How to avoid looking like a tourist in Barcelona

Barcelona Tourists

Be it your first time visiting Barcelona for business or you-re a regular attendee to one of the many conferences and exhibitions that happen in the city such as the Mobile World Congress, these pointers could prove useful when trying not to stick out as a tourist or even worse a potential target.


Family, friends and close acquaintances often greet each other with a kiss on both cheeks (right cheek first).  This is known as “dos besos,” which literally translates to “two kisses.” However do not attempt to greet an unknown like this, a simple “hola” is sufficient to acknowledge others such as shopkeepers.

Catalans are not particular when it comes to elaborate phrases of politeness, although saying thank you (“gràcias”) always goes down well. As the “Catalan capital” it is most likely you will hear Catalan spoken throughout Barcelona, however if all you have to your disposal is some high school Spanish you will still be understood and the fact you tried to communicate in something other than English will be appreciated.


Unlike Milan or Paris, Barcelona and its citizens take a more casual approach, but don’t take that as an excuse to not look your best. During winter months make sure to include scarves, gloves, blazers and ankle boots as the temperature does require.

Obviously avoid anything that shouts tourist such as bum bags and sandals and socks. This will enable you to blend in with the locals and avoid making you a target for Barcelona’s infamous pickpockets which are rife in particular areas such as La Rambla.

One fashion rule to abide by is not to wear swimming suits or flip flops off the beach, a faux pas which is certain to highlight you as a tourist and a possible mark.

When conducting business personal appearance and how you project yourself is vital to making a good impression at meetings.  Catalans and Spaniards relate one’s success with how well one dresses.


Barcelona is known as being a city it on the beach but locals tend not to spend much time on said beach: Barceloneta. To avoid the tourist hordes locals will travel to one of the other nearby beaches which are easily reached by either car or via Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat (FGC).

Other places to avoid include La Rambla, which whilst being one of the most famous streets in the world is also known as being one big tourist trap complete with overpriced food and drink.


Many tourists visiting Barcelona think typical food consists of Paella, a rice based dish often mixed with seafood or chicken, however this is more traditional to the neighbouring Valencia. If you are wanting to be more traditional to Catalonia discover a local dish such as:

Escalivada – A salad of grilled vegetables containing eggplant, red pepper, tomatoes, sweet onions, salt, olive oil and wine vinegar.

Esqueixada – A salad containing raw salted cod (which has been desalted previously in water) with tomatoes, onions, peppers, olive oil and wine vinegar. It may also have hard-boiled egg.

Arròs negre – Black rice containing squid and its ink. May be served with alioli (aioli) sauce, which is made from garlic and olive oil. This dish is not advised to be eaten whilst suffering from a hangover.

Fideuà (shorts spaghettis) “a la cassola” – Similar to paella, but instead of rice it uses small and thin noodles. May include a combination of seafood, meat, chicken, and vegetables. Cooked in a large flat pan, just like paella.

Escudella amb carn d’olla – The traditional Catalan stew made with meats and vegetables cooked together. Vegetables include a variation of chickpeas, potatoes, and green cabbage, celery (leaf and stalk), carrot, parsnip, turnip, leek, and onion. Meats include a characteristic sort of big meatballs called “pilota” and may also include pieces of Catalan sausage (“botifarra“), blood sausage (“botifarra negra“), veal, mouton, chicken, pork ears or cheek, and salted bacon (“cansalada“),

Crema Catalana – A custard pudding that has a layer of burnt caramel.

Catalans typically eat on the later side and if you are looking to eat in a traditional restaurant and not a touristic one aim to have lunch around 2pm with the evening meal around 10pm. There is not fixed time for breakfast and do not be surprised to find locals drinking a Cigaló (Carajillo – a drink combining coffee with brandy, whisky, anisette, or rum) early in the morning.

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