What You Should Know Before You Visit Barcelona City
Thinking of taking your next trip in Barcelona? This famed Spanish city combines the best of Old World charm with the vibrancy of new age culture. Famed for its classical beauty and it’s one-of-a-kind nightlife, Barcelona tops the bucket list of many Europe fanatics and thrill-seekers alike. In this ultimate guide, we’ll tell you everything you should know before you visit Barcelona city, explaining some general information, cultural practices, and do’s and don’ts that you’ll want to make sure to follow so that you don’t come across as rude or foreign.
With the right information, you’ll be more than ready for your trip! Keep reading to find out how you can make your Barcelona vacation as smooth as possible!
What You Should Know
Let’s start off by examining some basics that every tourist should know before embarking on a trip to Barcelona. There are several popular misconceptions about the city and some facts that many tourists do not know. By taking the following information into account, you can be sure to boost the quality of your trip.
- It’s “Barna,” Not “Barca”
If you want to go all in on your Barcelona vacation, you’ll first want to be sure to use the correct nickname. Many tourists mistakenly refer to the country as “Barca”—though this mistake is certainly understandable, it will cause you to stand out if you use it incorrectly.
Why? Specifically, Barca refers not to the city itself but to the city’s football (or soccer) team, Barcelona FC. In other words, Barca is never used as a nickname for Barcelona. Instead, locals refer to their city as “Barna.” If you haven’t yet learned this word, you’ll want to enter it into your lexicon before you hop on that flight so that you can be sure to avoid any embarrassing faux pause during your trip.
- Las Ramblas Is Very Touristy
Here’s a fun fact: Las Ramblas is by far one of the most visited areas in all of Spain. With Barcelona city itself receiving nearly nine million international visitors a year, that’s certainly saying something. Precisely, it’s saying that you can expect to find that a majority of people in the La Rambla area are tourists—just like you. This means that you may not find that authentic Barcelona atmosphere you’re looking for if you don’t stray far from the famed neighborhood.
None of this is to say, of course, that you shouldn’t pencil in La Rambla at the top of your bucket list. With some of the best sites, restaurants, and clubs anywhere in the area, you’ll certainly want to give a look. Just keep in mind that you will be surrounded by a distinct blend of cultures as you do.
- Go in the Spring; Avoid August
Not sure when to plan your trip? Be sure to remember the following pointers: summer is by far the busiest season, as millions of people from all over the world pour into the city to take advantage of its beaches and other attractions. This means that the ticket prices for this time of year are steeper, and you can also expect a greater hustle and bustle to potentially disturb your vacation. For this reason, many prefer traveling to Barcelona in the spring, when crowds are considerably smaller and there are tons of local parties and festivals that can keep you entertained. If you want to go to take advantage of the incredible and best beaches in Barcelona, you can go in September or October, when the summer crowds are largely gone and the waters are still warm.
On the same note, you’ll want to avoid August, when national holidays shutter many of the local stores and eateries and crowds swell in an undesirable combination.
- Be Wary
It’s no secret that Barcelona city is one of the top destinations in Europe. It’s also no secret that tourists give birth to another, more sinister industry: pick-pocketing. On the busy streets of La Rambla, which is known also as the red light district Barcelona especially, you’ll want to be wary of pick-pocketers and scammers, who sometimes take to the streets to scam or flat-out steal from unsuspecting tourists. While this doesn’t mean that you should be on edge during your Barcelona trip—which should be fantastic by any measure—it does mean that you shouldn’t let your guard down, either, if you find yourself in a highly touristy area.
- There’s Variety
Finally, you’ll want to keep in mind the fact that, unlike some destinations across Europe, Barcelona is not a one-trick pony. Home to some of the best beaches in Western Europe, Barcelona also boasts incredible nightlife that’s unrivaled on the continent. In addition to this, the city is home to several classical sites of architecture, gorgeous churches, famed eateries, and more. Even if you’re coming to the city for a singular purpose (such as a beach vacation or a stag party Barcelona), you’ll want to get out and explore all there is to do in this fantastic city.
