The European tour continues. Yesterday, I talked about free things to see and do in London, and today I am going to share some tips on how to live like a local in Barcelona. The topic of living like a local when you travel, evokes all kinds of responses. Is it even possible to any extent? I would think so, though it clearly depends on what living like a local means and where you’re traveling to.
According to Forbes, Spain has become the second most popular tourist country in the world. That means a lot of folks are heading to Barcelona! My cousin has been living in Spain for years now, so I thought it would be fun to learn her how-to suggestions for living like a local in Barcelona. The first thing she pointed out is that while Barcelona is known for its history and cultural impact, it’s very much a “lifestyle city.” This means in Barcelona, living well is important so this influences how people eat, drink and spend their free time. Knowing this, she gave me these suggestions:
1. Dress casual. People in Catalonia are relaxed (except when cheering for FC Barcelona). You’ll observe this in the way they walk, talk and laugh, and especially in how they dress. Nobody likes to dress up. You’ll be more likely laying on the beach or enjoying one of the city parks, than needing fancy clothes. I’m glad to hear this!
2. Enjoy a long lunch. Eating well might not require a long lunch, but great food combined with enjoying a social experience is something the Spaniards are famous for. I actually think one of my longest lunches ever was in Italy, another place known for eating long luxurious lunches. Dinner too, in Barcelona, can last for hours. So it’s a great way to practice patience around meals and just enjoy the dining customs when traveling.
3. Relax on the beach (but don’t go to Barceloneta). Barceloneta is where all the tourists go. That means it’s also full of people wanting to sell you things. For the locals, this is a real turn-off. It is a lovely beach with coffee shops and restaurants, but if you want to relax like a local instead of going to Barceloneta, check out one of the more secluded beaches located outside the city. Montgat, which is 20 minutes by train, or Castelldefels are beautiful with fewer tourists and fewer people peddling stuff.
4. Get really close to art. My cousin loves that Barcelona is a place where you can find art everywhere. There are so many famous art galleries and also an enormous amount of street art to enjoy. She insists that in Barcelona, you can find art on every corner! Of course you’ll enjoy the Picasso Museum and Gaudi’s masterpieces, but don’t forget those street artists and smaller art galleries. You’ll spot them as you wander around the city.
5. Avoid Las Ramblas. Even though we’ll all go to Las Ramblas, because we are tourists too, in order to live like a local, you want to avoid Las Ramblas. It’s extremely crowded, and as in many heavily touristed areas in every city, the Catalonians don’t eat there because the prices are much higher. So enjoying Las Ramblas once might just be enough for you.
6. Eat a late dinner. Dining like a local requires you start dinner at 10pm. Yes, I know, that’s really late but this is what the Spaniards do. Most restaurants actually open at 8:30pm, and if you eat then you’ll likely be dining alone. I’ve had experiences like this in Italy. One interesting aspect of dining is that if you normally drink before dinner, that custom changes in Barcelona. In Barcelona, the cocktails are saved for after dinner. This means that the evenings usually end very late. I’m more curious about when I get to fit in my espresso amongst all this dining and drinking!
7. Forget sangria, say hello to gin and tonic. I found this live-like-a-local tip surprising. Local people prefer gin and tonic to Sangria. Try the Catalonian version of gin and tonic and see what you think.
8. There’s always an excuse for a party! When my cousin mentioned this tip, I knew why she enjoys living in Spain so much. She loves life and fits right in because she enjoys the fiestas and having fun!
Many people would say there is no place like Barcelona. It’s relaxing yet energetic lifestyle has something for everyone. Hope these ideas help you experience it like a local! If you have some ideas to add to this list, let me know in the comments below.