What I wish I knew before I went to Barcelona:
- They speak Castilian Spanish which is similar, but can be very different then the Spanish that I learned growing up in the USA. Example: Bon Dia instead of Buenos Dias and Lavabos instead of banos. It is similar enough that I was able to get by, but I wish I had been aware before visiting!
- Café culture is huge, a lot of little shops have a coffee and croissant or bocadilla (sandwich) and soda deal for a few euros. I usually saw them for 2 to 3 euros. I did these for cheap meals in the day and had a nice dinner and maybe grab a fruit for a snack at a supermarket.
- Meal times are later than in the US. Lunch seems to be flexible, but is usually around 1, but some dinner places do not even open until 8. Barcelona has enough tourists that if you really want, you can find a place to eat.
- Speaking of food and restaurants, some places might charge to sit outside. I saw this on a menu so just be aware!
- Barcelona is HUGE! It sprawls forever. So sometimes to get between places can take a long time.
- Thankfully, even though Barcelona is massive, it has an amazing bus and train system! There were always a lot of options to get from place to place. Trains are faster, but the transfers can be a lot of walking and some of the trains are pretty deep underground. Most have escalators going up though and most stations seemed to have an elevator. Buses have more flexibility, but are slower.
Tip: They have day passes for the transit system, but make sure you will use it enough for it to be a good deal. These include transportation from the airport. A single ride is 2.20 Euro, but you can get a 10 ride pass for 10.20 Euro which is an amazing deal and does not have a day limit which was a bonus for me.
- A ton of people ride electric scooters or bikes. If I had time, that would have been a great way to see more of the city in a fun way!
- Do not get water at restaurants. They will overcharge you. At the little supermarkets everywhere, you can get huge bottles of water for a euro!
- I used a card almost everywhere. The only time I used change was for small purchases like water or fruit, but even then, I could have used a card!
- Most people speak English. Especially in the tourist areas but be a good tourist: learn some of the local language. I wield the word “gracias” like a shield. I used it all the time even when not strictly necessary. (And don’t forget.. it is pronounced “graTHias”!)
Vegetables do not seem to be served at most restaurants. They had some salads, but it was not enough veggies for me, so I ended up buying some at a market and cooking some up at my hostel.
I hope this has been helpful. I would love to hear if you have any comments or questions. Happy traveling!