13 Things They Don't Tell You About Living in Barcelona

© Marco Verch
© Marco Verch
Ever wondered what it might be like to live in Barcelona? If the good weather and thriving cultural scene are undeniable, there are other aspects of living in the Catalan capital you may not be as familiar with. From the cost of living, to where you really spend your time in the city, here are some of the things you only find out when you actually live in Barcelona.

It’s not as cheap as you think

When you first arrive you might think things seem much cheaper than in neighbouring European countries, but then you start to realise you’re earning less, you’re not going to live on €1 tapas every day, rents are actually soaring and all those great music gigs soon add up.

You’ll never shop at the Boqueria Market

After trying to navigate the crowds of tourists and the die-hard local old ladies and their shopping carts, you’ll eventually give up and opt to shop at your own local market instead. And you’ll soon realise that the Boqueria was overpriced and not that amazing anyway.

The Boqueria market © G0DeX

There’s a whole other side to the city you didn’t even know about

You might see Barcelona as crazy nightlife, the old streets of the Gothic Quarter and the magic of Gaudí, the Passeig de Gràcia and the Camp Nou. But there’s so much of Barcelona’s life which takes place away from the usual tourist areas. Places such as Les Corts, El Clot, Sants or even Sarrià are lively neighbourhoods with their own identity which can feel worlds apart from the city centre.

The smell of drains will literally make your eyes water

No matter how long you’ve lived here, you can never quite get used to the smell of drains wafting up from certain notorious street corners. One day you’ll get caught by surprise in the midst of a deep inhale and the smell will actually bring tears to your eyes.

Unless you choose to live in the Gothic Quarter you’ll hardly ever set foot there

There are those who opt to make the Gothic Quarter their home and brave the crowds and the noise. For everyone else, the reality is that you’ll very rarely find yourself venturing over there unless you’re showing visitors around. Everything you need will be cheaper and more readily available in your neighbourhood.

Detail of the cathedral © Josep Bracons

There’s only so much noise you can get used to

The figures show that over 50% of Barcelona’s population live with regular noise levels that are deemed dangerous for our health (over 65 decibels). While you do somewhat get used to the ongoing hubbub of daily life and manage to sleep through a lot more than you thought possible, you’ll eventually find yourself forgoing ‘original features’ and ‘classic charm’ for ‘double-glazing’.

A library card gets you more than just books

Not just your ticket to free books in all the libraries in Barcelona, the library ticket is also an unofficial badge saying ‘I live here, give me a discount’. Visiting the Miró museum? Show your library card for 20% off. Buying tickets to a concert at the Poble Espanyol? Whip the library card out.

Weekends are for getting out of town

If the thought of enjoying the culture and nightlife of Barcelona in your free time is what makes you want to move to Barcelona, you’ll soon realise that most locals use weekends to get out of the city. Barcelona is within a couple of hours drive of the Pyrenees mountains, the Costa Brava, the Priorat and Cava wine regions and more cute Medieval villages than you could believe.

Explore the Costa Brava © Roser Goula

Mobile World Congress week = time to rent your flat out

The world’s largest mobile technology conference, Mobile World Congress brings hundreds of thousands of people to Barcelona each year. As a result it means that accommodation is a scarce resource and everyone gladly operates in accordance with the golden rule of ‘if asked for a quote, double your price’. Put that spare room to good use now.

Unless you learn the lingo, you’ll never be a local

Sure, everyone knows that guy who’s been here ten years and doesn’t speak more than a few words of Spanish. But do you want to be that guy? Unless you’re willing to speak Spanish well and even parlar una mica de català, in the eyes of the locals you’ll never be anything but a guiri – and no one wants to be a guiri.

The Barceloneta beach is not where you go to the beach

The idea of having a beach on the doorstep of the city may be appealing, but the reality is that the Barceloneta beach just isn’t that amazing. Overcrowded, rather dirty and not that scenic, you’ll rather go to the Bogatell beach near Poblenou if you want a couple of hours by the water. And if you’re planning a beach day you’ll prefer to get out of town and catch a train to Castelldefels or Montgat instead.

Barceloneta beach © Alper Çuğun

Cockroaches are a fact of life

Barcelona is plagued with cockroaches pretty much all year round and the summer is particularly bad. Once they get into a building there’s no getting them out unless you pay for pricey extermination, and some people choose to make do with a rather uncomfortable cohabitation. Watching a cockroach scuttle away from beneath your feet while you wait for the metro, or run across the wall in front of you in a bar at least once is a given.

You won’t need a gym membership

Barcelona is very well-equipped for getting fit outdoors and the good weather means you’ve generally got no excuse. Areas like Montjuïc and the Parc Forum are ideal for doing your own circuit exercises, while there are public outdoor machines by the beach near Port Olimpic and the Carretera de les Aigües on Tibidabo is ideal for a scenic jog.