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Barcelona Travel Tips – Things to know before you visit

shows a view of Barcelona city - barcelona travel tips

If you’re thinking of visiting one of the most iconic cities in the entire world, but are not sure what to expect, stay tuned, as we cover all the essential Barcelona travel tips you’ll ever need to plan your first visit. In this guide, we share practical tips, tricks and insider advice on the city of Barcelona. We’ll cover everything from planning your trip, to the best places to stay, how to get around the city, and essential Barcelona travel tips and tricks that will save you money.

Barcelona is a fantastic place to visit for a long weekend, and we cannot recommend it enough. We hope you find our list of travel tips useful and can use them to plan an upcoming trip. If you have a question about Barcelona that isn’t covered in our guide, be sure to post a comment or send us a message. We’re happy to help!

Before you visit

  • The first recommendation on our list of Barcelona travel tips is to check that your passport is valid for at least 3 months from your date of arrival in Barcelona.
  • If you’re visiting for up to 90 days in any 180-day period, a UK passport allows you entry without a visa. For anything longer, you can apply for an extended Visa at a tourist office when you’re in Barcelona. If you have a non-UK passport, be sure to check visa information on your local government travel website before arrival.
  • Make sure you have travel insurance cover for the full duration of your trip. We recommend getting a quote from various companies online and getting the best deal to suit you and your travel needs. We personally use Compare The Market to find the best deal (in the UK).
  • Check your mobile phone plan to see if there are any additional costs for using your phone in Barcelona. If you’re from the UK, some networks will allow you to roam in Barcelona free of charge, others may incur a fee. Check online ahead of your visit to see what your plan allows with regards to roaming. If you don’t have a free roaming phone plan and have an E-Sim phone, consider buying a Spanish E-Sim on the Airalo app. It’s affordable and convenient.
  • Credit / debit card is accepted almost everywhere in Barcelona, but you may need cash for small incidentals such as drinks, snacks and souvenirs from market stalls. Bring some euros with you in the event a restaurant doesn’t accept card.
shows a view of Barcelona next to a fair ground

Planning your trip

  • Before visiting Barcelona, you’ll already know how much time you want to spend here. A long weekend (3 or 4 days) is the most common. You can also spend up to 2 weeks in the city and still not see everything! We recommend spending at least 5 nights and 4 full days in Barcelona to really get a feel for the city and its many attractions.
  • Following the above point, you’ll need to decide on the types of sights you want to see, activities you want to do, and places you want to visit. Be sure to check out our 3-4 day Barcelona itinerary and 30 places to visit in Barcelona guides for inspiration
  • Write down the attractions you want to see on a bit of paper, under the note section on your phone, or save the map pins on Google maps.
  • Plan a rough itinerary of what you want to see on each day. If you’re on a short visit, time is valuable, and you’ll want to group attractions that are near each other. For example, Las Ramblas, the Gothic Quarter and La Boqueria Market can all be seen together one morning. Ciutadella Park is best paired with a visit to Barceloneta Beach. Understanding where things are on a map is a Barcelona travel tip you can use in any destination.
  • You’ll need to book some popular attractions online before you visit, as tickets can sell out weeks in advance. The Sagrada Familia and some of the Gaudi museums can all be pre-booked online. In our opinion, booking tickets to the Sagrada Familia in advance is a must. It can sell out a week in advance, even in quieter months.
  • Don’t forget to pack a swimsuit! Barcelona may be a city, but it has one of the best city beaches in the world. Relax by the hotel swimming pool or stop by one of the long sandy beaches. The city is the perfect combination of sightseeing and relaxation.

When’s the best time to visit Barcelona?

There is no good or bad time to visit Barcelona, but there are certain times of the year where the city comes to life. Summer in Barcelona is like no other; it’s fun, vibrant and everyone spends time at the local parks or Barceloneta beach and enjoying a drink or two in the sun. Having said that, summer is also the city’s busiest time of year, and it can get pretty crowded. It’s also very hot!

