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Local Information

Shop opening times

The Catalans might have some differences with the rest of Spain, but there is one Spanish tradition that many don’t want to give up: The Siesta.

Traditionally shops are open from 9:00 or 10:00-14:00, and then reopen from 16:30-20:30 or 21:30. Many shops in the centre of town and shopping centres are open from 8:30 or 9:00-20:30 or 21:30.

Most shops are open Monday to Saturday, however in July and August many close on Saturday afternoon. Sunday is notoriously quiet, as the town shuts shop religiously, although this is a common evening for dining out.

Posting letters

The main post office (Correos) is located at the end of Via Laitana. Impossible to miss, it is a stunning, classical building on “Plaça Antonio López” that looks towards the iconic Cap de Barcelona: a large surrealist sculpture created by American Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein for the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.

Services include: information services, stamps, for sending and receive letters, packages, telegrams, etc. If you want to send a simple letter or post card you can purchase stamps in the Tobacco shops about town, and then pop it in one of the yellow post boxes.

Money exchange

Once in town you might need to exchange money. The Euro (€) is the currency.

Banks are open from Monday to Friday, 8:30 to 14:00.

There are many major banks in Barcelona, and the exchange rates differ slightly between each one. It’s best to find a bank or change house located further away from the major monuments or places of interest.
Automatic cash machines are plentiful, and you will be charged a commission at the time of the transaction.

Surf the Internet

Barcelona is a wired city, with public access WiFi (look for a blue “W” sign) throughout the city; such as in parks, beaches, and plazas. Many hostels and hotels, and chain restaurants have free Internet access.

Barcelona Metro

The metro is definitely the fastest way of getting around Barcelona. In summer it is air conditioned, in winter it is heated.
There are two subway systems in Barcelona, one is the Barcelona metro service, represented by coloured lines on the Barcelona metro map and the other system is the FGC subway trains. The FGC lines are indicated in blue on the map. They are faster, as they have less stops and go outside of Barcelona city.

Metro timetable:

  • Monday to Thursday, Sundays and holidays: 5am-12am
  • Fridays and day prior to public holidays: 5am-2am
  • Saturdays: non-stop service

Safety

Barcelona is a relatively safe city, most street crime in Barcelona consists of pick pocketing and scams. Barcelona scam stories should just serve to make you beware, as Barcelona is fairly similar to other major European cities in terms of its levels of crime. Like in any other major city you should take normal precautions such as never leaving valuables unattended, not walking home alone in certain areas at night, and being aware of your belongings.

To avoid being pick pocketed you should always be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye out for potential scams that could trick you into loosing your possessions. There are certain situations and locations where you have to be particularly careful; La Rambla is always busy with tourists and there are a lot of distractions. Also, in metro stations where there are lots of people, it is normal for people to brush by close to you and you are concentrating on your destination rather than your possessions. But to avoid these situations as much as possible you can just take a few simple precautions and you will be susceptible to a lot less risk:


Dress appropriately; Barcelona is a city like any other, even though it has a beach the Spanish do not walk around in the street in swim wear so in order not to stand out from the crowd you shouldn’t either.

By having a map out you make it very obvious to pickpockets that you don’t know your way around very well, you also have your attention focused on something other than your possessions and you make yourself an easy target. When you’re walking around look like you know where you’re going and if you get a bit lost and need to refer to a map then go into a bar or café and do it there, you’ll be much safer.

International Time Zone

The time in Spain is GMT + 1 hour.

Languages Spoken

The two languages spoken in Barcelona are Spanish and Catalan. Barcelona is the capital of Catalunya and therefore Catalan is widely spoken by the people of Barcelona. However both Spanish and Catalan are widely spoken interchangeably.

In the tourist areas you will have people who speak English as well as Spanish however more off the beaten track most people will only speak Spanish or Catalan.

Barcelona is however a very cosmopolitan European city with millions of tourist visitors each year so you should not have any real problems communicating.

Water Supply

Barcelona drinking water is very unpalatable and it is highly recommended to drink bottled water whilst you are here. Although you can drink tap water safely it is much preferred to have bottled water. Bottled mineral water can be purchased very cheaply from local supermarkets for example the supermarket on the Ramblas.

Electricity Supply

Electricity supply is 220 volts throughout Spain with 2 pin wall sockets. For any European countries that utilise 240 volts e.g. UK and Ireland most electrical equipment will function adequately.

If you intend to use the UK electrical plugs then you will need an electricity plug adapter that will convert the standard 3 pin socket into a two pin socket. In the US where the electricity supply is 110 volts a transformer would be required to step down the voltage to 110 volts. Damage to the electrical appliance can occur if you attempt to use a 110 volt rated electrical appliance with a 220 volt supply.

Places of interest

Rambla
This is the most famous and most typical street of Barcelona. The avenue, once a river, stretches for two kilometers from the Plaza de Catalunya to the harbor. La Rambla consists of five different "Ramblas" and two squares.

San Jaume
The square of San Jaume is the heart of the city, also the political centre. The palaces of the city council (El Ayuntamiento or Casa de la Ciudad) and the province council (Palacio de la Generalidad) are located here. In Roman times the Plaza Romana or Forum was situated here, build in the 2nd century BC.

Plaza Nova
In this square in the centre of the old town, Barrio Gotico, stands the Cathedral Santa Eulalia from the 14th and 15th century. The neo-gothic facade dates from the 19th century. The cathedral is devoted to Eulalia, patroness of the city, who is buried here in a crypt. The octagonal western towers were build in the 14th century. Inside there are magnificent choir stalls, a retabel and a rich church treasure. At the back is a 14th century ambulatory, existing of four galleries with cross vaults. There are very old trees in the garden.

San Pablo del Campo
A church originally build in the 10th century, with a 13th century cloister and one of the most beautiful churches of Barcelona. There is a triple colonnade and a garden.

Santa Maria del Mar
This church is from the 14th century. It is a good example of Catalan gothic. There are massive pillars and the octagonal towers end in terraces.

Sagrada Familia
The most striking and still unfinished building of Barcelona is the basilica of the Holy Family, designed by Antoní Gaudí. The construction of it started in 1884. The facades symbolize Birth (west), Life and Death (east) and the glorification of Christ (south). The eight towers stand for the apostles. There are three entrances in the front: faith, hope and love. In the crypt is the tomb of the famous architect Gaudi, who died in 1926. He also created remarkable buildings like Casa Batllo with ceramic roofing and Casa Mila.

Casa Batllo
The impressive pillars resemble the feet of a mammoth and the roof gives the impression of a prehistoric reptile. The balconies look like bird's nests hanging from a rock face. There are no fixed lines or right angles this building and the walls seem to be undulating.

Casa Mila
This building got the nickname "La Pedrera", the stone pit. It looks like a steep rock with cave-houses in it. The undulating front reminds one of dunes and beaches, or maybe a honeycomb.
In Parc Güell, also designed by Gaudi, is a museum dedicated to this great architect.

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