Barcelona: How to explore like a local
Insider tips Barcelona: From free WiFi to partying like a local
Barcelona is one of my favorite European cities. It is one of the most visited cities in Europe for a reason, but I think that most people never find its true beauty. The majority of Barcelona’s tourists come looking for one of the three S’s of Spanish tourism, which are sex, sangria, and sun. Although in the right context all can be good, I find that there is such a wonderful underside of Barcelona, a local one, that you can find if you go looking for it. I have spent a good amount of time in Barcelona in comparison to other cities in my travels and have visited the city several times. After using some of my own opinions and talking to some locals here are insider tips Barcelona.
There are a few things that you should know about eating in Barcelona. First of all, Paella is not a traditional Catalan food. It is a food that originated in the region of Valencia and parts of the Ebro Delta in southern Catalunya, but not in Barcelona. Second, tapas are not really typical to Catalunya either. 9 out of 10 places in Barcelona that are selling these products are likely very touristy, overpriced, and not good quality. If you want real Spanish food, then seek out restaurants like Meson David and others that serve dishes. Listen for Catalan and watch for locals eating. Now a few insider tips for budgeting backpackers in Barcelona.
1.) What locals eat in Barcelona? Outside of a handful of places, I wouldn’t eat near Barceloneta or La Rambla. If you want some more suggestions, then email me. I do not want to divulge all the local favorites over the internet. They are local for a reason :). To locals, one of the most important foods, or food categories, is seafood. There are many typical Catalan dishes that revolve around fresh fish.
2.) Although in no way a Spanish food kebabs can be purchased in many locations around the city for 3-4€. They probably aren’t the healthiest food, but they are filling and inexpensive. They also stay open late.
3.) Tips in Barcelona – Tipping is not necessary in Barcelona. You do not need to leave extra money for the waiter or waitress unless you are feeling really generous.
4.) Save money on Sundays. Nearly all major supermarkets in Spain are closed on Sundays. Thus, when you try to find food on Sundays you will have to eat out. However, there are a few places open such as Open Cor and corner stores (but they are more expensive). If you want to save money on Sundays make sure that you make it to the grocery stores before 21:00 (9pm) on Saturday night to get enough for Sunday. My favorites are Mercadona and Dia, but there are many more such as Open Cor, and Carrefour…
5.) Lunch for 1.50€. One of my favorite quick lunch fixes in Barcelona (and in Spain) is the combination of fresh bread and ofertas. Ofertas are sliced meat specials that you can get at Dia and sometimes other stores like Carrefour for 1€. .50¢ for a full baguette 1€ for meat (pechugo de pavo and/or jamon) and you are set. Lunch is served.
Museums & Touristy Stuff
In my opinion, many of the best things that Barcelona has to offer are free or at least can be if you time it right. In fact, many of the ‘attractions’ that Barcelona offers were only developed after the 1992 Olympics, such as the beach. Yes, that is correct. It was developed for tourism with sand from the Sahara desert. Many of my favorite things to do in Barcelona revolve around walking. Free.
6.) Beat the ticket lines of the Sagrada Familia. Find a “La Caixa” bank somewhere in the city. There are lots. Inside use the ATM machine to purchase a ticket to La Sagrada Familia. P.S. You can also do this for Alhambra.
7.) Museums like MACBA have free days (May 18th and September 24th), discounts (students, carnet jove (youth card)), and free (children, seniors, teachers, and unemployed).
8.) MNAC, on the other hand, has free entrance from Saturdays after 3pm, the first Sunday of each month, and May 18th. The Picasso Museum has free entrance on Sundays free from 3 pm and the first Sunday of each month. Sorry you’ll never get free entrance to the Sagrada Familia. Check for updates.
9.) The best free things to do in Barcelona are the Magic Fountain (Font Mágica), hiking up Tibidabo (for the view), Montjüic (in general, but also that cactus park is nice), Parc Güell (way too touristy in the summer), walking through Barrio Gotico, Parc de la Ciutadella, Cathedral of Barcelona (Check here for specific free hours), Walk through Mercat Boqueria, and more.
*Note that museum entrance times and days can change.
Party & Drink
Barcelona has quickly become one of the most well-known party destinations in Europe. People from all over the world descend on Barcelona during the summer months to hit the clubs, bars, and discotheques for all that there is to offer.
Barcelona is famous for its beach clubs. They are really nice clubs, but not my favorite. In my experience and personal opinion, many of them have an exclusive-selectivity attitude toward guests. At the beginning of the night, everyone gets in, then the price goes up significantly and they stop letting people in. The drinks are overpriced and I think that you have better options. They do occasionally bring in really famous Djs though. (*All my personal opinion and experience, yours may be different*)
11.) Beach clubs – If you still would like to check out the beach clubs of Barcelona such as Opium Mar, Soto Vento, Cat Walk, and others, then I’d recommend checking out Shaz Erasmus with Barcelona Night Life. If my memory serves me right, he often puts people on a guest list for the clubs so you can get in for FREE, but you have to check with him to see when this is valid. Typical entrances to the beach clubs are about 20-40€.
12.) More free clubs in Barcelona – The clubs listed above are located in Port Olimpic. On the opposite side (where the marina is), you will find a line of clubs for free complete with attractive go-go dancing-girls. They are smaller and less crowded, but have no cover charge if you are on a budget and want to experience some music.