Spring and autumn are a good option for those who don’t mind the cooler weather but want to avoid rain and the colder temperatures of winter. There are fewer tourists at this time of year, meaning less crowds for attractions and more affordable hotel rates. If you want to find out more detail about the weather in Barcelona at different times of the year, be sure to check out this helpful guide.

shows a building in Barceloneta beach, Barcelona

Accommodation tips

  • Location, location, location. We say it time and time again, but location is key everywhere you visit, but especially when you’re on a city break. You’ll want to stay somewhere that’s centrally located and has easy access to public transport. Be sure to do your research on the best areas to stay in Barcelona ahead of time. Read our safe and central areas to stay in Barcelona guide for inspiration.
  • Like many European cities, Barcelona can be quite an expensive place to stay. If like us you plan on being out most of the day sightseeing and will only be sleeping in your hotel, consider a budget friendly hotel. See our recommendations here.
  • Book your hotel in advance, especially if you’re looking to visit during the peak times of the year. Hotel prices can fluctuate massively, so be sure to book at least a few months in advance to ensure you get a competitive price.
  • Use a comparison website such as Tripadvisor or Trivago to compare booking websites and find the best price for your chosen hotel. You should also search do a quick search for promo codes and cashback offers before booking.
  • Book a hotel with free cancellation if possible. That way, you can cancel and rebook if you want something cheaper. This Barcelona travel tip can be applied to any destination you visit!

How to get around/ travelling around Barcelona

  • Barcelona is a very walkable city. It’s free, good exercise and it’s a great way to see the city. We recommend planning attractions you want to see in advance and then saving the map locations on Google Maps. That way, you can walk between attractions and won’t waste time moving back and forth between different areas.
  • Our next Barcelona travel tip is to make use of the local metro. The metro in Barcelona is extremely reliable, fast and efficient. We used the metro a few times during our stay and it really helped save our legs! Save money on metro journeys by buying a 10 or 8 journey pass. You can even share journeys with a travel partner.
  • Buses are also reliable in Barcelona, and a much cheaper alternative to taxis. We caught the Aerobus from the airport to Las Ramblas and were surprised at how quick and easy the journey was. If you aren’t in a rush and want to save money, we highly recommend the Aerobus to get to and from the airport.
  • Use the Uber app to book taxis. It’ll minimise your chance of getting ripped off and is a safer option than simply waving down a taxi.
shows mount tibidabo at sunset

Food & drink

  • Barcelona has some of the best restaurants we’ve ever been to. With so many different cuisine options to choose from, you’ll be spoilt for choice! Sample the local tapas, but also Mexican, Peruvian and Colombian cuisines. Barcelona is a multi-cultural with some great global restaurants. One of our best Barcelona travel tips is to allocate plenty of research time and budget to finding great restaurants. You won’t be disappointed!
  • If you’re looking for something more authentic, head away from the main tourist areas and eat where the locals eat. L’Eixample and Gracia has a great selection of tapas bars and restaurants for all budgets. On the other hand, the Las Ramblas and Gothic Quarter areas have a lot of overpriced tourist restaurants.
  • On the topic of tapas, you’ll want to sample as many of these ‘small plates’ as you can during your time here. Locals enjoy sharing multiple plates of tapas in the evening over or a glass of wine or beer. Live like the locals and enjoy a bite to eat with your drink.
  • Tapas bars can be very small and only have a few seats and tables. Many places don’t accept reservations, so you might need to wait for a table, especially during peak season. Beat the crowds by heading out to eat around 7pm. Most restaurants open at this time.
  • On the topic of opening hours, it’s very common to eat lunch and dinner late in Barcelona. Always check opening times for restaurants on Google Maps before setting off.
  • Don’t forget to sample the local nightlife, especially on a weekend. The streets of the city are packed full of tourists and locals as soon as the sun goes down. We recommend heading to the neighbourhood of El Born in the evening for a nice meal and a few drinks. Alternatively, stay up until the early hours in a Barceloneta Beach club.

