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Planning a trip to the beautiful city of Barcelona? This is one of the most frequently asked questions I get before visiting, so you might be asking yourself the same thing, what should I avoid in Barcelona?
You’re in the right place. I live in Barcelona, and can tell you as a past tourist and a local, exactly what you should avoid in Barcelona. Below are 27 things to avoid, from myself and other locals.
Don’t get caught unprepared in Barcelona, as that can easily put a damper on your trip. Let’s get started.
Planning a trip soon? Here are some quick Barcelona travel resources
- Book your accommodations at Booking.com
- Find hostels at hostelworld.com
- Book your tours at GetYourGuide
- Book rental cars at discovercars.com
What Should I Avoid in Barcelona
Some of these might be obvious, but others won’t be! Do your research and show up to Barcelona as prepared as a local with these insider travel tips. Here are the top things you should avoid in Barcelona.
1. Avoid pickpockets – keep your belongings secured
Pickpockets are more common in Barcelona than in other metropolitan cities, so it pays to be extra diligent. One of the simplest ways to protect yourself is to keep your belongings in a zipped belt bag or fanny pack (bumbag for my UKers).
Never leave anything unattended or hanging off chairs, especially at restaurants with outdoor dining.
Pickpockets are most common in Las Ramblas and El Born. Furthermore, always be aware of your surroundings on public transit, as that’s another place pickpockets often hide. This is the number one thing to avoid in Barcelona, so don’t take this travel advice Barcelona lightly!
2. Going to dinner without a reservation
When visiting Barcelona, it’s important to be aware of the city’s customs and etiquette. One of the most important things a traveler should keep in mind is not going to dinner without a reservation.
First, many popular tapas restaurants fill up quickly any day of the week, especially on the weekends.
Showing up without a reservation could mean long waits or maybe even that the restaurant is full for the rest of night.
Even if you do manage to get a last-minute spot on a waiting list, you may not be seated until 10-11 pm which can make for an exhausting evening!
Additionally, some restaurants may require reservations, especially for larger groups. Either way it’s always best to call ahead and check in advance before showing up.
And if you’re a planner like me, making a reservation ahead of time gives you peace of mind knowing that your table will be ready when you arrive – no waiting for tapas and wine!
3. Getting ready for dinner before 8pm
Visiting Barcelona means experiencing a city that operates on its own clock.
One of the most important things to know before visiting Barcelona is that restaurants don’t open until 8 pm, and they close for siesta around 2 or 3 pm in the afternoon.
I know your stomach will probably be rumbling and excited for Spanish tapas and wine, but there’s no point in getting ready to head out before 8pm.
If you do happen to get a dinner reservation at 7, you’ll quickly notice that the streets will be empty for another hour or two at that time.
4. Wear heels or shoes other than comfortable walking shoes
There’s no better tell-tale sign of a tourist than wearing fancy or nice shoes when strolling around Barcelona.
Ditch those fancy shoes and take a cue from the locals – comfort is key! But don’t worry, you can still look trendy in a pair of cute white sneakers or some combat boots.
Trust me, your feet (and traveling companions) will thank you. No need to suffer from blisters and complaints when you can walk around like a true local.
How do people dress in Barcelona? Comfy and chic is the name of the game!
5. Expect it to be warm year-round
Psst! Quick tip for beach lovers heading to Barcelona: don't believe the hype that the sandy shores are always sunny and warm. Actually, there are a few months that might throw a bit of a wrench in your plans for beach bumming.
From November to January, the weather can get a bit nippy and wet, so if your heart is set on soaking up the sun, plan accordingly!
6. Thinking that it’s not worth going inside Sagrada Familia
Think the outside of the Sagrada Familia is impressive? Wait until you see what's inside! Many tourists make the grave mistake of assuming that the exterior is the highlight of Barcelona's most popular attraction.
But don't be fooled - the interior of the Sagrada Familia is a true masterpiece that will leave you speechless.
