Barcelona is an amazing city, and is one of my first recommendations when someone is visiting anywhere in Western Europe. There are so many reasons to have a Barcelona visit high on your list, including the architecture, history, beaches, food, sports, street performers and people.
Barcelona Travel Tips
- Do some research on the region before you travel
- Order Tickets Online for the Biggest Attractions
- Plan your travel to and from the airport
- Always look at the menu for prices
- Travel just a little for lower prices
- Restaurants want you to eat
- Enjoy the street performers
- Don’t forget about Barceloneta Beach
- Tops are optional
- The Spanish Love Soccer (Futbol)
- There are Free Museums
- Experience the Mercado de La Boqueria in La Rambla
- Barcelona loves small plates of food
- Learn to tip like a local
- Plan to do lots of walking in Barcelona
- Barcelona is an international tourist city
- Carry some cash in Euros
- Be weary of public wifi
- FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions
Most people go to Barcelona and have an amazing time, but there are always some horror stories usually involving pickpockets. Those stories are true for any major city including in the United States so plan ahead and enjoy a safe and amazing vacation. (If you need it there are plenty of guides online to avoid pickpockets.)
Now that we know that pickpockets are bad and can ruin your trip let me jump into some specific tips from my own experiences that pertain to Barcelona, the capital of Catalunya.
As a little disclaimer I love to share my own pictures whenever possible, but unfortunately my Barcelona pictures were lost on a damaged phone and the ones I do have aren’t great quality. So, while I enjoy writing and traveling, I am definitely not a professional photographer with my IPhone! But, with that understood, please step into my Barcelona travel tips that i hope will make your trip is a huge success.
Do some research on the region before you travel.
The geopolitical environment of Barcelona Spain and Catalunya or Catalonia in English is extremely complicated and as if this moment is flaring up. In short the region of Catalonia which has long has some level of independence has seen a mounting call for independence from Spain.
Though previous symbolic votes of independence have been passed, currently the demonstrations from the pro independence have lead to violent clashes with police. The cause of the most recent non peaceful protests are related to the sentencing of pro-independence leaders by the federal government.
I personally experienced an anti Uber taxi strike in Barcelona as we were planning to make our way to the airport to catch our flight. Our lack of research as to the current happenings of our surroundings nearly led us to miss our flight. Depending on the situation that lack of awareness could have led to even worse.
So, the moral of the story is that no matter where you are it is a great idea to be current on local news to avoid any unnecessary issues. For the record I full intend to get my behind back to Barcelona sometime soon!
Order Tickets Online for the Biggest Attractions
We are in the digital age and often getting access to some of the oldest sites in the world is as easy as getting movie tickets online. In many cases getting your tickets in advance saves headache and quite a bit of time. I don’t know about you but nothing bothers me more than waiting in line for tickets just so I can wait in line for the main attraction.
Get your tickets for 4.7 star Sagrada Familia guided tour and skip the line here. It’s true all the time, but especially on vacation, but skipping the line for a little extra is almost always worth it!! Do yourself a favor and spend as little of your time waiting in line as possible.
After you grab your Sagrada Familia ticket don’t close your browser, go online and get your Park Güell ticket as well. For 10 euros you get entrance to the Park Güell and a free walking tour of the Gothic Quarter. Nothing beats the price of free, so if that sounds like a deal to you check it out.
Plan your travel to and from the airport
Assuming you are flying into Barcelona and you aren’t taking a cruise or driving through the Spanish countryside you will fly into the Barcelona Airport – El Prat and you need to get the 12 km or so to the city center. Often, visiting the official websites such as those for the airport are good resources in planning your Barcelona trip, or any trip for that matter.
According to that official website you can get to and from the airport via subway, bus, train or taxi. In the past I have opted for a taxi due to ease, and the opportunity to see the drive to and from the airport but taxi isn’t always an economically feasible option.
Other sites list the Aerobus as the fastest public transportation option when not opting for a taxi. It is important to consider your budget and the size of the group you are transporting in making your decision. If you are staying in the city center especially near Las Ramblas a taxi is the most expensive but simplest way to get to and from.
Generally for larger groups a bus is going to be a good choice but your group can plan in advance the best transportation before your visit Barcelona. What you don’t want to do is to sit in the airport debating which route to go, get into Barcelona as soon as possible.
Always look at the menu for prices
The food in Spain is well know, and there are many restaurants and bars that are happy to have you spend your hard earned money with them. But, before you order or agree to anything I recommend you always look at a menu with prices first.
That hole in the wall place that sells you a sangria or recommends some food and then serves it up with a big smile and lots of love might also serve up a big bill. The Catalan vibe might rush over you and you end up ordering another round and before you know it your have a bill over 100 euros and you don’t feel quite so nice.
