By Regina W. Bryan in Barcelona—
Suddenly flip-flops, sunglasses, reddened skin and the smell of coconut suntan lotion are filling the air. This can only mean one thing in Barcelona: spring, and high-season, are here.
As the summer approaches the city streets will swell a bit more each month with visitors, tourists, cruise-ship goers and backpackers. This means longer lines at the MACBA and CasaBatllo, cramped buses and hordes of people wandering along La Rambla. Sound like fun?
I do not like crowds, and like them less with each passing year. Maybe I am aging, or maybe I’ve just been elbowed one too many times on the Metro. Either way, I avoid the throngs of tourists in Barcelona whenever possible.
If you too, prefer the road less traveled, take heed and consider these expert tips:
1. Avoid La Rambla
I know, I know, La Rambla is very famous and very central, making it a very easy way to get around the Gothic Quarter. It’s also filled with interesting people doing tricks, selling ice cream and painting portraits. So fascinating, but so filled with people 24/7.
Check out La Rambla quickly and then avoid it the rest of your stay. Take the side-streets, which is what the locals do. This way you will see more “residential” Barcelona and lessen your chances of getting pick-pocketed on La Rambla! It’s a win-win!
2. Come in August
What? But isn’t that when everyone else in Europe is on vacation and therefore on holiday in Barcelona? Yes. But this is also when all Catalans go on vacation and many businesses close for the month.
There are a lot less people in Barcelona in August, and those who are here are either visiting, too broke to travel, or somehow got stuck working while the rest of the city took the month off. Actually, I like Barcelona in August because it is so much quieter.
3. Hit the big sights early
I am not an early riser and fully understand the merits of sleeping in while on vacation. However, if you do not want to stand in line under the blazing Spanish sun to see La Sagrada Familia, then be one of the first in line when it opens.
Another good time to visit popular sights is at lunch, from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., but check ahead to make sure they will not be closed.
4. Get a map… a really GOOD map
With a detailed map of Barcelona you will be able to navigate the side-streets and alleyways of the Gothic Quarter, Raval, Barceloneta and Eixample with no problem. Wander off the beaten path.
If you are on a street that has lots of signs for “Real Spanish Sangria $25.00!!!” then you are in a touristy place, you could even be on Carrer Ferran. Just take a right! Or a left and walk on to avoid the crowds. You’ll see some fabulous, tranquil streets this way and go around the masses.
5. Stay in El Eixample
I recently updated EuroCheapo’s Barcelona hotel reviews. Touring Barcelona’s many hotels and hostels I was reminded that La Rambla is by far the worst place to stay when it comes to crowds and El Eixample (either side) is the best place to avoid crowds. Stay in a B&B like Fashion House and experience Barcelona like a local.
6. Avoid the beaches at La Barceloneta
I love La Barceloneta, the city’s closest beach, but this is not where to go for swimming and sunbathing unless you like listening to other people’s conversations, music, arguments, children crying… etc.
Go much further down the Barcelona shoreline to Marbella or other beaches found around the Bogatell stops (requires some walking). You could also rent a bike and take off from La Barceloneta down the boardwalk along the seaside. After a good 15 minutes of riding you will note that the crowds on the beaches thin out quite a bit.
Always remember to watch your belongings on the beach. (Read my previous post about Barcelona’s best beaches.)
Have any advice to add about avoiding crowds in Barcelona? Please share your thoughts in our comments section.