What to Expect When Visiting Barcelona
Barcelona is one of the world’s great cities. But just like any great city, it has its share of quirks that you should know about. Not only that, but some of the most famous landmarks are overrated, stealing the attention from many hidden gems. Here are a few things you should know before you visit Barcelona.
Barcelona is Bilingual
In most parts of Spain, you expect to hear one primary language: Spanish. But Barcelona is located in the province of Catalonia, where Catalan remains a second official language. So even if you speak fluent Spanish, you might not understand everything you hear. Fortunately, almost everyone in the city is bilingual. As long as you can speak a little Spanish, you’ll get around just fine.
Time Works Differently There
In Barcelona, being on time is not as important as most major cities. When you look up a restaurant or business online, consider the listed hours to be rough guidelines. The same is even true for public transportation. When you check the schedule, get there a few minutes early, and expect to wait for the train to be a few minutes late.
Be especially careful about catching the last train of the night. Sometimes, they simply decide to shut down early! In the mid-afternoon, many businesses will shut down for siesta time. That said, most museums and tourist attractions remain open. Almost all restaurants are open, since this is when the locals take their lunch break.
Finally, if you’re visiting to experience Barcelona’s famous nightlife, remember that clubs open later. It’s possible to walk in at one or two in the morning, and find that the party is just getting started.
Las Ramblas is Overrated
If you haven’t heard of it, Las Ramblas is a famous, tree-lined road that winds its way through the center of Barcelona. It’s known for its street vendors, street performances, and mosaics that are laid into the road itself.
That said, it’s the city’s #1 free attraction. If you go there in the middle of tourist season, it’s overcrowded, and there’s litter everywhere. To make things worse, pickpockets target this area because they know it’s full of tourists. If you do visit Las Ramblas, take advantage of a luggage storage Barcelona service that will store and insure your luggage. And if Las Ramblas is your number one reason for visiting, consider going in the off-season, when it will be less crowded.
Barcelona Has Many Beaches
Along with Las Ramblas, Barceloneta is another overrated Barcelona attraction, and it’s overrated for the same reason. It’s packed with tourists, many of whom leave their trash behind.
Instead, visit one of Barcelona’s other beaches. Bogatell, Mar Bella, and Nova Icaria are much cleaner, and you’ll actually have room to spread out your beach towel. You can even take a day trip by train to the nearby Costa Brava beach.
Visit the Santa Caterina Market
The Santa Caterina Market dates back to 1848, and is the oldest covered market in all of Barcelona. There, you’ll find over 100 market stands, with all kinds of offerings, from trinkets to meats to baked goods. From outside, you can see the market’s colorful roof, which is tiled with over 325,000 multi-colored tiles.
The nearby Mercat Princesa is another excellent choice. It’s much smaller, with less than 20 working stalls at any given time. That said, these are full-service food stalls, with a blend of local and international foods. As a bonus, you’ll often encounter live bands there, so you’ll have entertainment during your meal.
One place to avoid is La Boqueria. While it used to be the hot market for all the locals, it no longer is. Instead, it’s yet another tourist attraction. The stalls are overpriced, and many of them are selling souvenirs instead of food or local crafts. And like most other tourist traps in Barcelona, the area is rife with pickpockets.
Book Your Tickets in Advance
Barcelona’s most famous attractions, like the Sagrada Familia, can attract lines that last for hours. This means you can stand in line all morning, only to find out that they’ve run out of tickets. This is especially true for the Sagrada Familia cathedral, which continues inching ever closer to completion. As the final touches continue to be added, more and more people are visiting the cathedral each year.
Instead of standing in line for tickets, buy yours online. Keep in mind that at the peak of tourist season, you may need to book three or four days in advance. No matter what, make sure to show up around 5-10 minutes before your scheduled tour. If you’re late, your ticket will immediately become void.
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