12 Tips for discovering Barcelona like a local
Article updated 28 August, 2019.
If you prefer to get off the tourist track and you want to enjoy Barcelona like a local, then this article is for you!
Barcelona is an exciting city with many attractions. But sometimes visitors get stuck in tourist attractions and risk missing some important aspects of Catalan culture. A shame! If you want to live like a local during your stay in Barcelona, here are a few hints.
1. Free accommodation in the home of a local
Yes, you read correctly: you can have a more authentic experience staying in the home of a local from Barcelona. And for free! An apartment swap site basically allows you to get in touch with a person from Barcelona who is also interested in this great and very economical concept.
2. Barcelona like a local: take your time and relax
If you really want to see Barcelona like the locals do, then get on Mediterranean time!
No need to get up at dawn; life doesn’t really start here until around 10am. Catalan people have breakfast around 11am and then enjoy lunch between 2pm and 4pm. Take your time at the table too, and remember you’re on holidays!
3. Live outdoors if the sun is shining
The sun shines for a large part of the year in Barcelona. And all we can say is the locals tend to make the most of it. On the beach, on the terrace, beside a pool, in the Barcelona parks…there are plenty of nice places to enjoy the good weather.
- Our favourite sunny terraces
- Our favourite hotel terraces
- Barcelona beaches
- Our top open air pools in Barcelona
- A picnic in Barcelona
4. Light up grey days with hot chocolate and churros
Barcelona’s people have found the perfect way to console themselves when the weather changes: drink a hot chocolate accompanied by churros or melindros (soft local versions of lady finger biscuits). This custom also makes a great family outing during the Christmas holidays.
5. Take a tour of the city’s markets
Market culture is particularly important in Barcelona. Here they take place from Monday to Saturday and the city’s inhabitants head there to buy fruit, vegetables, meat or fish.
Why not head to one of the stands where food is being cooked in full view of everyone? Leaning on the counter or sitting on a high stool you can taste fresh high quality products in an incomparable atmosphere.
6. Opt for vermouth
If you’re looking for a drink that’s typical of Barcelona then opt for vermouth. It’s Martini or fortified wine macerated with herbs and generally accompanied with olives or tapas.
7. Head to the most authentic bars and restaurants
If you want to see the authentic side of Barcelona head to places that might be a little less shiny, but are full of Catalan people.
8. Eat paella at lunch on Thursday
Paella is originally from Valencia, but it has been adopted by Barcelona. Tradition is that you never eat it in the evening, as it takes a long time to digest. It is also traditional to eat it on a Thursday. This is when many restaurants add it to their lunchtime set menu. It will no doubt be less copious than a paella à la carte, but also cheaper.
- Paella in Barcelona: our tips and top restaurants
- Our advice for eating in Barcelona without spending a fortune
9. Never spend more than half an hour in the same bar
In Spain it is usual to go from bar to bar in the evening, whether to have a drink or to eat a tapa. That way you get a change of scene, you can try different types of food, and you discover many more places!
To understand this phenomenon, take part in a “tapas crawl”!
- Tapas madness in the Sant Antoni district
- Tapas trail around Poble Sec: an original and fun way to eat out
10. Get around on foot or by bike
Locals in Barcelona usually get around on foot or by bike, which is made easy by the Mediterranean climate and the many cycle paths. You will also be sure to have a few nice surprises along the way, as it’s only when you’re not expecting them that you make the best discoveries!
11. Join in the supercharged party of a neighbourhood festival.
Do you know what castellers are? Correfocs? The sardana? There are many Catalan traditions that you can discover at a neighbourhood festival (the festes majors). Between concerts, activities, performances and streets that positively come alive, the atmosphere is supercharged!
If you’re in Barcelona in August, do not miss the festa major in Gràcia. It is spectacular!
- Barcelona’s Festes Majors: a calendar of unmissable neighbourhood festivals
- Gràcia’s Festa Major: a surrealist and picturesque carnival
- La Mercè: a giant and incomparable festival in Barcelona
- The Catalan Sardana: a few tips for joining in the dance
- Castells: the tradition of human towers, a Catalan symbol
12. Never miss a festival
It’s a fact that people in Barcelona love festivals. And they have plenty to choose from! Primavera Sound is one of the best known rock festivals in the world and Sónar’s electronic line up is sharper every year.
As well as these very trendy festivals there are dozens of others: the Grec, Música als parcs, D’A independent film festival, Barcelona jazz festival, Nits de blues… the list is long!
- Primavera Sound
- Brunch-in the City
- Brunch-in the Park
- Festival Grec
- Música als Parcs
- Open air cinema cycles
- Spring film festivals
- Spring festivals
- Summer festivals
- Autumn festivals
- You can also check out our article Authentic Barcelona: a weekend off the beaten track
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