So if you're planning a trip to this stunning city, make sure you give yourself enough time to wander the halls and gaze up at the breathtakingly beautiful details. Trust me, it's worth every penny.
7. Try getting into Sagrada Familia without purchasing a ticket in advance
No one wants to spend hours waiting in line at a tourist attraction. Don't make the mistake of trying to score last-minute tickets to the stunning Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
This beauty fills up fast. To avoid missing out on Barcelona's most popular attraction, it's best to book ahead - think a few hours minimum or even a day or two if you're planning a weekend trip or traveling during peak season. You don't want to waste any time to be memorized by Gaudí's masterpiece.
8. Thinking everyone speaks English
Want to explore Barcelona but don't know Spanish? No worries, you can still navigate the city like a pro! But that doesn't mean every local will speak English.
It's important to brush up on a few key phrases like please, (por favor), thank you (gracias), and a few other key phrases. You'll be good to go.
Plus, who doesn't love an opportunity to practice their language skills? Take a chance to chat with some of the mom and pop shop owners who might not speak your language fluently. You might just learn some new Spanish words while discovering your new favorite items!
9. Getting confused when someone speaks Catalan
Did you know that Spanish isn't the only language spoken in Barcelona? While it's a major language in the city, many locals actually speak Catalan as their primary language.
Catalan may have some similarities with Spanish, but it's its own unique language.
So don't be surprised if you hear different languages being spoken around town! Keep an open mind and embrace the linguistic diversity of beautiful Barcelona.
10. Avoid taking taxis everywhere
Say "adiós" to high transportation costs in Barcelona - don't waste your money by taking taxis everywhere.
This vibrant city offers a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere, making it a breeze to walk to most places.
And when your feet need a break, take advantage of the efficient and cost-effective public transportation system, like the metro. This is a great way to save money, get places fast and avoid traffic.
Get out there and explore Barcelona stress-free, and save those extra euros for some delicious tapas!
► OR explore the whole city with a Hop On Hop Off Tour!
11. Visiting without learning a few basic Spanish and Catalan phrases
There's not a huge language barrier in Barcelona, but it's still respectful to know a bit of Spanish or Catalan to help get around during your trip.
Don't sweat it though, we've got you covered. Learn some essential Spanish, English, and Catalan phrases that'll help you get around Barcelona and interact with the locals like a boss. From greetings to asking for directions, make sure you won't don't have to resort to charades to get your point across.
Trust us, landing in a new country is already overwhelming as it is, so get your little notebook out and write down some important phrases.
12. Only seeing Barcelona
Ready for some adventure outside of Barcelona? Don't limit your exploration to just the bustling city! Venture out and discover the hidden gems that Costa Brava and other towns like Valencia around Barcelona have to offer.
With breathtaking beaches, hikes around Sitges, charming villages like Cadaques, and so much more, this region is a treasure trove waiting to be discovered. Or go farther and explore other coastal towns in Spain like Cadiz.
So pack your bags, grab a map, and take a day trip to explore the wonders beyond the city limits!
13. Taking out a ton of euros - but don't just rely on credit cards either!
Before you go, let's talk finances. While it's always good to have some euros on hand for those smaller shops and street vendors, don't worry about lugging around a ton of cash.
In this modern city, most places accept credit cards and even the ultra-convenient apple pay! One of my favorite parts of the city is how easy restaurants make it to split checks when I'm going out with friends. So go ahead and pack a few euros, and keep those plastic cards or virtual wallets at the ready.
14. Leave your belongings on the beach
If you're planning a fun-filled day soaking up the sun in vibrant Barcelona, there's one crucial rule you must follow. This is the most important thing to avoid in Barcelona: never leave your belongings unattended at the beach.
It might seem like a no-brainer, but too often people make the mistake of assuming their beach gear is safe when left alone.
Unfortunately, this leaves them vulnerable to theft and the headache that comes with losing important items. To avoid becoming a victim of beach bandits, always keep a watchful eye on your belongings or better yet, bring a trustworthy friend to take turns watching over everything while you take a dip in the sea.
