Barcelona is full of tourist traps, but new, bespoke walking tours, operated by locals – and backed by superstar chef Ferran Adrià – offer a glimpse into the hidden life of the city
The square outside the Sagrada Família is thronged with tourist groups basking in the warmth of the October afternoon. I, too, am part of a group, but there’s a difference. There are just two of us – myself and my 80-year-old mother – and our guide, a young Catalan called Eloi, who works for trip4real, an innovative company offering bespoke experiences for travellers who want to move beyond the herd.
Eloi makes a speciality of little-known facts (did you know that Antoni Gaudí’s fiancee became a nun, or that the great man was buried under the altar of the neo-Gothic chapel attached to the Sagrada Familía?). Last year, 3.1 million people visited the Catalan architect’s unfinished masterpiece, says Eloi. As we admire the soaring facade, he keeps up a steady stream of lively anecdotes, in idiomatic English. “See the guy there, leaning over the Virgin? That’s the Angel Gabriel, and what he’s saying is, ‘Y’know, Maria darling, this may be a shock to you, but somehow you’re gonna have a baby.’”