Are you planning a trip to Barcelona, Spain for the first time and don’t know what to expect? Keep scrolling to check out my top Barcelona travel tips for tourists!
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You’ve just booked your very first trip to Barcelona. How exciting!
Despite being Spain’s second city, Barcelona welcomes more international tourists than any other city in the country.
It’s not hard to see why. The capital of the Catalan region boasts beautiful and unique architecture, an urban beach, delicious cuisine, and fun attractions for the whole family.
But the summer heat, crowds, and size of the historic center mean that you would benefit from knowing some essential Barcelona travel tips for first-timers before you go.
This guide will break down all the best tips for traveling to Barcelona including what to do, how to get around, and food to eat. These travel tips for Barcelona will ensure you have a fantastic trip that you remember for all the right reasons!
Don’t have time to read a bunch of Barcelona blog posts and reviews? Here are some of our top picks for visiting Barcelona with kids.
Popular Barcelona Tours/Activities
- Sagrada Familia (this is a short tour with skip-the-line tickets)
- Park Guell (this is a short tour with skip-the-line tickets)
- Montjuïc Cable Cars (unique way to see the city)
- Barcelona Aquarium (this is a skip-the-line ticket)
- PortAventura Theme Park (this is Spain’s largest theme park)
- Flytographer photo shoot (they are easy to book are really affordable)
Kid-Friendly Barcelona Hotels
Want an epic Spain guide book? This is my favorite Spain itinerary and guide!
Top Barcelona Travel Tips for First-Timers
Planning Your Barcelona Visit
It’s good news that getting around in Barcelona is easy because there’s a lot to see! One of the top tips for visiting Barcelona is to see as much of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí’s work as possible.
Some of his other most popular pieces of architecture include Casa Batlló and Casa Mila which is also known as La Pedrera.
If you or your kids love sports, head to the Camp Nou soccer stadium (sorry Europeans, football stadium!). Taking your kids up the funicular to Tibidabo Amusement Park, Europe’s third-oldest funfair on Mt Tibidabo, is also essential with or without children.
If you have time, you should catch the evening light show at the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc which is close to the Olympic Ring Sports Complex. And you have to walk along Las Ramblas at least once during your trip to check out the markets, especially Mercado de La Boqueria.
Save Money with Points
Here are the best credit card offers for families who travel and want to use points to pay for airfare and hotels.
How Many Days in Barcelona?
There are a ton of things to do in Barcelona! One of the best Barcelona travel tips anyone could give you is to not visit for less than three full days. If you visit for only one or two days, you will just be disappointed you didn’t stay longer.
Ideally, plan to spend 4 – 5 days in Barcelona. This will give you enough time to see all the highlights, have an afternoon at the beach, and see some hidden gems without rushing. Three days is possible at a push, but it will be a busy three days.
Public Transportation in Barcelona
One of the best tips for traveling in Barcelona is to use the underground metro. It’s efficient, easy, and connects the entire city with over 140 stations. Barcelona also has buses and trams but it’s unlikely you will need to use them.
The metro operates from 5 am to midnight most days and runs even later on the weekends and holidays.
You can either buy day passes or single tickets. Day passes are known as Hola! BCN Travel Cards, and are available in 2, 3, 4, or 5-day blocks which cover all public transport and regional trains in Barcelona for that timeframe.
A 2-day pass is currently €16.30 and a single ticket is €2.40.
Taxis and Ubers
Official taxis in Barcelona are black and yellow, but they might not look like New York City cabs. Often the entire car is black except for the yellow doors.
If a taxi is available, there will be a green light visible on the roof.
You can hail a cab from anywhere by raising your hand. You do not have to go to a taxi rank. If you are struggling to find taxis, head to the nearest metro or train station or even a large hotel as you can often find them waiting there.
The biggest taxi app in Barcelona is Cabify but Uber is also around if you prefer to use a service you have at home.
Taxis from Barcelona-El Prat Airport to the historic center cost between €20 – €30 and, if you don’t have any accessibility needs, that’s the only time you should hire a taxi. They are expensive and the traffic in Barcelona is a nightmare. Opt for public transport or walk!
Money in Barcelona
Barcelona, like the rest of Spain, uses the euro currency. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted in almost all hotels, restaurants, and shops. You should carry some cash for tipping and shopping at markets.
Unlike some other European countries (like Italy and the UK), you should have no problems using American Express cards throughout Spain. Bring some backups just in case.
Never carry a lot of cash on you or take out a huge wad in public. Pickpocketing is rife in Barcelona (more on that later!) so you don’t want to draw a lot of attention.
Book a Family Photo Shoot
Whenever we travel, we almost always book a family photo shoot with Flytographer. They are super easy, affordable, AND it guarantees that I’ll be in some photos. You can get $25 off if you book through this link or use the code HAWAIITRAVEL.
Dining in Barcelona Tips
People in Spain are known for eating meals later in the day than in other western countries, and Barcelona is the same. Most locals eat lunch around 2 pm and dinner around 8 pm with lunch being the larger meal.
Some restaurants even shut at 4 pm and don’t reopen until 7 pm!
If you can’t adjust to this part of the Barcelonian culture, you will still be able to find restaurants open all day in heavily touristed areas.
To adapt to the Catalan way of dining, eat late and order the menú del día at lunchtime. This is often the most inexpensive thing to order on the menu and it will be a generous portion of whatever local dish the restaurant has decided to cook that day.
Some of the best, local dishes you can eat in Barcelona include gazpacho, paella, croquettes, and potato bombas.
