Design i sentrum’s top ten travel tips for Barcelona

Like us, many of you probably use GoogleMaps or GPS when you’re trying to find your way around. The thing about searching up Spanish names is that there are a lot of Spanish speaking countries in the world, and many names of streets and squares are repeated extensively across the globe. The brilliant thing then about Barcelona is that all the street names are actually in Catalan. So, save yourself a whole lot of trouble and just type in the Catalan name to begin with. Say you want to go to Plaza del Sol. Well, in Catalan it’s called Plaça del Sol…and there you have it – easy peasy!
Here’s a short list of words to get you started:
Calle – Carrer (street)
Paseo – Passeig (passage)
Plaza – Plaça (square)
Avenida – Avinguda (avenue)

You obviously can’t learn a new language for every new country that you visit, but it’s always a good idea to learn a few words and phrases – especially so if you’re visiting Barcelona. As already mentioned, the Barcelonese speak Catalan, and although everyone also speaks Spanish (or Castellano), they’re very proud of their own language. Many of them want Catalonia to be independent, and they’re therefore usually very flattered if they realise that you, as a foreginer, acknowledge and take an interest in this. A few key words in Catalan, rather than in Spanish, may very well turn your restaurant visit up a notch. Swop thank you or gracias for merces or even mercy (almost like in French) and buenos días with bon dia, and you’ve already come a long way. Oh, and don’t be surprised if they want your opinion on the Catalan independence issues. It’s heavily debated these days.
Here are a few more words:
Buenas noches – Bona nit (good night)
Por favor – Si us plau (please)
Cafe con leche – Cafe amb llet (cafe latte)
Ok – D’accord
Adios – Adeu (goodbye)

We’re not saying you shouldn’t spend money whilst you’re here. After all, Spain is heavily affected by the economic crisis, and one of the best sources of income, is tourism. But, if you’re travelling on a budget, you might want to take advantage of some of the free stuff this town has to offer. Every first Sunday of every month, most of Barcelona’s museums are open to the public and offer free entry. This is a wonderful opportunity for students, budgets travellers and others to be able to enjoy the cultural activities on offer.
You should know that this does not apply to all museums, so it could be a good idea to check beforehand, plus it tends to get busy as a lot of locals also enjoy this offer.

Yes, it’s usually recommended that you pay by card when travelling – for security reasons and to avoid high exchange rates – but be aware that some restaurants, bars, museums, and most taxis in Barcelona, still don’t take anything but cash. So if you’re not keen on walking around with too much money on you, make sure to check beforehand so that you don’t get stuck with the dishes.

We know, the queues outside may seem endless and the heat unbearable, but fear not, there is a way around it. There are two places to buy tickets; one of them is the main entrance, where there’s always a long line of people. The other one is on the internet. The thing about ordering your tickets online is that you have to be there at a certain hour. That may seem like a restriction, but you will save yourself a lot of time booking in advance. If you actually have a ticket, you can enter on the other side of La Sagrada Familia, where there’s no queue. We do, however, advise that you make sure you have enough time as there’s a lot to see. Besides the main structure, there’s also a museum, a posibility to climb one of the towers (this must also be booked in advance), and of course a gift shop. However, if you’re feeling more spontaneous and not wanting to book ahead, they’re accostumed to a lot of people in La Sagrada Familia, and queues are usually fast moving.

This is generally a good tip in any unfamiliar, or even familiar, place. However, Barcelona is, unfortunately, known for a lot of cunning pickpockets. Many people have their mobile phones, credit cards or money stolen, and the ones steeling are usually difficult to notice as they often appear to be tourists just like you. No need to get too nervous though, just take some precautions: never leave your valuables visible if you’re sitting down at a cafe or outdoors restaurant, never leave your bag open or on the floor, and never, ever leave your valuables in you backpack. And please be extra attentive in large crowds and in getting on and off the metro.

