Hey hey! It’s already 2020 and I just started my 3rd year living in Barcelona (4th if we count my internship in 2015)! When I first moved here I didn’t know what to expect and what to avoid. But it’s been a long journey now and I see that people are doing the same mistakes over and over again when coming to Barcelona. So let me be your Yoda and share my wisdom with you 🙂 In this article I will share with you my top 20 of the most common tourist mistakes in Barcelona. This list is based on my personal observations and I will be more than happy if you share with me some other mistakes that you have noticed! Let’s help the first timers to have their best time while in this beautiful city!
20 most common tourist mistakes in Barcelona by Travelista Goes To:
The order of the list will be absolutely random as I believe all the tips are important, but I cannot but start with the most important one – the pickpockets! This is one of the hugest problems of the city and I cannot stress how much it affects tourists. I often see people crying because someone stole their bag, wallet, purse, phone, etc…
So if you want to keep your belongings safe, don’t:
leave your phone on the table while in a bar/restaurant
leave your bag behind your back
wear your phone in your back pocket
leave your bag on the floor
wear a backpack in the metro/bus
leave your wallet/documents/phone in your backpack
Tip: Check the most common tricks that pickpockets are using in order to avoid being robbed. Some of them include showing a map asking for directions while they steal your phone from the table; playing football on the street to distract you while the rest of the gang steal your bag and many many more.
2. Missing lesser-known attractions.
We’ve all heard of Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell and the houses of Gaudí, but the truth is that Barcelona has much more to offer besides these few attractions. Do your research before you go and you won’t regret it!
3. Expressing opinion on Catalonia’s Independence/ Joking about it.
This is a really sensitive topic and no matter what your opinion is, do not share it except you are asked to do so. And even in this case, try to avoid expressing opinion as people might get offended. There are a lot of people who are pro and other against the independence, but as you never know, if you want to avoid conflicts and fights – shut up. You came here to have fun after all, not to decide the world’s political situation.
4. Eating paella on the beach.
Beach restaurants are in general overpriced and you basically pay for the view. This usually means that the quality of the food is not always their main priority and Barcelona is not an exception. And even if you find a place with a good paella (they might exist, I don’t know), the price will be 2 or 3 times higher which is pointless.. And there is a big chance that this bad experience ruins your relation with the paella for the future.
5. Walking around the city in Beach wear.
Yes, I know that you came here on a beach vacation, but there are certain areas where to wear your bikini, like… the beach! Barcelona is a big city and many people go to work, it is not necessary to look at half naked people all the time. And it is really annoying when you ruin your business clothes by touching sweaty bodies in the metro.
6. Eating on La Rambla.
This is a mystery I still cannot understand. Look at the picture above, look at how crowded this street is. And if I tell you that it was taken in November? Now can you imagine how it looks in summer? Exactly… On the both sides of the street there are tables of different restaurants where people sit and eat. While thousands of strangers are passing right next to them, staring at their plates, talking and breathing in their meals…Where is the pleasure, because I truly cannot see it?! And there is no need to mention that the food is usually not fresh, but frozen and extremely overpriced.
7. Not buying tickets for the tourist attractions in advance/online.
I will understand queuing if the attraction doesn’t offer online tickets and you really want to go inside. But this is not the case in Barcelona. Don’t get me wrong, I know that there are older people who are not really good in buying stuff online or some people are even afraid to do it. But you can lose several hours queuing when you could have seen at least two more things from your bucket list. Time is money! And another thing is that in high season you need a ticket at least a few weeks in advance, because Barcelona is over crowded with tourists.
8. Calling Catalonian peope Spanish.
This is a tricky one. Some Catalonian people do consider themselves Spanish, but others get really offended when you call them Spaniards. Meanwhile the first ones don’t get offended if you call them Catalan (Catalonian) because they are both – Spanish and from the Catalonia region. So just to be on the safe side – just call them Catalonian.
9. Buying a single transportation ticket/ Not buying T-casual.
T-casual (former T-10) is a ticket valid for 10 travels. Until last year it could be used from various people at the time, but now it’s for 1 person only. It is valid for all types of transportation except the one to the airport. If you are in Barcelona for several days and you are planning to use the public transport, this is a great way to save some money. It costs 11.35 euro at the moment, meanwhile the single ticket is 2.20 euro.
10. Not visiting Gracia because it is too far away.
Gracia is one of the prettiest neighborhoods in Barcelona. There are not so many tourist attractions there and people always skip it, but it is worth visiting. Just by walking around its beautiful narrow streets you can see the other face of Barcelona. While the center is dirty and dark, Gracia is way cleaner and cuter in many ways. The architecture is stunning and there are many pretty little cafes and restaurants where you can sit and enjoy a coffee. And usually the prices are lower.
Tip: In August there is the holiday called Festes de Gracia (the holiday of the neighborhood) that lasts for a week. You can enjoy its decorated streets day and night and la fiesta is the best it town! For more information about the holiday celebrations in Barcelona you can read my article here.
