Solo Travel Destination: Barcelona

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Solo travel rating: 1.5 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult. Please see chart below)

Languages spoken: Primary: Spanish

photo, image, las ramblas, barcelona

La Rambla

Reasons to go:  The capital of Catalunya and the second-largest city in Spain, Barcelona is a bustling city full of fascinating architecture. Home to 9 UNESCO World Heritage sites, 7 of which were designed by Antoni Gaudi, Barcelona is a place of fantastical beauty.

Getting around the city is easy, as the public transportation system includes a subway, buses and trams. A hop on/off bus tour is a good way to get an overview of the layout of the city. There is also a very comfortable and reliable commuter train if you want to explore outside of the city.

Food is a big part of Spanish culture, and there are many dining options in Barcelona. Grabbing a seat at the bar and enjoying tapas can be a great – and social – choice for solo travelers. People-watching from one of the many sidewalk cafes is a lovely way to pass some time, or take a break from shopping and sightseeing. At the Boqueria Market, you can eat at one of the restaurants, or pick up some food to go and have a picnic at one of Barcelona’s beautiful beaches.

English is quite common in the high-traffic tourist areas, but you will need Spanish (or sign language!) outside of that. To walk off all of that great food, take a stroll along Las Ramblas, the leafy, cafe-lined boulevard popular with tourists and locals alike.

photo, image, la boqueria market, barcelona

La Boqueria Market

photo, image, casa batllo

Interior shot of Casa Batllo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

photo, image, train station, Sitges

Waiting for the commuter train to Barcelona, in Sitges

Solo Travel Destination Rating System

Safety - 1 (1 very safe, 2 safe in most areas, 3 be cautious at all times.)

Language - 2 (1 English is first language, 2 English speakers easy to find, 3 English speakers rare)

Navigation – 1 (1 easy to navigate by transit or car, 2 poor transit, car necessary, 3 not easy to get around)

Culture – 2 (1 Similar to North America or Western Europe, 2 Different from above but relaxed and easy, 3 Challenging)

Average Rating – 1.5 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult)

  • Laura

    I would definitely be very cautious around La Rambla as pretty much everyone I spoke to had been robbed to some extent (mostly pickpockets). After hearing so many stories we were very cautious in this area. My partner was attacked by 3 men after he wouldn’t give his iPhone up on one of the streets next to La Rambla during the evening. Don’t dress like a tourist! Even though it is hot, don’t walk around with lots of skin on show as this is a giveaway.

  • Jonas

    I love Barcelona!!!! I’ve been there plenty of times and it’s a beautiful place in summer and in winter, alone or with friends, for a quite deal or for endless party time…. And its gastronomy is amazing!!!! The best you can eat in Barcelona is Pata negra ham, my favourite place not to miss Jamonarium ham shop, is a small shop in Gracia quarter where hundreds of hams are hang from the floor and its smell!!!! Woooouo!!! Check here info about ham http://www.jamonarium.com/en/content/27-spanish-ham-pata-negra-bellota-serrano-iberico-iberian
    Walking around the city is just a great deal, architecture is really great, and people are nice and very polite!
    Enjoy your trip to Barcelona!!!
    Jon

  • Carlo

    Three little tips for a trip to Barcelona:

    1. Since its quite spread out, I recommend getting the Bus Turistic hop on hop of pass. Only get the Red and Blue routes (do one each day)…the green route is pretty useless. This pass will allow you to traverse most of Barcelona and not only that, get you near to places that you are keen to go (for example my 2nd tip). Note for high season: This pass is extremely popular…get to the start point EARLY and get the first one departing especially if you want a ‘roof’ spot and to get to popular sights like Gaudi Cathedral as early as possible.

    2. Grab the cable car up to Mount Tibidabo where there is a church and closed historic amusement park and of course amazing views of Barca. If you can, get the Tramvia Blu (Blue Tram) to the cable car (the tram was not operating when I Was there unfortunately) – its featured in the book below too

    3. This is for the readers amongst us. Either before or after visiting Barcelona (I’d suggest after and read it on the plane back), pick up a copy of a novel titled “Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafon which is set in Barcelona during the Spanish troubles with Franco and subsequent. Amazing read and the places mentioned you will likely recognise (if reading after) – such as Mt Tibidabo. It’s a standalone book but there are a couple others very closely related to the story…they are not as good though.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jcormack2 James Cormack

    Unfortunately I know quite a lot of people who have been robbed in Barcelona. Certainly it is above average for robberies (most robbers are not Spanish, they’re from Eastern Europe and North Africa) and the police don’t seem that interested, from all accounts. I lived there in 1989 for a year and it is the most magnificent city. Nice people, lovely buildings and great parks and sites to see. Oh, and it is more spectacular than most cities that are built on flat land. Tibidabo was always well worth seeing. Just a great place, apart from the ‘ladrones’.

  • Miguel

    I love Barcelona, rather than Madrid. But what is exactly “western european culture”? Barcelona is more western than, say, Paris

  • nancy todd

    Barcelona is not a 1 for safety.  Over 400 thefts are reported a day.  And hundreds go unreported. All my friends in the city have been robbed and they are savvy.  Theft a big problem here and getting worse.

  • Vipul Gupta

    Barcelona is a great city with lots of activities for everyone but I disagree on 1 for safety. I went there in Feb 2012 and someone stole my phone, another friend had her camera stolen and one of our local friends had his watch stolen with in one week of our trip. So be careful of your belongings and avoid taking expensive items with you. 

  • Tracey

    It’s interesting how different people’s experiences and perceptions of a place can be. I felt safe in Barcelona, but I’m also a careful traveler, always highly-attuned to my surroundings, and cautious about the situations that I enter. I would return in a heartbeat! :)

  • http://www.thespainscoop.com nancy todd

    Barcelona bliss, party city, over 70 museums, the sea. And lots of pickpockets. According to your ranking system, I would give it a 3. I live here. I know.

  • Matthew Cheyne

    Barcelona sounds brilliant. It combines my love of everything Spanish along with what I am familiar with most coming from Melbourne, Australia: Trams! You’ve just placed it on my must visit list of European destinations. Thank you so much.

  • Jocelyne Marchand

    I was in Barcelona for about ten days – get out of the tourist areas and walk anywhere in any direction – Parc Guell  is exceptional and if you walk there you get to climb that amazing hill and find neat neighbourhoods along the way – there’s a great book fair every weekend, although a bit too crowded for my taste, lots of great markets http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/shopping/barcelona-market.html
    the unfinished cathedral Santa Maria del Mar and read Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones, it is every bit as good as Pillars of the Earth – I could go on and on . . just go and discover your own treasures.  If you flaunt your stuff and hang out where the rich tourists someone will try to steal from you – just don’t go to those places and you will be fine. 

  • Lucasdg

    Barcelona is fantastic, but I would disagree with a 1 for safety…it is not the safest of W.European cities – I personally encountered two unsuccessful pickpocket attempts, and have heard numerous other reports about theft in Barcelona. Having said that, I love it and would go back any day. La Rambla is nice to walk down, but adjacent streets are where you can find cheaper and better food.

  • Linda

    Barcelona was one of my first choices when I ventured out alone!  I’d already spent a few days there, which helped because it didn’t feel quite so strange, but it really was a great choice.  Everything you say is so true.  They always warn about pickpockets, but that, I find, is normal for most cities.  I certainly felt safe.  The last time I was there was just last month, and I loved it more than ever.