Barcelona may have over 300 days of sunshine per year, but it’s always best to be prepared. Average winter temperatures are 12º Celsius (54º Fahrenheit) so make sure to bring a warm coat or jacket. In summer the average temperature is around 27º Celsius (77 Fahrenheit) but can reach up to 35-38º. The city is also quite humid, so it´s best to bring lightweight clothing that breathes easily.
Barcelona receives very little rain, and if you do get stuck in a downpour there are normally street vendors selling cheap umbrellas along the sidewalk and outside the metro stops.
The city has become a year-round destination though a peak season would certainly be summer months, especially July and August.
Banks and Currency
As with most of Europe, the official currency of Spain is the euro. Normal banking hours are Monday to Friday 8:30am to 2:00pm and Saturday morning from 8.30 a.m. till 1 p.m. in winter (closed Saturdays in summer). Also some saving banks such as La Caixa open on Thursday afternoon from 5 p.m. till 8 p.m.
You can change money at almost any bank or at bureaux de change which are dotted around the city, the exchange rate won´t be good, but commission is generally not charged. However most travelers find it easier to rely on their ATM (cash machine) cards and credit cards instead.
Most bank cards will work abroad and although they may charge you a small foreign currency fee, this will most likely not amount to more than the cost would be to change money. The same goes for credit cards, which are accepted at nearly all places of business. Traveler checks are often not accepted, and carrying large amounts of cash is also not recommended as it can easily be lost or stolen, so your best bet is to take smaller amounts of cash out of the ATM (instructions are nearly always offered in English) and rely on your credit cards for bigger expenses.
Hospitals and Pharmacies
Spain has a standard agreement with other EU countries entitling EU citizens to a certain amount of free or reduced cost health care, including hospital treatment.
There are several hospitals that have 24 hour emergency services, and due to the public healthcare you will probably not be charged, or be charged very little, if you have to make a visit. However, visitors should also be aware that the pharmacies sell a variety of medicines not normally sold over the counter in other countries, and that they are also quite good at dispensing medical advice, so for any ailments or injuries that are not serious it´s best to go there. The pharmacies in the city center have the most probability of having an English speaking staff.
Pharmacies usually have a flashing green cross outside and are found across the city.
They are normally open from 9am to 1.30pm and 4.30 to 8pm, Monday to Friday, and 9am to 1.30pm on Saturdays. Out of these times there is farmacia de guardia (duty pharmacy) open 24 hours a day. Note that at night, duty pharmacies often appear to be closed, and it’s necessary to knock on the shutters to be served.
The locals tend to tip very little. For drinks and snacks the norm is to leave a few cents or round up the change. For meals, more than a few euros is considered excessive (although of course appreciated by the staff). For more expensive restaurants a tip of 10-15% is considered reasonable. For taxi drivers it is also acceptable to simply round up the change.
Food and Drink
Like most Spaniards, the locals of Barcelona tend to start their day with a light meal of coffee and a pastry. The main meal of the day is lunch, which is usually eaten between 2:00pm and 4:00pm. The best option for those on a budget is the “menu del día” which is a set-price mid-day meal offered at nearly all restaurants, which includes a first plate, second plate, drink, and dessert or coffee, often for under 10 euros. Dinner is normally not eaten before 9:00pm, and most kitchens stay open until at least 11:30pm. Catalan food has a reputation for being the best cuisine in Spain, although vegetarians may have some difficulties finding non meat options.
Of course, if you fancy something different Barcelona also has plenty of ethnic restaurants to choose from. Spanish wines are excellent and very reasonably priced. For the house wine, ask for the “vino de la casa”.
Beware of pickpockets. You´ve heard it a million times but we just can´t emphasize it enough. Barcelona has more incidences of petty theft than almost any other city in Europe, so better safe than sorry.
Woman should make sure to keep their purse or bag on them at all times (never hanging on a chair or on the floor) and make sure it either zips or buttons close. Men should avoid putting wallets in their back pockets, and either put them in front or, better yet, use a money belt. Backpacks are not recommended as it´s easy for someone to sneak up behind you and steal something out of it. Travellers should also be careful not leave any belongings on the table (cameras, mobile phones, etc) when in restaurant, especially if seated outside.
Always keep a separate note of your passport number and take a photocopy of the page that carries your details, in case of loss or theft.
Public telephones cabinas are blue and can be found all over the city and they accept coins, credit cards, and phone cards. Note that cabinas do not give change, so are often the most expensive way to call. However, the cheapest way to make a call, especially if it´s long distance, is to find a locutorio (phone center). There you will be assigned a private cabin to make your call, and then pay when you are done (usually only cash is accepted). Locutorios can be found all over the city center.
If you are a student or senior citizen you should always check to see if discounts apply. The same goes for children, as they may give discounts or free entrance even if it´s not advertised and those under five may often get in free. Also, on the first Sunday of each month admission is free to all public museums (and some private ones as well).
Museums - there is a great variation in the opening times for museums, so check before you go. Generally, places are closed on Mondays or Tuesdays.
Restaurants - Lunch is served from around 1.30 - 4, with dinner starting at 9 onwards. Some will open earlier for those visitors who tend to dinner earlier.
Shops - Most shops close at around 1.30-2 and do not reopen until 4-5p.m.; although they are open much later in the evening till 8.30 p.m. as a minimum. Nearly all shops close on Sunday except one or two Sundays before Christmas, and smaller local shops usually close on Saturdays evening too.