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Lisa Grace, a British expat and resident of Barcelona for nine years, is making a mark on the city. Last year, Lisa was fired from her research consulting job while on extended maternity leave. So she decided to take a new route.
She reinvented herself and started a new venture – Hidden City Tours. Not just a run-of-the-mill walking tour of Barcelona’s tourist traps, her tours make a prominent mark in socially responsible tourism. Hidden City Tours employs tour guides who know the streets of Barcelona more than anyone – the former homeless. They’ve eaten there, slept there, and inhaled the air in Barcelona’s enchanting, yet often-rugged streets. And they’ve got secrets to tell about the city. Let’s find out more:
Tell me about Hidden City Tours.
We offer historic and social tours of the Gothic Quarter and El Raval with a difference. We exclusively employ homeless people or previously homeless people as guides. We want visitors to experience a different side to the city when they come to visit. If you’re walking down Las Ramblas visiting Starbucks or shopping on Portal del Angel in Zara or Mango, you could be in any city.
We want people to connect with the locals. We go a step further — to connect with someone who has lived on the city’s streets.
Why did you start Hidden City Tours?
I was back in the UK over Easter and read about the launch of Secret City Tours in Bath. I immediately thought that the concept could work in Barcelona. We have 7.5 million visitors per year, but with a 3,000-plus homeless population.
What kind of experience can tourists expect from this alternative tour? What makes this tour better than a conventional tour?
The tour aims to link history with the present day. It discusses the social reality of Barcelona’s old town with unique insight from our previously homeless tour guides. The tour route and content has been designed together by our guides and a local historian. But it can be adapted to suit the specific interests of our clients.
How have you seen the tour guides benefit from working here?
Their self-confidence has improved. They’ve gained assertiveness too.
What have tourists said after taking the tour?
They have enjoyed the tour!
Lisa, can you share any hidden secrets or stories about Barcelona?
Absolutely not. The stories aren’t mine to tell — they are the guide’s! Join a tour to find out 🙂
Good luck to Lisa and Hidden City Tours. These tour guides have a genuine connection to the city. Surely, no tour guide can have a more profound relationship to Barcelona’s streets, right? Visit Hidden City Tours‘ Web site for more information on tour maps and timetables.
California native, churro aficionado, and mom of 3, Justine Ancheta writes fervently about Barcelona and Spain. Since 2008, she's been eating burnt onions (calçots) and tripping on cobblestones in the Gothic Quarter. She shares tips on popular attractions, exposes offbeat non-touristy spots, and gives insight on exploring Barcelona with kids. Her next Catalan culture challenge: top level of a human castle (castellers).
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