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A Photographer's Guide to Barcelona

by Philip Greenspun, 2001


Digital photo titled parc-guell-benches-tight Barcelona is a medieval city surrounded by baroque quarters surrounded by the finest Modernista buildings (Spanish Art Nouveau, notably the architecture of Antoni Gaudi). For the 1992 Olympic Games the city was blessed with a wealth of modern recreational facilities.

With its sunny Mediterranean climate and winter temperatures in the 50s and 60s, Barcelona can be enjoyed as a weekend escape from gloom and grey. The city is also a good base for exploring the small towns and wild coast of Catalonia.


Digital photo titled hotel-arts-top-half Here's an excerpt from a 4-star hotel's information guide: "Supervise and control your luggage: DO NOT leave it unattended even for a minute. Be extremely careful with your baggage while paying for your stay." I would have laughed if I'd not recalled that my parents had their carry-on bag stolen, right from the lobby, while checking into a $150/night hotel near La Rambla. Their experience is reflected in the architecture of the Hotel Arts, built for the 1992 Olympics. From the street, the skyscraper looks like a fortress. There is a moat and no visible lobby. If you drive into the interior of the fortress you find a small elevator area and some bellmen. Take the elevator up one floor and you'll find yourself in the lobby.

Digital photo titled parc-guell-dragon-and-girls-clutching-purse The officially published city guide cautions people with "handbags, cameras, video cameras, etc." The same guide warns you especially against people offering flowers on the street getting close to you or someone saying that you have a stain on your clothing. The thieves of Barcelona seem to be operating a one-city crusade to recover from English tourists all the treasure lost to the British Navy in four centuries of war (native Barcelonans blame most of the crime on Morocan immigrants, in which case much of the booty would drain out south across the Straits of Gibraltar). Eve and I went to take some pictures in the Parc Guell. Within minutes of our arrival, a pickpocket had opened her purse and taken her wallet. The Old Town, away from La Rambla, is particularly dangerous at night. A lot of restaurants and cafes try to make sure that their patrons still have enough to pay the bill at the end of the night by hiring private security guards to stand out front.

The Dorling Kindersley guide advises keeping cards and money in a belt. The official guide advises leaving your passport with the hotel and carrying a photocopy. If you're concentrating on photography, your chances of being a victim rise to nearly 100 percent. If it is cold enough for a jacket, choose one with a zippered interior pocket and use that for cards and most of your cash. If the weather is hot, get a money belt. Women should not carry anything valuable in a purse. Unless you have an assistant whose only job is to safeguard a camera bag, don't carry extra lenses. One camera. One lens. In your hands at all times.

Note how the girl in the image at left clutches her purse (Parc Guell).

Modernista Architecture and Antoni Gaudi

Barcelona offers many of the charms of other European cities, including a cathedral, Baroque palaces, and a smattering of modern successes. Uniquely, though, Barcelona displays the work of imaginative architects working from 1885 through around 1910. This was the Catalonian response to the Art Nouveau movement and the best-known architect is Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926). In one day you can see most of the important Gaudi buildings.

Start at the Sagrada Familia, the church that Gaudi started in 1883 and that still isn't done. In the summer, get there at 9:00 am sharp to avoid long lines. If you are stuck on the line at the ticket booth, be wary of women trying to pin flowers on your clothing. Once inside, you have the opportunity to take an elevator or walk to the top of one of the towers on the east side of the church. If you have any fear of heights or are claustrophic, skip this part of the tour. The towers are very narrow, the stairs within the towers are only wide enough for one person, and the bridges between the towers are narrow and packed with people. Even if you're not normally phobic, you'll probably be a little uneasy.

The museum in the basement of the church is worthwhile. It includes a model used by Gaudi to determine the structure that would support itself using the minimum material.

Hop a cab to the Parc Guell, in the northeast corner of downtown. Remember to watch your camera, wallet, etc., inside the park! The Parc Guell is built into a hill overlooking the city and you can see down to the Mediterranean. In some ways this is the most practical spot in the city for making photographs of Gaudi's work. You won't need a perspective correction lens. You won't have trouble backing up from the buildings. There won't be a lot of powerlines, cars, and street signs in the frame.

Hop a cab to the Casa Mila, an apartment house designed by Gaudi. You can tour a museum on the top floor, the roof with its spectacularly strange sculptures (one wonders if the building residents wouldn't have preferred a sundeck), and an apartment with period furnishings.

Walk three blocks south from Casa Mila to the Illa de la Discordia (Island of Discord), a single block along the Passeig de Gracia containing four Modernista buildings by different architects. The most interesting is Gaudi's Casa Batllo.

The Beach Scene

To photograph people enjoying the beach, start in Barceloneta, a complex of narrow streets and houses built for the working class. The district is surrounded by a yacht harbor on one side and a sandy beach on the other. There is a covered market in the main square. Barcelonans predict rapid gentrification of this district but in the meantime you can get some photos of old neighbors hanging out laundry and chatting. Unless it is raining, skip the Museum of the History of Catalonia (photography prohibited; most signs only in Spanish and Catalan).

The Old City

The oldest part of the city is the area around the cathedral, built starting in 1298. The streets are narrow and open into small squares.

Skip the Picasso Museum but do go into the Museu d'Art Contemporani, a 1995 success by Richard Meier, architect of California's New Getty, just off La Rambla. The building is much nicer than the art; photography permitted without flash or tripod.

Note that, according to the concierge at my hotel, the old city is not safe at night.


Take a taxi to the Fundacion Joan Miro, up on the hill in Montjuic. Photography is permitted without flash or tripod.

A five-minute walk will take you to the Olympic stadium and its unusual radio tower. From there a rather tiring 20-minute walk, with occasional views out to the sea, will take you to Poble Espanyol (Spanish Village). This is a strange collection of 116 reproduction buildings from different cities in Spain.

Parc de la Ciutadella

Parc de la Ciutadella, just to the east of the Old City, contains a small zoo, several museums and important Modernista fountains and sculpture.

La Rambla

One of the most famous streets in Spain, La Rambla runs through the Old City right down to the harbor. The wide center strip is devoted to newsstands, flower merchants, performers, and hordes of pedestrians. On either side of this strip are busy lanes for cars and buses. Next to the car/bus lanes are shops, restaurants, hotels, and the twice-burned opera house.

Photographic Exhibitions

Pick up a copy of Guia del Ocio ( www.guiadelociobcn.es) at a newsstand for full listings of photography shows at galleries and museums.

Just for Fun

Digital photo titled la-rambla-de-mar The one absolute must for nightlife in Barcelona is a concert at the Palau de la Musica Catalana, a Modernista triumph in the Old City. Stop by the hall during the daytime to buy tickets at the box office and also to by tickets for a guided tour in English during the day. The acoustics of the hall are superb and any group booked into the Palau is going to be good. It is small hall by modern standards so don't worry too much about where you sit. The 1980s renovation included the installation of air conditioning.

It really isn't much of a photographic subject, but L'Aquarium shouldn't be missed. It is the largest aquarium in Europe and includes two long underwater tunnels. The aquarium is open until 9:00 pm and is on the harbor, behind the Maremagnum shopping center, directly across a footbridge from La Rambla. Flash photography is prohibited. If you're determined to take some photos, be prepared with a fast lens and ISO 800 or ISO 1600 film.

For English movies, remember to look for "VO" or "VOS" in the listing, unless you enjoy a dubbed-in-Spanish or dubbed-in-Catalan soundtrack. The only cinema devoted to "version original" movies is Icaria, a 15-screen complex in the basement of a shopping center just northeast of the Hotel Arts (Port Olimpic).

For more adventurous nightlife, pick up a copy of the Time Out Guide to Barcelona.

Shops and Photo Labs

Digital photo titled arpi-camera-shop For standard professional camera gear, visit ARPI on La Rambla. Since they carry Hasselblad, Linhof, and Rollei they can presumably direct you to the best labs in town. For one-stop shopping, including a traditional souvenir selection, try the huge department store El Corte Ingles ("The English Cut", referring to its origins selling men's suits) on Placa Catalunya (north tip of La Rambla).

For buying food and taking photos of people buying food, La Boqueria on La Rambla is unparalleled.

For an Internet fix, visit the 24-hour easyEverything cafe on La Rambla.


Digital photo titled gran-havana-hotel-facade If you need Internet connectivity from your room, you're out of luck! As far as I can tell, there aren't any hotels in Barcelona with 10base-T jacks in the rooms.

Most people would tell you to stay on or just off La Rambla. If you want to step out of your hotel into a crowd, a hooker (after 10:00 pm), a pickpocket (anytime), etc., this is good advice. If the crowds of La Rambla, especially in the summertime, put you off, consider going south to the port or north into the Eixample neighborhood. Remember that Spain is a country of mopeds; any hotel room overlooking a street will be noisy.

I've stayed in the Gran Hotel Havana on Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes 647 (+34 93 412 1115, fax 412 2611). It is just north of the Old City, a 10-minute walk from La Rambla, a 10-minute walk from the major works of Gaudi, and convenient for driving and parking. The interior is luxurious wood and green marble, with a glass atrium illuminating the corridors. If you like the neighborhood and are on expense account, the Ritz is across the street.

If you want to wake up and look at the ocean every morning, Hotel Arts is for you (+34 93 221 1000; fax 221 1070). There are 500 rooms packed into one of the tallest buildings in Spain, smack on the Port Olimpic yacht harbor. Minuses: you'll be taking a taxi or the subway to the center of town; once you're in the hotel, you might as well be in Las Vegas.

Readers: If you've stayed in a Barcelona hotel and liked it, please go to the bottom of this page and click the "add a comment" link to tell the rest of us about it. Please make sure to include the phone number.


Digital photo titled dunkin-donuts-in-barcelona The Michelin Red Guides are the most reliable source for restaurants throughout Europe. If you care about food, you'll definitely want the Michelin Red Guide Spain and Portugal . To an American palette, Catalan cuisine seems to be based on salt, seafood, and pork. If you like paella, you'll be happy here. If you yearn for broccoli, you might have to buy it yourself at La Boqueria, the covered market off La Rambla.

Established in 1870, Restaurant Puda Can Manel is one of the best places in town for seafood. It is in Barceloneta at Passeig Joan de Borbo, 60. This street borders the harborfront. Call 93 221 50 13 to reserve a table. The outdoor tables are ideally positioned to catch afternoon sunshine.

Right on La Rambla you won't find much better than Amaya at #20, close to the column of Christopher Columbus. Call 93 302 1037 for reservations. It looked to me as though they might have a non-smoking section.

All of the fast food chains are here. Fresh and Ready is a sandwich and salad chain with an English menu and a reasonable selection of vegetarian food. It is the Barcelonan equivalent of London's Pret a Manger.


