Travelling to a new place is full of excitement and loads of expectations. Barcelona is a beautiful city with a lot to offer, full of rich history and art wherever you go. Before you embark on your trip here are a few things to help you on your upcoming adventure.
Catalonia is an autonomous region of Spain composed of Barcelona, Girona, Lleida and Tarragona. Its culture and heritage are unique to that of Spain and locals are very proud to represent it. Catalonia also has its own language, Catalan, which many locals would describe as a mix between Spanish and French.
Catalan is the official language of Barcelona so you’ll see it displayed everywhere you go. Have no fear, most places like restaurants have menus in Catalan, Spanish and English. People are always willing to help, so if you know some Spanish do not be afraid to use it! Spanish is also well known and used in the city.
You might be tempted to tell your friends you’re going to Barça because you heard or saw it somewhere and thought it was acceptable to say…please don’t. Barça is the nickname for the FC Barcelona, one of the biggest soccer teams in the world. So unless you’re planning on going to a game do not use Barça to refer to the city of Barcelona.
If you must, the proper nickname for the city is Barna. I know, doesn’t sound as cool, but it is correct. So, walk around like a local in Barcelona talking with friends about how much you love Barna and make sure to use it when you return home so your friends know just how cool you are 😉
If you’re planning a lads weekend away to watch the football, check out these other activities to keep you busy.
Don’t expect too much Flamenco
Flamenco plays an important role in the history of Spain and is definitely something to experience while in Barcelona. However, do not expect every corner that you see to be full of Flamenco dancers. You will not see women dressed in long red dresses with vibrant lipstick or flowers in their hair.
If you travel up and down Las Ramblas you’ll have the opportunity to watch professional Flamenco performances. You might however, be surprised by street performers willing to entertain those passing by. Don’t get too hopeful, they’ll most likely be dancing hip hop or doing tricks. Consider it the opening show to your Flamenco experience.
The name “sexy beer” comes from the street vendors walking around saying “cerveza-beer”. If you hear anyone say “let’s get some sexy beers” that means that they’re going to buy from the street vendors.
However, there is a local bylaw saying it is illegal to sell anything on the street, buy on the street, or drink alcohol on the street, breaking any of these can result in a fine.
Once you travel to the Eastern part of the world you have to adjust your watch to the accurate time but when in Barcelona, both you and your watch require a time change. If you plan on eating, shopping, etc. around 11am be prepared to find a lot of the places closed. Locals believe in siestas, or midday power naps, which results in a lot of places closing.
Some popular locations will be open, but be willing to wait in line! Lunch, which is also the main meal of the day, is between 1.30pm and 3.30pm. Dinner hours change as well, ranging from 9pm to 11.30pm. So carry around some snacks so you don’t starve while you wait. Nightlife is different as well, as most clubs won’t be buzzing with people until after 1am to 2am.
When you are out eating you might be tempted to leave your waiter or waitress a generous tip for their service. However, tipping in Barcelona, or Spain in general, causes confusion more than gratuity. If you’re dining in a nice restaurant feel free to leave 5-10%, otherwise refrain from tipping.
If you find yourself dining at any restaurant or anywhere providing services for that matter, where your server is waiting with open arms for a tip it is most likely that you are at the wrong place.
On your list of places to visit might be Las Ramblas, La Boqueria, The Gothic Quarter, among others. Although, great spots to visit full of many things to see, try stepping outside of the touristy spots.
Visit places like Barceloneta, known for it’s fishing-village atmosphere or Montjuïc, which holds the Olympic Stadium of 1992 and one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the city.
Visiting popular sites during the low season or on weekdays is also best due to the fewer number of people, meaning a lot less shoving and queuing.
Before you visit, it might be smart to buy tickets to any popular attractions online. Often, tickets sell out very quickly and if you wait until you get to the locations you might end up paying a lot more than the original price.
When buying tickets for the Sagrada Família for example, go to their website to book tickets. Buying from other sites that promise cheaper deals could be a scam. Buying from the Sagrada Família site guarantees that all the funds go into the completion of the Basílica. Thus, you cannot only say you visited the Sagrada Família but contributed to its completion as well.
Some places like the Picasso museum and Park Güell you can get into for free if you follow these hacks. The Picasso museum is free every first Sunday of the month and every Sunday after 3pm. Park Güell you can get into for free before opening hours at 8am and after closing hours at 8.30pm.
Although tourism is very high in Barcelona most places keep with the Catholic tradition and close down on Sundays. About 90% of restaurants, markets, bars, and shops will be closed so be sure to stock up on food and anything else you might need for the next day.
There are still some places open, but they’re usually tourist traps and more than likely to be full of people. You don’t want to be stuck waiting in line for hours! Consider Sunday as a good day to visit a park or beach and set up a little picnic with food and drink you bought in advance.
If you’re travelling during Spring or the Summer season you probably want to take a swim in the Mediterranean sea. Although Barceloneta is a fun beach to visit, it’s usually always the most crowded beach. There might not even be space to lay down a towel! You might want to consider beaches like Nova Icària beach, Bogatell Beach, or Mar Bella Beach which are less crowded and clean.
Nova Icària beach is close to the marina and includes a boardwalk, beach volleyball, and many cafe and bar options. Bogatell Beach also includes various volleyball nets and space for other beach sports. It is also equipped with a lifeguard to ensure safety. Mar Bella Beach attracts the younger crowd and many nudists wanting to bask in the sun. All good fun! Discover more hidden beaches around Barcelona.
Taking a taxi might seem like the easiest thing to do when trying to get from place to place but it could cost you an arm and a leg. Plus, standing on the corner trying to get a cab for 15 minutes isn’t much fun. If you need to use it, public transport is great in Barcelona and very affordable.
Walking, however, is the best way to get around when in the Old town or in Barcelona in general. The city is full of hidden treasures ready to be discovered! You can stop and take pictures, go into shops, discover your favorite tapas restaurant…the possibilities are endless. So pack your walking shoes and come prepared to fall in love with what the city has to offer. Read more about how to spend a day in Barcelona’s old town.
When walking around Barcelona it’s easy to get distracted by all the different sights. However, it is important to keep your eyes open because many people will attempt to steal your things without to noticing. Pick-pocketing is as common as the flu, especially along Las Ramblas, Passeig de Gràcia, or the subway stations.
Do not carry important belongings in your back pockets or in accessible backpack pockets. Keep purses closed, and in front of you at all times. Sometimes, you might be tricked into giving directions or signing up for petitions. Avoid these, they’re often tricks to stealing your things or get you to give away personal information.