10 tips for enjoying Barcelona like a local

Participez aux fêtes de quartier

Visiting Catalonia? Learn how to enjoy Barcelona like a local and discover the wonders of this cosmopolitan city!

A true Catalan nugget, Barcelona is a city situated between the Mediterranean Sea and Montjuïc Hill, attracting millions of tourists every year. Modern and pleasant, visiting Barcelona is easy and appeals to all types of travelers: solo, as a couple, with family or friends. Gastronomy, culture, art, history, sport and architecture: there’s something for everyone. But this time, we’re going to give you 10 tips on how to enjoy Barcelona like a local and blend in with the crowd.

The so-called Ciudad de Gaudí (City of G audí) has much to offer, and lives up to its name. Indeed, Gaudí’s art plays an important role here. Not least with the presence of Gaudí’s famous Sagrada Família, whose construction began in 1882 and is not yet complete. When completed, the Sagrada Família’s tallest tower will measure 172.5 metres, once again committing the cathedral’s phenomenal dimensions to its three million annual visitors.

1. Take the time to lose yourself in the streets of Barcelona and discover its essence

Se perdre dans les rues de Barcelone

Photo credit: Shutterstock – trabantos

Barcelona is a city that never ceases to surprise. Losing yourself in its streets without thinking too much about what you want to visit will allow you to discover magical and unexpected corners of the Catalan capital. It’s often a good idea to visit a city with the wind at your back, to discover incredible surprises away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist trade. By getting away from the crowded corners, you’ll be able to explore a new, more secret aspect of Barcelona, but one that’s just as essential.

2. Eat paella or fideuà for lunch on Thursdays

Mangez une paella ou une fideuà - Barcelone comme un local

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Angie Faus

Although these two dishes originated in Valencia, Catalans have adopted and revisited them. In Barcelona, many restaurants serve them on Thursdays at lunchtime. So don’t hesitate to eat it then, as it’s much easier to digest and more economical than in the evening. While paella is well known in France, fideuà is less so. In fact, it’s the equivalent of paella, but instead of rice, the Spanish use a kind of vermicelli. A delicious dish indeed!

Why Thursday?

The origin of this now well-established tradition is difficult to determine. Several echoes give voice to Monday fishing, which only arrived on Thursdays inland, as in Madrid. Others justify the tradition by the day off granted to domestic servants: Thursday. They would then prepare the meal on Wednesday evening, so that the masters of the house would only have to reheat the dish. We’ll never know the truth, but it’s safe to say that you’ll find paella or fideuà on Thursday’s menu everywhere!

3. Enjoy hot chocolate in winter with churros or melindros and eat turrón at Christmas.

Chocolat chaud et churros - Barcelone comme un local

Photo credit: Shutterstock – poludziber

To enjoy Barcelona like a local, it’s essential to try the famous thick hot chocolate. It’s a true Spanish tradition! And Barcelona is no exception. You can enjoy it all over the city with a few cinnamon churros. And don’t forget to drink water afterwards, because chocolate is very dense and makes you thirsty.

If you’re in Barcelona around Christmas, be sure to try a touron. It’s a speciality made from almonds or hazelnuts, similar to nougat, which is enjoyed throughout Spain at Christmas time.

4. Eat patatas bravas and pa amb tomàquet

Mangez des patatas bravas - Barcelone comme un local

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Tapas par excellence, patatas bravas are typical of Spain. They are cubes of potato fried in olive oil with a little garlic. You’ll find many Barcelonians eating them on their terraces, especially at aperitif time. They are often accompanied by tomato bread(pa amb tomàquet in Catalan). So, after a busy day of sightseeing, choose a bar and relax while enjoying these traditional tapas.

5. Take part in neighborhood parties

Participez aux fêtes de quartier

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Catalan culture has no shortage of traditions, and every district has its own fiesta. If your visit coincides with one of these, be sure to join in the fun! Correfocs, castellers (human pyramids) or sardanes (traditional dances), you won’t be disappointed. These cultural events are hugely popular and well attended. People come for the entertainment and simply find another good reason to party!

The most Catalan of festivals is the correfoc. It’s an impressive pyrotechnic spectacle in which people dressed as devils and she-devils parade through the town with fireworks.

6. Enjoy the many music festivals

Profitez des nombreux festivals de musique

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When we say that culture in Barcelona is a lifestyle, we’re not making it up. The city is a real goldmine for those looking for entertainment, so what are you waiting for to enjoy Barcelona like a local? There are plenty of music festivals to choose from, including Brunch in the Park, Brunch in the City, Primavera Sound, Sónar and Cruïlla.

Each year, these festivals attract large crowds, and each has its own unique concept. Brunch in the City and Brunch in the Park, for example, are usually held on spring Sundays. They offer musical entertainment, workshops and games, as well as exceptional gastronomy.

7. Have vermouth with your aperitif (especially on Sunday lunchtimes)

Prenez un vermouth à l’apéro

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In Barcelona, it’s customary for people to get together with family or friends to remake the world over a few olives and a good glass of vermouth. Especially before Sunday lunch.

Imported from Italy in the early 20th century, it is now widely produced in the Barcelona region, and Catalans love it! So much so, in fact, that the expression « anar a fer el vermut » has been coined. So, if you’re seen on a café terrace with vermouth and patatas bravas, it’s impossible not to be mistaken for a Barcelonian!

8. Enjoy the sun (even in winter)

Profitez du soleil

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Barcelona is a city with no shortage of sunny days. In winter, temperatures are never too low, and all year round you can relax on a sunny terrace with a hot chocolate or vermouth. After all, this is how you can enjoy Barcelona like a local.

And don’t forget to visit Barcelona and the surrounding area, or even take a stroll on the beaches, even on the coolest days. You’ll never be alone, because just like the people of Brittany, the people of Barcelona love the beach in winter.

9. Avoid tourist areas

Évitez les zones trop touristiques

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Fewer and fewer Barcelonians stroll along the Ramblas, a pretty promenade that has become a haven for tourists. Of course, they’re worth a visit, but there’s no need to linger there. We also recommend staying away from the touristy areas. So come and visit Barcelona and its lesser-known districts, such as Gràcia and Poblenou, which are full of surprises.

The Gràcia district, for example, is a kind of small village within the city. Its picturesque character will delight the most curious among you. As for Poblenou, it’s a district straddling the sea, design and innovation. It’s almost like Barcelona’s new technology center, and at night, the streets come alive with a host of bars and clubs.

10. Discover one of the city’s many markets

Découvrez l’un des nombreux marchés de la ville

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Most markets are open from Monday to Saturday, all year round. It’s a great opportunity to discover the country’s gastronomic habits. In Barcelona, the markets are a feast for the eyes. The atmosphere is authentic, the produce fresh and photogenic. It’s the ideal place to create the basket of your dreams and indulge in the curious, original and generous Catalan cuisine. Why not make your own version of patatas bravas?

Of course, not all markets are food-only; some offer vintage, fashion or collectible items, while others are more like flea markets. Barcelona is the ideal city if you like to bargain or trade. It’s up to you to find the one that’s right for you!