Top 12 Things Not To Do In Barcelona As A Tourist - Updated 2024

what not to do in barcelona
Malavika
Malavika 
Contributing Writer
Updated
| 5 min read

The heady confluence of the Iberian Sun, the azure waters of the Mediterranean, 2000-year-plus architectural marvels, and some amazing Catalan culinary traditions make Barcelona an enchanting seaside city. The rolling forest-covered Collserola hills make for a stunning backdrop for this medieval city, which also happens to have an equally thrilling nightlife as well. The lovely staycations in Barcelona are frequented by tourists from all over the globe. If you want to indulge yourself, you can also book a luxury rental and make memories for a lifetime. However, that doesn’t mean that Barcelona is without its quirks - there are a few things that you shouldn’t be doing or indulging in, lest you upset the locals on your visit to the Catalan capital. Check out how to become a local by reading about what not to do in Barcelona as a tourist.

1. Avoid taking pictures of the Ramblas statues without paying

Living Statues on Las Ramblas
Source: Photo by user Oh-Barcelona.com used under CC BY 2.0

One of the most popular attractions of Las Ramblas is the human statues on display. These ‘human statues’ are allowed to occupy particular public spaces in their costume after having applied and performed so in front of an artistic jury in the City Council of Barcelona, with the hope of their character/characterization receiving attention and money. However, avoid taking their pictures, as no one wants to stand still and be snapped by tourists for hours on end. Instead, drop some loose change into their box - they’ll usually put on a little show by changing their position or scaring you, depending on their character!

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2. Never call Catalan a dialect

2012 Catalan independence protest (91)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Kippelboy used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Catalan isn’t a dialect, but is one of Spain’s five official languages, with it being closer to French than to Spanish. Catalonia, of which Barcelona is the capital, has a unique language, culture, and history of its own, and Catalans will not appreciate being bundled with the rest of Spain or being called Spaniards, for that matter. Learning a few Catalan phrases, pleasantries, and words will go a long way in making your experience in Barcelona smooth. Also, be mindful of not using expressions such as ‘Viva España’ which Catalans, who are struggling for independence, might find offensive to the core.

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3. Avoid tipping a lot in restaurants

Tip
Source: Photo by Flickr user Shawn Rossi used under CC BY 2.0

You may certainly feel very generous after a sumptuous and hearty meal in a restaurant in Barcelona. But it is advised that you do not leave a heavy tip on your restaurant bill. Just your change should do. The servers don’t work for a tip and are covered by a living wage unlike their counterparts in the USA.

Locals usually don’t tip, but you can do so if the service was really exceptional. However, keep in mind that it is not an obligation.

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4. Avoid eating along La Rambla

La Rambla street
Source: Photo by user Jorge Láscar used under CC BY 2.0

Every tourist in Barcelona heads to Las Ramblas, also called La Rambla, a street which runs from the port area to Diagonal along La Rambla de Catalunya and is adorned with lots of cafes and restaurants. However, the food here is expensive for the quality and the service that one will receive. That being said, some of the exceptions are H1898 and Attic for signature Mediterranean cuisine and emblematic, historic cafés like Cafè de l’Òpera and Bar Núria. Dive into the Gothic Quarter or El Born instead, where travellers will find everything from global cuisine to nouvelle cuisine to traditional restaurants as well.

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Barcelona Tour Guide

Perry Tours

Perry Tours

Hello! My name is Perry, originally from the heart of Belgium, famed for its waffles and fries. However, it wasn't just the call of the Spanish sun that brought to Barcelona, but rather a captivating encounter with a German-Uruguayan beauty in Thailand. This led to the birth of our son in Ibiza, and eventually, more than two decades ago, I found myself in the vibrant city of Barcelona. My pa... Read more

Tours by Perry

5. Do not walk around with a selfie stick in your hand

Couple with selfie stick by the Sagrada Familia
Source: Photo by user Eric Fischer used under CC BY 2.0

The selfie stick mania is still going strong, especially when it comes to travel. While everyone would like to take great pictures on a holiday, that doesn’t mean that one needs to walk with their hands outstretched all the time, irritating and probably even infuriating other tourists and locals. This is particularly important in Barcelona, which even has a tourist spot where selfies are banned - the Sagrada Familia. Not only do selfie sticks practically scream ‘tourist’, but they also set you up as easy targets for pickpockets and cons.

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6. Never ride a bike in the Gothic Quarter

Gothic Quarter, Barcelona (15) (30442722553)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Richard Mortel used under CC BY 2.0

The Gothic Quarter might be one of Barcelona’s most visited neighbourhoods, what with its small squares and narrow streets making for a heady experience. However, the Gothic Quarter also has hundreds of people walking around, making biking around not only impossible but also inconvenient for everyone around, including aimless tourists and frustrated locals. Rather, bike on the beachfront and use your two feet and walk around in the Gothic Quarter.

