Barcelona is much more than a sun-soaked, mosaic-filled dreamland. If you’re coming here, we want to set realistic expectations so you can have a smooth trip. Whether you’re a Type A personality who loves to plan, or an adventurer who likes to wing it, read our five most important things to know when traveling to Barcelona!
1. The official local language is Catalan, not Spanish
Barcelona is the capital city of Catalonia, an autonomous community of Spain. The people from Catalonia are called Catalan, and they proudly boast their own identity and language! While both Catalan and Spanish are spoken in Barcelona, it’s helpful to know a few Catalan phrases. Hola means “hello” like in Spanish. Adéu means “goodbye”. (Be expected to hear adéu a lot, even when walking out of a shop!) Here are a few more phrases to learn:
Thank you: Graciés
Good morning: Bon dia
Good afternoon: Bona tarda
Please: Si us plau
Are those phrases too hard to remember? That’s okay, because locals speak Spanish also. So if you can speak some Spanish phrases, give it a go! They’ll appreciate it if you try.
2. Beware of pickpockets in the metro and high-touristic areas
We constantly rave about Barcelona, but its downside side are the pickpockets. But have no fear! You can avoid being a victim if you safeguard yourself. Here are some local tips:
- Don’t hang your purse on your chair at a bar or restaurant. Out of sight, out of mind! Always keep it on your lap.
- Don’t put your mobile phone on the table. Someone can grab it while you’re distracted.
- Be cautious of “friendly” or “helpful” strangers who can snatch your stuff in a second. For example, they may try to help you with buying a metrocard or ask you to sign a false petition.
- If you’re going out at night, try to stay in well-lit areas and walk with other people. It seems like a given, but pickpockets like to take advantage of your “holiday mode”.
We don’t want to worry you, but we want you to be aware. You can definitely enjoy Barcelona if you take a few precautions!
3. Know the local opening hours
Beware the siesta hour! It would be a shame if you missed out on a unique museum, a one-of-a-kind restaurant, or a cool Barcelona shop because you thought it was open. Know the local schedules. For shops: Opening hours are usually 10am to 1pm, then 5pm to 8pm. Most shops are closed on Sundays, except for a few in the city center. They’re also open later in the summer, sometimes until 9pm. For restaurants: They usually open around 9am to 12pm for breakfast. Lunch is 1-4pm, but most people eat around 2:30pm. Dinner is 9pm to 11:30pm, but restaurant kitchens may open around 8pm
4. Barcelona is different from the rest of Spain
While Barcelona evokes images of enchanting Spanish ladies in ruffled skirts, fluttering their lace fans, I have bad news for you. Barcelona is not the city of Spanish stereotypes! The passionate Flamenco dancers, charging bulls, and decorated toreros are more descriptive of the southern region of Andalusia. So what can you find in Barcelona? Culturally speaking, it’s a city of castellers (human castles), colorful tiles a la Gaudí, and papier-mache giants. The Catalan people are also more reserved than their southern counterparts. But that doesn’t mean their not fun – the enjoy life al fresco, chatting with friends while having a vermouth or strolling the Barcelona streets and beaches!
5. Eat local foods and drinks for an authentic Barcelona experience
It pains us when we see tourists eating paella on Las Ramblas with a huge pitcher of sangria. When in Barcelona, do as Barcelonans do, we say! So, why not try these list of dishes that you can’t find anywhere else? Here are some must-try foods in Barcelona:
La bomba: A ball filled with a soft potato and meat filling, which is breaded and fried. It’s served with a spicy sauce. Yum!
Botifarra amb mongetes: A special Catalan sausage served with white beans. Don’t underestimate this rich, slow-cooked meal!
Fideuá: The cousin of the paella, this dish is served with short noodles (instead of rice) and has seafood. Delicious!
Pa amb tomàquet: This staple of Catalan cuisine is sliced bread rubbed with a fresh tomato, olive oil, and salt.
Need more food ideas? Read our list of complete no-miss dishes to have a flavorful trip! Better yet, book our Sips, Sites, and Bites tour and Gaudí & Tapas Foodie Stroll where we personally take you to family-owned taverns and tapas bars to try Catalan dishes and drinks!
Have any doubts about your Barcelona trip? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll try to help!
June 17, 2019 | Words by Justine Ancheta for Eye On Food Tours