Digital photo titled cloister-fountain-detail Dorling Kindersley's Barcelona and Catalonia is below the standard of the publisher's other guidebooks, but still useful for a photographer because of the small snapshots of each site. Thus you're able to make an informed decision as to whether or not the journey will be photographically worthwhile.

For details on art and architecture, get the Blue Guide to Barcelona . TimeOut Barcelona should have the most up-to-date nightlife and beach scene discussion. You'd think that Lonely Planet would be good for people on a low budget but the Amazon reader reviews indicate otherwise (and also warn about being "violently mugged less than a block from my hotel off of La Rambla").

For authoritative restaurant and hotel recommendations, the Michelin Red Guide is what you want. Sadly, this is only available in a big book covering the entire Iberian Peninsula.

Getting There

Digital photo titled barcelona-looking-northeast-from-sagrada-familia You can get a non-stop flight into Barcelona from most European capitals. A taxi from the airport to downtown is about $15.

For airline choices, see the photo.net guide to international airlines. You may wish to avoid Virgin Express, the horror of which cannot be overstated.

Getting Around

Digital photo titled seat-600-microcar Taxis in Barcelona are inexpensive but you've got about a 1 in 10 chance of a driver taking you around in circles. Unless you're an absolutely fluent Spanish speaker, point to your desired destination on a map. The subway and bus system is comprehensive.


Digital photo titled man-fighting-serpent-on-illa-de-la-discordia American citizens don't need a visa to visit Spain.

The time in Barcelona is GMT+1, i.e., six hours ahead of New York. Thus if it is 9:00 am in New York, it is already 3:00 pm in Barcelona.

Electricity in Spain is 220V at 50 Hz. Most laptop computer and digital camera power supplies can function on this power and at most you'll need a mechanical adaptor, which you can get at Radio Shack before you leave, from the front desk at better hotels, or from a tourist shop.

The country code for Spain is 34.

Money is the peseta rather than the euro. You can get pesetas with an American ATM card from just about any bank machine. The exchange rate is usually around 180 pesetas per dollar. After January 1, 2002 the Spanish will start using Euro bills and coins.

Going Beyond

If you rent a car, you'll find that a 100-mile drive from Barcelona will take you to some of the most interesting sights in Spain. Catalonia has an interesting coastline, particularly to the north. Little villages and monasteries dot the interior.

Learning Spanish

Digital photo titled barceloneta-women-on-bench You can get around the tourist areas with English but you'll find a lot of strange food on your plate and conversations will be limited. The average Barcelonan is not a fluent English speaker. Partly this may be due to the fact that the population is already bilingual, speaking Spanish and Catalan.

Catalan is an ancient language and, despite having been banned by Franco, is spoken by 8 million people today. So you might want to pick yourself up a copy of Teach Yourself Catalan/a Complete Course for Beginners . On the other hand, if you intend to spend a lot of time learning one of the languages of Barcelona, you'll probably pick Spanish. Pimsleur tapes are best but remember that you'll need 30 minutes for 30 days to listen to the cassettes or CDs (Amazon sells Spanish I on CD , Spanish I on cassette , Spanish II on CD , Spanish II on cassette , Spanish III on CD , and Spanish III on cassette )

Cultural Preparation

Digital photo titled fountain-on-gran-via George Orwell wrote about Barcelona in the difficult civil war years: Homage to Catalonia . Robert Hughes, art critic and author of one of the best histories of Australia, has written a massive history of the city: Barcelona . To inform yourself about the unique architecture of the city, you might want to visit the library and pull out some books on Antoni Gaudi, e.g., Gaudi of Barcelona .


Text and pictures copyright 2001 Philip Greenspun. Most of these photos were taken with an Olympus E-10 digital SLR.

Article created 2001

Readers' Comments

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Javier F. Lago , February 22, 2001; 03:02 A.M.

GREAT ! You catch the soul of our city with your camera.

Just wanted to add a point: the 'thieve danger zone' is almost limited to the zones of La Rambla, Plaza Catalunya and the harbor (ando some other determined but limited 'touristic points'). In the other parts of the city, you can take pictures with a lot of equipment at any time in the night without any problem... (and the thieves normally only work with tourists !!)

As I said, you made a great job.

Regards from Barcelona.

Jolyon Patten , February 22, 2001; 12:19 P.M.

For Gawd's sake, Philip, please don't overdo the 'pickpockets are everywhere' stuff. Yes, it's a port and therefore prone to being a bit rough, but you do make it seem as if everyone there is out to get you. If I may be permitted a very gentle cultural swipe, this is a little bit of American paranoia, though I appreciate it does work in reverse - I would never dare go to NY or Chicago without all the paranoia that you evince about Barcelona (and both may be right).

My only point is, be a little bit sensible about looking too flash but have a good time. I walked round the Barri Gotic (the old bit) with my wife at 5 months pregnant late at night with 2 female friends and their daughter/grand-daughter with absolutely no problem. People are not out to get you and if you look and act confident you should have no difficulty at all. Barcelona is a fantastic town (I would live there if I could) and readers of this page might be a little wary of what is in store for them if they only consider your experiences.

Incidentally, Philip, did anything get nicked while you were there? (apart from Eve's purse). I hope not, but if it did, I hope the thief gets piles.


Brendan Everett , February 22, 2001; 04:11 P.M.

I feel compelled to say that I completely disagree with Philip's assessment of the level of crime in Barcelona. I spent a week there in the spring of 2000, stayed in a hotel in the old part of the city (Barri Gotic) away from La Rambla and never felt unsafe. My hotel was $80 per night for two. The city was comfortable, interpersonally warm, and spectacular. Sure, be careful - you're a tourist, so you're marked (and you've got an even larger mark if you're carrying a nice camera!), but I feel as though crime and pickpockets should not occupy the first few paragraphs of a guide to Barcelona.

The Spanish people are unique, wonderful, and friendly. Barcelona, and its people, are even more so - there's something about the Gaudi architecture that just gives the place a vitality that's truly special. And the fact that life begins at 9am (Dunkin Donuts is the earliest coffee shop to open, at 8:30) and dinner starts at 9:30 to 10pm allows an instant mind shift from the go-go-go of American cities.

Go there, and enjoy! Be careful, but don't be a worrywort. Thanks Philip for another great travel review and some beautiful photographs!

Lucian Morse , February 22, 2001; 04:11 P.M.

I was in Barcelona and did not perceive the street crime problem to be as severe as Phil describes. I have attached a picture of the interior of the Sagrada Familia.

Javier F. Lago , February 23, 2001; 03:00 A.M.

There's an statistical fact: Crime in Barcelona is between 10 and 15 times lower than in NY. The murders per habitant are 25 times lower than NY. You can walk at any time (day or night)in Barcelona in any place and feel safe. Sometimes at night, instead of catching train or 'metro', I walk. Can you do it in NY ??? By the way, About the comment of the 'Fatima Crusades'... I lived in BCN all my life and never seen that thing. Of course this is a place for all kind of people, but it has no sense speaking of BCN as the 'the city used as the base for folks who make the religious pilgrimage to Loudres and Fatima'. It is the base for every touristic travel in this setor of the mediterranean sea ! I lived in Paris, Frankfurt and some other places... I would never change BCN for any other.

Other curious fact... the 1992 Olimpic Games were organized and performed by volunteers that had nothing in return. There were 100.000 people joined for this purpose with nothing to gain. Is there any other place in the world where you can find this? This was copied for the Olympics of Atlanta with no results.

I think American people usually se the other countries as less civilized than them... sometimes it's true... sometimes not.

oscar garcia suarez , February 23, 2001; 02:10 P.M.

Jazz concert in the old quarters

Well said, Javier!

I live in Barcelona. I take pictures in the less secures districts of the city almost every week and I NEVER had a problem. Can you imagine this in Harlem, for example?. Barcelona is a touristic city, so, logically, you have to expect some pickpocketing, like in Paris, Berlin or other european cities, but nothing to worry about. You have to act as if you were from here, i.e. avoid the typical tourist signals: hide your guide, know your destination and don't look maps each corner, etcetera. but, please, forget about the paranoia. I also want to correct some Philip's comments. Barcelona is not a medieval city, the name comes from "Barcino", as the Romans called it two thousand years ago.

If you want to see movies in original version (V.O. or V.O.S., in Spanish), you can go to Icaria, but also to Renoir, Melies, Verdi, Casablanca and so on (more than 34 cinemas).

The more I travel the more I like my city. I don't want to be biased, but I know a lot of foreign people who came here and doen't want to go, so I suppose Barcelona has some kind of spell.

See you.

Frederic Sagués , February 23, 2001; 03:23 P.M.

Congratulations for your excellent photos of Barcelona; you've really got the soul of our city. However, I think that your comments about crime are mostly exaggerated and too repetitive as I don't think that most visitors perceive this as the first feature of this city (when I started reading I felt myself alarmed). Go to another big city in the world and you will find at least the same problems (especially if you wear the tourist outfit and look out of place, like wearing shorts or going back-nacked in a restaurant). I`ve been robbed in Rome, swindled by a New York cabbie, and scared in Paris and I don´t think that the crime situation in Barcelona is worse than in these places. As a barcelonan dweller I think that noise is much more annoying, but sometimes I think it's what "some" tourists like.

Philip Greenspun , February 23, 2001; 05:32 P.M.

I guess I stressed the pickpockets too much. I'm sure that the murder rate is lower than Detroit, for example. My Barcelonan friends said specifically that the pickpocketing teams avoid violent crime because they know that it would bring police action and the possibility of a jail sentence. But it does seem as though the petty crime rate is much higher, which is a problem for photographers as we tend to have expensive and necessary items spilling out from photo vests, camera bags on hips, etc.

Regarding Barcelona being a medieval city... obviously the town's history dates back to Roman times but the oldest buildings seem mostly to date from around the time of the cathedral.

And I probably should have stressed the advantages of the city more but really Barcelona is such a famous and popular tourist destination that I didn't think I needed to. Everyone goes there eventually...

ingrid escamilla , February 23, 2001; 06:32 P.M.

you did a great photography job, philip. yes, you did stressed too much on pickpocketing, but that is ok. locals don´t get robbed ;) unfortunately tourists are the only target and the government doesn't seem willing to make the move. there are a couple more cinemas with VOS, besides Icaria. I truly like the Verdi Cinema (in the quarter called Gracia). The food is not only salt, pork and seafood. as a matter of fact, it's basically vegetables, rice, bread, fruit, and yes, seafood. Yes, Hotel Arts is great, but you should've mentioned its price. not affordable for many people. Nightlife is not as dangerous as you say. i've lived here for 24 years and nothing has ever happened to me. i do go out every weekend and stay up until the very morning. it's just a matter of keeping your eyes opened (hard to do if are boozed, jaja!!) it's been a pleasure going thru your photo album i hope you'll come back to barcelona

Frederic Sagués , February 24, 2001; 07:59 A.M.

