Living in Barcelona, yes or no?

Published 06/07/2022

When I was planning to live in Barcelona for 6 weeks, with a potential extension, everybody got so excited. “I loved Barcelona!” “Barcelona is my favourite city in Europe!” “I’m so jealous, I love Barcelona!” Are just a few of the super excited replies I received on the news I was moving there. Obviously, my expectations went through the roof, which might be part of the problem now. But in the end, I definitely didn’t love it as much as, apparently, everybody else does. And I will tell you why.

Not terrible either

Let me get this straight, I didn’t HATE it. I mean, what’s not to love about all those amazing Gaudi buildings, mosaic structures, gothic building and the fact that it has both a beach and mountains?! (Or hills, I’m Dutch, for me every piece of land that elevates is a mountain.) So yes, I definitely see the charm of the city and definitely had some nice days, nice walks and got to take plenty of beautiful pictures. But as somebody else said beautifully “I like it, I just don’t love it”. And that’s pretty much what it was. It simply wasn’t as amazing as everybody made me believe. Is it because of the high expectations? Maybe. But in the end I just wanted to share my story.

It didn’t make sense to me

This actually has different layers. But my biggest frustration was the public transport. They have a huge metro network, but it doesn’t make sense. If you want to go from North to South, you might need to go West first. We had a birthday party one night in the centre. It was a 40 minute walk from my place (I prefer walking, so I usually check that first. 40 min is doable, but it was already past 1AM) so I checked the metro. It was 35 minutes. Why? Because I either had to take one in a completely different direction and then transfer, or I had to walk 25 minutes to get to the correct line, take the metro for 5 minutes and walk another 5 minutes. It’s such a huge city that public transport is needed to get around. Still, very often, it would make so much more sense to go for the one hour walk. I guess I now understand why cycling is so popular in Barcelona.

During the week you also have to keep in mind that the metro stops running before bars and restaurants close. If you’re going along with the 10PM dinner times, you might have to get yourself a taxi home.

It smells, and not like flowers

Okay maybe it smells like flowers in spring, I don’t know. But during the night, when you do decide to walk home, the whole city smells like pee. Bars have quite the early closing time so the city has enough time to wash it down again, so it’s gone In the morning. Unfortunately it’s replaced with the smell of dog shit.

It’s so expensive

Although I didn’t expect it to be cheap, I also didn’t expect it to be built around tourism in the way it is. I didn’t even stay in Barcelona the entire time, I actually spend some time in a small town about 30 minutes by train. But here the prices were exactly the same. And everything touristic was closed off with incredibly high entry prices. For most buildings, you pay an impressive €25 to €35 entry. So if you want to visit 4 different places, that’s another €100 on your trip price, just for getting into a few buildings. Personally, I think that’s a lot. So, unfortunately, I didn’t even have the budget to go into a lot of places. It’s worth looking into a tourism card. It starts at €48 but mostly offer discounts to the big attractions.

The food

I know that many people disagree, but I’m not a fan of tapas. I am a fan of the tapas concept, sharing food with friends and try a littlebit of everything. But for me, most Spanish food is quite flavourless. This might be just me, but I grew up with Asian food like Thai and Indonesian food. Spicy, full of flavours and spices. For me, Spanish food is just a lot of oil and salt, not much more. Oh and finding a good coffee seems to be impossible as wel..

 

Isolation sucks

This is only relevant if you are moving to Barcelona, but Spanish housing isolation sucks. This is not Barcelona specific. Somehow, they still didn’t manage to find a way to keep the cold out in winter and the sun out in the summer. So, you can guess where this leaves you. Modern buildings might have an air-conditioning system build in which also heats in the winter. But most don’t have heating, so you’re freezing in the winter (because yes, it gets cold) and sweating your ass off in the summer.

What I did like

Like I said, there were things that I did like. For starters, there’s a great Italian restaurant chain, haha. But aside from other types of food, there were a few Barcelona specific things I liked. Here’s a list of the things I do highly recommend.

  • Park Guëll! This was definitely my favourite. It’s also the cheapest tourist attraction (€10). While it’s actually the biggest place you can go, so price quality wise, this one was a win for me. I only spend about 1,5 hour in the park but you could walk around for hours. Most famous is of course the mosaic part build by Gaudi, but it’s a huge park. Bring a picknick basket and make a day out of it. Of course with a great sunset view over the city! Get your tickets here.
  • La Sagrada Familia. What’s not to love? I can’t get over the beauty of this building! I didn’t go inside but I joined an online viewing and I might need to go back to view it live. Especially around sunset the light is absolutely amazing! The building itself already lights up in the golden hour and watching the sunset in the small park behind it, is already great if you don’t want to go in. There’s a €26 entry fee.
  • Catedral Santa Eulalia. Honestly the whole area “Barri Gòtic” is pretty amazing if you ask me. So many details on so many buildings, with the Cathedral being the highlight. It’s quite a typical building structure, definitely not only to be seen in Barcelona. But I was amazed by it’s details and beauty. The area is great for vintage lovers, as it’s filled with vintage shops. Entry for the Cathedral is €9.

There are more nice places, like these 5 hidden gems. Generally my verdict is, that it’s a great place to visit with lots to see. Especially if you are aware of the high costs of the touristic places. But to live there for a longer period, I wouldn’t really recommend it.