You’ll be surprised at the diversity of attractions in Barcelona, which ranges from festivals such as the Calcotada to see-it-to-believe it parties in the world-famous Gothic district and Las Ramblas. While you’re there, be sure to check out the Barcelona Beach, which was created for the 1992 Summer Olympics and visit the incredible museums that dot the city and give tourists a unique and in-depth look into Barcelona’s incredible past. You can even visit a topless bar or go for something that is not for the faint of heart and watch the world famous show in Bagdad Club Barcelona.
No matter when you choose to take your Barcelona vacation, keeping these tips in mind can help you take your trip to the next level and ensure that you get everything you want—and more—out of your upcoming vacation.
How Not to Look Like a Tourist in Barcelona
With these basics in mind, you’ll also want to know how not to look like a tourist while you’re there. Not only can this help you fit in more naturally and better enjoy your trip, but it will also make you less prone to pickpocketing. So saying, let’s go over some simple guidelines that will help you assimilate to Barcelona culture.
- Brush Up on Your Spanish/Catalan
This one almost goes without saying, but if your Spanish/Catalan vocabulary stops at “hola,” you’ll likely want to learn a bit more before going to Barcelona city. While being fluent in the native language certainly isn’t a prerequisite for visiting and enjoying this classic city, it will help you blend in with the crowd and appreciate on a deeper level all that Barcelona has to offer. Whether you simply need to dust off that Spanish dictionary from high school or are just jumping into the challenge, you’ll want to be sure that you aren’t studying the Spanish of Latin American countries, which can still make sure seem like a tourist. Of course, because Barcelona is in Catalonia, you’ll come off better by diving into the Catalan language, which is similar but distinct from Spanish and may take some time getting used to if you’ve never studied it before.
While you’re at it, be sure to do your research on Spanish and Catalan traditions. Like most old European cities, Barcelona boasts an incredibly unique culture that you’ll want to familiarize yourself with if you want to truly come off as a native. Naturally, if you’re planning your trip in advance, you’ll have more time to do this, so be sure to give yourself enough space to truly learn the culture if you wish to blend in better with the natives of Barcelona.
- Memorize Your Itinerary
Make yourself even more comfortable by memorizing your itinerary before you go. Here’s a pro tip: only tourists get lost. If you want to shed the tourist label and become like one of Barcelona’s own, make sure you familiarize yourself with the layout of the city before you take your trip. At the very least, you should know where the major attractions are (the ones you plan on seeing, of course) and their relationship with one another. Knowing what things to do in Barcelona and having your itinerary down-pat will help you seamlessly transition from one place to another without having to ask for directions.
Memorizing your itinerary, of course, will also help you cut down on expenses, as you can find the cheapest routes to and from your destinations. With that in mind, you can truly begin to get around and make the most bargain decisions like a native.
You can also use mobile phone applications to use public transport such as Moveit or the TMB app (Metropolitan Transportation of Barcelona)
- Find the Hidden Gems
You can also brush off the tourist label by avoiding the tourist areas and focusing more on local hidden gems. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t visit places such as Las Ramblas, but it does mean that you can avoid looking like “just another tourist” by going to some places that are a bit off the beaten path. There are a number of museums throughout Barcelona city that would make a great starting point, as well as rich botanical gardens that many tourists miss out on. Take a trip to the Collserola National Park, one of the country’s best parks that just so happens to be off the radar of the typical Barcelona tourist. Going to places such as these will help you gain new insights into the city while also looking less like a tourist.
- Go with Someone Who’s Been Before
Afraid that you’ll look like a tourist if you go alone? Arrange a trip with someone who’s been before! Having someone who knows the territory can go a long way to making sure you can get around without any issues. It’s really as simple as this: you won’t look like a tourist if you’re hanging around with an expert.