This is one of the biggest tips I can transfer to you and it applies to most major European cities. The look of the place doesn’t necessarily tell you how the prices will be. Some of the nicest places you might find are reasonably priced and some of the places with a lower end feel might hit you the hardest.
Always remember to look at the prices first because you don’t want to get stuck washing dishes when you should be enjoying the beautiful city.
Travel just a little for lower prices
In your visit to Barcelona just a little bit of extra walking can mean the difference in significant savings. This applies to food, drinks, souvenirs, etc. When you see a lot of tourists and not one local for lunch you may want to walk a couple of streets over.
You will be bound to find some real treats that will be kind to your credit cards. In fact, if all you do is take some side streets on your way to the Sagrada Familia or other sites you are bound to find some great deals.
Barcelona Spain is a treasure, and within the treasure chest are even more hidden gems. Don’t be afraid to do some exploring, especially in broad daylight. You are likely to pass by some locals in their casa when you get off the path just a little bit. Save money and find a new experience, sounds like a good deal to me.
Restaurants want you to eat
If you are American, Canadian, British, etc you may be used to going into a restaurant with no intention of eating. You may want to go in and just have a few rounds of drinks with your group, and what you plan on spending might be more than a meal would cost. However, as tips go this is another important one to consider, the restaurateur doesn’t know your intention especially if you don’t speak Spanish.
Many restaurants equate only getting drinks to people that are going to take up a table for a long period of time and not buy enough to make it worthwhile. For that reasons some restaurants especially in the most tourist areas won’t want to seat you to just enjoy your drinks. Don’t take offense, but be sure to let them know in advance in order to avoid an even more awkward situation once you have sat down.
Enjoy the street performers
The street performers of Barcelona Spain are some of the most creative and intricate that you will find anywhere. If you decide to grab lunch on La Rambla while visiting Barcelona you will be treated to the variety of performers.
The most famous are the human statues with some mind blowing frozen action shots. You will want to get your pictures but keep in mind that these performers do work for tips, so it is important to support them with your Eruos.
Moving down the streets you might see impromptu flamenco or other dances on your walk through the Gothic Quarter or elsewhere. There are a lot of street performers so you also don’t have to feel necessary to give tips to everyone, but take care of the people you take pictures of with or stop to watch. Most of all enjoy the show, that’s why the are there!
Don’t forget about Barceloneta Beach
Some people plan travel to Barcelona and don’t even realize or forget that this is also a beach town!! Barceloneta beach or Platja de la Barceloneta stretch of beach a short walk from the heart of the Catalan Capital.
On the way you get to see some beautiful attractions including yachts in the Marina, Mirador de Colom, Rambla de Mar bridge and a great view to the W Hotel Barcelona. No visit to the Barcelona City Center is complete without a trip to or by the beach.
This Barcelona beach is one of the few I have seen in the world where you can eat and drink on the beach without having to set foot in the sand. Depending on the time of year or day of the week you can expect a lot of people as this a huge attraction for the local and tourist alike.
For those of you that have had the chance to travel in the states, a visit to Barcelona feels to me like combining the history and beauty of Boston and the beach town of San Diego.
Tops are optional
Travel tips can have a different interpretation for different types of travelers so take this one however you like. The people of Europe and certainly the local of Catalan are not afraid of some skin. Just an FYI that tops are optional on the beaches of Barcelona, something that other posts with Barcelona travel tips might leave out.
Whether that is something you really want to check out or may want to avoid, be forewarned. While the feel might be that of a San Diego beach town, the moods is more South Beach Miami so you might experience things you didn’t intend. But if that doesn’t scare you away, put your comfortable shoes on and travel on down to dip your toes in the Mediterranean Sea.
The Spanish Love Soccer (Futbol)
Writing this post in October I am enticed to book a November for another Barcelona trip, but what I really want is to go back when some major international soccer is going on. One of the tips I wish I realized was about how much the Spanish love soccer.
I had the honor to visit Ibiza and Barcelona Spain during the World Cup and although Ibiza enjoyed it, Barcelona was magical. Even just watching on tv at a local pub was amazing with the bar packed with Brazilian and Columbian fans from halfway across the world.
I haven’t had an opportunity to see an FC Barcelona match but I would love to one day. I am hoping for the European cup or next World Cup that I can coincide my travel to be in Barcelona. This is an experience to remember and I encourage you to find a way to appreciate their football love on your visit to Barcelona.
There are Free Museums
Packing your trip with sites is usually inexpensive because it only requires some fuel for your body and motivation for your self guided walking tour, but visiting multiple sites or museums can really break the bank. Barcelona offers a variety of major museums, that offer certain days with free admission.
