Dangers & Annoyances
- Violent crime is rare in Barcelona, but petty crime (bag-snatching, pickpocketing) is a major problem.
- You're at your most vulnerable when dragging around luggage to or from your hotel; make sure you know your route before arriving.
- Be mindful of your belongings, particularly in crowded areas.
- Try to avoid walking around El Raval and the southern end of La Rambla late at night.
- Don't wander down empty city streets at night. When in doubt, take a taxi.
- Take nothing of value to the beach and don't leave anything unattended.
It cannot be stressed enough that newcomers to Barcelona must be on their guard. Petty theft is a problem in the city centre, on public transport and around main sights. Report thefts to the Guàrdia Urbana office at La Rambla 43. You are unlikely to recover your goods but you will need to make this formal denuncia (police report) for insurance purposes. To avoid endless queues at the comisaría (police station), you can make the report by phone (902 102112, in various languages). The following day go to the station of your choice to pick up and sign the report (the most central are the offices at La Rambla 43, Carrer Noude la Rambla 76 in El Raval, and the one in the metro station at Plaça Catalunya).
The ISIC (International Student Identity Card; www.isic.org) and the European Youth Card (www.eyca.org) are available from most national student organisations and allow discounted access to some sights. Students generally pay a little more than half of adult admission prices, as do children aged under 12 and senior citizens (aged 65 and over) with appropriate ID.
Possession of a Bus Turístic ticket entitles you to discounts at some museums.
Articket (www.articketbcn.org) Gives admission to six sites for €30 and is valid for six months. You can pick up the ticket at the tourist offices at Plaça de Catalunya, Plaça de Sant Jaume and Estació Sants train station and at the museums themselves. The six sights are Museu Picasso, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona and Fundació Joan Miró.
Arqueoticket (www.barcelonaturisme.com) For those with an interest in archaeology and ancient history. The ticket (€14.50) is available from participating museums and tourist offices and grants free admission to the Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya, Museu Egipci, Museu d’Història de Barcelona and Born Centre de Cultura i Memòria.
Barcelona Card (www.barcelonacard.com) Handy if you want to see lots in a limited time. It costs €20/45/55/60 for two/three/four/five days. You get free transport, discounted admission (up to 60% off) or free entry to many museums and other sights, and minor discounts on purchases at a small number of shops, restaurants and bars. The card costs about 50% less for children aged four to 12. You can purchase it at tourist offices and online (the latter saves you 5%).
Ruta del Modernisme (www.rutadelmodernisme.com) Well worth looking into for visiting Modernista sights at discounted rates. It costs €12.
Spain uses 230V/50Hz, like the rest of continental Europe.
Emergency & Important Numbers
|EU standard emergency number||112|
|International access code||00|
|Tourist police||93 256 24 77|
Barcelona is fairly relaxed when it comes to etiquette. A few basics to remember:
- Greetings Catalans, like other Spaniards, usually greet friends and strangers alike with a kiss on both cheeks, although two males rarely do this. Foreigners may be excused.
- Eating and drinking Waiters won't expect you to thank them every time they bring you something, but in more casual restaurants and bars they will expect you to keep your cutlery between courses.
- Visiting churches It is considered disrespectful to visit churches as a tourist during Mass and other worship services. Taking photos at such times is a definite no-no.
- Escalators Always stand on the right to let people pass, especially when using the metro.
Barcelona has a vibrant gay and lesbian scene, with a fine array of restaurants, bars and clubs in the district known as the ‘Gaixample’, an area of L'Eixample about five to six blocks southwest of Passeig de Gràcia around Carrer del Consell de Cent.
Despite fierce opposition from the Catholic Church, Spain legalised same-sex marriage in 2005. It became the fourth country in the world to do so. A poll just prior to the legislation passing found that over 60% of Spaniards favoured the legalisation of same-sex marriage. Gay and lesbian married couples can also adopt children.
As a rule, Barcelona is pretty tolerant and the sight of gay or lesbian couples arm in arm is generally unlikely to raise eyebrows. Transgenderism, too, is increasingly accepted.
Befitting a diverse city of its size, the bar scene in Barcelona offers plenty of variety, with stylish cocktail bars, leather bars, bear bars, easy-going pubs and theme bars (with drag shows and other events) all part of the mix.