Money

  • Barcelona is a city with some great attractions, but you’ll find many of them come with a cost. Visiting museums, cable car rides, palaces and Gaudi’s attractions can soon add up the cost. Visit attraction websites in advance to determine how much you’ll need to budget for the attractions you want to see.
  • Add Barcelona’s free attractions to your itinerary. Barceloneta Beach, the city’s parks, beautiful architecture and marina are some of the best attractions in the city. Supplement paid-for attractions with free options to save money.
  • Many shops and restaurants around the tourist area of Las Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter can be overpriced. Some places may even over-charge if you’re not careful. Always check your bill in restaurants before paying, check menu prices before ordering and try to eat away from the main tourist areas to save money.
  • As mentioned earlier on in the article, card payment is widely accepted in Barcelona, and is the most popular method of payment amongst locals and tourists. Use a fee-free credit card to save money on ATM fees and cash exchange.
  • Always try to pay using a credit card for large purchases including tours and hotels. If there are any issues, you’re covered by your credit card provider’s insurance and can quickly claim the money back. Be wary of places that don’t accept credit card or push you to pay with cash for large purchases.
  • Use public transport over taxis. They’re a lot cheaper!
  • Barcelona has restaurants for all budgets, from cheap eats on the go to fine dining Michelin Star restaurants. Check out Tripadvisor’s ‘cheap eats’ list here to find affordable dining options. We saved money by ordering cheap Tapas at bars and eating at the many Barcelona sandwich shops. Jamon sandwiches are a staple in the Barcelona diet!
shows the park bench at park guell - Barcelona travel tips

The local language

  • Castellano Spanish and Catalan are the the main languages spoken in Barcelona, but most shop owners and assistants, restaurant waiters and those that work in the tourism industry speak English with no issues. However, as with many other places, locals really like it when you make an effort to speak in their language, no matter how small. Here are some basic Spanish phrases you might want to note down:
    • Hello – ‘Hola’
    • Good morning – ‘Buenos días’
    • Good afternoon – ‘Buenas tardes’ 
    • Good evening – ‘Buenas noches’
    • Thank you – ‘Gracias’
    • No thank you – ‘No, gracias’
    • Goodbye – ‘Adiós’ or ‘Hasta luego’ (less formal)
    • The bill please – ‘La cuenta por favor’
  • We recommend writing a few of the main phrases down in the note section on your phone or jot them down on a piece of paper. You can refer to them as and when needed. Go on and impress the locals with your Spanish skills!
  • If you fancy becoming a linguist, broaden your vocabulary by downloading a language learning app before your trip. Apps such as Babel, Busuu and Duolingo are free to use and are a great way to learn more words and phrases.

A few things to watch out for in Barcelona

  • Barcelona has a bit of a bad reputation with opportunistic crime, in particular pickpockets. This is especially apparent in the busy tourist areas of Las Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter. To ensure you’re safe and are at lower risk of being pick pocketed, make sure you don’t have your wallet, phone, or any other belongings on show. Keep your belongings in a bag that’s securely fastened around your body (cross body and bum bags are the best). Never put anything in your back pocket.
  • Whilst there aren’t many scams in Barcelona, as with any big city, there’ll always be people trying to sell you something or rip you off. If you’re in a shop, a market, or restaurant and prices aren’t shown, be sure to ask before making a purchase. Avoid buying anything or giving anything to people that approach you on the street and be wary of strangers.
  • Barcelona is a beautiful city, with so many fantastic areas to explore. However, just like any other city like Paris and London, there are some areas that aren’t as nice. You’ll want to avoid them if possible. Areas that aren’t the best on evening include El Raval and Cuitadella Park. Some streets of the Gothic Quarter can also be a little sketchy, so be sure to travel with someone else if out until the early hours. Read our guide on central and safe areas to stay in Barcelona for more information.
shows central Barcelona at night - Barcelona travel tips

What clothes to pack

This next set of Barcelona travel tips is all about what to pack and wear during the time of the year you visit. If you’re visiting Barcelona during the summer months (May – September), you’ll want to pack plenty of light and airy clothes, as the weather in the city can reach up to highs of 30+ degrees Celsius. Items you may want to consider include:

  • T-shirts
  • Vests
  • Shorts
  • Skirts and dresses
  • Hats
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Swimsuit
  • Smart shirts and dresses for the evening (locals like to dress up, especially during the weekend)
  • A comfortable pair of shoes/ trainers. You’ll do a lot of walking!

