Life in Barcelona
Barcelona, thanks to its location on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, is synonymous with culture, cosmopolitan atmosphere, urban design, and architecture. It is also a city that has a wide range of leisure activities available. For a brief history of the city, click here.
The practical information that follows will help students to safely enjoy their stay in Barcelona:
Students have a number of options to obtain cash in Euros (€):
- Credit cards
- Traveler’s checks
- Bank transfers
- ATMs (Cajeros automáticos)
Credit cards are handy but they carry a high interest rate, especially when used in ATMs for cash transfers abroad. Travelers' checks are more secure in case of theft, but banks often charge commissions to redeem them. Bank transfers to Spain (in addition to incurring a high commission), may take more than three days to process.
Therefore, the most convenient option is to withdraw money from ATMs with a debit card. Barcelona has many ATMs that can be used without having a bank account in Spain. In addition, it is useful to have a second (credit) card in case of theft or loss of the debit card, which is recommended to be kept at the student residence.
Bank and savings bank hours: Monday to Friday, from 8am to 2pm. In the summer, they are also open on Thursdays until 6pm.
Before coming to Barcelona, it is advised that students plan out their anticipated expenses for the whole semester. The budget should take into account spending on food, transportation, personal hygiene items, cultural and social activities, as well as independent travel.
The basic budget presented below is approximate and reflects the typical weekly expenses of a student in Barcelona.
- Urban transportation (metro/bus): 19€
- Meals/Groceries: 43€
- Personal hygiene: 11€
- Books and study materials: 11€
- Other expenses: 58€
- Total weekly expenses: 157€
Barcelona is a well-connected city with an extensive public transport network. There are different ways to get around the city: metro, bus, tram, train and taxi.
Barcelona offers a wide range of restaurants and bars serving Catalan, Spanish and international meals. The city is, without a doubt, a paradise for lovers of good gastronomy.
One of the most common and cheap ways to eat is the menú del día, a fixed-price menu that includes two courses, a drink and a dessert. It always works out better than asking for each dish separately (à la carte). The day menu usually costs between €9 and €15. Some restaurants also offer this menu for dinner.
Another typical way to eat is tapas. Going for tapas is a pleasant way to share portions of different dishes with friends and, in some areas of Spain, the tradition of free tapas is still maintained.
Barcelona also has many supermarkets and markets, with stalls selling fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, cheeses, sausages and many other products, which are usually fresh and of good quality. The Boquería Market, on the Ramblas, is perhaps the best known, and also the most visited, in the city.
Buying groceries in a market is quite an experience because the products are fresh and prepared in front of the customer. In addition, they are places for socialization, where everyone talks to each other. Sellers always know the best way to prepare food, so ask for advice!
Meals: breakfast, which usually consists of orange juice, bread or a sandwich and coffee, is served between 7 and 11 in the morning. The midday meal is the most important and largest meal of the day, and it is taken between 1 and 3:30pm. Dinner is later than in other European countries. Generally, restaurant kitchens do not open before 8:30pm, but serve dinner until 11:30pm (and sometimes even later).
Shopping: shops are open Monday through Saturday from 9am-2pm, then close at lunchtime. In the afternoon, the schedule is usually from 4:30 to 8:30pm. However, shopping centers and major brand stores in the city center are typically open throughout the day. On Sunday, the vast majority of stores are closed, except for some neighborhood supermarkets.
Work: Spaniards usually start working between 8am and 9am and also take a break to eat. In the afternoon, the workday lasts until 6 or 7pm.
It is very advisable that students acquire a mobile/cell phone when they arrive in Barcelona. The most suitable is a mobile phone with a prepaid, rechargeable card. This can be refilled in mobile phone stores, ATMs, tobacconists (Tobacco) or newsstands.
There are mobile phone stores throughout the city. A basic phone plan can cost between €25 and €50/month. The price of the calls varies according to the operator, and it is always cheaper to call a mobile phone of the same company.
The main operators are Movistar (Telefónica), Vodafone, Orange and Yoigo.
CASA-Barcelona students have access to the internet at their residence. There is also a computer room with internet connection in the CASA center. In addition, CASA-Barcelona students can utilize the computer rooms of the four local universities: UAB, UB, UPC and UPF.
Students can buy stamps at the tobacconists and at any post office. To send letters, students can use mailboxes that are on the street or post offices. To send packages, students will have to go to a post office or use a courier service, which is much more expensive - but also faster and safer.
IMPORTANT: to send a package to a student from the United States, it is recommended not to use the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). When the package arrives at customs, many times it is retained and the student has to pay a high rate to be able to withdraw it, besides waiting for weeks until it is recovered. Therefore, in these cases it is best to resort to a courier, a more expensive but safer option.
- Central Office: Via Laietana, 1. Tel: 93 310 04 04
- Post Office (near the CASA-Barcelona center): c / Valencia, 231. Tel: 93 215 39 20
- Post Office (near the residence): c / Consell de Cent, 445. Tel: 93 232 72 57
The major newspapers/news web sites in Spanish are:
- El País: http://www.elpais.com/
- La Vanguardia: http://www.lavanguardia.es/
- El Periódico: http://www.elperiodico.com/
- ABC: http://www.abc.es/
- El Mundo: http://www.elmundo.es/
The primary sources of information in Catalan are:
The electric current in Spain is 220 volts and 50 Hz. To use U.S. electronic devices, a power converter and an adapter plug will be required. It is advisable to buy the adapter before arriving in Barcelona, as it can be difficult to find one in the city.
To avoid problems with laptops, it is advisable to only recharge the battery when it is off, then use it only with the battery, without plugging it in.
The on-line publications below are just some of those that can be consulted to discover the most interesting events offered by the Ciudad Condal:
- For Free Barcelona: guide of free activities in Barcelona.
- Le Cool: a weekly newsletter with an alternative agenda.
- BCN Cultura: cultural website of the Barcelona City Council.
- Time Out Barcelona and Guía del Ocio Barcelona: two of the essential city guides.
- GuiaBCN: an essential guide of Barcelona that includes all the activities that the city offers.
- BCN: LGBTQ students can get more information on life and resources in Barcelona
- The 10 Barcelonas: get to know the 10 city districts, as well as city attractions, urban spaces, cultural and architectural heritage, natural spaces, museums and much more.
- Time out - Museums: a guide on how to go to area museums for free.
Students can also read the CASA-Barcelona cultural blog, written by program students about the activities that they carry out during their semester - both in Barcelona and in other places. Their experiences and recommendations are very useful for new students, and an excellent way to know first-hand what they can expect from their semester in Barcelona.