You might also be amazed just like I was to be walking around and come across free art exhibits for up and coming artists where you got to enjoy the local culture at no cost.
Experience the local culture of Catalunya and Spain as a whole doesn’t have to break the bank if you do your research and are willing to explore. Travel tips are only useful if you actually take action on them so I recommend this is one you do a little homework on.
Experience the Mercado de La Boqueria in La Rambla
One amazing place I see left off a lot of the guides for Barcelona Spain is the Merchado de La Boqueria, but this is a can’t miss. Whether you wan to grab lunch or or planning to cook your own meal this is a Barcelona must!! You don’t even need to buy anything but just getting a chance to see the varieties of Spanish cuisine laid out in front of you is amazing.
The original market started in the 1200’s which on its own is overwhelming to think about. The first time I came here it was purely by accident simply walking around, but I have been sure to take friends her in later trips to experience the food of Barcelona Spain.
Barcelona loves small plates of food
Do not expect large portions, because you will be disappointed. This isn’t a major topic but just something to be aware of before you start to spend your travel dollars. The term tapas by definition is “small Spanish savory dishes,” with the key word being small.
When you pull up to a Barcelona restaurant and you see nicely priced meals, know that they probably aren’t meals. They are more like appetizers meant to be shared and ordered in quantity.
Learn to tip like a local
The Spanish, like many Europeans, are not tippers and the same holds true in Barcelona so you don’t have to go crazy with tips. Here is an easy guide but essentially a little change or taking care of your hotel staff is all that is expected. However, night clubs and table service will still expect gratuity. And don’t forget to take care of your favorite street performer.
Plan to do lots of walking in Barcelona
If you don’t like to walk, get a hop on hop off bus pass and the still expect to do a ton of walking. You are going to spend a good majority of your time in Barcelona walking so get ready. If that isn’t what you want, you may prefer to have your friends take pictures for you so you can stay on the bus. But seriously though my best Barcelona Travel tip is to have comfortable shoes your feet will thank you.
Barcelona is an international tourist city
You are going to hear multiple languages from all over the world, from east west north and south. People travel to Barcelona from all over the world so expect to run into plenty of other tourists. However, if you explore and get away from the most populated areas you will get a chance to mingle with the locals in their environment.
But don’t be afraid to get to know other travelers either. Just because someone isn’t a Catalan doesn’t mean they aren’t worth a connection. In fact, if you are looking for future travel buddies the tourist you run into might be one to guide you or give you the travel tips you need for your next vacation.
Carry some cash in Euros
Cash is still king in Europe, because payment processing works differently in Europe. Most places will accept your credit cards but they always prefer cash. In Barcelona, you also might be able to negotiate a better price by paying in cash. And when you need to hand out a few tips for great service nothing speaks like money in the hand.
Don’t go crazy and carry too much cash because you then become a target or potential horror story. Carry just enough to get you through the day and replenish at night or when you make a stop at your room.
Be weary of public wifi
When we travel internationally we almost all want to preserve our data, and Barcelona like many major cities often offers public wifi. Many restaurants, bars and public places offer free wifi that allows you to update your gps, check in or check your email. However, according to the experts we often get too comfortable logging onto public wifi.
It is always preferable to use a secure wifi, but just requiring a password doesn’t guarantee security. Us the wifi Barcelona offers for necessities but don’t log into very personal or financial websites while on the public wifi. Travel tips that keep your identity safe are always worth learning.
So I certainly hope that you are ready for you trip to beautiful Barcelona and that the travel tips above really make a difference in your trip planning and over all enjoyment. However, I don’t want you to leave it at that. I would love to see pictures and hear stories about your Barcelona experience.
Do you have some tips of your own to share, I would love to hear them. Feel free to add your email address to the list and stay in touch or get in contact on social media. Barcelona is a city of history, beauty, and change but Barcelona is something different to each person. Take time to live it for yourself!
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions:
1. How should I prepare for Barcelona?
Do your research, get your site tickets and prepare yourself for miles and miles of walking the beautiful city of Barcelona.
2. What should you not do in Barcelona?
You shouldn’t spend your entire time on Las Ramblas because you will pay more and miss much of what the city has to offer.
3. How many days do you need in Barcelona?
Even if you only have one day you should go, but you can experience a lot in 3 days. Many people will spend 4-5 days or more in Barcelona really taking their time.
4. Is it safe to visit Barcelona in 2020?
Again, do your research, because there is political unrest but it is limited and tourists are unlikely to have issues if they steer clear of those areas. I personally would be happy to go back in 2020 if my schedule allowed.