As with all clubs in town, things don't get going until well into the early morning (around 2am). The bigger and better-known clubs, like Metro, one of Barcelona's pioneers in the LGBTI club scene, host top-notch DJs, multiple bars, a dark room, drag shows and other amusements. Keep in mind that most of the clubs open only from Thursday to Saturday nights.
The Lesbian Scene
The lesbian bar scene is a little sparse compared to the gay scene, with more places catering to a mixed gay-lesbian crowd (and a few straights thrown in) than an exclusively lesbian clientele. The one place that's proudly lesbian is Aire, which should be a requisite stop for every nightlife-loving lesbian visiting the city. Some nominally straight bars and clubs host periodic lesbian parties. Keep an eye out for party flyers in shops and bars in the Gaixample for the latest.
The gay and lesbian community from Barcelona and beyond takes centre stage during the annual Pride Barcelona. The weeklong event takes place in late June and features concerts, campy drag shows, film screenings, art shows and open-air dance parties – complete with lots and lots of foam. It culminates with a festive parade along Carrer de Sepúlveda and ends at the Plaça d'Espanya, where the big events are held.
Also of note is the LGBTI film festival, Fire! (www.cinemalambda.com), hosted by the Casal Lambda in June. Film lovers might also be able to catch a bit of the Sitges Film Festival (sitgesfilmfestival.com), which happens in early October.
Sitges: Catalonia's LGBT Capital
Barcelona has a busy gay scene, but Spain's LGBTI capital is the saucily hedonistic Sitges, 35km southwest of Barcelona, a major destination on the international party circuit. The LGBTI community there takes a leading role in the wild Carnaval celebrations in February/March.
Need to Know
Casal Lambda A gay and lesbian social, cultural and information centre in La Ribera.
Patroc (www.patroc.com) A European gay guide, the Barcelona section of which has a useful selection of hotels, clubs and so on. Particularly good on upcoming events.
Tillate (www.tillate.es) Discover upcoming parties in this nightlife guide to regions around Spain, including Catalonia.
Travel Gay (www.travelgay.com) This global site has a Barcelona section with frequently updated listings.
GaySitges (www.gaysitges.com) A specific site dedicated to this LGBTI-friendly coastal town.
Gay & Lesbian Travellers
Best LGBT Stays
Best LGBT Clubs
Best Laid-Back LGBT Bars
Best Alternative Scene
Best Mixed Clubs
Best LGBT-Friendly Beaches
Best LGBT-Themed Shops
- A travel-insurance policy to cover theft, loss, medical problems, and cancellation or delays of your travel arrangements is a good idea.
- Worldwide travel insurance is available at lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online any time – even if you’re on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
Most accommodations offer their guests wi-fi access (usually for free). A growing array of city bars and restaurants are doing the same.
The city also has dozens of free public wi-fi hotspots, though the signal is generally weak. Look for the small blue signs with the blue 'W' symbol. You can find a complete list of sites at www.bcn.cat/barcelonawifi.
Internet cafes are a disappearing breed. Look also for locutorios (public phone centres), which often double as internet centres.
- Newspapers Major Barcelona newspapers La Vanguardia and El Periódico are available in Spanish and Catalan. El País publishes an online English supplement (elpais.com/elpais/inenglish.html).
ATMs are widely available (La Rambla has many). Credit cards are accepted in most hotels, shops and restaurants.
- Barcelona abounds with banks, many of which have ATMs.
- ATMs are in plentiful supply around Plaça de Catalunya, and along Via Laietana and La Rambla.
- Most ATMs allow you to use international debit or credit cards to withdraw money in euros.
- There is usually a charge (around 1.5% to 2%) on ATM cash withdrawals when abroad.
You can change cash or travellers cheques in most major currencies without problems at virtually any bank or bureau de change (usually indicated by the word canvi/cambio).
The foreign-exchange offices that you see along La Rambla and elsewhere are open for longer hours than banks, but they generally offer poorer rates. Also, keep a sharp eye open for commissions at bureaux de change.
Major cards such as Visa, MasterCard, Maestro and Cirrus are accepted throughout the city. They can be used in many hotels, restaurants and shops, although there may be a minimum purchase requirement of €5 or €10.
When paying with a credit card, a photo ID is often required, even for chip cards where you're required to enter your PIN (for US travellers without chip cards, just indicate that you'll give a signature).