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7. Avoid taking taxis everywhere

Prius taxi Barcelona 04 2016 6779
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Mariordo used under CC BY-SA 4.0

You can literally go everywhere on a bus or the metro, or by walking. For travelling by metro, get a T10 card, so each of the 10 journeys one takes will cost them less than a Euro. One can even visit the metro website for timetables. However, if you still want to take a taxi, you can stop one on the street by simply raising your hand.

Tip from tour guide

Perry

Perry
Barcelona

A taxi in Barcelona

While bus or metro are great, taxis are one of the most readily available modes of transport in Barcelona, and the prices are quite moderate compared to other European cities. The taxi rates are 15 percent cheaper than in other capital cities such as Paris and London. A trip within the city center would cost around 10-20 EUR and a trip from the airport to the city center would cost approximately 30 EUR or 35 EUR from Terminals 1 and 2, respectively. If you're traveling in a group of more than four people, you can ask one of the taxi stand attendants to call a van taxi for an additional 4.30 EUR.

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8. Don't go shopping on Sunday

Arenas Shopping View
Source: Pixabay

Sundays are when many of Barcelona’s shops and supermarkets are closed, and they’re mostly the best ones! While shops usually operate between 10 am and 9 pm, the lesser busy neighbourhoods might see shops also shutting between 2 pm and 4 pm. For little essentials such as bread, fizzy drinks, and milk, head to the local grocery store. An exception: For those left with no choice, the Harbour and Old Port have souvenir shops, and the Maremagnum mall in Port Vell is also open on Sundays.

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9. Don't try to go see a bullfight

Barcelona Bullfighting arena panorama
Source: Photo by user Thomas Quine used under CC BY 2.0

While it is true that Spain (and Catalonia) is famous for its corrida bullfighting tradition, Barcelona has seen a ban on bullfighting come into effect since New Year’s Day 2012. In fact, Catalonia was the second Spanish region in the world after Canary Islands to ban the cruel bovine bloodsport as they view it as animal torture. Also, Spanish traditions like bullfighting should not be confused with Catalan traditions. Barcelona has its own traditions such as the Correfoc or Castellers.

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10. Don't be careless with your belongings

Anti pick-pocket graffiti
Source: Photo by user Giles Colborne used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Much like most popular European cities, you have to be careful of pickpockets in Barcelona. This is particularly true in crowded places like train stations and trains, sightseeing spots and busy streets. Always ensure your bags are closed and/or you have your bag in front of your body (they are very good at unzipping your bag and taking its contents without you noticing). Keep valuable items in your bag as they can easily get into your pockets.

Another tip: If you are enjoying a meal on a restaurant’s terrace (outdoor area, usually on the street), be sure your bags are on your lap or between your feet. After taking photos of your delicious meal, be sure to put your phone or camera back in your back and not leave it on the table.

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11. Don't get belligerently drunk

VIVA Cerveza! Craft Beer Festival, Quito Ecuador.
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Gracefulonline used under CC BY-SA 4.0

As a rule of thumb, Catalans tend to drink lesser as compared to some of their other European counterparts and neighbours. So, not only do the locals drink small measures but also public drunkenness is less common (and frowned upon). Some bars even serve light snacks, like olives, so that you’re not drinking on an empty stomach. Of course, this is your holiday and you should definitely have fun, so enjoy some traditional Catalan cava or vermouth with some delicious tapas.

Note: if you are ordering beer, a small glass (200 ml/0.067 oz) is a ‘una caña’ (pronounced canya) or 'un quinto’. For a pint (500 ml/0.169 oz), you can ask for 'una jarra’ (pronounced hah-ra) which is a glass with a handle or 'una pinta’ (without a handle).

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12. Don't expect people to speak English

Asking Directions to the Colosseum
Source: Photo by Flickr user Hector Sanchez used under CC BY 2.0

One of the most common tips young travelers get when exploring a new country is to look to young people for help in case you are lost going places, but not in Barcelona. English proficiency in this part of Spain is rather low and Spanish is still the main tongue used by the majority of the population. Thus, many young people aren’t as versed in English as many travelers are surprised by.

A tip to remember is to keep a translation app with you in case you need someone to ask for directions or whatnot, or maybe learn a couple of Spanish phrases here and there, but don’t assume young people will be able to understand your English right on the dot.

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Buzzing Barcelona

To truly enjoy your stay in this quaint city, it’s equally important to know about the 10 things not to do in Barcelona as it is important to know what to do. Stick to this important list and keep it in mind before heading to the Catalonian capital to enjoy your stay like a local in Barcelona.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Malavika, a freelance writer and coffee enthusiast, is well-versed in Kopfkino. Her interests include engaging discussions on New Zealand, the domino theory, dystopian fiction, and Harry Potter.

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