All those guidebook photos of azure sky, dripping gelato, vast beaches and otherworldly Gaudí architecture may sell an image of “perfect” Barcelona, but this city is far from flawless.
Here are four negative aspects of visiting or living in Barcelona, with their (sometimes quite simple) solutions.
The center of Barcelona is crowded, especially in high-season (summer). Sometimes it can be downright frustrating trying to walk down La Rambla if you’ve got somewhere to be due to all the people on it. Of course, the city’s beaches are also packed in the summer, as are big tourist attractions such as La Sagrada Familia. If you don’t like pushing through gaggles of tourists, you’ll want to spend as little time as possible in downtown.
Secondly, come during low-season or shoulder-season. October is a good time to see the city as is April and May.
You knew this one would be on the list, right? Barcelona does not have a problem with violent theft (knock on wood), but rather with petty theft. Think pickpockets and con artists.
Several safety tips to keep in mind:
• Make a copy of your passport and carry that with you, leaving the original in the hotel safe or with the front desk.
• Don’t walk around with your camera around your neck.
• Men, keep your billfolds in the front of your jeans.
• Women, get purses with zippers and flaps.
• Don’t leave your bags on the back of a chair at a cafe, instead, always keep anything of value in your lap or beside you.
Visitors don’t know the average price of things in Barcelona and therefore are likely to pay more than a local. This causes businesses in touristy zones to jack up the price considerably and in many cases sell a mediocre product at an outrageous rate. That’s the world we’re living in people!
Stay away from tourist areas when you’re looking for a restaurant for dinner or shopping. Look at the menu. Is it translated into 10 languages? Then it’s probably catering to tourists. Best to find the place with the menu in Spanish or Catalan.
Look at the people who are eating in the cafe or restaurant. Do they look like they just got off the cruise boat or do they look like locals?
As a rule, don’t eat on La Rambla or on Plaça Catalunya. (Read more cheap eating tips.)
Not everyone will agree with me, but I do find Barcelona—especially certain areas—grimy. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, it doesn’t rain much here so the filth is not often washed away. The city does have street cleaners who spray down the metropolis’ many soiled lanes, but their job is an endless and thankless one.
Also, there are a lot of dogs in Barcelona and some of these dogs have irresponsible owners. Ogling some fancy architecture in the Eixample may end with your foot in a pile of puppy mierda. I speak from ample experience.
Or maybe go down to the beach and count how many people pick up their cigarette butts after smoking away an afternoon by the sea…. to say nothing of all the folks (men, usually) who choose to urinate on dumpsters and in doorways (yes! ewwwwwwe) instead of in a nearby bar’s WC.
When I lived in La Barceloneta I saw visitors going shoeless and shirtless all the time when walking around the ‘hood. It was all I could do to not run over to them and shake them saying, “For the love of the sun man, put ON your shoes!” I restrained myself, and they probably now have foot fungus or who knows what. Don’t go barefoot unless you’re on the beach. Really.
As far as the dog mierda, well, it’s best to keep one eye on the road at all times, especially if you’re wearing sandals. By and large, you don’t want to sit on curbs and doorsteps. You won’t see locals doing this. You also don’t want to recline against a wall. This is where creatures, both dog and human, pee. Instead, find a bench or a shady cafe.