If your card is lost, stolen or swallowed by an ATM, you can telephone toll-free to immediately stop its use:
Amex 900 814500
Diners Club 902 401112
MasterCard 900 971231
Visa 900 991124
- Restaurants Catalans typically leave 5% or less at restaurants. Leave more for exceptionally good service.
- Taxis Optional, but most locals round up to the nearest euro.
- Bars It's rare to leave a tip in bars, though a bit of small change is always appreciated.
Travellers Cheques & Moneycards
Travellers cheques are far less convenient than simply using bank cards at ATMs. If you do opt for this old-school option, Amex and Visa are widely accepted brands. For lost cheques, call a 24-hour freephone number (for Amex 900 814500, for Visa 900 991124).
The Travelex Cash Passport (www.travelex.com) and Thomas Cook Travel Moneycard (www.thomascookmoney.com) are prepaid cards. You can load funds on to them before you travel and use them like any card in ATMs, restaurants or shops worldwide.
Standard opening hours are as follows:
Restaurants 1pm to 4pm and 8.30pm to midnight
Shops 9am or 10am to 1.30pm or 2pm and 4pm or 4.30pm to 8pm or 8.30pm Monday to Saturday
Department stores 10am to 10pm Monday to Saturday
Bars 6pm to 2am (to 3am weekends)
Clubs Midnight to 6am Thursday to Saturday
Banks 8.30am to 2pm Monday to Friday; some also 4pm to 7pm Thursday or 9am to 1pm Saturday
Museums & art galleries Vary considerably; generally 10am to 8pm (though some shut for lunch around 2pm to 4pm). Many close all day Monday and from 2pm Sunday.
Correos is Spain’s national postal service. Barcelona’s main post office is a lovely fresco-filled building just opposite the northeast end of Port Vell at Plaça d’Antonio López. Another handy post office branch lies just off Passeig de Gràcia at Carrer d’Aragó 282. Many other branches tend to open between 8.30am and 2.30pm Monday to Friday and from 9.30am to 1pm on Saturday.
Segells/sellos (stamps) are sold at most estancs (tobacconists’ shops) and at post offices throughout the city.
New Year’s Day (Any Nou/Año Nuevo) 1 January
Epiphany/Three Kings’ Day (Epifanía or El Dia dels Reis/Día de los Reyes Magos) 6 January
Good Friday (Divendres Sant/Viernes Santo) March/April
Easter Monday (Dilluns de Pasqua Florida) March/April
Labour Day (Dia del Treball/Fiesta del Trabajo) 1 May
Day after Pentecost Sunday (Dilluns de Pasqua Granda) May/June
Feast of St John the Baptist (Dia de Sant Joan/Día de San Juan Bautista) 24 June
Feast of the Assumption (L’Assumpció/La Asunción) 15 August
Catalonia’s National Day (Diada Nacional de Catalunya) 11 September
Festes de la Mercè 24 September
Spanish National Day (Festa de la Hispanitat/Día de la Hispanidad) 12 October
All Saints Day (Dia de Tots Sants/Día de Todos los Santos) 1 November
Constitution Day (Día de la Constitución) 6 December
Feast of the Immaculate Conception (La Immaculada Concepció/La Inmaculada Concepción) 8 December
Christmas (Nadal/Navidad) 25 December
Boxing Day/St Stephen’s Day (El Dia de Sant Esteve) 26 December
- Smoking Banned in restaurants and bars.
Taxes & Refunds
Value-added tax (VAT) is a 21% sales tax levied on most goods and services. For restaurants and hotels it's 10%. Most restaurants include VAT in their prices; it's usually included in hotel room prices, too, but check when booking.
Value-added tax (VAT) is also known as IVA (impuesto sobre el valor añadido; pronounced ‘ee-ba’). IVA is 10% on accommodation and restaurant prices and is usually – but not always – included in quoted prices. On most retail goods the IVA is 21%. IVA-free shopping is available in duty-free shops at all airports for people travelling between EU countries.
Non-EU residents are entitled to a refund of the 21% IVA on purchases costing more than €90 from any shop, if the goods are taken out of the EU within three months. Ask the shop for a Cashback (or similar) refund form showing the price and IVA paid for each item and identifying the vendor and purchaser. Then present the form at the customs booth for IVA refunds when you depart from Spain (or elsewhere in the EU). You will need your passport and a boarding card that shows you are leaving the EU, and your luggage (so do this before checking in bags). The officer will stamp the invoice and you hand it in at a bank at the departure point to receive a reimbursement.
