There are lots of questions you might be asking before visiting or moving to Barcelona. Here we have summarized what you should know before you plan a visit to Barcelona.
Barcelona is cradled in the North Eastern Mediterranean coast of mainland Spain, about 2 hours drive South from the French Pyrenees. It is the biggest city on the Mediterranean coast with an average elevation of 47m above the sea level.
Barcelona and its metropolitan area has a Mediterranean climate with mild winters and hot summers. Sunshine duration is about 8 hours in December and 15 hours in July. Its average annual temperature is 21.2 °C (70.2 °F) during the day and 15.1 °C (59.2 °F) at night. Winters in Barcelona are mild. December, January and February are the coldest months, with average temperatures around 16 °C (61 °F) during the day and 10 °C (50 °F) at night. On extremely cold days, the temperature would be about 6 °C (42 °F) . Having a warm jacket in the winter is a must. July and August are the warmest months, with average temperatures around 28–29 °C (82–84 °F) during the day and 22–23 °C (72–73 °F) at night.
Currency and Exchange
As in most countries of Europe, the official currency in Spain is the euro (€). There are eight coins (1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents, and 1 and 2 euros) and seven bills (5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 euros). Foreign currencies can be exchanged in currency exchange establishments, in some banks and even some hotels offer this service. Many stores may refuse 500-euro bills, though. Most places accept the most well-known international credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard and AmericanExpress cards.
The official languages in Barcelona are Catalan and Spanish, although Catalan is more present in the names of streets and indications of transport. All Catalans are able to speak Spanish as well. English is very widespread and most businesses can provide their services in English as well. However, if you move away from the city center or touristic areas or if you go to most ministries or offices, chances are English is rarely understood.
Note: many Catalans are proud of their culture and language. Never disrespect the Catalan language.
Catalans are very proud of their identity, language and culture. A lot of them get offended when you compare them to the Spaniards. For example, flamenco in Catalunya isn’t as popular as the other parts of Spain and bull-fighting has been legally banned since 2010.
Never ever say things like “you’re in Spain. Why don’t you speak Spanish instead of Catalan?”
Tips are not required as prices include the service. However, it is common to tip in bars and restaurants, hotels and taxis, and the amount will depend on the price and the generosity of the customer, although they usually range between 5 to 10% of the total amount.
In Spain, almost all the prices everywhere include the VAT tax (unless stated otherwise). Therefore, a price you see in a store will be the final price you will have to pay.
Visitors who reside outside the European Union can request the refund of Value-Added Tax (VAT) of their purchases when they exceed 90.15€. For that, in the shop you have to ask for the tax-free invoice, which must be presented at customs along with the purchases to be stamped.
Afterwards, you will only have to present it in one of the management companies, most of them have an office at the airport, for its cash receipt, by the deposit of the VAT in the credit card, by bank transfer or with an international check.
The usual business hours are from Monday to Saturday from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm and from 4:30 pm to 8 pm, although shopping malls and international chains usually open from 10 am to 9 or 10 pm. Almost all the major shopping centers and supermarkets are closed on Sundays. Most banks open at 9 am and close at 2 pm.
The plugs in Barcelona are Type F (picture below) so they have two round outputs and a voltage of 220 V and 50 hertz of alternating current. In most Chinese stores, there are adapters and it’s easy to find transformers and adapters.
Since January 2011, smoking is prohibited in any premises open to the public which are not outdoors such as bars, restaurants and hotels, nor around health centers, parks and schools. In some cafes and clubs, it’s ok to smoke shisha/hookah but not cigarettes.
If you are moving to Barcelona, then it’s time you learn about coffeeshops. If you walk down La Rambla, lots of people would come up to you and ask you if you are interested in a coffeeshop. A coffeeshop is a pretty much a marijuana store where you can buy and smoke marijuana.
It’s legal to smoke marijuana in these coffeeshops and lots of people smoke in the street as well. It’s legal to own and grow your own marijuana plants (up to 3 plants per person) but it’s illegal to sell or buy in the middle of the street. You can get a membership card at one of these marijuana clubs and buy your stash from them.
Medical Assistance and Emergency
Community travelers can receive medical treatment in Spain thanks to the reciprocal agreements of the European Community. The rest of the travelers will receive medical care in case of emergency but it’s a good idea to have some type of medical insurance that covers additional treatments. On the other hand, in pharmacies (identified with a large green or red cross on the outside), you can find a wide selection of over-the-counter medicines for colds, headaches, sunburn, digestive or muscle discomfort, etc.
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There are three types of holidays in Spain: the national holidays, the state/regional holidays, and the local ones. The list below shows all the 2019 holidays in Spain, Madrid and Barcelona.
- 01 January: New Year – National
- 06 January (moved to 07 Jan): Epiphany of the Lord – Madrid
- 18 April: Holy Thursday – Madrid
- 19 April: Holy Friday – National
- 22 April: Easter – Barcelona
- 01 May: Labor Day – National
- 02 May: Day of Madrid – Madrid
- 15 May: Sant Isidro – Madrid
- 10 June: Second Easter: Barcelona
- 24 June: Sant Joan – Barcelona
- 15 August: Assumption of the Virgin – National
- 11 September: National Day of Catalunya – Catalunya
- 24 September: Mercè – Barcelona
- 12 October: National Day of Spain – National
- 01 November: Saints Day – National
- 06 November: Constitution Day – National
- 25 December: Christmas – National
- 26 December: Boxing Day – National
Barcelona is generally a safe city and you can walk and sightsee without any problem. However, as in any big city with much tourism, it is recommended to take some basic precautions to avoid uncomfortable situations.
- Watch your belongings and keep your bag and backpack well closed, especially in tourist areas and public transport especially on the beach or anywhere near the La Rambla, Plaça Catalunya, Raval and Barrio Gotico areas where pickpocketing is rampant.
- Carry your money and credit cards in front or inside pockets.
- Don’t show anything of value or a large amount of money in public spaces.
- Don’t look like a tourist! Pickpockets’ primary target is anyone looking like a tourist unaware of their surroundings.
- Don’t participate in betting games that take place in the streets.
In case of theft or robbery, as well of an accident, medical emergency, or aggression don’t hesistate to call 112, the emergency service number.
Let us know in the comments below what you think about coming Barcelona.