Barcelona is a vibrant, bustling city like any other. However, there are some things you really need to know before travelling there. If you’re only visiting for a few days and want to make the most out of your experience, keep reading! I lived in the city for over two months and have some valuable advice for you.
1. Barcelona is Touristy
Unfortunately, Barcelona is really touristy and it has also become quite expensive for travellers in comparison to the rest of the country. However, it is good to spend two days or so exploring the city centre just to soak up the atmosphere. There are many lovely areas like the Gothic Quarter with local shops that are worth exploring. My suggestion to those with more time on their hands and who want to obtain a better idea of the region is to get out of the city itself. There are some really incredible half day and day trips you can do – Tibidabo, Figueres, Girona, Montserrat, Sitges etc. These places can be a little less touristy and they definitely offer a much more authentic experience of Catalonia.
2. La Rambla is Awfully Busy
La Rambla is Barcelona’s busiest street but it is one that you simply have to see for yourself. Be prepared for chaos and for people to push and shove. Don’t stop walking on La Rambla because that’s when the pickpockets try and get to you. Keep moving at all times. Try not to eat at the restaurants on this street because they are usually very overpriced and quite average. Instead, simply veer off La Rambla for some incredible hidden gems. My favourite has to be Magnolia Restaurant in the old town. Magnolia prides itself on a delicious three-course meal including a glass of wine for around 15 Euro. And believe you me this is no ordinary meal. This is a tasty gourmet delight you’ll never forget!
3. Thieves are Everywhere!
Barcelona is filled with the world’s top thieves. You won’t even know you’ve been robbed because their hands nimbly reach into every bag, backpack or back pocket. Many people I met during the two months I lived in Barcelona were robbed on the metro and on La Rambla. Often, many didn’t even know they were robbed until they arrived back at their accommodation.
If you are a woman and if you carry a handbag, make sure you have a sling strap over your shoulders so you can wear the bag itself on the front of your body and hold on to it at all times. Ensure your handbag zip closes properly. Bags that have a clip or magnet for closing will not suffice. Do not use a backpack for valuables. You can use it for holding some bottled water or a jacket but keep all your valuables in the front of your body or in a front bag that you can see at all times. You can also wear your backpack on the front of your body which many seasoned travellers do. Although this is not a fashion statement I myself care to follow.
4. Stay Further Afield
My advice is to opt for an apartment, hotel or bed and breakfast that is not right in the city centre (unless you only have one or two days in the city). If the craziness of the city is your thing then by all means stay near La Rambla. But if you prefer to have a good night’s sleep rather venture a bit away from La Rambla and stay in one of Barcelona’s most beautiful suburbs such as Eixample or Gracia (which are not too far away from the very centre). All you need to do is make sure you stay near a metro stop and you’ll be in the city centre within minutes.
5. Gaudi is a Gem
Gaudi’s buildings are by far my favourite attraction in Barcelona. Casa Batlló and La Pedrera are must-sees as is Park Güell and Palau Güell. And of course the popular Sagrada Familia is at the top of everyone’s list. Although these attractions are pretty touristy, they are extremely beautiful and capture the fascinating, innovative techniques of the architect. They also give you a sense of just how design-oriented and creative this city truly is! If you love arts and culture as much as I do, then buy your tickets online in order to skip the queue (which is mostly long and painful).
Barcelona is a city that offers so much for tourists and especially for creatives who appreciate arts, culture and architecture. What are your tips for travellers journeying to Barcelona? What is important for travellers to know before they go to this bustling city? Share your tips below in the comment section.