If Spain is on your radar, be sure to visit Barcelona, the second-largest city, and arguably the most diverse. It stands out for its rich culture, beautiful architecture, and the proximity to the beach enhances its chill vibe.
Barcelona is divided into ten districts, which are, like the arrondissements of Paris, very different from one another. These districts are home to several neighborhoods. Some are more on the luxurious side, especially if they are close to tourist attractions, while others are humbler.
The densely populated Eixample district is in the heart of the city, and one of its most famous attractions is Sagrada Familia. It’s also home to many restaurants, high class shops, and more.
Intrigued yet? Here are 13 things to remember when visiting Barcelona.
1. There Are Two Official Languages
You’ll hear plenty of Spanish, of course, but also Catalan.
Both have a Latin root, but they sound and look different. You’ll see signs in both languages.
Catalan is spoken not only in Barcelona, but Valencia, the Balearic Islands, and even parts of France and Italy.
Castilian Spanish is noted for its crisp, clipped quality, making it distinct from other variations of Spanish.
2. Barcelona Is The Capital of Catalonia
As explained by Devour Barcelona Food Tours, “Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, one of the 17 autonomous communities which make up Spain.”
Some Catalans have been pushing for independence, as they consider Catalonia to be different culturally from the rest of Spain.
This is a contentious political topic for those on both sides of the issue, so it’s best not to comment on it as an outsider.
3. Sagrada Familia Is Spectacular
Did you know that Sagrada Familia, the brainchild of Antoni Gaudí, was never completed in his lifetime? In fact, it still isn’t finished!
The plan is for it to be done by 2026, the centennial anniversary of Gaudí’s death.
Sagrada Familia is easily the most famous church in Barcelona, attracting some 5 million visitors each year.
On completion, as noted by The Culture Trip, it’ll be the tallest religious structure in Europe.
4. Don't Expect Speedy Service At Restaurants
The quick restaurant service you get at home you probably won’t get in Barcelona.
Remember what we said about that chill, laid-back vibe? Exactly.
When you’re at a restaurant, the waiter may take a while to bring you a menu, and you likely won’t get your food right away.
It’ll be worth it when it does arrive. Be patient and bask in the experience.
5. Eating Is A Religious Experience
La cena, or dinner, is served around 9 or 10 at night in Spain.
One of the reasons for that could be that la comida, which means food, or lunch in this context, is a large meal, consisting of multiple courses. You’ll be full for quite a long time.
Tapas are a good choice for when you just want some tiny nibbles to hold you over. There are many varieties: meat, seafood and vegetarian.
Be sure to pair your meal with the perfect Spanish wine.
6. Beware of Pickpockets
A general rule of thumb, especially when you are in the crowded, touristy areas, is to keep your bag within sight.
Don’t put your cell phone, or any other valuable in your back pocket, because once you’re distracted, it’ll get snatched.
7. There's A Variety Of Museums
To soak up some culture, check out the museums.
If you’re interested in art, there is the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, with mostly Catalan art.
Into the history of ships? Head to Museu Marítim.
Do you have a thing for Ikea style furnishings? There’s a museum for that as well, called, Museu del Disseny.
The Culture Trip has a list of more museums here.
8. The Parks Are Numerous And Lovely
If you need a breather from the rush of the city, check out the parks.
Parc de la Ciutadella is a must-see, with fountains, statues, and grassy areas for picnics and relaxation.
Park Güell was made into a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. For a fee, you can see Antoni Gaudí’s work, and visit the museum on the grounds.
There’s also Parc de Cervantes, which is a massive rose garden.
According to Time Out, the best time to visit Cervantes is between spring and fall, when approximately “10,000 roses are in bloom.”
9. Sand, Sun and Sea Are Nearby
You can get to Playa de Barceloneta on foot or by the metro. There are eateries alongside it.
Other beaches include, Bogatell, Nova Icaria, and Mar Bella, a nude beach.
Even with families around, the Spaniards are unbothered by beach nudity. Even if the beach isn’t fully nude, some women may go topless, and nobody bats an eye. It’s refreshing.
10. It's A Foodie's Paradise
Barcelona has delicious food to suit every taste and budget. You don’t have to blow a lot of money to eat well.
Bar Ramón has been a staple since the 1930s, known for its tapas and other delicacies.
Restaurante Martinez has plenty of seafood options (though not exclusively). Paella is also served, with that crisp, tasty crust at the bottom called socarrat.
But if you want a truly authentic paella experience, take the train to Valencia. You won’t be disappointed.
11. There Are Ten Unique Districts
We mentioned Eixample already, but there are nine other districts worth exploring.
They are Ciutat Vella, Sants–Montjuic, Les Corts, Sarria-Sant Gervasi, Gracia, Horta-Guinardo, Nou Barris, Sant Andreu and Sant Marti.
Note there is some variation in the spelling between Catalan and Spanish.
Ciutat Vella is Catalan for Old Town, and you’ll find the legendary Barrio Gótico. It’s one of the oldest neighborhoods, with a labyrinth of ancient streets, beautiful churches, bars, and restaurants.
12. Attempting Spanish is Encouraged
Some people have a real knack for languages and can pick them up quickly.
But you don’t need to be fluent in Spanish to navigate Barcelona. English will get you pretty far, especially in the touristy areas.
But trust and believe that knowing hola, buenos días, gracias, and ¿dónde está el baño? are very useful.
13. It's Home To A Stunning Sex Club
If you’re in an open- relationship or are a single person who desires walking on the wild side during your travels, check out Oops! We’ve covered this gorgeous sex club before.
It looks like a castle, and is fitted with sprawling, sumptuous rooms for dancing, drinking, and well…. you know.