I recently returned from a European adventure featuring locations in Italy, France, and Spain. Apart from providing a much-needed change of scenery and exposure to cultures I had not yet explored, this trip opened my eyes to a major travel hack: Guided Walking Tours! I spent my first two days exploring Barcelona on back-to-back Take Walks tours. Though my tours were comped, I would have gladly paid full price had I known the depth of the cultural immersion I would experience. 

Accompanied by our friendly and knowledgeable guide, Maribel, I spent my first day in Barcelona following Gaudí’s architectural legacy across the city on the Complete Gaudí tour. Take Walks’ skip-the-line entrance tickets and expert planning made it possible for me to see five out of Barcelona’s eight UNESCO world heritage sites all in one day: Casa Batlló, Park Guell, Casa Milá, Casa Vicens, and the unforgettable Sagrada Familia. Each site was a window into Gaudí’s life, and understanding Gaudí’s eccentric influence on the city is necessary to truly immerse yourself in Barcelona’s unique history and culture.

The next morning, I started my day in Barcelona’s infamous Gothic Quarter where I was greeted by another friendly face from Take Walks, Ewe (pronounced Ae-va), for the Montserrat and Gourmet Cava tour. After exploring the heart of the city through Gaudi’s eyes, this next tour highlighted rural Catalonia’s highs and lows—literally. First, we traveled into the mountains of Montserrat to visit the holy monastery that boasts breathtaking panoramic views of Catalonian wine country as well as ownership of Spain’s sacred Black Madonna (or Black Virgin). 

The second leg of the tour created some of my favorite memories in Barcelona; we ended the day in a charming family-owned vineyard nestled in the valley between Montserrat and the Pyrenees Mountains. I indulged in a traditional Catalan lunch complete with fresh-cured ham, salami, and cheeses before embarking on a tour of the winery to learn all about the art of producing Catalonia’s alcoholic claim to fame: Cava. Many informative tidbits and glasses of cava later, I was sad to leave the tour but excited to continue my travels in Spain as a cava connoisseur. 

I was a first-time visitor to Barcelona, and my Take Walks guides got me hooked on the city. I avoided the stress of visiting a new place by letting the locals show me around! Armed with a deeper understanding of Catalonian culture (and numerous restaurant recommendations from the Take Walks guides), I revamped my itinerary for the remainder of my stay in Barcelona and explored what quickly became one of my favorite destinations.

Which cities would you like to explore on a guided walking tour?

 

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