There are also other advantages: someone who has been to Barcelona will already have a general idea of the city’s hotspots and will know which areas to avoid. This firsthand knowledge could help you maximize your fun by taking you to all the cool spots and avoiding the general hassle the tourists must undergo. As a plus, you’ll also be able to budget more appropriately.
- Copy Barcelona Fashion
One of the best ways to blend in with the crowd is to literally become the crowd. If you go to Barcelona dressed like a foreigner, guess what? You’ll look like a foreigner. For this reason, you’ll want to be sure that you’re on top of the current trends in Barcelona fashion. This will help you look like one of the city’s natives. Later on in this guide, we’ll go over some fashion specifics that will allow you to blend in effortlessly.
By following these easy tips, you can shed the tourist label and take your Barcelona vacation to the next level. Keep reading to find out some specific customs and behaviors that will not only help you appear more native but will also ensure that you have a better time while you’re in this amazing Spanish city.
How to Greet Someone and Act When in Barcelona
Building off this, let’s go over some important Barcelonan greetings and actions that will help you get the most out of your trip. As the saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” If you haven’t yet mastered the art of acting Barcelona, use this guide as your official starting point. Coming up, we’ll go over some basics, such as what to wear, where to hang out, which places to avoid, and more.
Keep reading to find out how you can be the ultimate tourist during your next Barcelona vacation!
- What to Wear
Let’s start by taking a look at what you should wear in Barcelona city. For starters, it’s important to keep in mind that, just like every other major city, Barcelona plays host to a variety of fashion trends. For this reason, you won’t witness simply one style of fashion while you’re there. With that being said, however, you can expect to see some general trends that you’d be apt to follow.
For example, Barcelonans tend to wear conservative clothes, both in color and in style. This is even more true among those who are middle age or older. For younger citizens, casual clothes such as T-shirts, blue jeans, sandals, and tennis shoes.
What does this mean? Simply put, while you can wear whatever you want (within reasonable limits), it’s best not to wear clothes that are too tantalizing or revealing. This will help you align with Barcelona sensibilities and make you appear more native to boot.
- Where to Hang Out
There are a number of popular hangout spots in Barcelona. Some may surprise you. Let’s take a look at a few of these so that you can get a better idea of where to go while you’re there:
[Read: District by district – Where to party in Barcelona]
- The Carmel Bunkers
The Carmel Bunkers were built in the Spanish Civil War to serve as a warning station for incoming air raids. The bunkers are located on a hill a ways off from the city center, but don’t let that stop you from going there. Once you make it out of the heart of the city and up the high hill, you’ll be rewarded with a view unlike any other in Barcelona. From atop the bunkers, you can see the entire city laid out like a panorama in a view that will truly take your breath away. This is a great spot for single travelers and couples alike!
If you do plan on going there, however, be sure to know that there are no amenities nearby. This means that you should make sure to eat before going (and use the bathroom so that nothing spoils your trip). When you’re there, make sure to take a ton of selfies so that you can always remember the fantastic view!
- Placa de Sol
Located in Gracia, the old part of Barcelona city which used to be its own town, Placa de Sol is one of the best places to simply sit back and chill in the entire city. The square is relatively quiet, filled with others just like you who are looking for a chill time. It’s not uncommon to see couples here, or friends kicking back with a few canas. With a trip to Placa de Sol, you can get the best of the tranquil side of Barcelona and experience a true Catalan experience left untouched by most tourists.
- Port of Barcelona
If you’re looking for a hangout spot a little closer to the water, try the Port of Barcelona. Here, you can sit on the docks directly next to the sea and eat food from any one of the delicious nearby eateries. Surrounding the port are also great bike-riding locations and other areas where you can stroll, walk, or simply relax with your family and friends. The port makes the perfect hangout spot and also allows you an incredible look at the beautiful blue waters of the sea. From there, you’ll also be able to see a number of boasts as they pull into the harbor.