Philip,your additional comment is very welcome. I regret that you had a problem while you were here. I accept that low-grade crime may be a problem with tourists in summer and in crowded sites. However, this is by no means the main feature of this city as one can conclude after reading your story. I also agree with Ingrid in that the authorities don`t seem to take enough action on this subject.

Dennis Nakasone , February 25, 2001; 03:34 A.M.

When I visited Barcelona in 1997, I too was forewarned about the high degree of petty theft in and around Las Rambla. In my two days and nights there, however, I never once felt fearful for my safety or for my possessions including a Canon EOS system.I walked the alleyways of the Barri Gotic, Las Rambla, the port area without incident. Perhaps I was simply naive, but it sure seemed safer than my home city of Los Angeles, CA.

I do have a question though, what's the best thing to say (in spanish or in english) to ask a Spaniard permission to take his or her picture?

Andre Vallejo , February 25, 2001; 07:29 P.M.

I've lived in Barcelona for 3 months,and Philip is right about pick-pockets:They took me 1.000 dollars in my first 15 minutes near to La Rambla...and it´s mostly people from Bosnia who do that,so I was told by the cops.They´re considered war refugees,so they can´t be touched!Go figure...but it´s really a great place for photography.In La Rambla,the best to shoot are the Living Statues. Check out my pictures on my folder "Living Statues " here in photo.net I really miss the city! André Vallejo- Rio de Janeiro,Brazil(where pickpockets are the smallest problem...)

Oliver S. , February 26, 2001; 10:54 A.M.

Dennis, hold the camera at chest level pointing in the general direction of the person you want to take a picture of, look at the person, and smile. That´s understood nowadays in most parts of the world, even such remote ones as Spain :-)

Phil, ¿what did my group do wrong when we walked with plenty of luggage through the centre of a Spanish town and didn´t lose a single peseta? Crime does exist, sure. ¡Pero no somos "paranoid about it"!

Javier F. Lago , February 27, 2001; 03:19 A.M.

It seems that many people here isist in showing Barcelona as an uncivilized city. But the article showed in the links, called 'Calle Lleona' (bad written, it is 'Carrer de la Lleona' because it a Catalonian name) get me upset.

It is a good article about one of the worse streets in Barcelona. It is a good tale, but there's NO meaning to put it linked to a photo guide. A photo guide is supposed to be an overview of the city, not a detailed description of the worse street of the city.

Just say to the writer of the article, that if he lived in Barcelona he could have spent a little more money to find a decent place to live.

As I said, I lived in many places in the world, and I prefer Barcelona among every other.

Have you questioned yourself about the image that the spanish people have of the noth american cities? mmm... I think you should. You'll get surprised and maybe you'll realize that maybe there are places not so civilized as Barcelona. There's no school in Spain where people get killed by insane boys. Here the policemen NEVER shot their weapons except 5 or 6 times a year (NOT 6 by each policemen, I mean 6 in total by ALL of them). Here we have free medical assistance for everyone. Can you say the same? then... what do you think? Are you PROUD of your city? We are !

Owen Byrne , February 27, 2001; 07:25 A.M.

Concerning the comments about the Calle Leona link, I personally think that you misunderstood the tone of the article - there are other links on this person's home page that show that the writer had a great affection for Barcelona, and that living on "one of the worst streets in Barcelona" was probably by choice rather than lack of money. Your tone seems to strike me as "well don't criticize my city at all and if you don't like it you can leave" - the fact is that petty crime is a problem here (I know one person who was robbed 3 times in a single weekend here), but that Barcelona is still a wonderfully alive city - and the area around the "worst street" is probably the most alive part of it. I just posted it because I thought it had a more positive view of the city than Philip's fairly negative (crime-ridden) view.

Image Attachment: drassanes.jpg

Tim Brandhorst , February 27, 2001; 04:24 P.M.

Philip's essay nicely captures the town. For my money, the Gaudi architecture (1) is reason enough to visit and (2) provides endless fodder for interesting architectural photography. Philip's excellent shots of Gaudi buildings are just the beginning. Highly recommend the Hotel Colon, a few blocks east of La Rambla, if you are looking for higher-end accomodations; it faces the main cathedral across a large square.

Frederic Sagués , February 28, 2001; 03:19 A.M.

I thought this guide had to do mainly about photography but it seems that I was wrong.

Javier, you won't change things this way. Don't get so upset. Barcelona is a great city but it really has some problems, we have to accept them if we want to solve them (is what our authorities seem not willing to do). Stereotypes certainly work. Consider what most of the Spanish people think about americans, the american food, the american customs, the american politicians... Some people think that all of them are like Bush or Charlton Heston. But this is not true. If you think you're being "sterotyped", just act as if nothing happened, be yourself, don't give them room and people around will support you. Nowadays I think that most Europeans don`t see us all as bullfighters (toreros) or flamenco-dancers anymore. Give time to the Americans.

And please, why don't we talk about photography, the photos in the guide are superb. Give ideas to the visitors about photography. Why not a recommendation to visit Calella de Palafrugell or Llafranc in la Costa Brava (North), or Sitges (near Barcelona going South). The Laberinto Park in Barcelona can be worth visiting too.

Frederic Sagués , February 28, 2001; 03:23 A.M.

By the way, does anybody know how to remove the "edit your comment" stuff that appears beside my name? Thank you

Owen Byrne , February 28, 2001; 06:31 A.M.

Frederic makes some good points - and I don't think you need to remove the "edit comment" link - because it only appears if you are logged in as yourself - nobody else sees it. <br>I have lived in Barcelona for 9 months, and I am about to leave, and I honestly think that it was a great experience. It was a very disconcerting place to come from at first, especially since I arrived in July, and I'm Canadian, so the heat bothered me. I witnessed several instances of pickpocketing and bag-snatching but thankfully never fell victim to anyone myself. <br>But I can say I have come to love the city and will miss it when I leave.

Image Attachment: sitges2.jpg

steve c , February 28, 2001; 01:39 P.M.

I don't think anyone here is trying to say that Barcelona is uncivilized, they are just saying to be smart when you go. My wife went to Barcelona back in 1999 and in the two days she was there she witnessed two purse snatchings and two or three people in their group had wallets lifted. Regardless she enjoyed the city and would like to return one day (and I'd like to go for the first time because it sounds wonderful).

As for mentioning bad parts of a city in a photo (or any other travel guide), I think it would be irresponsible of Philip or other writers to not warn people away from a dangerous area. If I were to write a guide to Baton Rouge, LA (where I live), I would most certainly tell the readers where not to go if they don't like being on the wrong end of a gun barrel.

alhaard wibble , March 01, 2001; 10:13 A.M.

I just wanted to add a little bit for those travelling on a budget.

You can get a good room in one of the "pensiones" just off La Ramble or in aother part sof town. They can vary from 3-7000 pesetas or thereabouts and although not always en suite are usually run well and kept clean. There are several local companies like Pans y Company that do sandwiches and pastries at very reasonable prices (for a more genuine taste of Spain, without the fast food edge, ask for your bocadillos in the bars though), last time we were there we were breakfasting on coffee and a pastry for under 200 ptas.

Crime is as good or bad as in any city, but the only place I have ever been pick pocketed was in a pub in the Yorkshire Dales so common sense should prevail. If you want to visit public places, fine, if you go off the beaten track be careful.

As to photography, autumn skies in Barcelona if you manage to miss the rains are the bluest I've ever seen and they make a dramatic backdrop to scenes aroudn the city.

Tibi Dabo (sp?) up on the hills behind Barcelona is definitely worth a visit, but it's a long hike so try and catch the bus if it's a hot day.

Oh yes, Coffee in Spain for those of more English tastes is pretty strong stuff, make sure you ask for "cafe con leche" or you may well end up with an espresso so loaded with caffeine it will keep you going in the all night clubs for the whole holiday.

erm..that's about it. That and the fact that I curse the UK lab that did something strang to my last lot of photos which seem to have been done in vanoshing ink. *sigh*

Chuck Pezeshki , March 01, 2001; 02:34 P.M.

Hi Folks,

I actually took a view camera to Barcelona. As always, it's great having a view camera set up and ready to take a picture. It's always a pain getting to that point. The problem with a view camera is that the officials brand you as a pro (even if you're not) and won't let you use it without a permit from whoever owns whatever building. After getting shut down twice, I was a little discouraged.

The great thing about having a view camera is that pretty women will come up and talk to you. I'm married, so this didn't do me much good. Single guys, take note.

Spanish is much easier to master than Catalunyan. If you're going to learn a new language, Spanish is a good one.

I felt that the stuff about stealing in Phil's text was also overrated. Barcelona has a great subway system as well. For the touristic things we did, we had no need to take a cab. I highly recommend the mass transit in Barcelona.

I'm not much of a city tourist at all, but I found Barcelona to be a really great time. Highly recommended. And the human 'street statues' were really awesome.

Sergi Arbos , March 02, 2001; 02:50 A.M.

Hi there!

I like Barcelona pictures very much! In fact I like them so much that I will go and visit some of those places I never seen before... even if I lived my whole life in Barcelona!!!

Barcelona is a BIG town, but I would advice to any tourist to travel a couple of days to smaller towns around, one day trip with the train (I take it everyday and they work fine) can take you to very interesting towns where you will be able to "feel Catalonia" and the modernistic architecture of the begining of the century (XXth that is :-)

About "personal security"... I never had any problems wearing a camera around my neck and walking around alone... and I don't mean Barcelona, I mean *never*. There is a lot of "foreign towns are very dangerous, mainly at night" I was told so about Cairo, and Havana for instance and I had no problems there, in fact I've been three times in Egypt and I use to walk alone outside the tourist parts wearing a camera on my neck, and the only "trouble" I had is being asked to take some polaroid of them (in the Desert-Oasis instant photography was quite "new") and being invited to lunch with them. Nevertheless, a lot of people told me quite incredible stories about things happened there that someone "that really had seen it" had told them...

Don't be paranoid and meet people, anywhere anyhow...


Ronald Strote , March 02, 2001; 03:41 P.M.

barcelona is a great city...and I never felt uncomfortable/threatened --although, as in any city prudence is always warranted. The article and photos captured barcelona perfectly...it is one of my absolute favorite cities.

Shirley Sanderson , March 12, 2001; 12:55 A.M.

