have a look at Airbnb for some of the best vacation rentals in Ibiza. (If you don’t have an Airbnb account yet, you can sign up through my referral link and get up to $40 off of your first booking!)

Ibiza off the beaten path

UNESCO World Heritage in Ibiza

The island doesn’t only want to attract the rich and famous though, it is aiming at a clientele that appreciates its natural beauty and heritage, its pristine beaches and little calas – small bays with crystal clear water and pine tree fringed sand beaches. Ibiza doesn’t only have dozens of beautiful little beaches, but also a myriad of hiking trails, which add to the island’s attraction outside of the hot summer months.

One of the most surprising facts about Ibiza is that in 1999, UNESCO declared Ibiza’s Biodiversity and Culture a World Heritage site. Making Ibiza a UNESCO site meant recognizing its outstanding natural beauty.  Remarkable landmarks such as Dalt Vila, Ibiza Town’s Old City, the Posidonia of Ses Salines Natural Park, the Phoenician settlement of sa Caleta, and the cemetery of Puig des Molins were also honored as part of the UNESCO announcement.

Another little known fact about Ibiza: The island is full of ancient sites dating back to the various groups of settlers who inhabited Ibiza over the centuries, particularly the Phoenicians, who founded the first settlement on the island in 654BC. When visiting Ibiza, it definitely pays off to buy a well-researched travel guide that includes hidden beaches, hiking trails, maps and scenic drives. Amazon has a great selection of Ibiza travel guides.surprising facts about ibiza

Ibiza has its own language

Ibiza is part of the Balearic Islands, which include Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera. Together with its little sister island Formentera and the tiny nearby island S’Espalmador Ibiza forms the Pityusic Islands, the Pine Islands. While in all of the Balearic Islands Spanish and Catalan are spoken, the Pityusic Islands have their own dialect – Eivissenc. This is a dialect of Catalan and is, together with Spanish, the official language of Ibiza and Formentera. Another little known fact about Ibiza!Flickeros en Cala Tarida - Hdr - Ibiza 2009 Eivissa

Ibiza produces wine

This is a surprising fact about Ibiza: the island is home to several small wineries! While the scale of the production is far too small to be considered an export product, it is possible to sample some of the island’s fine wines during a visit. The grapes that are grown in Ibiza are ganache and mourverdre (red wine) and Malvasia (white wine). Sant Mateu, Sant Josep and Buscatell are the villages where you find the vineyards and where you can try the wines that are known for their excellent quality among wine connoisseurs. Wine Glasses

Ibiza feels like stepping back in time

What surprises most visitors is how rural and how simple life in Ibiza is outside the main tourist areas. It is hard to believe that less than a 90-minute drive from San Antonio, you find small villages that still live off agriculture and that don’t even have a big supermarket. Instead, you can shop in small village stores, watch people sit on benches in the main square or chat over a Clara (beer with Sprite) at the village bar and enjoy the tranquility and simplicity of a bygone era. This is another reason why villa rentals are so popular – nothing is more authentic than staying in the middle of an olive tree plantation, enjoying the views over the fields and cooking with fresh ingredients picked up from the local produce market. If you’re looking to experience Ibiza away from the tourists, I recommend renting a villa in San Agusti des Vedra, Santa Gertrudis, San Miguel, San Carlos or San Juan. In some of these villages, there are regular artisan markets and you can still experience traditional dances – this is where you can experience Ibiza off the beaten path. Ibiza off the beaten path

Photo Credit: (1) Ibiza Cala Vadella by Josep M, (2) Es Vedra by Xosé Castro Roig, (4) Ibiza Dalt Vila by Xavi, (5) Cala Tarida by Jose Jamon, (6) Ibiza Wine by Tom Heath, (7) Santa Gertrudis by Sonja Pieper. All images via Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.
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Our top three places in Spain to escape from winter


If we were to spend a full year in Europe, we would most definitely need to escape snow and freeing temps, so it’s a good thing we already know that Spain is our go-to destination for a European getaway. There are just so many spots in Spain that are still on our travel wishlist like Oviedo, Toledo, Cadiz, Elche, Almeria and the Costa Tropical, but we have a handful of places that we already know well that we would return to again and again. It is super easy to escape winter with low cost flights to Alicante or Barcelona, especially with several budget airlines competing for customers by offering amazing deals on airfare. Plus, being only two to three hours from Germany, it is the best option to jet into and out of the country when we want to spend the holidays with our nieces and nephews.

Read on for our top three places in Spain, all of which we recommend you visit at least once!


seville white housesWe love the mix of Moorish, Jewish, Muslim and Roman influences that you can still see woven together throughout the city, with clean, white buildings congregated in the historic center. Streets are lined with orange and lemon trees, horse carriages drive around town, palm trees populate the parks…There is something magical about Andalucia’s capital. We love sitting on a little plaza at night, enjoying a glass of wine and some tapas while watching the world go by. There is always flamenco somewhere, and nightlife in general is fabulous thanks to the city’s student population. Even though it has a population of nearly 1 million, Sevilla never feels too big and is easily explored on foot. Don’t miss the Jewish Quarter, Plaza Espana, the 15th century cathedral (one of the biggest in the world) and tapas in one of the many al fresco restaurants! Even in January, the coldest month, temps here still reach an average of 60 F.