Various locutorios (call centres), which also double as internet centres, are scattered around the Old City, especially El Raval and Sant Pere. Check rates before making calls.
To call Barcelona from outside Spain, dial the international access code, followed by the code for Spain (34) and the full number (including Barcelona’s area code, 93, which is an integral part of the number). To make an international call, dial the international access code (00), country code, area code and number.
Local SIM cards can be used in unlocked phones. Other phones must be set to roaming.
- Mobile-phone numbers start with a 6 or 7.
- Spain uses GSM 900/1800, compatible with the rest of Europe and Australia but not with the North American GSM 1900 or the system used in Japan. If your phone is tri- or quadriband, you will probably be fine.
- You can buy SIM cards and prepaid call time in Spain for your own national mobile phone (provided what you own is a GSM, dual- or tri-band cellular phone and not locked).
- You will need your passport to open any kind of mobile-phone account, prepaid or otherwise.
|International operator for reverse-charge calls||1408|
|International directory enquiries||11825|
|Domestic operator for a domestic reverse-charge call||1409|
|National directory inquiries||11818|
- Spain is on CET, one hour ahead of GMT/UTC during winter, and two hours ahead during daylight saving (the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October).
- Most other western European countries are on the same time as Spain year-round. The UK, Ireland and Portugal are one hour behind.
- Spaniards use the 24-hour clock for official business (timetables etc) but generally switch to the 12-hour version in daily conversation.
Public toilets are rare in Barcelona. Big shopping centres (or the El Corte Inglés department store) are an option, but ducking into a cafe or bar may be your best bet (it's polite to order something).
Oficina d’Informació de Turisme de Barcelona Provides maps, sights information, tours, concert and events tickets, and last-minute accommodation.
Several tourist offices operate in Barcelona. A couple of general information telephone numbers worth bearing in mind are 010 and 012. The first is for Barcelona and the other is for all Catalonia (run by the Generalitat). You sometimes strike English speakers, although for the most part operators are Catalan/Spanish bilingual. In addition to tourist offices, information booths operate at Estació del Nord bus station and at Portal de la Pau, at the foot of the Mirador de Colom at the port end of La Rambla. Others set up at various points in the city centre in summer.
Palau Robert Regional Tourist Office Offers a host of material on Catalonia, audiovisual resources, a bookshop and a branch of Turisme Juvenil de Catalunya (for youth travel).
Travel with Children
Barcelona is great for older kids and teens – the Mediterranean attitude means they are included in many seemingly adult activities such as eating late meals at bars or restaurants. Babies will love the welcoming Mediterranean culture, and toddlers will be showered with attention.
Dining Out with Kids
Barcelona – and Spain in general – is super-friendly when it comes to eating with children. Locals take their kids out all the time and don't worry too much about keeping them up late, so going out to eat or to sip a beer on a terrace on a summer evening needn't mean leaving children with minders – and they're bound to strike up a friendship or two.
Spanish kids tend to eat the Mediterranean offerings enjoyed by their parents, but many restaurants have children's menus that serve up burgers, pizzas, tomato-sauce pasta and the like. Good local – and childproof – options commonly found on tapas menus are the tortilla de patatas (potato omelette) or croquetas de jamón (croquettes with ham).
Need to Know
- Supplies Nappies (diapers), dummies, creams and formula can be bought at any of the city's many pharmacies. Nappies are cheaper in supermarkets.
- Metro Barcelona's metro is accessible and great for families with pushchairs. Be mindful of pickpockets.
- Accessibility The narrow streets of the Ciutat Vella, with their unpredictable traffic and cobbled streets, are less buggy-friendly than the rest of Barcelona.
- La Nena Fantastic for chocolate and all manner of sweet things, this cafe has a play area, and a toys and books corner.
- Bar del Convent With a safe, traffic-free terrace to play in, and a raft of games and toys indoors, the Convent is a great all-weather option.
- Filferro Sit outside this tapas and snack bar and enjoy the Mediterranean breeze, while junior busies about in the adjacent playground.
- Granja M Viader No kid will be left unimpressed – and without a buzz! – by the thick hot chocolate here.
