Don’t Act Like a Tourist in Barcelona

by Josh Kraus

Oct 17, 2014

Barcelona, Spain © Joopsnijder | Dreamstime


Avoid common tourist blunders and earn the respect of the Catalonian people by following this sage advice.


If you’ve arrived in Barcelona on an empty stomach, your first thought might be tapas. Banish that word from your vocabulary! Tapas, while delicious, are native to Andalusia, Spain’s southern region. The traditional small plate cuisine of Northern Spain and Basque Country is pinchos, which, unlike tapas, are typically skewered to a piece of bread with a toothpick. Tapas bars attract tourists, while pincho bars attracts locals.


Spend enough time walking the streets of Barcelona and you’re bound to happen upon an orange tree. Orange trees are plentiful in this city and many tourists are tempted to pluck one off a branch as if they’re in a modern day Eden. However, the locals know not to eat this forbidden fruit. These oranges are sour and bitter regardless of the season, so look but don’t taste.


In Barcelona, coffee is something to be enjoyed and savored, not guzzled before an important meeting. If you order coffee and don’t clarify that it is to go, the barista will serve it to you in a mug and expect you to dine in. And if you do order your coffee to-go, don’t be surprised when the locals throw you side eyes as they try to comprehend this latest blasphemy.


La Rambla, a popular pedestrian mall at the heart of the city, is on most tourist’s must-see lists. However, if you’d like to avoid the surging crowds and overpriced concession stands, El Raval is the perfect alternative. Once upon a time, El Raval was a rundown ghetto, but in recent years it has seen a cultural revival. For a more authentic cross-section of Barcelona life, spend some time sitting in El Raval’s quaint courtyards and walking through its colorful alleyways.


In Barcelona, siestas are more than the butt of jokes. Business owners take them seriously, and while they don’t use them to nap, they do take the time to close up shop and eat a leisurely lunch with their families. Many shops will close from 1:30–4 p.m., and because Catalonians tend to eat dinner around 10 p.m., some restaurants will close from 5–8 p.m. There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to siesta times, and you may find shops that don’t close at all, but keep all this in mind when planning your day.



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