Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia
Barcelona, Spain's second-largest metropolitan area, is located on the country's northeastern coast. Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, an autonomous region within Spain with its own distinct culture and language. Barcelona and its suburbs are home to over 5 million people. However, due to the annual influx of tourists, Barcelona is Europe's third most visited city, and its population increases significantly during the peak tourist season. The city has the largest port in the Mediterranean, making it a sort of local economic powerhouse. Barcelona is famous for its architecture, with its most notable contributor being the magnificent Antoni Gaudi, whose all works are masterpieces. The city is the namesake for the famous football club, which has millions of devoted fans around the world.
There are Two Co-Official Languages in Barcelona
It’s probably not that hard to realize, but Spanish is the official language in Spain, which means it’s spoken throughout the entire country. However, the extent of Spanish in Catalonia, and Barcelona in particular, is rather limited, since local people have their own unique language - Catalan. Yes, sometimes it can sound familiar to Spanish, French, or Italian since those languages are closely related, but its traits, words, and sounds make Catalan its own distinctly unique language. This language has official status in Barcelona and Catalonia in general and is spoken by a huge chunk of the population. At first, it may seem this lingual duality complicates things for first-time visitors to Barcelona, but there is no need to worry. As inhabitants of the city are largely dependent on tourists, Barcelona’s residents can understand and speak English to some degree, so miscommunication is unlikely.
Beware of pickpockets
Unfortunately, it is very easy to become a target for thieves in Barcelona. More than 15 million people from all around the world visit the city annually, which makes it a fertile ground for thievery. However, a set of straightforward guidelines exist to help you keep thieves at bay. An obvious piece of advice is to constantly be on your guard and always keep your stuff in sight. The second rule is also easy to grasp - don't rely too much on your backpack. Sure, it's a convenient way to transport your belongings, but you should never store anything you don't want to lose in it, especially money or documents. Remember - the likelihood of being pickpocketed increases as your guard is let down. Even worse, the police frequently turn a blind eye to "insignificant" crimes like stealing a tourist's camera. So following those guidelines will make your vacation safer.
This is Not Your Stereotypical Spain
Sometimes it’s hard for tourists to comprehend the fact that there is a considerable difference between Catalonia and Barcelona in particular and the rest of Spain. Even with the aforementioned cultural, linguistic, and ethnic differences cast aside, the differences in work ethics, social activities, and attitude to life, in general, are still noticeable when comparing Spain and Catalonia, so expect to feel entirely different vibes from certain aspects of Barcelona’s life. This is a reminder to those already accustomed to the Spanish way of life, having visited such cities as Madrid, but new to Barcelona.Even the food of Spain and Catalonia differs. While Spanish cuisine is famous for its chorizo sausages, paella, Jamon, and tortilla de patatas, its Catalan counterpart is best known for butifarra (cinnamon pork sausage) and a dish called fideuá (noodles with green onions). Catalan cuisine noticeably differs from its Spanish counterpart due to the French influence and the region's proximity to the sea. While dining at the Catalan restaurant, look at the menu - you’ll most certainly find dishes with French cuisine vibes to them. For example, meat and seafood are often combined in some unexpected manner. So if your perception of Spain is limited, by let’s say Madrid, Barcelona has more than a few surprises.
Discover Gaudi, but don’t neglect everything else
The renowned architect Antonio Gaudi is by far the biggest contributor to Barcelona's attractions, and a huge chunk of Barcelona is something akin to a museum of his creations. His list of works is quite outstanding. The top portion of the city features Park Guell, one of his most peculiar designs. The gingerbread cottages and intriguing mosaic sculptures in the park are proof that it was designed as a nod to fairy tales. The Casa Batlló, popularly referred to as the House of Bones, is another well-known building created by Gaudi. Interesting architectural decisions are present in the house, such as the total absence of straight lines. Its chimneys, balconies, and roof all have odd shapes. It used to be a house of a rich merchant but now is repurposed into a museum. Sagrada Familia, also known as the Temple of the Holy Family, is probably his most well-known creation. Sagrada Familia was never finished because of Gaudi's passing, but thankfully, the local government plans to complete it. Even though all of Gaudi's creations are masterworks and arguably the city of Barcelona's top attractions, which undoubtedly deserve hours of your delight, you must understand that this city has a lot more things to see.
The magnificent works of Gaudi are not the sole trademarks of Barcelona's architecture. Include the Gothic Quarter, an open-air museum of 14-th and 15-th century buildings, on your list of sites to see when exploring Barcelona if you want to have a good understanding of authentic Catalan architecture, which offers some of the most peculiar design choices in Europe. Taking a walk in the Gothic Quarter is really like visiting a museum. However, Barcelona’s attractions are not so few and are not limited exclusively to architecture.