If you’re visiting Barcelona during spring, autumn and winter, be sure to check the weather forecast ahead of your visit. You might be lucky and can be blessed with warm sunshine, even in November, or you may experience some rainfall and cooler weather. Here are some ideas on what to pack during the cooler months of the year (November – April):

  • A light jacket/ thicker jacket depending on the time of year you visit.
  • Jumpers for layering
  • Trousers
  • Shorts (you never know – the weather may be warmer than you think!)
  • A comfortable pair of trainers/ shoes. Pack waterproof shoes if possible.

Our final Barcelona travel tips to help make it a trip to remember

  • Getting around the city is easy and the main attractions are relatively close to each other. We recommend using the city Metro system. It’s cheap, fast and easy to use. You can buy multi-trip passes for less than 10 euros.
  • Barcelona can get very busy in the summer months. Book all of your attraction tickets online ahead of your trip. It’ll save you time and money.
  • Compared to other European city destinations, hotels in Barcelona can be pretty cheap. Location is key for a short stay and we advise getting a hotel in one of the more central districts. Read our guide on central and safe areas to stay in Barcelona for inspiration.
  • There’s a fun, laid bake vibe to the city. Late night eating and early hours partying are commonplace. Live like a local and explore the tucked away eateries and bars before visiting one of the main beach clubs. Don’t even bother going to dinner until at least 9pm if you want to see any locals out!
  • Be street smart and aware of your surroundings, especially if you’re out on an evening. Keep expensive items concealed and be wary of strangers that approach you.
  • Plan ahead of time. Make a list of the sights you want to see ahead of visiting Barcelona. You’ll want to see lots during your visit, but not too much to tire yourself out. A simple itinerary goes a long way in Barcelona!
  • We always recommend visiting for a longer period of time, so you get some relaxation time too. Barcelona provides a good mix of sightseeing and beach/swimming pool relaxation in the warmer months. A great part of city life here is enjoying the sunshine, drinks and great fod.
  • If you fancy learning more about the history of Barcelona, consider a walking tour. It’s a fun activity, especially for those interested in the background of iconic buildings and areas.
  • Be sure to wear comfortable footwear. Even if you use the metro to get around, you’ll still be walking a long distance each day. Avoid getting blisters and sore feet with a pair of comfortable trainers or walking shoes.
  • Eat like the locals and try the delicious bar foods! Spanish tapas are a must when visiting Barcelona. Sample a few plates of tapas with your group and try some eateries away from the tourist areas. If there are a lot of locals in a restaurant, chances are it’s excellent.
  • Make use of the Aerobus to get to and from the airport. It’ll save you money compared to getting a taxi and it’s super-fast!
  • Some museum entries are free on the 1st Sunday of every month. If you can, plan your visit around this date and take advantage of no museum entrance fees!

We hope you found our list of Barcelona travel tips useful and can now put them to good use when you explore this iconic Spanish city. We have no doubt you’ll have an amazing time exploring Barcelona, and we’d love to hear about your trip! Leave us a comment down below to tell us of your experiences. Recommendations are more than welcome and we’ll be sure to add them to our list.

by susie

Author bio:

I’m a passionate traveller that loves a sunny beach holiday, but also appreciate the cultural side to a trip and checking out undiscovered destinations. I’m the go-to Toucan Traveller for great holiday stories, cool photos and foodie recommendations.

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