- Where Not to Hang Out
With this being said, it’s time to take a look at a couple of places where you shouldn’t hang out. You may be surprised at some of the entries on this list.
- Las Ramblas
Las Ramblas is easily the most recognizable tourist destination anywhere in the city—and perhaps the country for that matter. Despite this, we don’t recommend hanging out there. Despite its incredible (and well-deserved) reputation, the street can get overcrowded and boasts a number of pick—pocketers who can make your vacation less than fun. For this reason, it’s best to see Las Ramblas as a place you should visit but not base your entire trip around.
Honestly speaking, one day is enough to spend in the area, and even less than that is okay if you don’t plan on staying in the city for a very long time. Las Ramblas is home to several human statues, museums, shops, and eateries and is near some of the best nightlife anywhere in the country. Even knowing this, you’ll want to avoid seeing all the sites here, as you’ll constantly be battling crowds and shady characters. In other words, be sure to pencil in time at some of the other incredible locations in the city—yes, even at the expense of Las Ramblas.
- The Gothic Quarter
Don’t get us wrong—the Gothic Quarter is one of the best locations in the city. With that being said, however, you don’t want to spend too much time here for the same reasons you want to break away from La Rambla. The medieval streets of the Gothic Quarter are swarmed with tourists, making it hard to get that authentic Barcelona feel. Instead of hanging around all day, the area is best enjoyed at night, when the clubs open and several delicious restaurants open, here you can experience the nightlife in Barcelona. The sites of the Gothic Quarter can be viewed within a few hours, so be sure to keep your time there to a minimum if you want to avoid the Barcelona tourist crowds. Keep in mind that there are a number of other incredible locations and hangout spots in the city that are less populated and provide more breathing room.
- How to Move Around Barcelona
As one of the most-visited cities anywhere in the world, you might expect Barcelona city to be hard to travel. The truth of the matter, however, is that public transportation in the city is as convenient as any other. In fact, you’ll find that the Barcelona metropolitan area is well served by a number of different modes of transportation. For the quickest and most efficient way of getting around, you can consider the metro, trams, or FCG. These methods of transportation allow you to get to your destination in a matter of minutes.
Prefer bus? Barcelona is home to over 1,000 buses that drive around the city and move citizens and tourists alike to their desired destinations. Of course, you can always take a taxi. With 11,000-plus taxis in the city, you’ll never be at a loss for a ride when you need one.
You can also choose to rent your own car if you have the proper qualifications. Parking in Barcelona is convenient, with a number of public parking spaces dotting the city’s landscape. If you are so inclined, you can also bike the city and will almost certainly see a number of bikers during your time there. With so many different means of transportation, you’ll find that getting around Barcelona is both cheap and convenient. For this reason, you shouldn’t worry about how to get from one place to another while you’re there. You may find it useful, however, to map out your route beforehand so that you can cut down on costs and streamline your vacation.
- What and Where to Eat in Barcelona
Barcelona is home to some of the best food in the region. In this section, we’ll go over some of the best spots to eat while you’re there. As you’ll find out, the city boasts an incredible array of food that’s as diverse as the travelers who walk the city streets.
- A Tu Bola
Located in the Raval district, A Tu Bola is a famed restaurant that serves delicious “bola” dishes of fish, meat, and veggie balls. In general, the meals are served with pita bread and lemonade (or any drink of your choice). Though the restaurant is just a tiny hole in the wall, it’s gained a reputation as being one of the best in the city. For this reason, be sure to check it out while you’re there!
- Bo d Be
Looking for something quick and easy while you’re at the beach? Bo d Be has become one of the most celebrated Barcelona restaurants for its convenience and its flavor. The specialty here is a sandwich known as bocadillo, which will almost certainly be like nothing you’ve ever tasted before. Eat inside or choose to take your sandwich out to eat on the beach. No matter where you go with it, however, it’s sure to become an instant favorite.
