Barcelona was the first city outside of The United States that I traveled solo. Solo travel was a little terrifying to me before Barcelona, but luckily it was a perfect city for a first timer.
I have been to Spain before, but it was over 10 years ago and with my grandparents. Traveling solo to Barcelona is way different than spending two weeks in A Coruña with my grandmother and grandfather.
Is it safe to travel solo to Barcelona?
From the moment I landed in El Prat airport in Barcelona to the bus ride back almost a week later, I felt safe about 98% of the time.
When did I feel unsafe? Well it was more of the environment than the people that made me nervous. My 1st night I was full of energy and just kept walking around, until I got lost in the Gothic Quarter. It was late on a Tuesday so there was no one else out and it was really quiet, which may have led to the eeriness of it. The back alleys in the Gothic Quarter are long, dark, and windy with all of these possible hiding spots that people could jump out of. Nobody did, but my imagination got the best of me and I had to do a little power walking.
The rest of the trip was perfect. My experience was that Barcelona is full of friendly people. I spent the majority of the time on foot walking around the streets from the quiet back alleys to the busy tourist areas. There didn’t appear to be any mean or seedy people walking by me and I didn’t see much of a homeless population that fills lots of other major cities.
As of the writing of this travel post, the US Department of State has Spain listed as a Level 2 travel advisory. That means that you should practice increased precautions while traveling. They listed this because of possible terrorism which applies to most European countries including France, the United Kingdom, and Germany. Barcelona is a “medium-threat” location. In August of 2017 Spain’s first terrorist attack in 13 years happened in Barcelona.
The US Department of State assessed “Barcelona as being LOW-threat locations for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.”
- Higher incidents of street crime during holiday periods and busy summer tourist seasons
- Credit card skimming and cloning are a possible concern
- Sexual assaults are “very low” but do occur
- Public transit is extensive and considered safe including taxis
All of that being said, you should always be careful no matter where you are traveling. When you’re in touristy areas, be extra safe with your belongings as pick-pocketing is apparently a big thing there. I’ve heard that it happens pretty often in places like Las Ramblas and La Boqueria Market.
Also, as with any major tourism city, there are some (few) locals that want their city to go back to the pre-tourist days. I didn’t encounter any of them, but I did see some anti-tourist signs and graffiti in Barcelona.
What about the protests?
I traveled to Barcelona during the Catalonia protests so I expected some kind of revolutionary unrest going on. To be honest, I felt that it made the city feel more welcoming, at least to a non-Spaniard. There was a beautiful pride by all of the locals for their home city that made it feel safer somehow.
I would imagine if you had some anti-Catalonia Independence shirts or signs with you, you might piss off the locals which would be unsafe.
The day I was leaving to fly to Rome there was a large organized protest starting up by my Airbnb. I sat on the steps across from Plaça d’Espanya and watched as everyone gathered. It wasn’t a screaming and fighting event. It looked more like a soccer game was about to start and everyone was showing up happy and proud of their team. Someone even gave me a free shirt!
What should an American know before going to Barcelona?
My advice is to stop being an American for a minute. When I went to on a solo trip to Barcelona I heard Americans everywhere I went. They were usually the loud drunk Americans that we all get stereotyped for. You can stay out drinking all night and sleeping late in any city back home so don’t focus your trip on trying to get f****d up in a Spanish bar.
Do go to Spanish bars though, just don’t make that your focus and try to blend in and take in the Barcelona bar culture. Bar hopping in Barcelona is a different, more casual affair. It also involved eating delicious food at eat stop!
Plenty of people in Barcelona do speak English. If you don’t know any Spanish, it won’t be a major hindrance staying in Barcelona. The only person I came across that spoke zero English was at a Churrería on my last day there. Don’t worry, I still got my churros con chocolate.
If you want to try and practice your Spanish, most of the people there seem to be patient with your attempts. Lots of restaurants will offer you an English menu in case you speak zero Spanish or are nervous about trying to read the menu yourself. I’m also not sure if it’s pity or if they are trying to help out a confused traveler.
