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Spanish? With this fun and helpful
Barcelona is to many the ultimate summer destination and I completely understand why, but
As a first time visitor to Barcelona (or even second or third time) it can be very easy to fall under these tourist traps and overspend your precious euros on food with questionable quality.
Luckily, you don’t have to be an expert in tapas to know that you are not eating what you are paying at certain restaurants. The soggy breads and cold calamari rings are a dead giveaway.
If you want to know some actual recommendations on where to eat in Barcelona, don’t miss out my in-depth post on my top recommendations. As a foodie with high standards, I trust you will find all my recommendations extremely valuable.
This post not only will make sure you avoid eating at the absolute worst places in Barcelona, but will also be your guide towards the 12 things you should absolutely NOT DO when visiting the most famous city of Catalonia.
By reading this post carefully, you will be equipped with everything you need to know in order to enjoy the non-touristy side of Barcelona and actually discover the best ways to travel around this fantastic city.
Freebie: Download my ultimate Barcelona City Guide EBook for FREE and get your hands on even more valuable hacks + tips. Find it at my free travel resource library.
In absolutely no particular order, here are 12 common mistakes tourists make when visiting Barcelona
Mistake #1 Eating at the Ramblas
If you aren’t aware yet, Las Ramblas is the main pedestrian street in Barcelona and an extremely popular tourist attraction, filled with restaurants and shops.
Because of that, you’ll want to avoid buying food or souvenirs on this street as mostly everything you will find there will be overpriced.
On top of that, the food will most probably not be authentic because some restaurants rely on the fact that tourists only visit once, thus they are not interested in providing anyone with good quality food or service.
Think of an unappealing dry paella with a couple of skinny shrimps on top.
Mistake #2 Not Buying Gaudi’s Attractions in Advance
I’ve said this many times in my post about all the attractions to see in Barcelona, but I find it so important that I will write it as many times as needed: Always keep in mind that Barcelona is a year-round popular destination for everyone in the world so all the attractions in the city are understandably crammed with people trying to get in.
Guysss, don’t forget we are in the 21st century and that we have the option to buy everything in advance online!! Don’t be a fool and follow the pack of people queuing for hours and hourssss!!
Last time I went to Paris I wanted to go in the Louvre for a second time (to see what’s up with Monalisa again) and when I got there my jaw dropped: There was a 2h+ queue estimate and it was FREEZING that day.
What did I do? I took out my phone, looked for a wifi spot (in a coffee spot just nearby), bought out tickets online and went for a relaxing lunch.
Later in the day when the time for my pre-booked entrance came, I came back to the Louvre entrance and enjoyed an immediate access to the museum.
No queuing, no hustling, not freezing my ass in the bone cutting Parisian winter, and most importantly to me: not wasting two precious hours of my trip in France.
On top of it all, I went to the Louvre with a satisfied tummy after having enjoyed a delicious and relaxed lunch with my mother at a nearby French restaurant (dessert included)!!
Mistake #3 Visiting Barcelona in August
This goes to everywhere in Europe: August is so damned hot here and paaaacked with people.
Prices raise and all attractions are crammed and burning up with the summer heat.
Do yourself a huge favor and avoid coming to Spain in August at all costs!!!
Mistake # 4 Tanning at Barceloneta Beach
As a good Brazilian, I am obsessed with the beach and I go literally every weekend during summer time. Not surprisingly, many friends who visit me here always seem amazed when I say that I still go to the beach every weekend in Barcelona. To their mind, Barceloneta is a dirty beach filled with weird people and they can’t understand why and how I insist that I love the beach here.
If you are not familiar yet, Barceloneta Beach is Barcelona’s main beach and the closest one to the city center. Naturally, because of that it is packed with people (and trash, mind you) in every possible direction.
Not exactly the paradise scenario you would have in mind, nor even close to a weekend escape to relax from the hectic office life.
If you want to enjoy a day at the beach within the city, I would recommend going a bit more to the left side towards Bogatell beach. It is where locals go (and my personal favorite summer spot). There are less people, the water is clean and it has a great temperature.
Now, if you have time on your agenda, I would recommend taking a quick train and in half an hour you will be outside the city of Barcelona and just like that you will have the opportunity to enjoy other incredible destinations of Catalunya.
Mistake # 5 Underestimating Pickpockets
Look around. EVERYONE is a suspect.