One of the great things about Barcelona is that it has a little bit of everything; shopping, great food, architecture, culture and of course, beaches. The most famous beaches among toursist are obviously the ones in the city centre, and especially Barceloneta. However, if you want to avoid the busiest ones, simply hop on the metro. The further out you go on the yellow line, the better the beach, but past Ciutadella Vila Olímpica (which is near the two towers and also known as Port Olympic), you have to walk a little bit to get there. Barcelona has chiringuitos (little bar/restaurants sitting on the beach), some of which actually serve you even if you’re not lying on their sunbeds, and a nice promenade stretching all along the beachfront of about 7 km. This is a popular place for walking, running, biking or roller blading, and of course, people watching.
Barcelona is also pretty unique in that it has various stations along the beaches, manned within certain hours of the day by volunteers from the Red Cross, offering to help people with special needs wanting to enter the water. Here they can do so feeling safe and recieving the necessary help.

The Catalans enjoy a good fiesta. They have many celebrations that are special to the region, or to the country, most of which are quite unique and fun to experience. These festivals or parties are spread throughout the year, and we recommend that you check what is going on in the city during your visit, or perhaps even plan your visit around one of these amazing events. Parades, fireworks, markets and beautiful light displays are but a few of the things that are often featured in these festivities, ranging from La Mercè in September and Three King’s Day in January, to Sant Jordi in April. If you are, however, not able to visit during one of these events, there’s always the fountain, La Font Màgica, in Plaza España. Originally built for the World Exhibition in 1929, it still offers a light, water and music show on various nights throughout the year – and it’s free of charge! Times and dates vary between summer and winter, so be sure to check this useful site for the schedule.

You might feel uncomfortable not knowing where you are, but really the best way to experience Barcelona’s old town, Barrio Gotico, is by getting lost. If you want to see the Picasso museum, we highly recommend you use a map, but once done there you should really just float along and try not to worry so much about your exact whereabouts. This part of Barcelona is unique in its variety of bars, restaurants and shops, but more importantly, it has an amazing atmosphere, and if you’re too busy studying street maps, you might just miss it. Plus, finding really popular and good eating places is best done by following the crowd, your nose or the noise. Hearing a lot of people chatting and music playing from your left? Well, go there and see what’s happening!
Friday and Saturday are the best days, and it gets cooking around 9 or 10 pm. till about midnight (eating hours – bars may stay open later). This isn’t necessarily the cheapest place to go out, but if you want to experience the best that Barcelona has to offer and really revel in all its splendour, this is the place to go. Oh, and make sure you have the name and address of the place you’re staying at, just in case.

Once you’re here keep in mind these simple suggestions to really be able to enjoy everything that Barcelona has to offer:
– Some of Barcelona’s attractions tend to get very crowded, especially during high season (June-August), so a good tip is to start your day early. Many tourists enjoy sleeping in and eating long breakfasts, not surprisingly, and therefore getting there early can mean avoiding the biggest crowds.
– Plan ahead by checking the opening hours of the museum or shop you want to visit so that you don’t get there and realise it’s a national holiday, or just closed because it’s Monday.
– Buy a T-10 travel card. It costs about 10 euros, can be bought at any metro station and is multipersonal and valid for 10 travels within the city (zone 1). If you’re planning on making more than 3 travels, it’s usually cheaper than buying single tickets.
– Get hold of a good street map. You never know when you’ll need it. Most Catalans are more than happy to point you in the right direction, and besides, walking is the best way to discover Barcelona’s hidden gems.
– Feel like you’ve seen a lot of what Barcelona has to offer already? Dig a little deeper. Architectural works by Gaudí and Montaner have recently opened, or reopened, after undergoing restauration, and a lot of exciting new restaurants, bars and shops are constantly popping up around the city.

2 Responses

  1. Oddfrid Skorpe Tennfjord

    Thank you for a useful web page 🙂 But it was a bit hard to read the letters, not because of the size (that¨s fine!), but because of the font, I think. It seems like it`s more greyish than usual? Anyway, I had to bend my ipad screen very much to the table to be able to read.

    • design i sentrum

      Thank you for your kind words and for your constructive feedback. We were aware of the problem and have changed it. Hope you find it easier to read now 🙂

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