What You Think Barcelona Locals Do vs What They Actually Do

| © Tanel Teemusk / Flickr
Tara Jessop

We’ve probably all been guilty of romanticising life abroad at some point – wouldn’t it be so much better if I lived in Paris, LA or Buenos Aires? Looking at Barcelona it’s easy to see why people might get the impression that locals have it good – and they do – it just may not look exactly how you imagined.

Food shopping

What you think happens: Leisurely doing your food shopping at the Boqueria market every day.

What actually happens: Locals do by and large still shop at food markets, it just doesn’t tend to happen every day as most people are just as busy with work as you are. Also, the Boqueria is seen by some locals as being more of a tourist attraction than a proper market these days, so you’re more likely to find locals shopping at Sant Antoni market, Hostafrancs market or even Gracià market.

The Boqueria market


What you think happens: Having a two hour, three-course lunch with wine every day.

What actually happens: Generally speaking lunch breaks in Spain do tend to be longer than in other European countries and it’s not uncommon for workers to enjoy a menu del día from time to time (which usually does involve three courses and a bit of wine). But Barcelona is also one of the most business-forward, cosmopolitan Spanish cities and there has been a growing trend of shorter lunch breaks and ‘Tupperware lunches’, with employees bringing their own food in (though they’re still way off from eating a factory-made sandwich sat at their desks).

Beach days

What you think happens: Spending the day at the Barceloneta beach despite all the crowds

What actually happens: As soon as the warm weather is out, locals love spending the weekend at the beach – just not Barceloneta beach. Not only is it usually very crowded, it’s also just not that nice a beach. For better beaches, locals know to head out of town, either north past Badalona or south towards Castelldefels. If they need to stay local they’ll opt for the Bogatel beach instead, which is generally much more laid back.

Barceloneta beach

The Gothic Quarter

What you think happens: Spending your time getting lost in the backstreets of the Gothic Quarter.

What actually happens: You just have to look at the size of Barcelona to realise that the vast majority of locals do not live in the Gothic Quarter and moreover, many rarely set foot there. If the Gothic Quarter is undoubtedly home to some of the city’s most beautiful architecture, there is a feeling among locals that the area has been overwhelmed by businesses geared towards tourists. However, there are still some hidden gems to be found and locals who do live there are very proud of their neighbourhood and keen to preserve it.

The Gothic Quarter


What you think happens: Grazing on tapas all afternoon and gorging on jamón Iberico like it’s going out of fashion.

What actually happens: Well, that’s actually not too far from the truth. Hanging around with friends, sharing a few tapas and having a few drinks is very much how locals like to spend their free time. But they also usually manage to have a healthy diet and if the weekends see a few excesses, during the week people tend to eat a heavier lunch and quite a light dinner. Also, jamón Iberico is quite expensive so it’s not an everyday treat.

There’s always time for tapas
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