17 Barcelona Travel Tips From a Local

Barcelona is an amazing city and especially great for solos. Having lived there for two years, I've gained a few insights and local tips to help you make the most of your time in this famous city. I share my Barcelona travel tips so that you can explore the city with more confidence from a local’s perspective. Happy planning. 

Barcelona travel tips

Barcelona Travel Tips 

Firstly, is Barcelona worth visiting? Most definitely! There’s a reason that I chose to live in Barcelona for 2 years. It’s amazing! It has everything from stunning architecture, museums, bars and clubs and beaches. And it's walkable and affordable too! What's not to love?! Whether you're choosing to go there independently or through an agency such as Destinia, Barcelona is a city that should be visited at least once in your lifetime. 

Barcelona travel tips

1. There’s more to Gaudi than the Sagrada Familia

The Sagrada Familia is probably the most well known building of the famous architect, Antoni Gaudi but it isn't the only masterpiece that he created in the city. Casa Calvet isn’t as well known but it was one of the earlier buildings that Gaudi designed. Or check out Casa Vicens, Gaudi’s first ever masterpiece, located in Gracia. 

You don’t have to go inside the Gaudi buildings to see the architecture. You can see the facade and skull-shaped balconies of Casa Batllo from outside. As well as the stone facade of La Pedrera and of course the Sagrada Familia which you can marvel from the outside! And make sure to head to Plaza Reial and see the lampposts which he also designed! 

Barcelona travel tips

2. Don't just stick to Barceloneta Beach 

The most popular one, Barceloneta, is closest to the city and goes all the way to the curvy W Hotel but there are nine in the city! If you hop on Metro Line 4, you can get off at different stops and walk to the beach. Just remember, the metro stops aren't right by the beach, so you'll need to stroll a bit.

Marbella beach is cool with a pop-up bar, restaurant, and volleyball court. It's a chill spot, not too crowded with tourists. Or you could try Ciutadella – Vila Olimpica, another beach that's not as busy.

Barcelona travel tips

3. Be prepared for the Barcelona tourist tax 

Barcelona has a tourist tax which has recently increased. This means that for every day that you’re there you pay an amount of up to €3.50 depending on what type of accommodation you’re staying in. Five-star hotels have the highest tax. The good news is that it only applies for a maximum of a week stay.

The tax is added to your accommodation and paid when you check-in or check-out. On the topic of accommodation, try and stay in hostels or hotels in Barcelona if you can. Airbnb drove many of the locals out of the city due to the rising costs of rent. 

Barcelona travel tips

4. You don’t need Spanish but be prepared for Catalan

If you start speaking Spanish in a restaurant or a bar, they tend to respond in English as they want to practice their English so don’t worry if you don’t know any Spanish before your trip. Although it is polite to say a few words. But the main language here is Catalan and not Spanish, which sounds like a fusion of Spanish and French. Most of the road sides are in Catalan (Placa for example instead of plaza).

Barcelona travel tips

5. They have a siesta! 

Even though it’s the capital of Catalonia, it is still Spain. Shops close in the afternoons for a couple of hours and don’t expect supermarkets to be open on Sundays (except for the smaller Chinese supermarkets). Plus, visit in the month of August and some of the local businesses will be closed as the locals take their holidays for a month. 

Barcelona travel tips

6. Look for festivals

The city always has some kind of party or special event going on. Look up the Guia Barcelona events page to see if there's anything cool happening while you're here. They've got everything from art shows to wine festivals, so there's something fun for everyone, even if you're on your own.

Ever seen those crazy human towers? It's a tradition from Catalonia that started in a small town called Valls, not too far from here. People called Castellers climb on top of each other to build these towers, and there's usually someone playing a flute while they do it. Check the website to find out when you can see them in action.

During summer, you can have a blast at Brunch in the Park, an electronic festival held every Sunday afternoon and evening on Montjuic Hill. They've got sprinklers to cool you down and free sunscreen too. It's a fantastic vibe, and partying while the cable car passes overhead adds to the fun.

Barcelona travel tips

7. Avoid the touristy restaurants

Being Barcelona, there are expensive tourist restaurants such as the ones on La Rambla, and Passeig de Joan de Borbo (the road that leads from the marina down to Barceloneta Beach). Don't go to the busy places where lots of tourists eat paella.

Instead, look for restaurants on the side streets which have a special ‘Menu del dia,' where you can get a 3-course meal for a fraction of the price of a touristy restaurant.  Just look for signs outside the restaurants advertising it.

Barcelona travel tips

8. Try the local tipple: Cava!

Obviously, being Spain, you can get sangria but Catalonia makes its own champagne called Cava, which you can get almost anywhere. They also serve Vermouth, like Martini Rosso or Bianco. In the summer, try Verano de Tinto, a mix of red wine and Fanta that's surprisingly tasty.