- Pepa Tomate With crayons provided and a tiny playground near the plaza-side tables, this fun tapas joint is a winner.
- Granja La Pallaresa Along a street famed for its chocolate cafes, this place is a favourite for crispy churros dipped in steaming chocolate.
Parks & Open Spaces
- Parc de la Ciutadella This park has a zoo, pond and playground that gets a bunch of fun toys out in the morning and after 4pm; it's also a great place to meet other parents.
- Parc d'Atraccions This fabulous funfair on top of Tibidabo is excellent for adrenaline-loving kids and grown-ups.
- Parc de la Creueta del Coll An excellent park for its splashing pool, swings and snack bar.
- Font Màgica The light show is guaranteed to make the little ones shout 'Again!'
- Parc de Collserola A huge park in the hills that's attractive to families for its trails and picnicking possibilities.
- Platja de la Nova Icària One of a string of beaches between Barceloneta and El Fòrum; the waterside fun makes for a great summer destination.
- CosmoCaixa A fantastic science museum whose interactive displays fascinate kids of all ages.
- Museu de la Xocolata This museum is all about chocolate – need we say more? Don't miss the chocolate model-making sessions for kids.
- Zoo de Barcelona You'll find all the animals you can think of in this relatively small zoo, from yawning hippos, to spluttering elephants and frowning gorillas. Big cats and monkeys are here too.
- L’Aquàrium A fantastic aquarium, one of Europe's largest, with tank after tank of colourful fish. Kids are bound to be thrilled by seeing sharks gliding overhead.
- Poble Espanyol Kids and parents can enjoy going through a mini Spain together; there are also special kid-oriented games and quests.
Best Ways to See the City
- By Bike Barcelona has tonnes of bike tours and outlets that hire out bicycles with little trolleys in the front for transporting the little ones, including Trixi.
- On Segway Parents, older kids and teens can mount these futuristic-looking vehicles and scoot around town with Segway Fun.
- By Bus Barcelona's bus tours are great for older kids – hop on, climb up to the open top floor and see the views.
- By Cable Car Travel to Montjuïc from Barceloneta beach through the air. The Transbordador Aeri is bound to be loved by all ages.
- Hibernian Should the kids run out of reading material, this Irish-run secondhand bookshop has a good selection in English.
- Papabubble Watch candy being made the old-fashioned way at this inviting little shop in the old city.
- Tintin Shop A plethora of Tintin-related items make for gorgeous, colourful gifts in this Gràcia space.
- El Rei de la Màgia A cabinet of curiosity for all budding magicians.
- Taller de Marionetas Travi A small enchanting shop full of handmade wooden and papier-mâché marionettes.
Most hotels and public institutions have wheelchair access. All buses in Barcelona are wheelchair accessible and a growing number of metro stations are theoretically wheelchair accessible (generally by lift, although there have been complaints that they are only good for people with prams). Of 158 stations, all but 15 are completely adapted (you can check which ones by looking at a network map at www.tmb.cat/en/transport-accessible). Ticket vending machines in metro stations are adapted for disabled travellers, and have Braille options for those a with visual impairment.
Most street crossings in central Barcelona are wheelchair-friendly.
Tourist Information & Resources
For information on what the city is doing to improve accessibility, check out the council's Accessible Barcelona Guide in several languages (www.barcelona-access.com).
Other services include the following:
Barcelona Turisme Barcelona's official tourism organisation maintains a website devoted to making the city accessible to visitors with a disability.
ONCE The national organisation for the vision-impaired can help with information, including lists of places such as restaurants where Braille menus are provided.
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel
Volunteering opportunities in Barcelona are limited. English-speaking tutors can always offer their services to language learners at schools. You can also browse listings for volunteers on GO Abroad (goabroad.com) and Transitions Abroad (transitionsabroad.com).
Think twice about going by yourself to isolated stretches of beach or down empty city streets at night.
Topless bathing is OK on beaches in Catalonia and also at swimming pools. While skimpy clothing tends not to attract much attention in Barcelona and the coastal resorts, tastes in inland Catalonia tend to be somewhat conservative.
Ca la Dona The nerve centre of the region’s feminist movement, Ca la Dona (Women’s Home) includes many diverse women’s groups.
Institut Català de les Dones Can point you in the right direction for information on marriage, divorce, rape/assault counselling and related issues. The 24-hour hotline for victims of assault is 900 900120.