I was once a tourist in Barcelona, and I know I’ve done A LOT of the touristic things around the city, but after living there for two years I’ve learned a thing or two. Two years is enough time to realize the dos and don’ts of life somewhere.
Every time people go to this beautiful city, they plan to eat, party, and do things the “touristic way.” There are so many great things about Barcelona that I could write for days, but I thought I’d write about how to do the tourist things in a less touristy way. And if you’re planning a trip there this summer, you’ll definitely want to listen to these tips because Barcelona in the summer is… crazy.
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When you think of Barcelona, you think of sun and beaches – and rightfully so. However, the best beaches are not IN the main city. So take Barceloneta off your list, unless you want to barter with vendors for beautiful beach blankets. The main city beaches are filled with SO many tourists, street vendors, and pickpockets.
Getting pickpocketed or robbed while in the water is a huge issue there – and it’s hardly relaxing to hear “Water, agua, beer, cerveza” or “Massage, 5 euro,” every two minutes. If you’re looking for an actual relaxing beach vacation, then head out of the city.
If you go just a bit up North, you can hit the beaches in Badalona, which are way better, quieter and peaceful. The water is also cleaner and clearer – sooo much better than Barcelona! It’s easily accessible by metro or train if you don’t have a car (which is my next point).
If you’re into going a bit further out, you could also go on a little day trip to the Badalona town or even to Sitges or Costa Brava. Both are very peaceful places with a nicer beach ambiance than the main city beaches.
I know many cities where going on a Hop-On-Hop-Off bus is actually a great idea – because transportation is expensive, the city is huge, or there are just too many things to see (such as in London). However, these touring buses are not the way to see Barcelona.
Related Post: Top European Cities: Time for a European Adventure
Barcelona is a very walkable city. Walking everywhere is the best way to see it and to find hidden gems. Even though taxis aren’t super expensive, I wouldn’t recommend taking them too often or depending on them.
I also wouldn’t recommend renting a car, as it’s wasted money and more stress and responsibility.
There are always ways to get from point A to point B and some of those ways include the inexpensive options of walking, taking the bus, taking the metro, or even biking. Barcelona is a huge biker city (or you can get a Vespa if that’s more your style).
Even getting to the center of the city from the airport is easy with the super convenient Aerobus. I would limit all the taxi rides and actually immerse myself in the city if I were a tourist all over again.
Related Post: 7 Tips for your Trip to Barcelona
Everyone thinks clubbing in the Port Olympic with all of the big-name beach clubs is where to go…but it’s not! If you’ve heard about clubbing in Barcelona, you might have heard of names like Opium, Shoko, or even Carpe Diem (which has awesome sushi by day by the way).
But these clubs know they have a reputation with the tourists and use that to their advantage. They’re overpriced, play commercial music, and the ambiance is just a bit off – everyone’s looking for a quick fix.
In order to club “right” in Barcelona, go off the beach and head deeper into the city. There are a bunch of smaller clubs with more niche music such as techno, or even commercial clubs but with locals and more class.
Some of them are: Bling Bling, Sutton, and Otto Zuts. Otto Zuts has multiple music rooms, just like another great local club called Razzmattazz. They’re slightly better priced, offer a range of music, and have a mix of locals and internationals.
Overall, the ambiance is a LOT better. And if you’re looking for more Latin beats like reggaeton, then I definitely recommend going to Bunker or La Fira.
Restaurants and bars
In the center of the city there is the main tourist street called “La Rambla.” This street is very popular as it runs from the port to the central shopping area of the city and has many little pop-up shops, as well as the Boquería.
Related Post: The Ultimate List of Must-See Spots in Barcelona
There are restaurants and bars on this street and in Plaza Reial – but avoid them if you can. They are overpriced and meant for tourists. (I would only recommend Bacoa from Plaza Reial – if you’re craving delicious burgers).
You can surely find better bars and restaurants in the neighboring districts such as in the Gothic Quarter or in El Born.
La Boquería is also known as a place to get beautiful pictures of food displays (and I totally agree) but they are also set up specifically for tourists.
This is the one tourist attraction I would say you should do regardless of its touristic factor.
The food is a tad bit overpriced, but it’s more about the overall experience. And it’s a GREAT place to munch and snack while you walk.
You can pick up a fruit smoothie, some ham and cheese, even a few tapas, and then top it off with an abundance of chocolate. Definitely splurge a little here.
Museums and sightseeing
If you’re trying to save some money or avoid tourist crowds, I would suggest planning your day around free entry times. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but these free entry times are usually when fewer people go.
For example, if you want to avoid paying to see Gaudi’s mosaic works in Parc Guell, go at dawn or at sunset. They’re free entry hours change depending on the seasons, so just make sure to look it up.
Most museums in Barcelona also have free entry on Sundays or the first Sunday of the month. So google the ones you want to go to, or check out Time Out’s article here.
Extra tips for your trip to Barcelona
I have another article with 7 Tips for your trip to Barcelona, but here are a few additional ones that might help you blend in more:
- Wear your purses cross-bodied in front of your body (because pickpocketing is huge)
- Don’t show off with too many flashy things (jewelry, electronics, etc.)
- Don’t hang your purses on chairs at restaurants
- Be aware of your surroundings (no one will hurt you, but you definitely don’t want to deal with losing a passport or phone in a foreign country)
- You don’t have to wait for the cross walk light to turn green in order to cross (just make sure the road is clear)
Do Barcelona right
So there you have my recommendations for making sure you don’t go around Barcelona wasting money or time on activities that could be lived up a lot better.
I will admit that some touristic things are fun – like clubbing in the beach clubs – but only every once in a while.
There is no need to do things just because other tourists recommend them – I definitely think it’s better to take advice from a local. So hopefully on your next trip out to Barcelona, you can enjoy your experience.
Do you have tips or questions for (not) being a tourist in Barcelona?
Let me know in the comments below or even email me. I’d love to hear from you!
- Ultimate List of Must-See Spots in Barcelona
- Transportation from Barcelona’s Airport
- Barcelona Neighborhood Guide
- The Best Way to Exchange Money
- 5 Ways to Get Currency for a Trip
- How to Find an Apartment in Barcelona
Rent an Airbnb to feel more like a local!