I thought Philip did a great job! I thought most of the comments about the sights to see were right on target, except that I would recommend a visit to the Picasso Museum. His comments about pickpocketing also seem about right. I'm sure each person's experiences are different, but I found Barcelona to have more pickpockets per square foot than almost any other country I have visited, and that includes many so-called third world countries. Once you know pickpockets are around, you can spot them easily, but on my first day there, my camera bag was stolen at the Plaza Catalunya using the old "Do you know where the Banco XYZ is?" routine. Fortunately, my husband immediately discovered the theft, we both jumped up and chased the guy with my bag, and I yelled at the top of my lungs "Drop my camera bag you sonofabitch!" He turned around, looked at me, and dropped the bag in the street.

Drew Johnson , March 15, 2001; 03:24 P.M.

Parc Guell

I very much liked your shots of Barcelona. They reminded me of when I was there earlier this year. I coincidently uploaded some of my photos of Barcelona too from my trip.

Touko Berry , March 16, 2001; 08:08 A.M.

My personal experience in Barcelona included theft (or actually robbery, to be more precise). Three young guys took my wallet with a 'let me teach you a Maroccoan folkdance-routine' leaving me little choice, but to 'co-operate'. Fortunately they did not touch my girlfriend and they did not use any knives etc. The interesting part was, that one of the guys brought my wallet back, probably because it didn't contain any money. (I had given the guy a cigar, moments before his two friends came along) The returner did propose a little finder's fee of 1000 pts. but was happy and smiling with the 300 I gave him.

Talking to other people like my uncle, who lived in Spain for several years and my girlfriend's sister, who lived in Barcelona for a year, confirm that theft is really common there. The good thing about the thieves in Barcelona is that they are just thieves. They are only interested in your money, and are not likely to harm you. (Like the friendly pickpocket, who brought my wallet back)

Plain common sense and being a little more careful with your wallets and purses and other expensive gear and you'll be ok. I carried a M645 1000s with two lenses all the time in a normal (non-photo) bag and never had any trouble with someone trying to steal it (well.. my camera looks old and beat-up, so that helps) Barcelona is a wonderful city with a lot to see.

I would add to Phil's list of sights the market-hall just of the Rambla. If you like food and cooking or just the plain visuality of food, it is a place to visit. There are also nice small cities south of Barcelona, easily accessible by train.

Asad Shah , March 31, 2001; 10:03 A.M.

I just spent a week of vacation time in Barcelona and had a very nice time. The city is clean, filled with old ethnic and modern attractions, and the weather was a pleasing getaway from my usual bone chilling Toledo weather (Toledo, Ohio that is). This is a very beautiful city, and has plenty of sites to keep you busy for the entire week. My personal favorite was La Rambla mainly for its concentration of interesting people. The one thing about Barcelona that really bothered me is that people do not like to be photographed, and I love to take pictures of people that like to pose for the camera. I did have some trouble with taxi drivers taking the long way to destinations and wanting extra money for having any sort of luggage, or because it is too early in the day or too late for that matter, or any other excuse they could think of........Beware of the dishonest cab drivers in this town! I wish I could speak Spanish but since that was not the case, I had to make it by with the little that I knew. Not knowing spanish made ordering food a challenge at restaurants, but we never ran into major problems. Luckily I had no problems with pick-pockets, but I was warned left and right about it because I walked around with my 35mm and medium format rangfinder strapped around my neck most of the time. I have a question for you Barcelona locals out there: when do people work in this city? I was up at 7am everyday to get some nice photos of the city and back streets and noticed that cars and people were rushing everywhere but no shops were open...except for the cafe shops and bars which consequently were packed to capacity. When the stores finally do open at around 10-11am, they seem to quickly close due to the arrival of lunch time and then open again around 4:30pm. I guess this explains how everyone has so much free time to get dressed up and look fine all the time. Beware of hidden charges when converting dollars to PTAS! The La Caixa is the way to go. Any other currency exchangers seem to tack on extra charges that totally throw off your calculations. In general as a tourist town Barcelona is a great destination, but people will rip you off any chance they get so be careful.

Stephen Edwards , April 28, 2001; 08:45 A.M.

Barcelona is a truly wonderful city and well done to Phil for capturing the city so well. I have just returned from a 3 week stay with my girlfriend who is currently living in Barcelona - she is studying there for 6 months - and so I had the advantage of a free guide who knows her way around and can speak the language!

There are a few things I would like to add: Metro, Bar/Cafe life, Photo Labs, and a bit more about crime (sorry!).

The metro is great if you don't have too much stuff (see later) and is a cheaper and often easier way of getting around Barcelona than "cabs" - I guess Phil had too much camera kit... ;-)

One thing you haven't really covered above is the cafe and bar life that seems to be at the heart of the Spanish day. Barcelona is simply seething with wonderful places to eat and drink and at very reasonable prices - try and get a "Menu del dia" and you can get a 3 course meal with wine for 1200ptas upwards. Note: the price/quality ratio doesn't always work - probably one of the nicest meals I have ever had in was a "Menu del dia" in Segovia, Spain, and cost about 1200ptas - I would have paid at least 60ukp (12x) in London for the same. As for bars - just hit the town! Try the tapas and people watch - best to try and move away from the tourist areas. Gracia, a district on the way to Parc Guell is wonderful for going out - cheaper than the centre and there are far, far, fewer tourists.

Photo labs: I used a photo lab called FotoBit near to where I was staying on Gran de Gracia. They are about 50 metres down from Fontana Metro station. I had a 35mm 36exp developed with 7x5 prints and on PhotoCD for about 4800ptas (about 18uk pounds or I guess about 28USD??) within an hour! Service was friendly, helpful and excellent quality. With the gradual demise (and hence price hikes) of Kodak PhotoCD in the UK I will be hopefully using them again soon!

Barcelona is possibly the worst city I have ever visited from the point of view of theft - I have yet to visit America. Anecdote 1: My girlfriend had her bag snatched by a quick sprinting thief whilst walking along the street in her first week in Barcelona. Anecdote 2: On my first step onto a Metro train (with all my luggage) a guy squeezed in front of me and reached into my rucksack on my girlfriends back. After a short tussle on the steps of the train he dropped whatever he had grabbed and I pushed him off as the doors closed. Anecdote 3: I met some German travellers who had lost a wallet due to a pick pocket on the crowded bridge at the top of the Sagrada Familia. Ancedote 4: Talking to some Photography students in the Harlem Jazz they could recall enough incidents to write a book. I think Phil was right to emphasise the need for safety in Barcelona - most visitors will spend most of their time in the riskiest (central - as mentioned above) areas and so need to be careful. As soon as you move away from the centre you're fine. Just don't let worry spoil a visit to a wonderful city.

jennifer traub , May 07, 2001; 12:18 P.M.

I just returned from Barcelona after reading Philip's page carefully. I was paranoid the whole time about pickpockets, and I think everyone on the Rambla had gotten the message as well: backpacks were all turned forward and clutched, etc. I had absolutely no trouble there, don't speak Spanish or Catalan, and used public transport to go to heavily touristed places. I stayed in the Barri Gotic and frequently swanned around the bars in the Raval and what used to be the Barri Chino. Anyway, I found Barcelona remarkably friendly and not at all threatening. I may have found this to be a different story if I was on my own, but I had a traveling companion. I even enjoyed walking down deserted dark streets. I did only take one camera, and though certainly not impressive to the "photo.net" community, i think it would have been appreciated by a thief as it wasn't a small yashica or anything.

I can't believe there are people who don't travel with a money belt. Its the single best thing: you feel absolutely secure your passport and money is in the safest place. Just keep a few bills worth about $50 or so in your jeans pocket and you are set. I would also recommend not bothering with currency exchanges and just take your money out of ATMs. It was bliss not worrying about hours of change places.

Barcelona is a totally cleaned up city from when I was there 12 years ago. With a certain amount of street-smartness and common sense, big-city Americans will have no trouble dealing with any petty irritations there. I adore Barcelona and would definitely go back.

You can get very cheap internet access on Calle Avigno, just off the Rambla, for 300 pesetas an hour, at one of the telefonico stores. The prettiest budget hotel is the Hostal Jardi, on the Placa del Pi. Gorgeous views! And right near the best purveyors of churros con chocolate for breakfast!

Fraser Elliot , May 18, 2001; 03:55 P.M.

Anyone who is visiting Barca on the cheap should visit the illuminated fountains below the Palau Nacional in Montjuic. Philip I'm suprised you have no photos. Three nights a week there are three 'performances' to various styles of music (abba, europop, andrew lloydwebber, handel- obviously) The effects that are achived with just water and lighting are absolutley unbelievable. Its very like a fireworks display. The surrounding architecture is also illuminated. And its completely free. If I ever get my negatives scanned....

Josep Jordi , May 20, 2001; 09:35 A.M.

1st thing: congratulationsfor the Barcelona trip you are giving to everybody out there.

2nd thing: i ve been livingin this wonderful city during 10 years. Please, do not say it is a dangerous city, with lots of pickpockets. Nobody has never stolen my stuff during this time. When you are travelling all over the world, you must always take care of your stuff. Some places, like NY or Johannesburg (South Africa) can be dangerous (this, I can tell for sure). Barcelona is not. Just remind: do not leave alone your photo equipment (even in Vatican City, it would be stolen). In Barcelona, take care when you are going into Old town (Las Ramblas, Barceloneta), but that's it. you look like a tourist, the same way than when I go an visit the US, I do look like a tourist. Try to avoid showing expensive material with the brand 'steal me', and take care of the back pack, and the you can walk everywhere, at 4AM, and no trouble at all.

Concerning Barcelona, I think tha main interesting points are: modernism style, Las Ramblas and old town, and people (during day and night).

We also do have good food (nobody has talked about TAPAS, a piece of bread with something on top. Delicious!). Avoid Mc Donald's and try our local sandwitches at Pans & Company, or Bocatta (thy the spanish ham sandwitch there!)

Young people should speak english, older people does not. Please remind 90% of the people speaks Catalan, a 100% speaks spanish, so english is our third language. How about you? Moreover, older people used to learn french.

Go shopping! compared to the US, or even to Europe, everything is cheaper here. Like camera photos are 20% cheaper here than in France (your time to buy a Leica? ;-) ). Or you can go to a restaurant for 10$, or have a gooood meal for 30$. You won't regret.

Please let me know if I can help you and suggest you some places to go.

Good luck to all the travelers of the world.


Stanley Sizeler , May 20, 2001; 07:31 P.M.

April 2001-The guide is excellent and was extremely helpful. Thieves and pickpockets still abound: I was standing at Catalunya Sq., near Corte Ingles(Barcelona's largest Dept.Store) about 3 p.m.on a weekday and observed about 6 young men suddenly surround a middle aged woman (English or American) with a purse. They said something to her, intimidated her, one pulled the purse from her shoulder, and all ran off in various directions, some into the nearby Metro Station.The woman was not injured. Several people closer to the woman than I chased the young men, but none were caught while I was there, and no police ever were visible. I never ever saw, over 5 days, any walking or 'beat'police officers, but noted many riding arond in automobiles.While in Pans& Co., for lunch, a young man attempted to grab my wife's nylon jacket from the chair next to her.She yelled at him and he walked out(I was in line). No one bothered me with one camera, no bag or tripod. Accommodations are many, restaurants abound,there is a metro station, and there are several camera stores (some with Fuji film prices similar to B&H,NYC)around University Square - centrally located in Barcelona. I plan to return.