I might be biased, having spent an entire summer season working here when I was younger, but this little island in the Mediterranean is simply one of the most beautiful islands I’ve ever been to. Notorious for its mega clubs and parties during the summer months, there are still places to escape from the tourist crowds, such as the little villages San Josep or San Miguel. Further away you have the calas, or little bays, like Benirras, Cala Salada or Cala D’hort. The narrow alleys in the old town invite you to get lost exploring here, and a day trip to Ibiza’s sister island Formentera is also in order. Here the clear turquoise waters will transport you straight into the Caribbean. Although Ibiza rolls up its sidewalks and shutters its doors for the winter season, adorable bed and breakfasts on the island offer seriously great rates to visitors willing to spend the off-season with them on what can sometimes seem like your own winter island.

Ibiza by Binu Nair on


Barcelona is easily one of Spain’s coolest cities – if not the coolest of all. The atmosphere in the Catalan is unlike anywhere else in the country, and there is enough to see to keep you busy for weeks. We appreciate that it sits right on the Mediterranean, with several beaches in walking or cycling distance from the city center. Even though it is touristy, a visit to the Ramblas, a long pedestrian area with shops and cafes is always fun, especially when you include a visit to the Boqueria Market. Gaudi’s dreamy architecture is seen throughout town, most notably his masterpiece, the unfinished Sagrada Familia cathedral and Park Güell. We love getting completely lost within the narrow alleys of El Raval, home to some of the city’s most interesting bars and restaurants. During the winter months the temps are nowhere near the 100 F heat we prefer, but it is always just warm enough to wander, walk and breathe in the fresh sea air as well. The combination of buzzing city life, relaxed beaches, world-class museums and stunning architecture makes Barcelona our favorite spot in Spain.

Gaudi building barcelona

Have you been to Spain? Tell us what’s your favorite city in the comments below!

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6 reasons to visit Barcelona next summer

Barcelona beach at sunset

Looking to visit Barcelona? In fact, there is no fix time to visit this beautiful place at any time of the year is just perfect. Particularly in summer, the city undergoes a dramatic change when the local residents seem to take their foot off the accelerator or slow down a bit. It is the normal kind of change from the fast paced life. You have every reason to visit Barcelona in summer, particularly as there are top activities to perform. There are lot many activities to be enjoyed here.

Chilling out in the beaches

Most of the people prefer to visit Barcelona just for the line of beaches. Everyone likes to chill out on Barcelona beaches during summers. The hottest months are the best time to visit Barcelona since it harbours a lot many charming beaches. The place is blessed with accessible beaches which stretch up to 4km. Each beach has different kind of ambience and atmosphere with beach pub and bars that serve drinks and good food.

Barcelona yacht harbor

Visiting Barcelona for scintillating nightlife

Barcelona is extremely famous for its nightlife and in the summers the place is almost a heaven on the earth. What takes place behind the doors of bars and pubs seem to spill out onto the streets with tourists and local residents occupying square to simply enjoy beautiful summer nights till the early morning hours.

The special night Noche de Sant Joan

The ancient festival celebrating summer solstice is the most special night in the Catalonia. This takes place every year on the 23rd of June when the sky gets filled with great fireworks. The beaches are full of bonfires, people and the party last till the dawn hours. The next day, that is, 24 of June, everything is slow.Sagrada Familia Gaudi Barcelona

Summer Festivals in Barcelona

During the time of summer, it seems that there is some festival almost every weekend. The range of summer festivals encompasses Sonar and Primavera Sound to the midsized festivals like Cruilla. There are also intimate and smaller festivals during the time. It hardly matters what kind of music you prefer to listen, you will find something suiting your taste. Summer festivals in Barcelona cater to every taste.

Magical fountain

Although it can seem a bit corny, but there are many who would love to see the fountain accompanying light and musical show. Jets of water are shot into the air and get transformed into amazing mists. It is a fabulous way to spend the summers and mostly the kids enjoy a lot.Barcelona gaudi park guell

Picnic Electronic Barcelona

If you are a music lover, Barcelona is the perfect place for you. On every Sunday afternoon, from 1st of September to the 14th of September, you can enjoy mini music festival and dance to the tunes. Parents can dance and kids can take part in workshops.

For the above 6 reasons, you need to consider Barcelona travel package. To know what to do in Barcelona, check this YouTube video. If you are looking for an airport taxi service in Barcelona, click this link.

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Polaroid of the week: The hand-painted street signs of Madrid, Spain

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.polaroid of the week spain madrid street sign calle del rioThe historic center of Madrid has some of the most beautiful street signs we’ve come across on our travels. The signs are usually set together from nine or twelve hand-painted ceramic tiles with pictures related to the name of the street.