Can Paixano, also called La Xampanyeria, is a must-visit for cheap glasses of Cava, even pink ones. It's always busy, so be ready for a crowd. You can find it at Carrer de la Reina Cristina, 7.

Barcelona travel tips

9. Plan your itinerary so you don't miss out

If you're coming for less than three days, it might not be enough time. Honestly, there's just so much to see that a week would be better. But if you only have a long weekend or three days, make sure to plan what you want to do beforehand. Try to get tickets in advance to skip the lines.

Even if you can't go inside the Sagrada Familia, you can still see its beautiful outside by walking around it. If you're staying a few nights, think about getting the Barcelona Pass. It lets you visit over 35 top attractions and you have two years to use it, just in case you need to delay your trip.

Barcelona travel tips

10. Buy a T-casual metro card! 

Instead of paying for every single journey, choose a 2,3,4 or 5-day pass. Or buy a T10 which gives you 10 journeys for €12.15. Compare that to a single ticket of €2.55 and you’re saving 50% on 10 journeys! This allows travel on the buses, metro and tram. Just validate your ticket on the machine whichever mode of transport you choose. Metros run from 05:00 until midnight Monday to Thursday and 02:00am on weekends.

Barcelona travel tips

11. Have a drink on one of the rooftops

I really love Barceló Raval because it has this amazing rooftop bar with views all around. Another place I enjoy is Hotel Duquesa de Cardona, where you can see the marina and they even have a pool on the roof.

Barcelona travel tips

12. Some cafes don't allow laptops

If you’re working online, some cafes don’t appreciate you taking your laptop in. Instead, look for the co-working app called Get Croissant where you can buy hourly credits that let you work from a number of beautiful co-working spaces, cafes or hotel lobbies that welcome nomads! Or go to Juice Dudes (in the photo above). The staff are great and they allow laptops!

Barcelona travel tips

13. Be careful where you're walking

What I love about Barcelona is that it's a walkable city so walk as much as you can but you do need to be careful where you're walking. There are a lot of dogs being walked in the city and some areas aren't that clean so look down to make sure you're not stepping in anything. And don't forget to look up on Las Ramblas or the area of Raval as you may get offered drink or drugs so be prepared to say no. 

Barcelona travel tips

14. Take the Aerobus, not the metro 

The metro may be a cheap way of getting from the airport but if you have heavy luggage, I honestly wouldn’t even try getting the metro due to the amount of stairs that you have to carry your bag up and down. Instead, put your luggage on the Aerobus.

The Aerobus takes 30 minutes to get into the city and runs every 5-10 minutes from Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. You can get off at Plaza Espana or Plaza Catalunya (which is the main stop).

Barcelona travel tips

15. See entertainment for free

Watch the street performers for free (unless you want to give them a donation afterwards) in the streets of Born. As evening sets in, take a stroll through the old streets of the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona. Here, you'll find talented street performers filling the air with beautiful music. Let yourself be carried away by the sounds of opera or other captivating tunes that add to the area's magical atmosphere. 

Barcelona travel tips

Playa d'Aro on the Costs Brava

16. Take a day trip

There are lots of day trips you can do from here so if you decide you need some time away from the city, take one of these day trips instead. You can head to Sitges, a charming coastal town famous for its carnival and scenic promenade.

Explore the medieval city of Girona, the mountains of Andorra, or take a hike up Montserrat mountain to visit the revered Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey. Montserrat is so unique that if you only have time for one place, make it a trip here. The trains run from Plaza Catalunya to Montserrat. 

Barcelona travel tips

17. See the lesser-known sites

Make sure to visit Las Arenas, inside a former bull ring that has now been converted to shops! And the Plaza d’Espanya fountain is stunning too! Plus you can watch the water fountain show. 

There are lots of places in Barcelona where you can enjoy dinner or a glass of wine, but El Nacional is a really great spot to have one or two. It used to be a big car shop, but now it's one of the coolest places in Barcelona. Divided into different areas, each one has their own vibe. 

Don't forget to include Gracia on your list of places to visit. Take some time to explore this neighbourhood where you can find one-of-a-kind artisanal products and homemade goods. Gracia was once a separate village before it became part of Barcelona in the 19th century. While you're there, why not relax and enjoy a cup of coffee at one of the cozy cafes?

Barcelona travel tips

Ready to Plan a Trip?

I hope you enjoyed this article on Barcelona. If I've inspired you to visit, make sure to check out the rest of my Barcelona guides too! My solo travel in Barcelona guide has everything that you need to plan a trip to this magical city. 

Barcelona travel tips

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