Chi Chiu , June 06, 2001; 05:43 P.M.

My wife and I just returned from Spain after a two week vacation in Barcelona, Malaga, Granada, Seville, Ronda, Toledo and Madrid.

Barcelona was great. The food was excellent. I was surprised that no one mentioned a French restaurant called Les 15 Nits in the Placa De Real. Not only was the food great, it was rediculously cheap. We had a great time.

We used the public transportation for the entire trip and it was convenient and cheap. I think in general, Spain is cleaner than Italy.

The heat in Seville took a toll on us and we kind of let our guard down a little and some pickpocket lifted my wife's purse in her back pack while we were resting on the steps at Plaza de Espana.

Other than that, we thoroughtly enjoyed our trip. The people in general are very nice and helpful. I do think the govt need to do something about these petty crimes.

Joseph C , June 07, 2001; 10:00 A.M.

Visited recently and stayed at the Hotel Arts fortress! Your photos help me set my expectations for the trip to Barcelona. Fantastic!

bob bob , June 16, 2001; 10:20 P.M.

Barcelona isn't the first city where Eve lost a wallet. She also had one stolen in NYC. Apparently she has "steal my wallet" written on her forehead. ;)

February 23, 1999
You know you've been working too much when:
You drive to New York (5 hour trip) Saturday morning, you have car troubles, your purse is stolen at a restaurant, your friend's hat is stolen at another place, you get sick Sunday morning and throw up repeatedly, you drive back (another 5 hours) Sunday evening, and despite all of that, you feel amazingly refreshed and full of energy from having finally taken a break from work.

John Saad , July 05, 2001; 09:54 P.M.

Fantastic site, it is only too bad I found it after visiting! As far as photo ops, the city is full of great sites, the photos you have here are perfect, (bookmark!!). I was there in late May 2001

I stayed at the Plaza Barcelona Hotel at Plaza de Espanya ($$$$) in Montjuic, not bad, felt like I was in the US. Top notch accommodations and a great view from the rooftop pool!

As far as safety is concerned, I walked through Barri Gotic at 2am and La Rambla at 4am, no problem at all there are more garbage-collection-people than anything else at 4am (I was stuck on US time).

Juan Buhler , August 01, 2001; 04:44 A.M.

> The prettiest budget hotel is the Hostal Jardi, on the Placa del Pi.
> Gorgeous views! And right near the best purveyors of churros con
> chocolate for breakfast!

I stayed in this same hotel. Definitely recommended. We had a balcony to Placa del Pi, and one night we got stuff for a picnic at the Boqueria market and had a nice picnic dinner in the balcony, overlooking the Placa full of people and street musicians.

One of my favorite places in the world is Placa St Felip Neri, right in the Barri Gotic, not far from the cathedral. It's a small square with only two entrances and a small fountain in the middle. Surprisingly (or not), not many tourists find it so it's usually pretty empty.

One of the greatest mental images I have of any place are the echoes of people steps in the Barri Gotic in the very early morning, as they go to work or otherwise start their day.


Dan Neilson , September 06, 2001; 01:28 A.M.

I just returned from a trip to Barcelona. The comments here were very beneficial. Barcelona is a very interesting place. I am still trying to decide rather I liked it or not. We got down to Elche, and while not as much there, I quite enjoyed it. Only got to spend 1 day in Madrid, and this is where I would most like to return to.

The previous comments about theft had me paranoid and although I took most off my 35mm equipment, I did insure it before I left, or so I thought.

On our last night in Spain, back in Barcelona, we boarded a very crowded metro 4 stops later we got off and my daughter, who was carrying a Nikon 6006, noticed that her camera bag which had been strapped over her shoulder was empty. A very slick theft job, we noticed nothing until it was gone. We did go to the police station later that night to fill out a report and judging from the number of other people in the station, this was far from an isolated incident. BEWARE. In spite of this incident, the metro is by far the best way to get around the city. We had a car, and after the first day, we left it parked until we left town.

I mentioned that I thought I had insurance. Upon our return, I was told by my insurance agent that the good news was that I would not receive additional billing for the insurance. The bad news was that he discovered that his company could no longer issue this type of coverage. (He did tell me this before I told him of the loss.) Make sure you know what you have before you go.

Take precautions and enjoy your trip!

Tim Chorlton , September 10, 2001; 10:36 A.M.

Barcelona or as Freddy Mercury and old Pav. sang... Baaaahh-sar-looooo-NAHHHHH! is a truely beautiful city and along with citys such as Prauge, Vienna, Florence, NYC, Paris and so many more, is a wonderfully insperational place. Each city has one thing in common. The second you reach for your camera, everyone has eyes for it. Travel photography is a love of mine, however in the past I have missed many photo oportunities simply because of a 'fear' of taking my camera out! 95% of camera crime is in the mind. Which is why insurance is such an important part of your camera equipment. I have shot in NYC and Dheli, both of which have caused me 'photo fright'. Brooklyn at night in particular! It's a wonderful view of NYC but so dark!!! I find that the following tips are golden rules for travel photography... 1). Get a 'Rough Guide' or 'Lonely Planet' type book and read about the area before you go and plan a few trips out of the city. (ie Monserat nr. Barcelona or Taragona). It gives you a little mental confidence when you have an idea of the area you are travelling in and the books help you get the most out of the area.

2). Get insurance. if someone demands your camera. Take the film out and give it them. It's insured, who cares? You get a new camera and the thief doesn't have to get nasty.

3). Don't look like a tourist! Only carry with you what you need. Take extra money to cover anything that you may or may not need. One of the benefits of coming from England is that you can buy everything cheaper all over the world. Stick your money in a money belt and hide it inside your pants. Plan your day in your hotel room, make notes on a peice of paper and don't be 'taken for a ride'. If soemthing is happening which you feel uncomfortable with, get up and walk off in the direction of a crowd, not down dark alleys.

All common sense really! Nice pics by the way, especially the chimney Stacks.

John Clark , October 19, 2001; 07:57 A.M.

Having just returned from a fortnight split between Barcelona (5 nights), Figueres (1), Cadaques (1), Andorra (1), Montserrat (1 and unmissable!) and a dodgy campsite near the airport (as we had to get up real early), I'd have to add that much of what is written is true. However, with a little commonsense, one shouldn't be afraid to pull our their camera. Just ensure that your camera bag has a good strap and that you use it.

We stayed in Hotel Colon, in the Gothic Quarter. This was expensive but beyond fault - £100 ($150) per night, roughly, but that included a balcony looking out over a small square and onto the cathedral!

I'll follow this up with a post of some additional recommendations in-and-around Barcelona, Figueres and Montserrat.


Julian Thomas , November 13, 2001; 08:03 A.M.

Hi Phillip, I moved to Barcelona about 18 months ago and your comments re pickpockets are a bit over the top. I shoot on the streets nearly everyday, I've carried 3 leicas slung over a shoulder, or a couple of eos1 bodies, or a rolleiflex, and I've had no trouble. BUT everything is zipped up on the inside of my jacket, and my camera bag is secured around my waist and my shoulder. However, tourists seem to be fair game, so just take the normal precautions that you would in any major city.


João Caetano Dias , November 25, 2001; 06:12 P.M.

Barcelona is super!

But please avoid Europark Hotel, unless you had a previous paid voucher! What a major surprise I had when they give me the bill...

Visit and enjoy!

Terry Jones , February 13, 2002; 08:14 A.M.

A few comments about street crime in Barcelona:

It's real, happens every day, many times. I saw a thief being chased just yesterday next to the Ciutadella park. I've chased and caught thieves a couple of times.

To the people from Barcelona who deny it's a problem: read the newspaper more often. Today (Feb 10, 2002) on the front page of La Vanguardia, the main headline reads "Los pequeños delitos se disparan en España' (Surge in small crimes in Spain). There have been many articles in the last year about this problem, including a 2 page article in the Vivir en Barcelona (Live in Barcelona) section, detailing new methods of robbery, including strangulation from behind and squirting a flammable liquid onto tourists and setting it on fire. Many of the people committing street crime here have been arrested over 100 times! The police either just let them go immediately (I have seen this, more than once) or they are taken in for a short amount of time and are back on the street within hours. There are various complicated legal reasons why this situation exists. It all sounds incredible, I know. Read the papers.

In my experience, the Spanish people who deny Barcelona has this problem have at least one of the following in common: 1) They've lived here all their lives and don't see it, and/or 2) they live outside the barrio gotico. I get indignant email from time to time telling me the things on my web page (see below) are false. As I said: read the papers, or email some of the people on my web page - they're all true as far as I know. If you live outside the barrio gotico you're not going to see much. If you live in the old neighborhood you can see it every single day. Eventually you get very very good at spotting petty criminals.

I wrote the Calle Leona page linked below. It's true I love Barcelona, that page was written out of great admiration and love, not anything else. Apologies for writing the name in Spanish.

To the person who said I am American: I'm not. I have lived in New York City though and yes there's plenty of crime there too, but it's of a completely different flavor and nature.

There's a page of Barcelona street scams I've been adding to over the last six years. It's at http://jones.tc/barna/scams.html

Fortunately, becoming a victim of street crime in Barcelona is easy to avoid. Just follow the standard advice about looking confident, being careful, being suspicious of people who stop you in the street or approach you in your car for whatever reason, not leaving your valuables easily accessible, etc. There are a very large number of much more clueless tourists than you'll ever be (hopefully after having read the above advice), and they'll be preferred to you. Sad but true.

Terry Jones

Stephen C. Murphy , February 20, 2002; 09:27 P.M.

The Barcelona Police whizzing by

There definitely is a pickpocket problem in Barcelona. We were robbed in the lobby (or a meeting room) of the Ritz Hotel last month. It was so professionally done that we don't even know exactly when it happened since we don't recall ever coming close to or brushing against anyone. They dumped the empty wallet in the hotel, minus my wife's passport, all our credit cards and $325 cash. Hotel staff informed us that these thieves are very "professional"; they like to get rid of the evidence quickly and that they had probably left the hotel within seconds of the crime. Another photographer that we were with was carrying her backpack in old town clutched IN FRONT of her and they were able to unzip a pocket and steal her wallet anyway. A French woman we talked to said her friend walked around Barcelona one day with her purse clutched in front of her. When she went to pay for something she found that someone had slit it down the side and removed all of its contents--she had been nervously clutching an empty purse to her chest all day.