Pickpockets are a common issue in Spain and you’d be surprised at how light their hands actually are. Even myself, after living here for 2 years and thinking I was already wise and experienced, I got myself robbed (once again) during a summer festival here.
It’s extremely annoying and this can really ruin your trip (especially if you depend on your phone for pictures or if you carry your passport with you).
Pro Tip: Make a copy of your passport and leave the original at home. Just in case. 😉
Don’t ever underestimate the pickpockets abilities in Barcelona, or you may end up risking being their next victims. Always keep an eye on your bags and wallets (especially, but not exclusively, at Las Ramblas – their seemingly favorite playground).
Mistake # 6 Not getting VAT Refund Before Going to the Airport
Did you know that if you do not live in the EU you can get a tax refund out of literally everything you buy while visiting the countries within the EU?
All you have to do is ask for the ‘Tax Refund’ upon buying anything at a store (you will need a copy of your passport).
Accumulate all of them and at the last day of your trip, go to the Tax Refund Office just below Plaza Catalunya. You can get cash given back straight on, or have it deposited into your bank account, depending on your preference.
By doing it before going to the airport, everything will be already stamped and checked and you won’t lose any more of your time in the airport. This is especially valuable if you have an early flight.
Mistake # 7 Not Trying Catalan Food
Barcelona is located in Catalonia and people here are very proud to affirm that they are not Spanish, but Catalans (it is very common to hear a local saying ”Barcelona is not Spain”). Even though foreigners tend to see it as a whole, there are definitely many different aspects to Catalan culture from Spanish (not only the language).
So considering that you are at the heart of Catalonia, be sure to try some Catalan specialties such as Calçots or the Escalivada (grilled tomatoes, peppers and aubergine – the beauty of the dish lies in the use of perfectly ripe vegetables, rich in flavor and just waiting to be devoured.)
Calçots: This is the dish, or rather the ingredient, that has the Catalans going mad each year. Calçots, a type of mild scallion or green onion, are unique to Catalonia.
In the cold winter months of January and February, Catalans get together in country houses, restaurants and around barbecue pits for a calçotada. The calçots are thrown onto the barbecue whole until charred and black, and then served with a garlicky almond and pepper sauce called Romesco
While We Are on the Catalan Topic
PRO TIP ALERT:
It doesn’t hurt to learn some words in Catalan just to show to locals that you are ”aware” of their cultural differences.
Don’t start immediately speaking Spanish when ordering something in a restaurant. Even though 90% of locals speak both fluently, they will appreciate your effort and knowledge on their culture.
I can guarantee that you will get better service and find friendlier people if you throw some Catalan words when approaching a local.
So here are a some essential Catalan words that can take you a looooong way in Barcelona:
- Good Morning – Bon Dia
- Good Afternoon – Bona Tarda
- Good Night – Bona Nit
- Thank you – Gracies or Merci (yes, like in French)
- Please – Si us plau
- Goodbye: Adeo
- Cheers – Salut
- Do you speak English? – Parla angles?
- I am sorry – Ho sento
Want to know a bit more about Catalan culture? I’ve written a post with 3 interesting, yet completely weird, Catalan traditions to look out for. Be prepared to be astonished.
Mistake # 8 Going to a Flamenco Show
By now you are probably more aware that Catalans consider themselves not to be Spanish. Because of that, many of their intrinsic cultural aspects are immensely distinguished.
Flamenco is a great example of it and it is most definitely NOT part of Catalan culture (actually, Flamenco is in fact another tradition from Andalucía).
For authentic Flamenco shows, you should go to either of these cities: Granada, Seville, Cordoba, Cadiz, and Malaga. They are all great choices for first-time visitors. In fact, there are also some breathtaking small towns like Vejer de La Frontera, Ronda, and Jaen.
Last time I went to Seville I had a chance to watch a free Flamenco show and it took my breath away. You can literally feel the emotions passed on by the dancers, with their anguished facial expressions and passionate hand movements in unison with the Spanish guitarists’ acoustic melodizing the background.
Flamenco is an impactful dance to watch and an authentic show should be high on your Spain bucket list.
Just don’t do it in Barcelona 😉
Recently I was invited to attend a family-owned Flamenco house here in Barcelona. As you may understand, I was of course skeptical for all the aforementioned reasons. But the person who reached out to me was so nice that I decided I would give it a try.