- La Boqueria
La Boqueria isn’t a single restaurant but rather a marketplace that overlooks the La Rambla. Here, there are a number of famed restaurants such as El Quim de La Boqueria. You’ll likely find that the restaurants here are packed and boast long lines, but they’re well worth it. The area has quickly become one of the most famed eating locations in the area, so you’ll certainly want to try it out when you get to Barcelona.
- What and Where to Drink in Barcelona
The city features an array of incredible bars that you won’t want to miss out on. In this section, we’ll discuss a few of the best bars so that you know what and where to drink when you get here.
Negroni is located in El Raval and boasts some of the most unique cocktail blends anywhere in the city. With a trip to Negroni, you can be to get a blend so powerful it will put all other drinks to shame. The servers and mixers at this bar are well known for the work that they do and for the incredible flavors they are able to whip up. If you’re looking for something both potent and tasty, be sure to put Negroni at the top of your list for places to drink in Barcelona.
- El Paradiso
El Paradiso is unique in that it is essentially two parts: the front doubles as a pastrami bar and the back-end is an alcohol cave of sorts where you can drink unique cocktails and whiskey so potent you’ll never forget it. Located in El Gotico, this bar is one of the most respected in the region, in no small part due to the exquisite staff (and award-winning) staff on board. If you happen to be in the area, you can’t go wrong with a trip here for a night of good drinks and fun.
- Local Etiquette
Of course, you’ll also want to make sure you act in accordance to local etiquette. In this regard, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind. Let’s go over them so that you can act better when you’re in Barcelona:
- Don’t Go Shirtless
Not only is it taboo to walk around the city shirtless, but it’s also against the law. Going shirtless can cost you anywhere between 120 and 500 euros. For this reason, you’ll want to be sure to wear your shirt while touring the city—no matter how hot it gets outside. Remember from earlier that people in Barcelonan tend to dress conservatively. You should keep up with these trends so that you can be sure to follow proper etiquette.
- Ask to Use the Bathroom
While fast food restaurants and other major chains will allow you to use the bathroom without issue, not every public establishment has restrooms open to the public. For this reason, you always want to ask whether or not you can use the toilet before you go. In many cases, you’ll have to patronize the restaurant or business before you can go to the restroom there. Be sure to ask first so that you don’t anger the store staff and so that you can go in peace.
- Don’t Get Drunk Too Early
There’s no denying that Barcelona city has the most incredible bar scene anywhere in Europe. Despite this, you don’t want to get drunk too early. As mentioned before, locals tend to get their drinks from small cañas, meaning it’s not common to see someone drunk before noon. If you find yourself drinking too much, you could get some curious (and disapproving) stares. Instead, you should save the fun for the one-of-a-kind nightlife in Barcelona, which features an array of nightclubs, bars, and other venues that will keep you up all night.
Do‘s and Don’ts in Barcelona (How Not to be Rude)
With all this being said, it’s time to go over some general do’s and don’ts that you should keep in mind while in Barcelona. It’s important to remember that you will be a guest in the country, so you’ll want to do your utmost to follow the local norms. Doing so can help you get on the good side of Barcelona citizens and also ensure that you represent your home nation well.
So saying, be sure to remember the following while you are in Barcelona:
- Do Learn Some Basic Catalan
We went over this a bit earlier in the guide, but it’s worth reiterating. While you can certainly get around Barcelona even using English, the best way to interact with locals is to use Catalan. Most restaurants and other locations feature signs and menus written in both Catalan and Spanish, though the former is considered to be the dominant language in the city. Speaking Catalan can help you get around and also win you some favor with local citizens. You’ll want to learn some basic phrases that will help you get around restaurants, hail taxis, and maneuver the streets of Barcelona.
- Don’t Tip While You’re There
While tipping at restaurants may be part of the local etiquette where you’re from, it definitely isn’t in Barcelona. For this reason, you can avoid the hassle while you’re touring the city. Of course, you may consider tipping if you want, but there’s no guarantee your server will be comfortable with the gesture. For this reason, it’s best to simply follow what the locals do and keep that extra 20% in your pocket.