These public works of art range from animals like eagles and bulls, important historical townspeople like mayors, carpenters or nuns and the Calle del Rio, or street of the river (above) is illustrated by an idyllic lazy river. This is just one of those little details about Madrid we loved during our recent visit!

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The Gems of Andalusia

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Andalusia is Spain’s largest region and you could spend months exploring it. But many visitors – particularly those from the USA – tend to focus on the three cultural gems of the interior: Granada, Cordoba and Seville. You can get through all three in a 10-day itinerary, but it will be at high speed. If you can spare two weeks I’d recommend it. Best times to visit are spring and autumn when it’s bright and sunny without the stifling heat of mid-summer and everyone seems to walk with a spring in their step and a smile on their face. Many visitors fly into Madrid and then take the high speed AVE train Cordoba – which takes around 2 hours – and pick up a hire car there.

Sultry Seville’s must-sees
Seville is a quick 90 minutes down the autopista from Cordoba. Base yourself in the bustling streets of the old town and the minute you step outside the door, you’ll be enthralled by its atmosphere. The must see is the Alcazar – this fairytale royal palace is still used by the King today when he’s in town. It’s a feast of rooms and cool courtyards with intricately carved ceilings and walls.

seville plaza & horse drawn carriageClose second comes the vast cathedral which dominates the skyline of the old town. Take a walk up La Giralda – the belltower – for great views over the city. I’d also try and fit in a visit to the Casa de Pilatos or the Casa de la Condesa de Lebrija – two gorgeous private houses both stuffed with interesting artefacts and paintings. Art lovers should make time to visit the excellent Museo de Bellas Artes which is particularly good for the highly romanticised paintings of the Seville school of painters – in particular Murillo. In the evenings make sure to go to at least one flamenco show – my favourite is the paired down, simple and authentic dance and song on offer at the Casa de la Memoria. Real fans should also visit the Flamenco museum which has live evenings too. And for food – it has to be tapas – snacking on small bites stood at the bar with an ice cold beer or a glass of wine alongside is the quintessential Seville experience. Casa Morales and Bar Europa are two of my favourites – both located in the old town.

Cool Cordoba’s key sights
If you start your tour in Seville, you’ll find Cordoba immediately feels smaller and easier to manage. Like Seville its cathedral – the Mezquita – dominates the old town and, like Seville, it’s built on the foundations of the former mosque that existed here when the region was under the control of the Moors. The difference here is that a big chunk of the mosque remains – a forest of horseshoe-shaped red and white striped arches disappears into the gloom as you step inside. Planted like some alien invader in the centre is a huge domed cathedral – a light-filled space that’s in total contrast to the Moorish elements that surround it. There really is no building like it in the world. If budget is not issue then consider doing a night visit – it’s wonderfully atmospheric. Tickets need to be purchased in advance from the ticket booths in the cathedral courtyard.
A wander around the narrow lanes of the Jewish quarter (Juderia) is another must-do. History buffs should check out the synagogue here one of just a handful from this era left in Spain. The nearby Casa de Sefarad recounts the history of the Jewish population of the city in more detail too. If you’re in the mood for shopping look for Taller Meryan a wonderful artisan shop selling exquisitely carved leather goods – one the specialities of the area. It’s tucked down a pretty side street called Calle de las Flores.

Granada’s gorgeous royal palace
Granada is another three hours or so from Cordoba by road. Make sure you’ve worked out how to get to your hotel before you arrive as driving around the city is a complex affair. The highlight of a visit to Andalusia awaits here. The amazingly elaborate Alhambra palace is one of Europe’s most exotic and romantic. Be warned though – unsurprisingly, it’s very popular. Book your entry ticket ahead of your arrival using the Ticketmaster website. There’s a night viewing option available here too and again, it’s well worth considering, particularly because you avoid the queues and crowds of daytime. (But you don’t get to see the gardens if you take this option). The palace is a series of exquisitely decorated rooms and courtyards from the era when the Moors ruled this part of Spain. There are stunning golden domed ceilings, peaceful pools reflecting the detailed carvings on the pillars and walls that surround them and courtyards with fountains.

Sunset in Granada, Granada, SpainThe views from some of the corridors out across the city are spectacular too. The gardens are also delightful. A series of playful water features – like streams that flow down the bannisters of stairways – are particularly wonderful. Make time too to wander the old Arab Quarter. Called the Albaicin, it’s a labyrinth of narrow whitewashed housed-streets and tiny squares. Stay at a hotel here to really sample the atmosphere. There’s a real north African vibe to parts of the area in particular Calle Caldereria which is lined with atmospheric little tea shops – perfect for relaxing to the sound of water fountains with a perfumed cup of tea in the heat of the day.

Getting there
You can fly to Madrid from most major UK and US airports. Cordoba has no commercial airport and there are currently no direct flights to Granada either. You can fly direct to Seville from the UK however – from London Gatwick. If you plan to park at Gatwick, check out the official website for the best Gatwick airport parking prices.

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