Barcelona, the city sure to leave you with some magic if you give it half a chance. The capital of the beautiful Catalan region and the biggest city on the Mediterranean. Barcelona is a port city squeezing in some 6 million people between the encircling hills/mountains. These hills raise up to about 300-400 meters steeply out of the city. The beautiful landscapes give some stunning views.
If bohemia is your thing, your thing is in Barcelona. The Catalans who are a pretty mixed bunch by ethnicity are wedged in between Spain, France, and Italy across the water. They are more or less a mixture of the same. This even apparent by their language which has a twinge of all three. This mix has created what may be the most beautiful species in the world. One certainly to be compared against those of South America. Rio to which Barcelona is remarkably similar is no doubt the closest European equivalent.
The joy of Barcelona is its openness. This is the city where if you feel a little weird there is no care and it is actually embraced. Hipster, hop star, office worker, and beach worker alike the Catalans and the ex-pats who live there fret not about those who are different. Yet they are embraced into the deeply rooted mixture of cultures and ethnicities which have made there way there. People have been arriving at this port city for millennia whether it be by land, river, crossing mountains, or seas. Barcelona has you covered.
Fast forward to modern-day Barcelona and you find an international and modern city to rival anywhere in the World, From the worlds most popular attraction the iconic and historic Sagrada Familiar, the Gaudi parks, the glamorous shopping of Passage de Gràcia, the posh districts towards Les Corts or the tech revolution happening throughout Pobleneu and likely spreading towards the less affluent areas north of the city and along the coastline.
Costs of Living in Barcelona
Being a gem in Europe and with the huge numbers of tourists and ex-pats that that entails means Barcelona is not as cheap as it once was. Although accommodation for high-quality central locations residences remains low in comparison to some cities, that accommodation remains in short support. Yet you can still find value for money for one of the world’s top capitals (Catalunya). Food and restaurants remain around 10-15 Euro for a good meal. Alcohol and coffee are cheap. Sometimes wine is cheaper than water. Utilities, such as council tax and the cost of electricity are below average.
NIE: To become an official resident, if you choose to do so, you will be liable for tax in the region which is higher than most. Registering can be a little tricky and will require medical insurance, a work contract, and a fixed place of address.
Where to Live in Barcelona
Barcelona is comprised of roughly 11 districts each with its own distinct feel and characteristics.
- Gràcia is beautiful but sought after, higher rents, and masses of tourists in the busy season. Slightly up the hill so it can be a bit of a stroll unless you take the metro.
- Sagrada Familiar is good value for money and quiet as long as you are at least 2 blocks away from the cathedral. It is blessed with many good restaurants and cafes and is within walking distance to the main commercial districts. It is also well served by the metro.
- Glories/Poblenue is the old poor quarter gone plush. Historically used for farming and then factories and now newly revamped upmarket skyrises. The new tech district comes complete with some of the most pricey accommodations in the city. Most of the international corporations are now based here, in trendy premises to match. Stretching the promenade and where you can find some of the best and quieter beaches in the Barcelona center. Cafe’s restaurants and co-works. Very much the hipster part of town.
- Born, the trendy center, beautiful but potentially busy. Some potential gems to be found with rooftop views to match.
- Barceloneta, the old fishing quarters now used as homes and tourist apartments is busy, especially in summer months. An increase in tourism have thus driven the price up of this location. Next to the sea and promenade. Old style quaint apartments overlooking each other. Be prepared to get to know your neighbors. It can be overwhelming in summer with tourists.
- Sants is where the locals moved to when Gràcia got too expensive. Today Sants is busy with its narrow streets and has caught a little of the Gràcia vibe to match.
- Marina is perfectly located to be super close to the central city, yet quiet enough for a tranquil life. Close to Arc du Triomphe, Born, Parque Ciutadella and Pobleneu on the other side.
- Sagrera is a little out the way but full of charm and slightly alternative. Cheaper rents and quieter locations have caused a soar in popularity. Well connected with transport to the rest of the city.
- Les Corts and the neighboring Sarria Sant Gervasi are the upmarket elite areas of bustling Barcelona. Tourists are few, coffee shops, restaurants, high standard living, private schools, and hospitals are plentiful. Transport is a little disconnected.
Telephone & Data in Barcelona
Many European sims will work in Spain and Barcelona without additional charges due to EU mobile regulations. Alternatively, sim cards can be bought throughout the city. Yoigo and Vodafone are popular.
Transport in Barcelona
BCING bike rental – The quickest mode of transport is BCING, especially electric BCING that is super quick and great fun and is charged at 50 cents per journey. BCING remains significantly quicker than both metro or taxi as long as you can find an empty BCING stand, which can sometimes be tricky in central areas at busy times. Membership of the scheme is run by the local council and costs just 15 Euro per year and is only available to residents with a NIE.
Metro is extensive throughout the city and is cheap. A T10 costs around 11 Euro’s and covers you for 10 journeys. It can even be used on some trains taking you in and out of the city.