- Do Get a Room with a Safe
While you’re in Barcelona, don’t be afraid to ask for a room with a safe. Though you may be worried about how it might come across, remember that safety always comes first when traveling abroad. Many hotels in Barcelona come with safes where you can store your valuables and keep them safe from pick-pocketers and would-be thieves. For this reason, you’ll want to take advantage of this luxury if possible so that you can maximize your safety and your overall experience.
- Don’t Take Pictures Without Vendor/Store Owner Permission
We get it—you want to remember everything. In a city as beautiful as Barcelona city, especially, the temptation to capture or film everything you do can get overwhelming. Despite this, you’ll want to check in with vendors and store owners before you capture their establishments on film. Not only is this the polite thing to do (after all, you are their guest), but it also provides you with little to worry about. As you might expect, most store owners will give you permission, helping you get those perfect shots without any extra hassle or worry.
- Do Give Compliments
So you’ve brushed up on Catalan. What better way to use it than give compliments? Whether you’re dealing with local street vendors or are eating at a well-known establishment, you can’t go wrong by providing a verbal thumbs up to your servers. Show appreciation to the natives by complimenting them on their food and their culture.
- Don’t Drink Too Much
Barcelona has a reputation as a party city, and rightfully so. The city is one of the nightlife hot spots of Europe and a popular destination for stag weekend in Barcelona and seekers of adult entertainment in Barcelona. As one might expect, then, the city is filled to the brim with quality bars, the best clubs in Barcelona, and other establishments that are designed to keep you partying hard all night.
Despite this, you’ll want to watch how much you drink while you’re in Barcelona. Though the city is without a doubt one of the most exciting you’ll ever see, it’s a little bit of a taboo to drink large amounts of alcohol. Generally, locals drink out of small wine glasses known as “caña,” meaning portion sizes for alcohol may be a little bit smaller than what you are expecting. Of course, this doesn’t mean this is a hard and fast rule. Plenty of locals get drunk—and you can, too—just remember that the city’s alcohol culture may differ from that of your homeland. Find here some Barcelona nightlife tips.
[Read: Barcelona stag do tips]
- Do Try Out the Amazing Seafood
From fish to octopus, Barcelona boasts some of the best seafood in the region. Make sure to try it out while you’re there! There’s simply nothing better than kicking back on one of Barcelona’s famed beaches and eating the high-quality seafood that is sold at eateries, street stalls, and restaurants all around the area. The best part is that you can get this food at affordable prices, making the whole deal even sweeter.
- Don’t Speak Loudly at Night
If you happen to be strolling downtown neighborhoods at night, make sure to keep your voice down. Simply put, the locals won’t appreciate it if you (and presumably other tourists) wake them by talking. In fact, this has become one of the biggest complaints about tourists from Barcelona natives. If you wish to keep a squeaky clean image and simply be polite to those around you, make sure to keep your volume at a minimum when it’s time to be quiet.
Following this simple list of do’s and don’ts can help you out big time while you’re in Barcelona. By avoiding common mistakes made by other tourists, you can ensure smooth sailing during your trip while also maintaining proper etiquette to the natives. This is the ultimate way to pay respects to the nation hosting you and is a great way to optimize your fun.
The Bottom Line
Barcelona is one of the best cities in all of Europe. From stunning classical architecture, delicious food, an incomparable nightlife, and attractions you have to experience to believe, Barcelona city remains a top destination for travelers all around the world. If you’re planning on going to this city any time soon, you’ll want to be sure to brush up on the culture, language, and attractions it boasts.
With this guide made by Strip Club Barcelona, you’ll be able to kick-start your adventure by learning the basics of Barcelona etiquette, language, customs, and traditions. Make sure to use this piece as your ultimate reference to make your vacation unlike any other you’ve ever experienced!