Photos: Steel Donkey Tours
LuxuryBarcelona’s Mary Noe reflects on a not-too-long ago Barcelona bike tour with Steel Donkey… an adventure she’s sure to do again
When traveling, one of the best ways to get an up close and personal introduction to an area is by taking a small-group bike tour with a local guide.
After enjoying bike tours in Paris with a group of ‘young at heart’ women and across the Tuscan countryside with several families, I knew that Barcelona’s mostly level terrain would make it the perfect city for a tour on two wheels. On my sons’ first trip to the Catalonian capital, I wanted to get them off the beaten tourist path and experience Barcelona Spain from a local’s point of view.
We booked a reservation with Steel Donkey Bike Tours, which offers private and small-group Barcelona bike tours (with a maximum of eight people) led by passionate guides who love the city. One of the highest-rated Barcelona bike tours and a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence winner for the last six years running, Steel Donkey guests can choose from comfortable city bikes (with wide tires and three easy gears) or electric bikes (with a battery powered engine) for an additional fee. All the bikes come with bells, lights, and a lock, and safety helmets are also provided.
Ride Off The Beaten Path On An Authentic Barcelona Bike Tour
“Steel Donkey Bike Tours was born from two objectives,” says founder Duncan Rhodes. “The first was to give visitors an authentic taste of Barcelona, based around my own travelling experiences when I visited friends who lived in foreign cities.”
“These friends never showed me the overcrowded mass tourism sites, they always took me to cool undiscovered spots, hip districts, hidden bars, and funky cafes. It was that experience that I wanted to recreate… the sensation of visiting a local in their home town, and having them show you their city.”
Continues Rhodes: “The second objective was that it should be fun for the guide too – especially as the guide was me in the beginning! I wanted to keep it ad hoc, avoid prepared speeches, fixed itineraries and just keep it fun and informal. I think our guides love that about their ‘work’ today, and we’ve been lucky to have some amazing people who want to keep doing this year after year. Key to both these objectives is a small group size, as it means the guides and the travellers can share a relationship as they explore together.”
Passionate Guides and Unique Discoveries
Our guide, Edu, was a well-traveled Barcelona native with a palpable love for his city. We were able to cover a lot of ground on our bikes, and Edu did an excellent job of showing us special areas of the city we might never have seen on a conventional tour.
We felt like we were secretly discovering ‘the real Barcelona’ as we ventured deep into hidden courtyards and along tiny alleys. Edu explained how the architecture and design of the city have evolved over the centuries, and we heard the legends of the sailors’ church, Santa Maria del Mar.
We also glimpsed the archeological ruins of underground medieval neighborhoods at the Born Cultural and Memorial Centre. And we nibbled on freshly roasted nuts from the legendary Casa Gispert food shop in the Gothic Quarter, and stopped along the Barceloneta beach boardwalk for a cone of delicious crema catalana ice cream.
On their website, the Steel Donkey team generously offers a fun, quick guide to what they consider authentic Barcelona experiences, and browsing through the site will give you a sense of their love for the city. Their ‘Alternative Guide to Barcelona’ shares a local’s view on:
- The city’s top hotels and accommodations
- The most original shops
- The most enticing restaurants and best places to eat
- The hippest bars
- The weirdest attractions and fun things to do
- The funkiest tours (after theirs, of course!)
Whether you’re visiting Barcelona for an FC Barcelona football game, to views Gaudi’s architecture, or to simply enjoy this vibrant city, go off the beaten path with a Steel Donkey Bike Tour.
Managing Editor Mary Noe loves to discover and share her experiences with local food, culture, customs, and personalities.