In old town I was shooting a cathedral at night with my D1 when I saw two men head our way in a manner that aroused my suspicion. Consequently, we headed out of the shadows of the alley beside the cathedral and walked across the courtyard. They passed us and after a few steps I looked back in time to see that one of them had doubled back and was approaching us from behind (I was very glad we were no longer in the dark alley). When he saw that he had been "made" he made a gesture like he needed a light (for his non-existant cigarette). I shouted "No, no, NO!" and waved my hands in the air; he and his companion scuttled off into the shadows. [Cut to man in a Barcelona home: "Carrumba! Those Americans are so high strung! All I did was ask one for a light and he almost killed me!] But seriously, folks: he wasn't after my Bic. I was there photographing a conference and one of the attendees was robbed at gunpoint in front of The Arts Hotel (Ritz Carlton built for the Olympics) in broad daylight.

I am apalled by the near complete absence of any kind of police presence except, again, whizzing by with two or three officers in one car with its lights going. Everyone knows that this kind of crime is a problem there. You literally can't even check into your hotel without getting warned of the pickpockets. What I want to know is this: since Barcelona is literally world famous for this type of crime, why then aren't they doing anything about it? Where are the beat cops in old town and Las Ramblas watching out for these criminals? Isn't government in effect "winking at" this behavior--condoning it? It makes you wonder if officials are "on the payroll" or if the thieves are getting the proverbial free ride due to good, old-fashioned governmental apathy.

I for one will not go back until I see a good faith effort on the part of the government of Barcelona to clean up their act. Talk with your feet. If you decide to go anyway, my advice is to put a money belt on under your clothes and use travellors checks. I'll let you decide if you should keep your hand on your money at all times (thereby telling them where your money is) or to hide it well and only periodically grab for it in panic (thereby telling them where your money is) because it feels like it's gone.

Tony Torres , April 02, 2002; 02:43 A.M.

I would like to say that I was in Barcelona Spain christmas of 2001, with my wife the only tour guide I had at the moment, which she happens to be Espanola. I never encounter Theft in Spain, maybe because Philp looks like a tall white as a pale bucket American tourist. I had my Eos A2 and my video camera strapped in my neck and I was more tourist looking than you guys were at the time and I did not look like a paranoid tourist. I would like to say I was everywhere in Barcelona busy and non-busy hours morning and late night. I never had my backpack open; never had my my so call camera strap left dangling without a camera after coming out of the metro or bus. I feel that most American are so easily taken. Listen I am robbed in my face in New York city, and originally born in New York city. Guess what I get robbed everyday in a city where capitalist companies don't need a gun to rob legally. Lets put it this way I am moving to Spain this summer and Barcelona is the city I would definitely start my life to raise a family. Oh yeah by the way, maybe because I am hispanic, I get robbed by more white collar and blue coller Americans than Foreigners. I definitely see why Europeans have a point about Americans being the most craziest citizens of this world; maybe because they are repress human beings; where they are not living life, but being a slave to this country, they have no type of luxery of living life like Europeans, and many Latin American countries. Even when Latin American is repress by the United States with the International Monetary fund, which makes a country more in debt to the United States with high interest rates. Making the Exchange of American dollar to what ever their currency is. Creating poverty and struggles of everyday life in the Latin American nations.

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Jordi Piqueras , April 04, 2002; 08:45 A.M.

I've been reading all the comments and I'll try to give some useful information about Barcelona:

About the crime in Barcelona, as has been said here, basically affects at the tourist looking people. I've been leaving in Barcelona all my life (21 years) and never had a problem.

About eating, Barcelona really have a very wide offer. You can eat from traditional food (that includes seafood, vegetables, beef, lamb and pork) to "ethnic food" (chinese, libanese, sirian, greek, mexican) and all kind of fast-food establishments(McDonalds, BurguerKing, PizzaHut, KFC, Pans&Company, etc.)

I'll extremly recommend "Txapela", a restaturant in "Passeig de Gràcia" at 30 seconds from "Plaça Catalunya". There you've a very large list of Tapas. I think i'll do a list and i'll put the URL another day. There are to many good places to put here now.

About the coffee, i recomend to take "cafe largo" its a softer than a normal coffee because it have more water.

I'll also recommend for smoking people to wait to buy here the tobbacco cause in Spain is very very cheap, at least comparing with France or England.

Well... i think i'm gonna do a "About Barcelona" site, cause i've to many things to say.

Sorry, i'm not a very english writer.

Gary Cheung , April 06, 2002; 08:44 A.M.

i've just come back from my trip in Barcelona. Actually my trips also involved the cities like Madrid, Sevilla and Lisbon of Portugal. My first comment to Barcelona, or I should say the whole country, Spain, is really really not a safe place for traveller. My beloved Nikon FM2, which I thought is not an attractive camera to pickpockets, which attached with an AF20 1:2.8D, and my mobile phone were stolen. They were stolen in the night train from Madrid to Barcelona. It really affected my mood to my trip and my impression to the country. It was an old type night train which I will never take it again. My friend and I were to share a so-called 1st class cabinet with an Spanish Indian. He's very talkative. He could speak good English and he seems knowing a lot of things. He even reminded us to watch out the pickpockets in a number of area like La Rambla. Obviously, he tried to get our trust on him. In the next morning, all our bags and other belongings looked unchanged but of course as I said my camera and mobile were gone. Still feeling very sad.


Apart from that, Barcelona is safer than I've been expected. Maybe it's the holy week, you could find a lot of police stationed in every corner of the street. Just cover your camera with your jacket and I think it will be safe enough. La Rambler is notorious but it would be ok if you walk along the middle of the street.

here's the ranking of the spots in my opinion: 1. Sagrada Familia; 2. Casa Battlo; (oh, the entry fee is Euro 10, which is the most expensive) 3. Casa Mila; 4. Parc Guell; 5. Nou Camp; (for football fan only) 6. Beaches; (Summer only)

bless everybody has a nice and safe trip in Barcelona.

Alberto Salord , April 11, 2002; 11:03 A.M.

Good job Philip, but as a citizen of Barcelona I would have focused more on the old town, like the incredible ambience in the chinese town or tho gothic town. There we can see the contradictiuon between the elder and the youth, modernity in a sea of history. A project called PROCIVESA tried and succeeded on opening this depressed areas by building museums like the MACBA so that this towns are recieving more foreign and intern visitors. The contrast is something I miss in your photographies, but great job. You catch the monuments but not the way of living, that´s my point of view.

kjeld jakobsen , April 20, 2002; 06:15 A.M.

Just returning from a fine 14 days holiday in Barcelona I would like to add a few comments. On the Rambla you will fine ARPI camera shop with two addresses, No 40 in the street in No 38 in the first to fifth floor. This latter house is filled with photographic stuff: a large store of new and used SLR cameras suh as Nikon, Canon, Mamiya, Hasselblad -and the largest store in enlarging materials etc. I have ever seen! I the fifth floor you will find an interesting museum of older cameras of all sorts: Leicas, Nikons, spy cameras etc. Worth seeing.

About criminal behavior: I can add a description of one method trick thieves used, but has not been shown in the discussion. We stayed in the old town, Barri Gotic in a 20 dollars per night hostel (Nogaro) in the Cervantes street, very cheap compared to many descriptions here. We felt safe there and had no bad experiences whatsoever in this part of the city or on the Rambla crowded with people. When moving around we were warned several times by local, eldderly people when we stayed in the surroundings of the Picasso Museum and the Parc de la Ciutadella with the Zoo etc., telling us that there were danger of pickpockets. I feel that Philip with his general warning makes people see thieves everywhere - and might miss them when they really are around, because they are really tricky!

After eight fine days we were tricked by thieves in this park area! There tactics were as follows. I looked as a tourist, and I behaved like one! I was photographing one of those small Smart cars in the street, when my wife suddenly discovered an large plamage on my back. Then she opened her handbag to find some tissue to remove the dirt, and at the same time a middle aged, kind man ten metres away approached us with a white tissue in his hand, offering his help, at the same time telling that my wife had dirt on her back, too - and eagerly pointing to the roof of the houses to tell us that it came from the birds up there. Next he wanted us come around the corner to find water fromsomewhere, but there was no water there. Suddenly we were surrounded by three men, all talking loud of the birds in the sky, which we ever saw. Suddenly my wife saw a hand in her handback! But she had two umbrellas covering her money and camera, so he did not get what he wanted! When he realised that he had been seen, all three men very busy getting away - I regrettably did not get their picture though I had a camera in my hand! The tactics, of course, is to have people look in one direction as a magician does. The "dirt from the birds" was cocoa milk, I guess coming from a small package they had in their own pocket and spread onto our backs when we were standing waiting for green light. My wife realised that she had seen a man signalling to another man when we stood there. These people were Gipsies, maybe living in this area, I am afraid to say, not Spanish people in the street.

Morale: do not look like a tourist, and keep an eye on your back!

Elisabet Juan Tresserra , April 30, 2002; 06:35 P.M.

yes there are older buildings than the cathedral: sta. anna church, romanic is from the 12th century as an example.works in the town hall/ regional government st. jaume square have shown roman patrician houses.

Terry Mc Millan came here in a recent visit and these were her comments: there are more dogs than kids and everybody is very homogeneous. She's right, probably was not staying downtown. There are at least three Barcelonas. the for tourists (very well described by philipp + foreigner comments, with monuments, inmigrants, thieves and so on). the for business and residence (diagonal/eixample) which fits Terry's description and has plenty of nice restaurants and shopping areas. and the popular neighborhood like sarria, gracia or sants with not much visitor charm but lot of community feeling and some surprises on the retail side.

some other comments for long term visitors. you can do a course on nearly everything that comes up to your mind (singing, photography, tai-chi, Bach) for 50 Eur in the various city facilities in historic buildings as Casa Elizalde, Casa Golferichs, Pati Llimona, etc. you can swim, horse-ride, have termal traeatments or sail also at very competitive prices provided by our generous local government. cabs have a decent price (and you get less cheated than in Madrid - or Jerusalem for sure - if you are wise enough to know were you are going).

you can trust spaniards (an inmigrants too, please) as much as you can trust the rest of humanity, maybe more. Please, if a tourist, don't be provocative and get no harm in exchange. would you leave an expensive item at the sight of anybody in any place in the world.

Chachi Arcola , May 28, 2002; 10:44 A.M.