15. Avoid walking around alone at night
There are plenty of safe areas in Barcelona like Gracia and Gothic Quarter. However, when it comes to exploring at night, it's definitely better to play it safe. As goes for any city, you should avoid walking alone in the dark. But don't worry, you won't have to miss out on the fun!
Stick with your group, hail a cab, or call up Free Now for a ride. This ride-sharing app in Spain has got your back and will get you where you need to go while keeping you safe. Remember to always prioritize your safety!
16. Leaving your phones on tables
In Barcelona, you should avoid leaving your phone on the table. While you're enjoying your meal or drinks, keep a close eye on your surroundings, especially if you notice any characters eyeing or coming near your table.
To add to that, the back of your chair isn't a safe spot either. Keep your phone close, and let the good times roll! Don't make the rookie mistake and have your phone laying out - unless you're using it to take a super cool picture of your food.
17. Visiting in July or August
While July and August are peak tourist seasons in this vibrant city, they also happen to be the hottest months of the year.
If you're not a fan of high temperatures and humidity, it might be best to avoid visiting during this time. There are plenty of other months when the weather is just as lovely and the crowds are a little thinner. March to June are great times to enjoy warm weather and the beach without sweating the day away.
On the other hand, July and August make for the perfect time to hit the beach and explore Costa Brava, so this isn't to say you should write off vacationing in the summer months.
18. Visiting in October - February
Don't get caught in the rain or cold unprepared. As much as I love the warmth of summer, October to December can bring some chill and rain.
So, if you're hoping to hit the beach or rock your favorite sundress, you might want to reconsider. Opt for September to avoid the colder temperatures in the winter months.
Instead, opt for layers upon layers and a trusty raincoat to stay cozy and dry. Trust us, you'll thank us later!
However, December-January also means Christmas! Barcelona at Christmas turns into a lively, spirited festival of the holidays. So, don't let the cold deter you if you want to take advantage of the Christmas markets.
The crowds disappear towards the end of January into February, making this a great time to visit a quieter city with few tourists.
19. Eating on Las Ramblas
Las Ramblas is an iconic street in Barcelona. It's filled with lively street performers, colorful shops, and delicious eateries. However, if you're looking for a local experience, it may be best to avoid eating on Las Ramblas as this area is often crowded with tourists and prices tend to be higher than in other parts of the city.
There are way too many incredible restaurants to get stuck on a strip! Get out and explore the cuisine and exciting food scene in Barcelona.
If you do really want to see Las Ramblas, there's a unique cooking class on Las Ramblas that will give you a less touristy experience than just eating on the street.
20. Thinking that Barceloneta is the only beach
You may have heard that Barceloneta is the ultimate beach spot - but let's not fall into that tourist trap. While it's certainly convenient (and hey, who doesn't love a beach selfie with the city skyline?), it's overcrowded and over visited! There are plenty of hidden gems waiting to be discovered.
Take it from a local and venture out to one of the smaller, less crowded beaches. But if you're feeling really adventurous, head up to Costa Brava and prepare to be blown away by some serious beach beauty. Your Instagram feed will thank you.
21. Avoid paying for an expensive phone plan
We all know that phone plans can be a real budget-buster, especially when you're far away from home. If you're coming from America, phone plans may cost up to $10 per day! That will put a real dent in your travel budget.
E-Sim cards are available, and one of these cheapest options for traveling overseas. They don't operate on everyones phone, so double-check that your phone is compatible before before purchasing.
There's a simple in-person solution as well: grab a sim card from a Vodafone or Orange store when you arrive. You'll need to shell out some euros upfront but it'll be worth it. For just 20-30 euros, you'll get a few weeks of worry-free phone use so you can stay in touch with your loved ones at home.
22. Go searching for a bull flight
Don't go searching for a bull fight in Barcelona. The Spanish pastime of bullfighting was banned in Catalonia back in 2010. Although popular in other parts of Spain, it's a no-go if you're looking for it here. But fear not, there are plenty of other exciting activities to enjoy in the Catalan Capital!
