Barcelona: a haven for travelers looking to soak up the sun virtually all year round. With its amazing beaches, mouth-watering local cuisine and some of the best vino Europe has to offer, it’s hard to look past the cultural heartland of Spain for your next rendezvous with some vitamin D. But if you want to really experience the city and not fall prey to tourist traps, you should probably ask a local for advice. Don’t know any? Don’t fret, we’ve asked them for you.
From transport to food to cultural tips and more – let our Barcelona Locals – Ciara, Laura M and Laura S – take you on an insider tour of their beloved city.
1. What’s the best way to travel around the city?
According to the locals, public transport in Barcelona is both frequent and reliable.
From Sunday – Thursday: trains run until midnight. On Fridays, they run until 2 am, and all through the night on Saturdays. If you happen to miss a train, you can always take the night bus (called ‘Nit Bus’).
Top Tip: Don’t buy a tourist travel card, a T-10 (10 trips) card is more bang for your buck, and you can take a group of people with you with just one ticket!
Although the trains run like a well-oiled machine, our locals unanimously recommend walking as much as possible. It’ll also help you work off all the paella you will most definitely be eating.
2. Where are the best local beaches?
Looking to find the best beaches without the crowds? Do what the locals do and take a short commuter train just outside of the city. You can even use your regular travel ticket to get there!
Ciara Recommends: “Masnou, it’s only 15 mins from the city center. Montgat and Ocata are two more of my local favorites. They are small, beautiful and uncrowded.”
Laura S Recommends: “25 minutes by train you will find the beautiful little Garraf beach, complete with picturesque village, and a lovely beach cafe.”
Laura M Recommends: “If you’re short on time or don’t want to move away from Barcelona center, I like to go after work to Mar Bella beach or Bogatell. Otherwise, drop by small villages on the Catalan Coast such as Castelldefels or Sitges.”
3. Where can I get the best local cuisine?
You don’t want to get caught out at an overpriced tourist trap when looking for your evening meal. Instead, dine like a local at one of these recommended hot-spots:
Laura S Recommends: “My favorite tapas bar called ‘Blai Tonight’. It’s a mostly standing restaurant though, so for a more relaxed, sit down meal – visit any number of the restaurants on the same street – Carrer Blai.”
Laura M: “For something simple, I would suggest a typical sandwich place called Conesa. It’s a very old restaurant with delicious entrepans (sandwiches in Catalan) and also has gluten free options!”
4. When is the best time to visit the city?
Barcelona is a popular tourist destination and for good reason! If you want to avoid the crowds, our locals all suggest taking a trip at the following times:
April: The weather is usually quite warm already in April, but it’s well before peak tourist season. April 23rd is St. George’s Day, which is the Catalan equivalent of Valentines Day. If you can imagine streets lined with roses and books, you’re off to the right start.
May: Barcelona is perfect right before peak-season and the weather is dependable, although it can occasionally be rainy in May.
June: This is the month of ‘Primavera Sound’ and ‘Sonar’ festivals – enough said! Book in advance to ensure you get accommodation though.
September: It’s less crowded after the August rush, and 24th is a public holiday in Barcelona. During that week there are lots of amazing free festivals to attend.
5. What do I need to know about the culture as a tourist?
Barcelona has a distinct language and culture of which they are rightfully proud of. Don’t be fooled into thinking Catalan is a dialect of Spanish; you can even find it as a language option on Tinder, so you know it’s the real deal! Take note of a few staple ‘do’s and don’ts’ from the locals:
Don’t: Go shirtless on the street. We know it’s hot, but it’s also illegal to take off your shirt in public (unless you’re on the beach, of course).
Don’t: Drink on the street.
Don’t: Buy Mexican hats.
Do: Learn a few useful Catalan greetings.
The most important Catalan greetings to know, according to our Barcelonian friends, are:
- Bon Dia: Good Morning!
- Hola: Hello!
- Bona Tarda: Good Afternoon!
- Adeu: Goodbye!
- Merci: Thank you! (like in French, but with emphasis on ‘e’ instead of ‘i’)
- ¡Una cerveza, por favor!: A beer, please!
6. Where should I stay to get the most authentic experience?
Deciding where to stay can be overwhelming in such a big, sprawling city as Barcelona. Thankfully- we have local insights:
Eixample is clean, with big streets, lovely restaurants, bars, and supermarkets. Stay here for a tranquil and relaxing stay. Sagrada Familia is in this neighborhood, yet it’s still quiet and not too far away from the city center.
Sants is also beautiful and although well-connected, feels a little off the beaten track.
Gracia is quiet and serene, but with a fun local vibe.
For Solo Travelers
La Rambla, Barrio Gòtic, Raval: They’re the most touristic area to stay, but you can meet many people from all around the world.
For Young People and Groups:
Gràcia: It’s a hip area full of nice bars, art galleries, and restaurants where you’ll meet many young locals.
Bonus: More Quick Local Tips for Barcelona
Should I tip in Barcelona? It’s not expected but appreciated. Usually, you can just round up your bill to the nearest EUR. When in doubt, always tip a little when you receive table service. It’s not necessary at bars.
Will my credit card be accepted there? Yes, but for anything under 5 EUR you might want to have cash.
Should I be aware of pickpockets? Yes. Unfortunately, this can happen, so make sure you keep your valuables with you at all times, where you can see and feel them.
What’s the best way to get to Barcelona? If you can, take a train or bus. The airport often experiences delays due to overcrowding.
So there you have it! Now that you’re armed with some practical local knowledge, you’re ready to take on the streets of Barcelona like a true local.
The Locals is a community of European travel ambassadors sharing practical insider tips about their cities with one another. If you’re planning your next trip – why not join the community and travel like a local?