To my mind, either it would be horrible and it would confirm to me that Flamenco in Catalonia should be avoided, or I would have a great (and unexpected) time.
Tablao de Carmen, in fact, is owned by a traditional Catalan family and Carmen Amaya was a great Flamenco dancer at her time (she even performed for the King of Spain at the same venue here in Barcelona).
I was positively surprised with the passion the family has for Flamenco dancing to this day (I swear the owner’s eyes were shining while he told us the story of Carmen Amaya). Furthermore, the show was so amazing that I caught my jaw open several times. Adding the cherry on top of the cake, the food was absolutely delicious!
The result? I liked the experience so much that I went back the next week with my boyfriend, Cris.
Read my full Tablao de Carmen review here.
And as a little gift for my readers, if you are interested in attending a Flamenco show while you are in Barcelona, by applying my code LABELLESOCIETY upon purchasing tickets in their website, you get FREE WELCOME DRINK per person to be enjoyed at their private patio before or after the show!
Mistake # 9 Drinking Sangria
This may come as a shocker to you amigo, but did you know that the locals in Barcelona actually don’t drink Sangria? Surprising, right?
Do it like a local: The popular drinks that Catalans are ordering at the bars are usually Cava and Vermouth (the latter becoming more and more popular). You will easily find many Vermoutherias around the city.
Spanish vermouth is known as vermút rojo, and it’s white wine infused with caramel, cinnamon, and some herbs that give it a red color. Good if you have a sweet tooth (I am not the biggest Vermouth fan, if I can be honest).
Cava, on the other hand, is the famous Spanish sparkling white wine and it is generally very cheap.
Mistake # 10 Not Paying For the T-10
Transportation in Barcelona is considered very cheap. Even taking a taxi is cheaper than most European countries and because of that tourists use the taxi services abundantly.
However, these costs can add up quickly and further on, Barcelona public transportation works very well.
One thing that you should definitely purchase when visiting is the T-10, which is a metro/bus ticket that costs 11.35 € and gives you 10 metro/bus rides.
Yes, you read it absolutely right: each ride will cost you around 1 € !!!!
You can purchase the T-10 inside any metro station at the ticket machine.
PS – I had some people asking me recently about Uber. Yes, there are Ubers in Barcelona (even though the taxis fight daily to extinguish it).
Mistake # 11 Not Paying the Audio Guide at Sagrada Familia
This mistake is so common that it should be first on the list. At most of Gaudis constructions the audio is included (such as La Pedrera and Casa Battló), but in Sagrada Familia they charge you I believe around 5 euro for the guide, and a lot of people decided that this is a good moment to save money and don’t rent it.
This is such a BIG mistake, especially at the Sagrada Familia. Gaudi’s work is all about intrinsic details and a catered interpretation of the synchronicity between nature and religion. You will most certainly miss valuable details if you do not take the audio guide.
The Sagrada Familia is so special that I did a whole post about it and pointing out to 9 common mistakes that tourists make when visiting it for the first time.
Mistake # 12 Not Researching Gaudi Before Going to Barcelona
In addition to what was previously mentioned above in item 11, making some basic research on who is Anthony Gaudi and understanding his vision will certainly make an impact to how you appreciate Barcelona’s architectural majesty.
Action Item: Do your homework and read a little bit about who he was and what his work is about. You can thank me later 😉
I’ve been living here since September 2016 and am FULL of valuable tips to give.
DONT’ MISS OUT ANYTHING FROM MY POPULAR BARCELONA SERIES
- Want to know more about Barcelona? Check out the complete city guide here.
- Check out my absolute top recommendations on where to eat in Barcelona after living here for 2+ years.
- 3 interesting, yet extremely WEIRD, Catalan traditions
- Top Barcelona Activity: Authentic Flamenco at Tablao de Carmen
- 12 Common Barcelona Tourist Mistakes
- 6 Mistakes to Avoid at The Sagrada Familia
- First Time to Spain Guide
- 10 Reasons Why So Many People Visit Barcelona
Planning a trip to Barcelona any time soon? That’s so EXCITING! To help you get started, check out Get Your Guide’s top-rated tours and activities.
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- Get Your Guide – For fun tours and attractions tickets – Buy tickets in advance and save money + time!