More than 4,5 kilometers of coastline are along Barcelona. The ingredients for a good vacation are the breathtaking views, the golden sandy beach, and the gentle sea wind. The beach in Barcelona is split into four sections. Barceloneta beach, the most well-known out of four, is almost in the center of the city. The beaches of Icaria and Mar Bella lie nearby, while the Sitges beach is found just outside of the city. Barcelona's beaches are regarded as the most well-kept and well-organized in Europe. Each of the four zones offer everything a tourist might need, from restaurants to first-aid posts. If you just wist to lay on the beach and gently sip your Sangria, you are already guaranteed to have a nice day. But even without its famous beaches, Barcelona's shoreline offers a variety of activities, such as sailing along the coast to admire the skyline or boarding a boat to shoot beautiful images of the city from the water.
Spain's most northern coast, the Costa Brava, lies around 150 kilometers away from Barcelona. If you're willing to dedicate a whole day of your vacation to a 150 kilometers trip, you can depart from the bus stop in Barcelona and travel north to see several small, charming towns that still bear the imprints of past civilizations. From Moors and Iberians to Romans and Byzantines, this amalgamation of different cultures is rarely seen throughout Europe. The presence of tourist hotspots, like the Mediterranean jewel Loret de Mar, the golden beaches of Playa de Aro, and the resorts of Empuriabrava and Calleja, this region of the Spanish coast is appreciated by travelers from around the globe.
Things Are Very, Very Laid Back
Getting to know the local cuisine and drinks is one of the most important components of any vacation. This is especially true when it comes to traveling to Barcelona since the local food is considered one of the best in Europe. But to enjoy visiting Barcelona's restaurants, cafes, and eateries to the fullest, you need to keep in mind several important things. Locals are friendly folks who cherish pleasant company and casual settings for socializing. As a result, a boisterous crowd of locals holding glasses of beer or wine at the restaurant's entrance is a sign that this place is well-liked by the city’s inhabitants and offers good food and drinks for reasonable prices. However, if you come across a cafe or restaurant that is only partially full, and has fancily dressed waiters or white tablecloths, it is likely a place meant for tourists. In terms of quality of service, these locations are in no way inferior to those that the locals like, although costs can be significantly higher. However, this relaxed mentality of cordiality and openness has the other side to it. For example, it often takes too long for the waiters to serve you. They can also serve you the dish meant for someone else, or forget to pour more wine into your glass. Sometimes they just leave you to stare at the menu for an uncertain amount of time. Of course, they do this not out of disrespect - on the contrary, hospitality is one of the main traits of Barcelona’s inhabitants, they like guests. The roots of this attitude are purely cultural - dinners in Spain and Catalonia, in particular, can take up to three hours, so no one sees the need to hurry. This is especially true when it comes to restaurants and cafes for the locals since everyone is used to such a way of things. Think of this as an aspect of local culture and try to see things from their perspective, and everything should be alright. However, if the quality of the service displeases you for some reason, good news for you: tips in Barcelona are not mandatory, but, of course, really appreciated.
Getting from Barcelona Airport to City
Your next goal after arriving at the Barcelona airport is to reach the city itself. The best course of action is to get to the city center and then get to your place of accommodation. Getting from Barcelona airport to the city center is a surprisingly quick and simple task. Several bus routes from Barcelona Airport to the different parts of the city are available. You better check all of the bus destination options in advance to see which suits you the best. The airport express bus is more expensive than the regular city bus, but both options are viable. City buses run more often, but the express buses are more suitable for transporting luggage. The train to Barcelona's center departs from the airport every thirty minutes. It makes stops at Estació Sants, Passeig de Gràcia, and El Clot, the three major hub stations. Because you may utilize the Estació Sants station to board a train or bus to different regions of Spain, it is particularly practical. From any of the three stations, you can take the metro to travel to other areas of the city if necessary. However, taxis are the most practical transportation option to get from El Prat Airport to Barcelona's city center. In Barcelona, they are easily recognizable - you want to look for the black cars with yellow doors. When choosing this option, however, you should keep in mind that you’ll probably have to pay some extra money for the weekend, night, and holiday rides. Picking up and dropping off at the airport or the cruise terminals will also require a fee. Know that you will have to wait for your cab because there is always a large number of fellow tourists. When it comes to transportation in Barcelona, the options are numerous. Barcelona's public transportation system consists of the metro, buses, taxis, and city trains Rodalies (RENFE). The fact that Barcelona's transportation system covers the majority of the tourist routes is a good thing since it allows you to get around Barcelona quite easily.
Book in Advance!
The hotel of an apartment is better booked well in advance of your vacation, no less than three month prior. You'll have trouble finding accommodation for a reasonable price during the peak tourist season, so don’t linger.