I just returned today from a week-long trip to Barcelona, the Costa Brava, and Toledo. First, let me say that the photographic possibilities in Spain in general, and Barcelona in particular, make it well worth a visit. It is a fabulous country with friendly, outgoing natives and a rich cultural history, as well as with beatiful countryside and a breathtaking coast. Be cautioned, however, that Phil is right: pickpocketing in the city, especially in the old city (the Cathedral Square area) is more than rampant. My girlfriend and I managed to make it around the city with all our important items in a money belt, and with me carrying a small camera bag with two small lenses. However, at least three of the people staying in our hotel had all their money and credit cards stolen, and on our last night in Barcelona we witnessed a street-fight in an alley between two tourists and a pick-pocket that they caught stealing a wallet. Not for the faint of heart. In the airport, all the passengers on our flight had a story about someone they knew being pickpocketed during their stay in Barcelona. Keep your stuff in a money belt under your pants, or in a safe in the hotel. The suggestion about carrying only a photocopy of your passport is a good one. Once you leave the city, though, the rest of Spain is safer than Los Angeles.

Giles Cattle , August 06, 2002; 12:22 P.M.

BCN is no different from other cities. never carry anything you don't want taken. Invariably it will. money belt it all and always stop and think before you leave the hotel- am I really going to use all five lenses / zoom / nice new digital vidcam / kitchen sink? Personally I use a Canon zoom Ixus whilst in cities / clubs / bars etc - if you want that "perfect" photo buy one of the many great coffee table books. Philip's photos of Barcelona were very nice though. I don't understand how some people waste their experience of a city or place by humping round masses of kit, perpetually on guard (rightly so!) and often missing those magical moments we spent all that money getting there for! Get clever, get small (camera) - and remember your friends at home would probably rather be entertained by funny tales of nights out with locals, good barters in the market, a meal in a typical off street tapas bar etc with a few snaps than sitting through your two hour slide show. (honest but true) And go for it - its one of the best places to be - try all the bars as well - they have a very extensive bar culture that has to be seen to be believed. Dancatoria just outside the centre is great (ages 20 - 45) as is Xampenyet (tapas bar where they ply you with their own cava). Staying has to be at Hotel Avenida Palace Gran Via Cort Catalan opp. Zara for position and friendly staff ($100 ish). Vsist also Sitges (20 min on train) for wonderful old church by seaside. I could go on and on... Enjoy and happy point and snapping for the wise! G ;-)

Thomas Wu , November 08, 2002; 10:21 P.M.

I just came back from France, Spain and Portugal in Oct, 02. This was a life time experience for me as a solo backpacker, meeting people from around the globe. Spain was a wonderful country and I had visited quite many cities- San Sebastian, Bilbao, Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, Avila, Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada and Barcelona. All have unique flavor that it's hard to pick which one is the best; however, my person favorites are Avila, Cordoba and Barcelona. Here are the unfortunate experiences: I got pick-pocketed in Madrid Metro during the rush hour by two young women. Didn't know until I was at the restaurant ordering my dinner. The second was more traumatic in Barcelona.

Being a photographer I carry around a decent camera to shoot my photos. I opted for a shortcut down to the park at Montjuic instead of walking back to Plaza de Espanya or taking the bus down to town, two young men attacked me from behind in the middle of the afternoon in the park. One put his arm around my neck, so I couldn't make sound and his other arm bear hugged me. His buddy tried to kick me as I struggled. Somehow they wrestled me down to the ground or maybe I was passed out due to the strangling which I couldn’t remember too vividly now. They got my camera bag with most everything in it.

A few seconds later I got up and discovered my camera bag was gone and chased after them as they were walking in front. They ran as they heard me coming and passed the people in front of us. Nobody was quick enough to stop them. My forehead was scraped and blood streaming down my face. I didn't realize until I wiped off the sweat from my face. The two young men disappeared in the bushes.

So be careful not to wondering off someplace by oneself even during the broad daylight. I did go to the police and they seemed to be very apathetic. Not sure if robbery and petty crimes are recorded.

Kendall Gelner , December 27, 2002; 02:59 A.M.

I was in Barcelona from November 7th to the 13th of 2002. I found it an amazing city to photograph as well, though I was partly there for a contest and so only really had two days at the end to do much photography. The weather was very nice at that time of year, and there were not as many tourists around I think (really nice for the Gaudi sites).

I have a few additions to note - the first is that the Arts Barcelona, beyond just being an amazing hotel does have ethernet connections in the room now - through a type of DSL modem in the room. I believe it was 10 EU a day if you made use of it. I could not make an SMTP connection from the room, and uploads were glacially slow - but downloads were very speedy and you can always use web mail. Also, the rooms come with a power converter (not adapter, but converter) located under the bathroom sink - look for a very large and heavy box. They don't really tell you about that unless you ask. It only has one outlet so bring an extension cord if you plan to make use of it.

I personally never really felt very threatened by street crime, but then I was in a group of four or five most of the time so I'm sure that deterred most. Even so I had a close brush at Parc Guell, where I had crouched on the ground to take a photo and someone quickly came right up behind me and was staring into my pocket (the one holding my wallet). happily one of my companions noticed instantly and stepped up right behind him, letting him know someone was around. The guy took off pretty quick at that point. Although in my defense I was absorbed in my photo, I must say that I never heard or saw the guy at all even though he was right over me! I did have a camera bag with me that I mostly left open and didn't loose any lenses.

If you are driving, one of the other groups there for the contest had a rather unique theft - a group staged a fight in front of the car they were driving and when they stopped, the thieves reached in through the windows and took a cell phone. So be careful if you drive, you might want to leave the windows up.

rudy pospisil , February 19, 2003; 04:44 P.M.


I've always felt a tugging to move to Spain. This has definitely solidified it!!!

Anyone know of any good jobs over there for a strong American worker?

asd dsa , April 16, 2003; 04:28 P.M.

what is this?

Can any really think that LIFE IN BARCELONA is represented by this pictures?

asddsa 24 yearsoldbornburninbarcelona is:

a city for cars and tourist a prison-city with no kind of regulation to home rent-sale prices a city that dresses builidings fashion and kicks homeless fascist a city where the streets have been stolen

Phil Mowbray , June 04, 2003; 02:35 P.M.

Your pictures are really nice, you have made the city look so colourful and soulful, The camera used is very impressive aswell, nice colourful, sharp, clear pictures!

I didn't think Phil overdid the pickpokets much, it depends where abouts you are in Barcelona, There is a LOT of pickpocketing on Las Ramblas, La Place de Catalunya, and the Sidestreets and alleys around Las Ramblas, I went down Las Ramblas and the sidstreets around it and we got followed by a gang of pickpokets and when we went back on to the Ramblas a couple came up to someone in our group with a newspaper, one of the two tricked them into reading it while the other one snatched her handbag. You just have to watch out thats all!

Anyways, Great pictures Phil!

(P.S I think i've spelt the names of the places worng!)

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Ade Rixon , July 17, 2003; 09:18 A.M.

I've just returned from a four day break in Barcelona and have to say that reading this page the night before departure did spoil the initial part of my holiday. In fact, I opted to leave my SLR kit at home and take a compact instead. (Not that the theft would have bothered me, but I didn't want my short break spoiled by filling out police reports and insurance claims.) Having experienced the city, I want to return for longer with my SLR (although I would keep it in my hands as Phil recommends). I'd rather be forewarned than become a victim, but basic precautions should see most visitors through safely.

To those who claim that Barcelona has no real crime problem: why then do the locals all walk around with the bags across their chests, held in front? Perhaps they don't experience it because they know how to avoid it. (On the other hand, perhaps Americans often fall victim due to an excess of charming naivety. I did see a lot of those stupid bum bags. ;-) On La Rambla, reduce your exposure by wearing a hidden money belt or pocket, avoid taking a bag and you'll have less to worry about.

Regarding the Gaudi sights, La Sagrada Familia is impressive but I felt Parc Guell and La Pedrera (Casa Milo) were better value as access is easier and there is no building noise or debris.

I visited the ARPI store at no. 38 and it really is a treasure trove. New prices were lower than the UK but the secondhand Nikkor I looked at was going for about the same price as back home. As a last resort if you had your camera stolen, you could probably pick up an old beater here to see you through.

Theo Verelst , November 07, 2003; 08:42 A.M.

I like the first picture, that's a great one. Excellent.

I'd say most other pictures are second to that by some disctance.

Tracy Wynn , December 27, 2003; 12:10 A.M.

..."Philp looks like a tall white as a pale bucket American tourist." "Never had the experience of being pick pocket and if you did get pick pocket it was by illegal immigrants like Moroccans and African."

Tony Torres, for an anticapitalist racist, you certainly travel well.

Lindsay Robb , January 21, 2005; 02:33 P.M.

Well, I just got back today from 3.5 days in Barcelona! I read this page before I left and took some advice from it so I thought I would add any tips I could think of that I wish someone had told me before I left!

* Winter is a great time to go to avoid crowds and queues but remember that it will get VERY cold in the evening before heading back to the hotel after dinner!

* Disregard all the crap on this page about theft in Barcelona. If you are one of those losers that gawks around sort of stunned-like without a thought in the world whilst on holiday, then you may get targetted. Otherwise, just be aware of your surroundings. Don't take any crap from beggars or tricksters that you wouldn't take at home. These aren't cute friendly aliens, they can be just as dishonest as anyone, they simply speak a different language!

* Don't be afraid to take more than one lens, just be swift at switching. Another tip is to take an older manual camera, as professional thieves know nothing about camera prices! If you insist on taking your EOS digital with 550 flash then be prepared to be targeted. If you take your big CANON bag with your CANON camera with the big CANON neckstrap...well, it's just common sense.

* We got a 12.50 euro metro/bus ticket at the metro ticket booth. It gave each of us 3 days unlimited travel and saved a lot of worry about change. Remember that you will be eating dinner late and the boothes close in the evening.

* If you take out a map on the street, be prepared for beggars. They are pretty pathetically sad, so don't be afraid to tell them politely to piss off.

* Take the advice of Phillip on the Sagrada Familia. If you are AT ALL afraid of heights, then don't go up the towers! I am usually ok with heights but it was very cramped up there, very windy and VERY HIGH. It is difficult to take pictures up here with more than two people around anyway. The Nativity tower is supposed to have better views but it was closed when we were there.

* Try going to Guell Park in the morning. It was crawling with Japanese tourists in the afternoon. You might want to rethink the taxi thing, especially if you have already been walking all day. If you are walking up the Passeig de Gracia then take the 24 bus. Sit on the left side of the bus and you will start to see many signs for the Park counting down the metres.

* Casa Mila is a must!

* Casa Batllo was closed all 3 days we were there. Be prepared for closures and renovations in the winter.

* There are two cable cars that are worth riding. One will take you from the Funicular Railway (connects with the Parallel metro station) up Montjuic. This was under refurbishment until 2006 when we were there. However, after you have visited the castle on the mountain, you can walk down to another cable car ride that takes you out to the ports. It cost 7.50 euros, one-way. Skip the military museum in the castle unless you are REALLY into that stuff. You can get a ticket that excludes the museum but lets you go up on top for the view. VERY good views up here, wasn't windy, and a nice spot for a picnic lunch with lots of benches.

