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Barcelona 101

Before you head off to Barcelona, here are a few insider tips to help!

1. Barca ≠ Barcelona.

This is probably the easiest way to know someone still hasn’t met enough locals. I made the embarrassing mistake of saying “estoy estudiando en barca,” to some locals, and in an instant lost all credibility. If you really need to shorten the word, try “BCN.” “Barca” is reserved solely to refer to the city’s heart and soul: its soccer team, FC Barcelona.

 The FC Barcelona home stadium, Camp Nou, is one the
the most incredible places to feel the energy of Barcelona.

2. The night bus is your friend.

Remember, that the metro only runs all night on the weekends, but you don’t have to shell money out on the often-pricey night cabs. The night bus is actually a great alternative that is often faster, more direct, and operates on the same metro card. The only catch is the lines are sometimes pretty confusing so having Google Maps on your phone is incredibly helpful.

3. Get Bicing.

Signing up for Bicing was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made when studying abroad in Barcelona. It’s a shared bike program that runs on a 40 euro annual membership fee that allows you unlimited 30-minute rides from bike stations set up all around the city. (TIP: You need an identification number from your Spanish VISA to sign up)

4. Don’t leave during Le Mercé.

Although being abroad is a perfect excuse to jet off to a new country every weekend, don’t miss out on the amazing things going on in Barcelona and surrounding Catalonia. I particularly recommend staying for Le Mercé, the city’s annual festival that takes place towards the end of September each year.

 Le Merce is arguably one of the best times to visit Barcelona,
complete with fireworks, free concerts, and other cultural events.

5. Catalonia is not Spain.

Yes, I realize that Catalonia is technically a region within Spain, but it has a culture, community, and language all its own. The clamors for Catalonian independence have grown increasingly louder over the past few decades, arguably hitting a peak this year where an unofficial vote revealed that about 80% of responders want Catalan to be an autonomous nation.

6. Watch your stuff.

Barcelona is a great place to all sorts of people. Unfortunately, this includes pick-pocketers. Be especially careful leaving your phone on the table or items unattended in a coffee shop.

7. Treat yo self with some Menu del Día.

If you are really looking for some good food, lunch is where it’s at. “Menu del Día” is basically a three-course meal served weekdays for about 10-20 euros and the best way to experience Barcelona’s fine dining on a budget.

8. Mont Serrat is well worth the journey.

Even while there is already so much to see in Barcelona, consider making a trip out to Montserrat if you have more than 2 days here. It’s only about on hour via train from Placa Espanya and one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

MontSerrat is a beautiful place for some fresh air and the perfect day-trip from Barcelona.

9. Sorry, no bullfight here.

Bullfighting was banned in Catalonia back in 2010, but do be sure to check out the old bull-fighting arena in Placa Espanya, which has been converted into a beautiful upscale mall with arguably one of the best views of the city from its rooftop. (Tip: It costs 1 euro to get to the top from the outdoor elevators, but if you are a broke college student like the rest of us, just head inside and take the escalators up.)

10. Head to Le Encants.

La Boqueria may be Barcelona’s most famous market, but after you’ve hard your share of guava juice and Instagram shots, head over to Le Encants for the flea market of your dreams. They literally have everything, from new clothing and jewelry to retro signs and headphones.

 Le Encants is my favorite market in Barcelona and a great place for a delicious lunch and some cheap shopping.

11. Sundays are dead.

Just stay home or maybe hit up Ciutadella Park. La Rambla may have a few places open, but once you’ve been here a few weeks, you learn to stay clear of that street.

12. Despite what waiters may tell you, the water is safe to drink.

While it may sometimes have an unfamiliar taste, the water here is totally safe to drink. Speaking of which, be sure to take sip from the fountain at the head of La Rambla, known as Font de Canaletes. It is said “if you take a sip, you’ll always find your way back to Barcelona.”

13. This isn’t Mexico.

Americans have a strange habit of looking for Mexican food in Spain, but unfortunately our Catalan friends don’t share too many culinary traditions with our south of the border friends. Actual spicy food is quite hard to find. Finding jalapeños is almost as hard as finding some Jiff’s peanut butter, but while the tapas alternative, the Padron Peppers, aren’t spicy, they do have some great flavor.

 Spanish tapas is very delicious, but if you are looking for a
spicy kick, you may want to look elsewhere.

Dillon Patel is the Fall 2014 CEA MOJO in Barcelona, Spain. He is currently a junior at Duke University.

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