13.) Pre-game to save money for clubs, and don’t forget to buy early. In Barcelona it is illegal to sell alcohol after 22:00 in stores, that’s 10:00 pm to my American brethren. Additionally, most major grocery stores close at 21:00 (9:00 pm). Large stores, such as Open Cor (365, 24/7), and corner stores stay open later. Drinks in some clubs can cost up to 10€.
14.) Clubs and bars that locals would visit. Partying like a local in Barcelona is not that difficult if you know where to look. Sometimes, it is just streets over from where you may already be. Most locals will head to neighborhoods (barrios) such as Gracia or Rival. If they are looking to go to a club, it would usually be Razzmatazz or Apollo. I can recommend some small areas or bars if you want.
For the last few years you may have noticed some of the protests going on in Catalunya. The reasons for the protests typically revolve around Catalunyan independence. Many people in Catalunya believe in Catalunya separating from Spain to become its own state. Catalunyan people are proud people. Proud of their traditions, heritage, and language. The story of Catalunya is a complex one, and one that you will only come to know if you stick around for some time and listen to the people. However, as a traveler, if you respect their culture, then they will really appreciate it.
Example of what not to do:
I was standing at a bar in Barcelona the other day with a friend, someone walked up next to me and started complaining that no one spoke English in this bar. I kindly looked at him and said, “Well, you are in Catalunya, perhaps you should learn some Catalan or Spanish.” He agreed. #learnthelanguage it will change you.
15.) Learn Catalan for Free. The Consortium for Linguistic Normalization (CPNL) is a sector of the government of Catalunya which is responsible for the maintenance of the Catalan language. With respect for upholding the language, they offer free courses here.
16.) Use Catalan phrases in local shops. You will be revered if you treat the Catalan people as different from Spanish. They will love you for respecting their culture. Do your best to learn a few phrases in Catalan. It is not that hard. Hola is commonly used for Hello, but instead of Buenos días use Bon dia. In Barcelona, they use “Merci” to say thank you while other Catalan people say “Graciés”. Gracias is purely Spanish. That’s a start for you.
Barcelona is a big city. It is spread out significantly and it takes some time to get to each destination. That being said, it is still walk-able. If you like to walk of course. I do. I have traversed the majority of the city by foot and feel that it is the best way to get to know the place.
17.) Saving money with the metro. The metro of Barcelona is extremely reliable and far-reaching. However, purchasing a ticket for each trip becomes a waste of money after a while. If you will be spending just a few days in Barcelona, then perhaps you should consider the T-10 pass. It is 10 trips for 9€. The normal metro price in Barcelona is 2€. That’s a savings of over 10€. You can save even more if you are staying longer with a T-20, T-30, T-50, or monthly pass. Barcelona also sells unlimited passes for a select few days. Check out your options here.
18.) Discount with Juventud Card. If you have a Hostelling International Card, then you can get a 15% discount with Alsa bus. The card is inexpensive and it also gets you access to other discounts and the ability to stay at Hostelling International’s hostels around the world.
19.) Night Buses. If you need to take a bus or metro to get to your bed, then remember that there are night buses.
20.) You can walk. I love the Catalan people, but sometimes the discouraging “It is too far” attitude gets me. I like to walk, and I don’t find many things in the city to be too far unless you are walking back and forth multiple times. Don’t get me wrong, it can take you some time to walk. However, if you have time, then look into taking a stroll through the city. I do not think that you will be disappointed.
A few extra Insider tips for Barcelona
21.) FREE WiFi in Barcelona! Yes there is free WiFi in Barcelona. The connection is not always super good, but it can be functional. Literally called BarcelonaFreeWiFi, you can find it in many of the major areas of the city including La Rambla. Other areas where you can typically find free WiFi in Barcelona are fast food restaurants. However, you could always stop and buy a coffee somewhere and get in touch with the digital world. Another Free WiFi option is GoWex, which you will find at all of the local Kiosks on the streets. However, the login for GoWex is quite complicated and drawn out.
22.) Another suggestion outdoor cinema Barcelona. The outdoor cinema in Barcelona, known as Sala Montjüic, is another thing that people like to do. It only lasts from June to August though.
Is it illegal to drink on the street in Barcelona? Yes. That means those people walking around selling beers are selling them illegally.
What are the hours for the metro in Barcelona? Weekdays 5am – 12pm. Fridays until 2am. Saturdays 24 hours. Sunday until 12am. Subject to change for special events.
Is Barcelona safe? Yes, by most averages. However, there are a large amount of pick-pockets. Especially in the touristy areas. I will make another post on how to avoid pickpockets in Barcelona. Here is a start for you.
Is prostitution legal in Barcelona? No.
Is there a Red Light District in Barcelona? Not exactly, I’ll post on that soon. The closest thing to a red light district in Barcelona is the neighborhood called El rival. Lots of shady business going on there. This neighborhood is known locally as the Bohemian area.
Check out these 20 Free Things to Do in Barcelona compliments of some fellow bloggers Dale and Franca at AngloItalianfollowus.com.
Were these insider tips helpful? If so, please let me know so that I can make more in the future.
**Tags: tips for Barcelona, inside Barcelona, wifi in Barcelona, discounts in Barcelona**