Going to Barcelona and looking for a different – authentic – angle to visit the city? Easy: let the locals show you around! Emily Elwes lives and works in Barcelona and here’s her guest post, on discovering Barcelona through the eyes of locals.
We’ve all been there before, finding ourselves in a foreign city and desperately wanting to experience it’s culture, but we’re too busy untangling ourselves from our city maps, dodging other tourists and hoping that the next restaurant we walk past won’t have a front-of-house begging us to come in. And where the hell are all the locals?
Luckily for us, advances in technology are changing this. We are no longer slaves to hotel concierges and guide books and have the option to stay in local people’s homes across the globe, experiencing first hand how they live with services like couch-surfing and airbnb. The sharing economy is truly revolutionizing the way we travel. Not only that, but thanks to Spanish startup trip4real we can finally work out where those pesky locals are hanging out.
They’ve built a community-driven platform connects travelers with locals from all across Spain, encouraging cultural exchange. How? By allowing locals to become informal tour-guides in whatever they are passionate about, and interested travelers to hook up with their activities. They let the locals show them around.
Professional photographers, like Juan, for instance, offer tours of Barcelona’s gothic city centre accompanied by his photography skills. Chefs like Sonia show globetrotters around local markets, explaining the rich Mediterranean food culture and how to prepare local dishes.
Or cycling enthusiasts like Juan dress up in vintage cycling gear after work and take tourists on old-school bicycles through the city, hopping between traditional vermouth bars, tapas spots and Gaudí sights.
So why are so many locals giving tours, especially as they all have day jobs?
‘Barcelona totally mis-represented in touristic areas. Many people come here and think that paella, sangria and flamenco are part of our tradition. In fact they are from Andalusia, but we have a rich culture too! I feel that with my tours I can show tourists what my city is really like, and how great it is. […] I love meeting people and this helps me do that. Sometimes my friends come too!’
Interestingly the platform also seems to be enabling locals more influence and control on their local travel industry. The travel monopoly is gradually falling out of the hands of traditional hotel chains and lobby groups. Their locals are eager to give tourism a face again, namely one that genuinely represents the community.
In fact it’s so social many of the locals and travelers become friends, or end up spending time together after their tours, or giving more tips:
‘I’m so glad I did this. Sonia was able to answer all my questions about food in Barcelona/Spain and she took me to excellent restaurants for tapas. While we walking around the neighborhoods she casually told me their histories and made excellent recommendations for what I should do.’
Their community review system is based on other traveler’s feedback, so when you come to pick a local tour, it’s easy for you to find the one that is right for you. The locals even have their own profiles with ratings, introducing themselves and their passions. A lot like airbnb.
No doubt, they offer more interesting alternatives to traditional guided tours, not only from a social point of view but also from the point of variety. Their site lists over 2.500 local experiences across Spain, and 1.000 in Barcelona alone. That’s a hell of a lot of things to do!
In fact, that’s impressive because this start-up has only been around for 1 1/2 years, with a small team of 8 women and 2 men, and has managed to reach over 10.000 users in that time.
Future of travel
Founder Gloria Molins really believes that the future of travel is changing and that her start-up is at the front-line: “I started trip4real because I realized that the most memorable moments from every place I traveled were the ones when a local had shown me something amazing, and away from all the other tourists. It wasn’t the sites that made the places I visited, it was the locals and the experiences I shared with them. As soon as I got back to Spain from my last trip I decided that someone needed to connect the dots. Make it easier for locals and travelers to interact.”
So it seems that despite all the allegations that technology is destroying our face-to-face contact with the world, actually it is bringing us closer together.
Maybe it’s time to say goodbye to guide-books, maps & tourist-traps and why not let the locals show you around?
(guest post written by Emily Elwes)