Bikes are perfect for Barcelona. However, a somehow accepted trade-in stealing bikes is still in place in the city. So a fancy bike is best avoided unless never being locked up or left alone. Bikes that are locked up even with the best of locks are likely to get stolen. Organized thieves are known to cut frames rather than locks to obtain any parts of value. Locals will often ride well maintained by intentionally old bikes to avoid this issue.
Electrics scooters have soared in popularity in Barcelona as little regulation still exists. It is not unusual to see even two people using just one scooter shared (cheaper than a taxi).
Motorbike Shared Schemes like those from eCooltra are particularly useful but can get expensive. But again quicker than a taxi and can be a good option if you are feeling lazy.
Historically seen as somewhere a little dangerous, the reality is despite regular protests Barcelona is remarkably safe outside the usual party fueled alcohol-fueled endeavors that plague almost all destinations. Though for protest and demonstrations nowhere in the world will you likely see so many. A long-running dispute for Catalonia independence from Spain and varying other issues. In Barcelona protest is as much as an excuse for fiesta/party as it is for contemplation and negotiation. Hedonism at it’s finest.
In truth, the Olympics transformed Barcelona from a genuinely edgy place to one that is as safe as anywhere in the Western civilization.
Meeting People in Barcelona
Barcelona is a particularly friendly place full of friendly people. It often takes people by surprise how random people treat you like friends. Particularly with tourists, this adjustment often only begins to be realized as they are going home. Yet still, the unsuspecting tourist will take some of that magic home with them and they end up coming back.
- Gyms, Yoga, etc
- Cafe’s, restaurants, etc.
Where to Work in Barcelona
Barcelona is full of cafes, most of which are only too pleased to have people working from them. Make sure there are no queues and it is likely ‘Tranquillo’ as they say.
Alternatively, Imagine cafe offers a free semi co-work vibe central Barcelona.
Coworking spaces are throughout the city. The majority are in Gràcia, Eixample, and Pobleneu.
Pollution and Air Quality in Barcelona
A microclimate keeps the city a little warmer in winter yet also traps in the air. So in the summer it can get hot and has the locals and ex-pats alike complaining of air pollution. Although the air is a godsend in comparison to many other cities. Though some are concerned by a yellowy fog occasionally seen hovering by the local power station towards Badalona and a few kilometers up the coast.
Best sights in Barcelona – Tourist Attractions & Undiscovered Gems
- Bunkers el Carmel The original iconic spot, now more of a tourist attraction. Best views of the city.
- Forum another iconic spot. Used for festivals, but also an amazing place to stroll or cycle. Views over cosmopolitan BCN. A good hour’s walk from Barcelonetta. If you carry on walking you reach the Besos River and Badalona.
- Besos River A large park stretching for almost 10km along the river and down to the sea. A concrete bike/walking path is often busy on good days. Large grass patches allow everything from football to workouts to volleyball.
- Montjuic iconic hill south Barcelona. Beautiful gardens and paths. A castle at the top which shows classic movies outside in the summer.
- Parque Ciutadella Central park. Magical Barcelona. Head deep towards the zoo to escape the crowds.
- Born Market A popular food market, a little more local and less busy than it’s the counterpart in the infamous Las Ramblas
- Gràcia beautiful Barcelona at it’s finest.
- Pobleneu Tech district, transformed from an industrial and poor district of old. Filled with fancy coffee shops, co-works, and new build high rises. Bordering the sea and some of Barcelona’s less crowded beaches.
- Learn to Skate in Europe’s Hipster Capital. Whether by the board, longboard or blades, make use of Barcelona’s smooth graffiti plastered streets and a wealth of bike lanes and skateparks.
- Yoga at one of the Worlds premier bohemia innercity scenes with 100’s of spaces and studios to choose from, or take a place at a beach or green park.
- Associations are a must for a visit to bohemia Barcelona. Forget Amsterdam, Barcelona has over 1000 Cannabis coffee shops with varying strains for all types of clients. Live music, games, social settings. An alternative to the party and drinking culture that bestows much of the city.
- Beaches – If beaches are your thing you’ve got plenty. Unusually though Barcelona doesn’t have a beach as the locals say. The beaches are sucked up sand and sprayed regularly as a top-up. This was first done for the Olympics and continued. For the best beaches head down towards Tarragona where you can find some of the best in the world.
Barcelona Where to Eat
Barcelone is pumped up for the tourist crowd and as a result is a foodies dream. Whether restaurant cafe or take-away some of the worlds best is here. Though being a tourist hotspot be careful as there are some traps. Check out the top picks by the map: https://goo.gl/maps/vStRJxaWQzjbh3Bs5
Interesting Fact: Barcelona has a historic alliance with Cuba. The alliance that shaped the Catalunya flag. Barcelona was pro Cuba’s independence, as was Cuba pro Barcelona independence from Spain. A friendship that goes back hundreds of years. In some way, this may account for Barcelona’s Latin American style.