Slow down and do as the Spaniards to while visiting Barcelona solo. The nap culture is a real thing. Embrace it. You’ll be wondering why you spend so much time stressed out and in a hurry to do everything back home in America. Hopefully you’ll take some of this attitude back with you to your hometown.
What to Do in Barcelona Alone?
I do have a full things to do in Barcelona guide, but I’ll try to condense it down to a few good solo trip ideas. Barcelona is an easy place to get lost (in a good way) and find plenty of activities to keep you busy. Solo trips to Barcelona are totally possible and a lot of fun. I personally like to engulf myself with the local culture so there are a few things below related to that.
- See everything Gaudi related
- Go on a food tour*
- Take a paella cooking class*
- Go to the beach
- Get tickets to a Barcelona football (soccer) game
- Wander and shop at La Boqueria Market
- Take a guided city tour*
- Take a photography class/tour*
*You can find great options for these on Airbnb Experiences. Check out my Airbnb discount tips to save some money on them.
How do you Meet People Traveling Solo in Barcelona?
If traveling solo gets lonely for you, there are plenty of ways to find people to hang out with. There is always the tried and true idea of walking up to a stranger at a bar, but that gives me social anxiety. Here are a few ways to meet people in Barcelona.
- Sign up for an Airbnb Experience tour or class. These are full of other like-minded travelers who you can befriend.
- Stay in a hostel. Hostels are some of the best places to meet people when you travel anywhere. If you are nervous about sharing a room with strangers you can get a single room at some places. It just might be a little harder to make a connection, but they are so busy and full of solo travelers that it shouldn’t be a problem.
- Dating apps work as well. I hop on Tinder when I’m in new cities traveling. Honestly, I’d be happy to find a unlucky lady to hook up with while I’m visiting a city, but I’ve met people that become my new local friends in the area. Just make sure you change your profile to say you’re traveling and if you’re looking for a local friend, or a local booty call.
- Use traveling apps like Backpackr. I love Backpackr since you can set up your travel plans as soon as you start thinking about your solo trip. This gives you time to meet others backpackers or locals who might want to hang out.
- You can also use the above two tips to find a travel companion in Barcelona. There are sites and apps aimed specifically at travel companions, but I’ve only downloaded them. It looks like there are a lot of Russian women just trying to get you to pay to bring them on a trip.
- Talk to a stranger. Yeah I said I wouldn’t say it, but I am. Locals are very friendly and welcoming so you can easily make a travel buddy that way. If you’re an American, just listen for that American accent in the streets. For some reason people love meeting people from their own country when they are abroad.
What are the best local blogs about Barcelona?
God I hate “best blogs” lists since they are always subjective. No, I haven’t been on every single Barcelona blog on the web, but I am anal about my travel research so I’ve spent a lot of time on a lot of travel blogs. The list below are some that I’ve come back to many times to help plan my trips. I also keep coming back to look at for travel nostalgia reasons.
In no particular order:
- Barcelona.com – Who would have thought Barcelona.com would have so much information about traveling to…Barcelona?
- Barcelona Tourist Guide – This is a really easy to navigate website to find what you need in Barcelona.
- Barcelona Hacks – This Barcelona travel blog is an all-encompassing travel guide site, but also offers a lot of insider advice for visiting Barcelona.
- Barcelona Blonde – Jessica (a blonde) has so many great ideas for planning a trip to Barcelona. You can tell from her blog that she really loves the city.
- Barcelona Life – This is a great all around blog, but I particularly love the Entertainment section. There are so many fun ideas and unique things to do in Barcelona
- Foodie in Barcelona – I found Suzy’s Barcelona food blog when I was already there. She helped me find a couple of great restaurants while I was in town.
- Barcelona Food Experience – Even if you don’t ever plan on taking a trip to Barcelona, follow her Instagram page to make your mouth water