11. Going to flamenco performance.
I know that you’ve heard that in Spain they dance flamenco, but as I mentioned before, Catalonia is not exactly Spain. Flamenco is the traditional dance of Andalucia, the South region of Spain. The typical dance of Catalonia is called Sardana and you can watch people dancing it during local holidays and festivals – for free. The same as you can see free flamenco performances if you go to Sevilla or Granada for instance.
12. Taking a tour bus.
This will not be a mistake if you have just a day or two in Barcelona and you want to see as much as possible. But if this is not the case, it will be a huge mistake! Not because of the price (it is definitely more expensive than taking the public transportation), but because the beauty of Barcelona is not only in the popular tourist attractions. Just by walking you can discover so many beautiful hidden spots away from the crowd. So many unique coffee places or local restaurants…And believe me you cannot spot them from the bus. So keep walking and stop being this lazy, people!
13. Not leaving a tip/ Over tipping.
I’ve read in so many places that waiters get offended when you leave a tip. Did you even ask them? This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever read! Nobody gets offended when you offer them free money for their excellent job! The truth is that in Spain you are not obligated to leave a tip and many people don’t do it. But if you are satisfied with the service you can leave as much as you want. If you pay by card and you want to leave the tip increasing the amount paid by card, some waiters could refuse not because they don’t want a tip. But simply because they don’t receive this money afterwards, it goes to the owner. This is why sometimes they prefer to put the exact amount, but you are free to leave the tip you wanted in cash.
And for the Americans reading this – 20% is a huge tip and nobody expects you to leave that much, 5-10% is still a good tip.
14. Visiting only La Barceloneta beach.
It is true that this is the closest city beach and the easiest to reach, but in high season this place is disgusting! It is extremely over crowded and full of sellers, masseuses, pickpockets and loud loud drunk tourists. If you are not willing to explore the beaches outside the city, you can still go to Nueva Icaria, Bogatell or Mar Bella, they are still reachable by metro.
If you have the time and desire to go a bit further using the public transport, you can go to Badalona, Gava, Casteldefells or Sitges, they are 20-40 minutes away by train and their beaches are hundreds times better than La Barceloneta.
15. Eating dinner at 6 p.m.
I am also one of those who are used to have an early dinner, because I am coming from such country. But Spanish people eat very late, after 9 or 10 p.m. Ok, you don’t need to eat that late either, but you must consider waiting until 7.30 or 8 p.m. for two main reasons. First – most of the places don’t serve dinner that early or might be closed. Second – if they are open, it is probably because the place is visited by tourists only and the quality of the food might not be that good.
I am not saying that you cannot find an open place at this time. In the city center and in high season you should be able to find a decent place. But if you want to avoid the crowd and find a hidden little local restaurant outside of the center, just check the working hours in order to avoid unpleasant surprises.
16. Paying for an expensive breakfast at the hotel.
Barcelona is full of amazing brunch places and it will be a shame not to try them while here. Why choosing boring hotel breakfast when you can have whatever you want for a reasonable price. It is true that some of the brunch places are getting very popular and the prices are high, but you can easily find a local coffee shop on the corner of every street where you can have a cheap and delicious breakfast.
Tip: “Pan tumaca” or pan con tomate or bread with tomatoes is a typical Catalonian dish. You can eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner and as simple as it is, it is super tasty!
17. Coming to Barcelona in July and August.
This is a suicide mission. Thousands of tourists, impossibly humid weather and everything unpleasant that comes with it. Barcelona has good weather almost the whole year, people. Just come in May or September-October and you can enjoy it way more.
18. Missing all the free view points in Barcelona.
Believe me they are many! Tibidabo is maybe the most famous one, but far not the best in my opinion. It is just to high and you cannot see all the details of the city. Bunkers el Carmel is much better option, but got quite popular in the past few years and nowadays is not that private as it was before. In fact the view is still one of the most amazing I’ve seen here. Other nice view spots are Parque del Turo del Putxet, parc Guell, Las Arenas en plaza Espanya, Montjuic and many more.
Tip: Some of the rooftop bars offer amazing views as well and there is no need to pay a drink to enter. You can just go, take a few pictures or enjoy the view for a minute and go, easy peasy. For more information which bars offer this option, visit my article here.
19. Drinking only Sangria.
Yes, Sangira comes from Spain, but it is not the typical drink of Catalonia. If you want to try something local go for Cava (sparkling wine) or Vermut de la casa (vermut of the house).
20. Not checking the menu before you sit.
This is very important in Barcelona. The prices may vary tremendously and this doesn’t mean that you pay for a better quality. You just pay. That’s it.
Well, this is my list, I guess with the years I will keep adding new mistakes to the list.
I hope you find it helpful! Stay safe and enjoy Barcelona!