23. Thinking Catalan culture is the same as other cultures
Don't make the mistake of thinking Catalan culture is the same as other cultures around Spain. Catalan culture is so unique—it stands out from all the other cultures around Spain. You might be tempted to lump it all together, but don't make that mistake!
Explore how this culturally rich region offers up its own dishes, cultural activities, and art forms that can be found nowhere else. Take time to explore festivals like La Diada and La Merce in Barcelona which reveals a vibrant culture full of spirited traditions that are distinctly their own.
Discover the beautiful differences between Catalan and other cultures in the Iberian peninsula. This will add richness to your travels with a thorough understanding and appreciation of what makes it stand out amongst its neighbors.
24. Renting an Airbnb
Looking for accommodations? Airbnbs are definitely where not to stay in Barcelona! Avoid booking the ever-popular short term rentals here. Barcelona has cracked down on Airbnb rentals to ensure that locals living in Barcelona have access to available housing.
There are plenty of cool and quirky hotels and affordable hostels to fit any budget traveler. Plus, by staying in one of these places, you'll be supporting the local economy. So, ditch the Airbnb and embrace the cultural hospitality of Barcelona!
The most beautiful hostels and hotels can be found in some of the safest place to stay in Barcelona, no you won't have trouble finding a great accommodation.
25. Thinking you can see the whole city in a day
Don't try to see Barcelona in just one day! While the city may not be enormous, there is plenty to explore and enjoy. When you're sightseeing, take your time.
There's so much culture and history to appreciate in this lively city. Lose yourself while wandering through the narrow pedestrian alleyways or wander the beachfront.
But, the best way to see the city in one day is with a hop on hop off tour!
► Explore the whole city with a Hop On Hop Off Tour!
26. Forgetting to explore the culture and architecture
Barcelona is more than just Europe's party city. While the clubs and late-night scene are a blast, don't forget about the rich history and culture this city has to offer.
From stunning architecture to iconic landmarks, and jaw-droppingly delicious local cuisine, there's so much to experience beyond the party scene.
So, dance the night away, but don't miss out on the breathtaking sights and sounds that make Barcelona truly unforgettable!
27. Not trying hole-in-the-wall tapas restaurants
Barcelona isn't the place to rely on Yelp for restaurant recommendations. It's time to immerse yourself in the local scene and discover the best tapas spots in town!
Don't settle for the tourist traps lining the busy hostel streets.
Take a leisurely walk and explore the quaint corners of the city, where hidden gems of culinary magic await.
These small, intimate restaurants offer the most delicious tapas that you won't find on any popular app. So forget the crowds and trust the locals for an unforgettable dining experience.
What to Pack for Barcelona
Here are my favorite things to pack when it comes to traveling around Barcelona (or anywhere, really!) I travel a ton, so I've got this down to a science now!
BEST BELT BAG FOR BARCELONA
I'm all about style, practicality, and affordability. Pickpockets can be a real problem in Barcelona, so keeping your belongings secured in front of you is super important.
Don't just take it from me - this belt back has high ratings and comes in EVERY color. Grab a few to match every outfit, if you want!
BEST LUGGAGE SET FOR BARCELONA
Coolife not only has some of the best-rated luggage on Amazon, but also the most variety in colors, pieces, and sets.
You'll likely want to check a bag going to Barcelona, but if you're traveling around Europe, you'll need small carry ons. Budget airlines like Ryan Air and Vuelling have smaller overhead space than you might be used to on airlines in America.
BACKPACKING IN BARCELONA
There's no question that Osprey has made a name for itself when it comes to backpacking - I recently got one myself! I had a hard time finding which one was right for me.
Lucky for you, they have a nifty "Who is This Pack For" quiz on there Amazon Storefront to help you find the perfect pack. Osprey's are expensive, but they'll last you a lifetime!