Barcelona: What to Know Before You Go

Barcelona is a relatively easy city to navigate and to explore. However, there are a few “need-to-knows” before embarking on your Catalonian journey. For example, did you know that the people in Barcelona don’t speak Spanish? Do you know how to get from the airport to the city center? Do you know what area of town to stay in? Read on for everything you need to know before you go to Barcelona!

Getting there:

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You can get to Barcelona by plane, train, boat, bus, and car. This article will focus specifically on getting from the airport to the city. However, if you will be arriving by train, boat, bus, or car, here’s an article that will tell you more about that!

Getting to Barcelona’s city center from the airport is easy and affordable. First, you should know that there are two terminals in the airport — T1 and T2. Make sure you check which terminal you are flying into/out of. You may fly into T1 and out of T2. It takes 15-20 minutes to get from one terminal to the other, so save yourself some stress and hassle by confirming which terminal you need to be at before you go. However, if you show up at the wrong terminal, there is a free bus connects the two.

Getting to the City Center from the Airport:

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It is seriously easy to get to the city center from the airport. Buses run almost constantly from the airport to the city center (every 10 minutes). There is a bus called Aerobus that leaves from outside of both Terminal 1 and 2 and goes directly to the city center. It costs 5.90 euros for the trip and takes approximately 30 minutes to get to Plaza Catalunya (a.k.a. the top of Las Ramblas; smack in the city center).

There are also multiple other stops on the way to Plaza Catalunya. Here is the link for more information about getting from the airport to the city center (taxi, bus, metro).

When your trip is over, you can also catch the bus back to the airport from Plaza Cataluyna. It costs the same. Buses leave almost constantly as well, so there’s no stress about missing a bus. Just make sure you board the bus that will take you to the correct terminal. One goes to T1 and one goes to T2.

Another option for reaching the city is to take the metro. It’s a relatively new option. The metro runs directly from the airport to numerous metro stops around the city. The line is called L9 Sud and there are stops at both terminals. Keep in mind, however, that this metro line does not run directly to the city center. If you’re staying in the city center, it’s much easier and quicker to take the bus. Here’s the link with more information about taking the metro from the airport.

Plaza Cataluyna:

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Lockers:

If you are arriving to Barcelona before you can check in at your hotel or apartment, you can find affordable lockers a half block away from Plaza Catalunya. If you take the Aerobus from the airport to the city center, you will receive a little coupon booklet. In this booklet is a 10% discount to the lockers. A large locker will run you about 6 euros for the entire day. You can find the lockers here.

Booking a Hotel:

I recommend checking out AirBnB for lots of affordable options. Hotels are quite expensive in Barcelona. I prefer to be central when staying in Barcelona, although it’s easy to get anywhere with the metro. We stayed near Las Ramblas on our most recent visit, and it was awesome. It’s incredibly convenient and enjoyable to be located smack in the city center, able to roam the streets and easily meander back to your abode on foot once you’re done for the day.

However, you might be able to find more affordable and/or quieter options in areas further away (e.g., by Sagrada Familia, Pont Nou, Gracia, etc.). Most areas of Barcelona are easily accessible by metro. Metros run from Monday to Thursday and Holiday days from 5 AM to 12:00 Midnight. On Fridays and eves of public holidays, metros run from 5:00 AM until 2:00 AM. On Saturdays, the metro is open from 5:00 AM and run into the next day. On Sundays, metros are open all day until 12:00 midnight.

Cool Areas to Explore:

  • Gracia: locals-only; street art; lots of tapas; outdoor dining options
  • Sagrada Familia: the beautiful Sagrada Familia; people watching; some outdoor dining options; food is “okay” here since it’s a touristy area

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  • Arch di Triomphe and Parc de la Ciutadella: great people-watching area; big park with lots of people hanging out, having picnics, watching street performers, etc.

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  • Barcelonetta: go for the tapas; near the beach; locals-only; relaxed

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  • Gothic district: the cathedral is located here; perfect for walking and exploring; cool architecture; in the “heart” of it
  • Las Ramblas is the main strip. It’s very touristy but perfect for people watching. Watch your belongings at all times in all areas, especially in the metros. Pick pockets are rampant in Barcelona. You don’t need to be paranoid – just aware.

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*photo courtesy of http://www.traveldigg.com

  • Eixample: great restaurants; craft beer haven area; lots of hipster-friendly establishments; just adjacent to the most touristy area but much more local; my favorite area

Money:

Barcelona uses the euro.

Tipping Etiquette:

Barcelona does not have a big tipping culture. Locals rarely tip and gratuities are not expected. However, if you are happy with the service, a small tip is always appreciate. This applies to both restaurants and taxis – 5-10% would be sufficient if you are so obliged. For more on tipping specifics and guidance, click HERE.

Culture:

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The culture in Barcelona is distinct and unique. Barcelona is considered a province in the autonomous community of Catalonia. Catalonia is independent from Spain. The residents of Catalonia are very proudly Catalan and locals don’t identify as Spanish. They actually speak Catalan – not Spanish. However, there are a variety of nationalities present in Barcelona working or residing for a variety of reasons.

Things to do:

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  • WALK AROUND. You can explore so much for free.

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  • Hit the beach for a day.

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  • Catch a Flamenco show.
  • Dance all night long at one of the many clubs that are open until 6 AM.
  • Go to La Boqueria Market (HUGE, awesome food market on Las Ramblas).

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  • No matter what, definitely take in some Gaudi “stuff” – of course, the most famous and incredible of his creations is the Sagrada Familia. I 100% recommend paying the 15 euros or so to go inside. It’s absolutely amazing. Book in advance online.

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Well – there you go. There’s everything I’ve got for what you need to know before you go to Barcelona. From getting there, to culture, to tipping, to what to do once you arrive, this list has it all. Do you have some advice or recommendations that aren’t included on this list? If so, please share below!

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