Barcelona’s architecture, delicious food, excellent shopping possibilities and great nightlife attract a lot of tourists. Barcelona was one of the most visited cities around the world in 2016 and it is definitely worth visiting! There are some things you should know before you visit Barcelona to make sure your time here will be even more memorable. Here are the top 10 tips for your visiting:
1. Catalonia is NOT Spain
Of course, Catalonia is technically part of Spain… But Catalans have their own culture and language that are really important to them. Fighting for autonomy is a real thing and making fun of it can really make someone irritated. So think twice before you say “Catalonia is Spain”.
2. Learn a few Catalan words
Catalans are really proud of their own language, so respect them and try to learn at least how to say good morning (bon dia) and thank you (gràcies). They usually speak Spanish as well and many of them also English, but it is just polite to say something in their own language. So please, spend a little time learning the basics, it will be highly appreciated!
3. Barca is Not Barcelona
While many tourists think this, it is actually a nickname of FC Barcelona, the football club in Barcelona, which is one of the most widely supported teams in the world. Even if you think it doesn’t matter, for locals, it really matters. The city Barcelona is often shortened to BCN or Barna, but never Barca.
4. Avoid eating or buying things in La Rambla
Even though your guidebook tells you to explore La Rambla, be careful. Nowadays, there are too many people, everything is overpriced and the quality of restaurants isn’t good. On top of that, it is paradise for pickpockets. Of course, you should pass by and experience it, but just don’t spend too much time and money there, as it is full of tourist traps. If you want to hang around for a bit, we recommend doing it in La Boqueria, a lovely market and also one of the highlights of Barcelona!
5. Watch out for pickpockets
Although Barcelona is full of what to do and see, there are also downsides. Unfortunately Barcelona is the pickpocket Capital of the world. Spain’s soaring unemployment rate and low sanctions for pickpocketing are the main causes of the problem. It is a problem on the Ramblas, at rail stations, on the beaches and on the metro. Especially in these places, always keep an eye on your belongings. Barcelona is not a dangerous city, but it’s good to be aware of the silent pickpockets!
• Don’t put phones, cameras on the table at restaurants
• Don’t put your phone back pocket
• Note that the pickpockets usually work in groups
• Thieves are professionals here, so don’t underestimate them
6. Different schedules
Spaniards aren’t the most punctual people, so stop staring at the clock. Spanish schedules might be strange for foreigners, especially eating times. The most important meal for Spaniards is lunch, which is between 1:30 and 3:30 pm and dinner time might be at 9 pm or even later. So don’t wonder if restaurants are still empty at 8 pm. In addition, Barcelona still believes in the siesta (a nap after lunch), so some shops, restaurants and offices may be closed. However, typically in tourist areas, most shops don’t close at midday.
7. Sundays are dead
Almost all stores, markets and restaurants are closed, so don’t leave your last shopping for Sunday. Even the malls are closed, except the Maremagnum shopping center in Barcelona harbor. Of course, there are some restaurants, bars, souvenir shops and small stores open. But we recommend that you choose another day of the week for shopping, as you will have a lot more options!
8. Don’t choose the nearest beach
As you might know, Barceloneta is the most famous beach in Barcelona, but not necessarily the best. It tends to be overcrowded all the time, so we would suggest looking at different options. There are plenty of other beautiful beaches around that are cleaner but are still very close to the city center, for example, Bogatell and Nova Icaria. If you are willing to go a bit further and enjoy some quieter beach time, there are many options just a 30-minute train ride away, like El Masnou or El Garraf. Another great option is to make a day trip to Costa Brava and enjoy its crystal clear waters.
9. Eat Catalan Cuisine and Drink Cava
You just can’t visit Barcelona without tasting traditional Catalan food. Its location on the Mediterranean coast offers a great selection of seafood, so you should definitely try the seafood paella or fideuà. Also you should taste bombas, patatas bravas, pimientos de padron, pa amb tomaquet and many other tapas the Catalans are so proud of. The most famous dessert of Catalan is Crema Catalana, which is similar than the French Crème Brulée. In addition, while you’re in Cava country you should order a class or two of Catalonia’s own sparkling wine, Cava. If you are eager to explore more Catalan food culture, please check Tasting Barcelona, an amazing food and wine tour, which allows you to taste many of these in traditional, authentic places, while also exploring the city!
10. Just walk around
Barcelona is a big city, but the best way to really get to know it is to discover it on foot. In addition to all the great sights, there are much more you won’t find in guidebooks. There are plenty of beautiful streets full of things happening all the time. For example, Raval and Gracia neighbors are both interesting and away from the crowds of tourists. So just get lost and find your favorite area and street of Barcelona.
Hopefully these tips were helpful to you. Enjoy your time in amazing Barcelona!