Traveling in the summertime is the ultimate catch-22. The weather is warm and sunny, making it the ideal time to visit, but that also tends to attract hordes of tourists. Barcelona is no exception to the rule, and Las Ramblas, the tourist filled central dividing street is the worst example. To visit Spain during the high season, and still enjoy your stay, there are definitely a few key points to have in mind.
1. Expect the crowds
When you visit Barcelona with absolutely no idea what to expect, chances are you will be blind-sighted by the mass amounts of tourists, the street vendors and the intense heat. Accept the fact that this may be a convenient travel period for you, but that holds true for the majority of the world. Barcelona completely revamped its city after they won the Olympic bid in 1992, and ever since the city has had a modern reawakening. This means new buildings, more shops and restaurants and, of course, a huge emphasis on tourism. Head to the tourist hot spots early in the day to beat both the crowds and the heat, and then spend the rest of your vacation soaking in the true culture of the city by getting lost in its winding side streets.
2. Seek out alternative sights
While the Dali Museum may beckon, and you may want to begin checking off that guidebook list, don't spend your entire vacation on the classic Barcelona tourist trail. Yes, there are a few things that you simply cannot miss, like Gaudi's Sagrada Familia and Park Guell, but there are also many local spots that offer the same thrills, minus the huge crowds.
Barceloneta beach may be hailed as Barcelona's main sandy strip, but you won't be missing much by staying away. Between the search for an empty patch to place your towel, and the man made sand, this beach leaves a lot to be desired. Head further down the beach towards Port Olympic, and catch a glimpse of the shimmering gold sand, sparkling in the water like jewels. Situated right on the marina, you'll get to watch the large boats heading off into the sea as you laze under the hot sun.
Then, head out of the city for a day trip to Castelldefels or Sitges, two nearby beach towns with real sand, sparse crowds and small town city delights.
3. Befriend the locals
This is a key point to keep in mind on any trip, not just in Barcelona. Keep in mind that millions of other tourists have the exact same guide book that you do, insuring huge lines and an undisputed lack of city charm. Take every opportunity to meet locals, whether this means staying with a Spanish couple via AirBnB, striking up a conversation at a bar or even asking a stranger for directions. You'd be surprised where those little efforts can lead, as locals are typically a font of knowledge on their city's secret hot spots. Some may be unwilling to share, but if you make the effort to speak a little Spanish and try to blend in, they may be inclined to include you!
4. Guard your belongings
Every big city has its share of pickpockets, thievery and deception, but Barcelona has one of the worst reputations. Bring a bag that completely zips shut, and make sure to have a hand on it at all times. When you take out a large amount of money from the ATM, don't bring it all with you as you roam the streets. Leave at least half at home, just in case. These street thieves dress completely inconspicuously, using children, cripples and even animals to distract you. As long as you stay conscious of your belongings, walk with an air of confidence and don't flaunt your expensive camera equipment on a crowded street, you should be fine.
As long as you educate yourself properly before traveling anywhere, there is no reason not to enjoy yourself. Whether you are traveling to Barcelona at the peak tourist season, or splashing through India in Monsoon, each time of year comes with its unique set of thrills.
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