Pack Your Bathing Suits
This is one of the easiest Barcelona tips to follow – pack your bathing suit and a beach towel! Barcelona’s beach might not be big and it isn’t natural, but it’s one of the best places in the world to combine a city break with a beach vacation.
Sure, you could dip your toes in and go for a walk along the beach at Barceloneta without the proper gear.
But if you have kids, planning a beach day (or even a beach afternoon) in the middle of your trip will stop them from dragging their heels as you guide them toward yet another museum or church.
Shops Close on Sundays and Museums Close on Mondays
Planning on doing some shopping on a Sunday in Barcelona? Uh-huh, no you’re not. All stores except souvenir shops close on Sundays.
Some are only open on Saturday mornings too!
This includes clothes stores in shopping malls and grocery stores. Some might stay open on Sundays during the peak tourist season in August, but not many. Google Maps is usually your best resource to check up-to-date opening times.
Many museums also close on Mondays in Barcelona. This includes the Picasso Museum and the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.
Don’t Stay in Short-Term Rental Apartments
One of the reasons why Barcelona has a love-hate relationship with tourists is because the rise of short-term rentals has had such a detrimental effect on the housing market here. So much so, it’s now the only city in the world that has banned short-term private room rentals.
You can still rent entire apartments in Barcelona for your vacation, but avoid them if you can.
There are several stories of neighbors being extremely hostile toward vacationers staying in these apartments. Many apartment owners also rent them without the proper permissions. It’s not worth the hassle.
Of course, staying in apartments when you travel has a lot of perks, especially if you have kids! Look for aparthotels to book instead. Or there are even rooftop Barcelona hotels with pools!
Get a Travel Adapter
Barcelona, like the rest of Spain, uses the Type C electrical plug with two rounded prongs. This is also known as the ‘euro’ plug because it’s common in lots of European countries.
Voltage in the electric sockets in Spain is 220V whereas in the US, for example, it’s 110V. Invest in a travel adapter that converts voltage as well as changes the plug type to protect your electrical items!
Safety and Awareness in Barcelona
The Safe Cities Index 2019, published by The Economist Intelligence Unit, listed Barcelona as the 26th safest city overall out of all the cities they studied globally. Tourists don’t need to be concerned about violent crime or dangers in Barcelona.
However, Barcelona is notorious for being one of the worst major cities in western Europe for pickpocketers and scams. When traveling on the metro, in busy tourist areas, or walking down Las Ramblas, you should be on high alert.
Refuse any ‘gifts’ from strangers like flowers, rosaries, or bracelets, and walk away (and don’t stop!). Watch out for the ‘bird poop’ scam where someone will splatter white paint on your shoes and attempt to clean it off to distract you while their accomplice steals your belongings.
Keep your money and valuables deep inside a pocket in your bag and don’t keep them in one place. If a stranger enters your personal space, step away immediately.
Travel Tips for Barcelona FAQs
What should I wear in Barcelona?
Leave the zip-off cargo pants, hiking sandals, and national park t-shirts at home. In Barcelona, dressing like a local is the right way to go!
Barcelonians have developed a love-hate relationship with tourists, more so than any other well-touristed European city. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t visit, just that you might have a better experience if you try to blend in.
If you aren’t visiting in the hot summer months, pack jeans and sneakers and clothes you would normally wear at home. You’ll need sneakers for all the walking you will do! Opt for summer dresses or chino/dress shorts in the hot months so you still look the part but will also stay cool.
What are the best places to stay in Barcelona?
If you want to stay in the busiest and most central part of the city, you couldn’t pick anywhere better than Las Ramblas. However, the nightlife here means it’s not ideal if you’re traveling with family.
Quieter neighborhoods that are still central include the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic) or Barceloneta by the beach. Or check out this review of the Melia Barcelona Sarria if you’re a football fan.
There’s a lot to do in Barcelona so one of the best Barcelona travel tips for first-timers is to not waste time on public transport traveling in and out of the city.
When is the best time to visit Barcelona?
Barcelona has a Mediterranean climate with mild, rainy winters and hot, sunny summers. Definitely pack an umbrella and a warm jacket if you are traveling to Barcelona in winter between December – February.
If you’re traveling in summer, brace yourself for long lines and high humidity.
To hit the sweet spot between warm weather, fewer crowds, and less expensive flights and accommodation, the best time to visit Barcelona is in the shoulder seasons. These are April – May and September – October.
This is not helpful Barcelona travel advice if you have kids in school! But if you can avoid the peak summer months of July – August then you definitely should. Book your vacation during spring break or as early in June as possible.
Do you need to tip in Barcelona?
Once upon a time, you might leave a tip in Barcelona for an exceptional meal with exceptional service. Nowadays, tips are expected but you don’t have to leave much.
Tip around 10% of your bill or a little more if you want to show your appreciation to the friendly staff.
Some restaurants will add a 10% gratuity onto the bill automatically, so check whether or not it’s already there before tipping again. If you are paying for your bill on a credit card, tell them how much to add on before they punch in the total as there might not be an option to add a tip by card afterward.
Barcelona Travel Tips for First-Timers Wrap Up
Barcelona is a fantastic city to visit on your first time in Spain or even your first time in Europe. It has everything! With these Barcelona travel tips for first-timers, you’ll have all the insider info you need so you don’t fall into the common traps.
You’re sure to have a wonderful vacation in this beautiful and vibrant coastal Spanish city without any mishaps!