* The aquarium might be good but it costs 14 euros! We skipped it.

* Go to Arpi!! It is FANTASTIC! The amount of second-hand stuff is amazing. You could find anything you ever wanted here! BUT DON'T EXPECT TO BUY ANYTHING! I had to buy some film and vowed never to scrimp on film again. I also looked at a beat up F3 and was told 600 euros. ACK! On the other hand, if you've got some old kit to sell then it might be worth trying to sell it to them! Don't miss the museum on the top floor!

* Take a longish lens to the Boqueria market (I had a 135mm). The stall sellers are too busy to notice you snapping away.

* I suppose staying in the city centre has it's perks but it was awfully noisy. We stayed outside the city and walked 2 blocks to the metro station. Barcelona has an extensive metro system (I think it's better than London personally). Expect 20-25 euros to get from the airport to your hotel.

* Food is a bit more expensive here than other parts of Spain. Budget for 5-8 euros for lunch, 10 euros for dinner and 15-20 euros if you want to splash out a bit for a 3 course meal. That's excluding booze!

* Only about half the people we asked spoke English. But even though they say 'no', they really mean that they know only a few words. It was usually ok combined with our 'tourist' Spanish. Catalan seems an awful lot like a mix of Spanish and French so if you know a bit of either then you are probably alright.

* IF YOU ARE VEGETARIAN THEN EITHER LEARN SPANISH OR EAT EARLY!! Our guide book gave at least 4 good vegetarian restaurants but we only got to try one of them because they all seemed to close for the day at 4pm! At most restaurants there isn't much in the way of veggie unless you dig salad all day every day. Go to L'lla de Gracia for a vegetarian lunch on the way to Park Guell. It is just off the Passieg de Gracia on Carrer de Sant Domenec.

* Skip going up the statue of Christopher Columbus unless you are bored. You will see much better views from the castle, Sagrada Familia or the cable cars.


* It's a good idea to not just 'wing it' for the day. Plan what you are going to be doing for the 3 hours in the afternoon that most places close. Some tourist attractions will stay open so get to these about 1ish and you will beat the crowds.

* If you want simple, cheap, tasty sandwiches on big crusty baguettes then go to Pans & Company! A couple of places handed us an english pamphlet when they realised we were struggling with the menu board. These are a great idea for picnics later in the day.

Hmm. Epic but I think that's all I can think of! Hopefully this helps someone!

isis veille , February 06, 2005; 09:13 P.M.

I certainly wish I had read the warnings on this page before leaving for Barcelona 2 weeks ago - I might still be in possession of my beloved little 2MB Canon Digital S200. While standing next to my husband reading a menu in front of a well-lit restaurant in the old district around 10pm, my camera in its small black case was ripped from my hand from behind in one second, leaving me with the strap still firmly in my grip (a weakness in the Canon strap design - it broke at the plastic moulding). We had heard nothing and were aware of no one near. My husband barely got a glimpse of a hooded figure running off, whom he chased after to no avail; I never saw anyone. I'm still spooked. I followed in pursuit shouting at the top of my lungs, but without the success of the previous writer. The police were amazingly immediately at hand, were very sympathetic and spoke excellent English, but after a look around, just recommended making a report at the police station. Once at the police station, we encountered worse fates of others that evening - a young woman whose purse straps were cut and lost everything, a family whose car was broken into and everything stolen, and 2 young women who had a bag stolen in a tapas bar with a new cellphone in it. We weren't insured - hopefully the others were. So to all those who made comments feeling they were somehow protected because they didn't look overly flashy or touristy or took some other precaution, or because the city is 'really' safe - beware, life might teach you a lesson. We weren't careless nor were we some overly ga-ga paranoid tourist (though I wish now I had been). We were simply dressed, live in Europe, and did nothing particular to call attention to ourselves. These are thieves by intent, well-practiced, who will take advantage of any moment of the least distraction. Luckily they didn't harm us physically. And to those proud of your city, yes, by all means, there was much of beauty, but do take these stories seriously - this is also part of your city. Judging by these stories it has been a serious problem for years. And it doesn't help Barcelona to say crime is worse in NYC. And it doesn't help us, the victims.

Thanks for the memory of the good side of Barcelona through the nice pictures on your site, since all mine were stolen.

Julio Fernández , February 23, 2005; 01:45 P.M.

Do not forget Sunday mornings just in front of the Cathedral. You will often see a huge crowd dancing the Sardana with typical dress, performers, a real popular festival. And look at the postbox in the Obispo's house in the old city - the doves are for the good news, the turtle for the bad ones...just one of many, many beautiful details in a beautiful city

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CB Bassity , March 17, 2005; 11:04 P.M.

My wife and I visited Barcelona last September, and loved it. Before going, I reviewed the information here and on other websites that prepared me for pickpockets. It helps immensely to know the various strategies used by pickpockets and thereby avoid falling victim. We made a point of dressing simply, looking alert and purposeful--and acting that way too--and consulting maps and guidebooks only when out of general view. I took my Leica M6 and five lenses (insured beforehand) in a case that I kept in front of me and gripped firmly at all times. Whenever exchanging lenses or loading film I avoided crowds or busy street corners, checked my surroundings, and kept my back against a wall.

It pays to keep a lookout for people nearby, especially just behind you. One morning while shooting photos I attracted the interest of a clean and well-dressed man (most thieves there are scruffy, gypsies or Moroccans), who zeroed in on me when he saw the camera hanging from my neck. I stopped walking and planted myself, back to the wall, in front of a shop. The man stopped also and pretended to be looking across the street. When he turned my way and found me looking straight at him, he approached and said or asked me something that I couldn?t understand. Among the Spanish phrases I had practiced was "Vayase!," which means go away, in the sense of "Get lost." He got the message and turned away immediately. Although, when I continued walking, there he was again just a little behind me. I crossed the street and headed straight into a caf鬠but he had already given up on me.

We stayed at Ana's Guest House, a very nice Bed and Breakfast place that I recommend highly. We paid 45 euros per person per night for a lovely room with a balcony overlooking a street caf鍊(great photo opportunity there). http://www.anasguesthouse.com/

Dodo Byrd , February 10, 2006; 04:56 P.M.

I just came back from Barcelona, and thank goodness it was much safer than I believed. I only saw one pea in the boxes game and one gypsy with the map all week. If we pay attention and be alert it is very safe there. Also cops were everywhere nowaday. I saw 4 different police outfits ( civil, nacional..)patroling Las Ramblas.

Bill from New York City , March 02, 2006; 01:42 P.M.

I visited Barcelona for a week in October 2005 and found Philip Greenspun excellent article very useful in planning my visit. But I will say after spending a week I founded the many of the cautionary advice I read on the internet which are like Greenspun concerning Barcelona street crime are exaggerated.

Maybe now the police have cracked down on street crime since Philip wrote his article, I cannot say. But I did visit the La Rambla almost everyday to take photos of the various street performers. I carried a Lowepro Stealth Reporter 500 camera bag, Canon 10D with battery grip and attached to the camera a long L lens. To make matter worst for myself I usually told the street performers what type of photos I wanted and have them pose for me and that will attract a crowd. My gear screams expensive camera and I can report I had no incidents on the La Rambla and many other areas I visited in Barcelona My tools to protect my gear and more importantly myself from injury was to used common sense and always be aware of my surrounding when taking photos. These are the same tools I used when visiting any other big city and still be able to take photos.

To be honest, I did see on the La Rambla almost daily, Three Card Monty being played and looking for victims, gypsies with babies who were begging and kids with newspapers, along with the Barcelona police. I have also seen gangs of street kids in Madrid Plaza Mayor pick pocketing tourists and but there is hardly a mention of the crime in Madrid compared to Barcelona. I have seen more gypsies in Paris than Barcelona but Barcelona gypsies are mention more. I also have first hand accounts of women trying to sell me twigs while during my week long stay in Sevilla (Seville). I found hardly anyone mentions these twigs sellers and I was approached twice or three times a day by them.

This is not to say there is no street crime in Barcelona, there is like any big city and I am sure you will find people that had their property stolen and would disagree with me about how safe Barcelona is and rightfully so. While there I had to point out the police to three teenagers that had their wallet stolen.

Nor should anyone think I am an arrogant photographer with expensive gear who is careless. Before I visited Barcelona, I had one impression. That is clearly evident when I was talking to a fellow photographer who had visited Barcelona and asked him if he thought my gear would be stolen when I visited and what extra precautions should take. He said he had no problems with his personal safety and went into detail all the fun he had when he visited. But I still did not listen to his advice when I arrive and took some extra precautions when I arrived. My first day in Barcelona I visited the Ramblus without my camera gear, just to check it out and see if was safe. After the second day in Barcelona I realized it was safe or as dangerous as any other big city, like the big city I live and work, New York City.

For photography I think Barcelona as photographer candy shop with its variety subject matter that you can photograph. Far greater variety compare to Paris, Rome and Venice which are popular places to photographs.

Use common sense, your gear and most of all you will be safe and you will enjoy Barcelona more. I did on starting on the second day there!

Thank Philip Greenspun for taking the time to write your article, because it was a great help to me!

Jonathan Searfoss , June 06, 2007; 03:23 P.M.

I just spent about 5 days in Barcelona a couple of weeks ago, doing the tourist thing and exploring on my own. I was riding the blue line of the BUS TURISTIC on the way back to Plaza Catalunya and I saw an unusual facade sculpture on a building that left me mesmerized - so much so that I didn't shoot a photo - I was never able to return there and I wish I had! Most of the classicly styled buildings have a sculpture depicting a woman on one side of a shield and a man on the other, usually reclining. On this particular building, the center shield was a clock and the woman on the left had reached over and pulled the hands of the clock off and was holding them. On the other side of the clock, instead of a man, there was the reaper. It symbolized death or running out of time. Since my return, I've spent hours on the internet trying to find a photo of this building to no avail, so if any of you photographers out there have a shot of that which you wouldn't mind sharing, I would love to see that again. If someone is going to Barcelona soon and plans to ride the blue line, look on your left as you go through the streets about 8 or 10 blocks before arriving at the Plaza Catalunya and you might be able to catch it.

Peter Balcon , September 20, 2007; 09:38 A.M.

Skipping Museums

"Skip the Picasso Museum..."

No comments...

William Wilson , October 20, 2007; 12:08 P.M.

God, how ignorant and philistine are you? Shall I come to your land and just photo nuclear warheads lying around, ready to bomb the weird people you cant and dont wish to speak with or understand?

William Wilson , October 20, 2007; 12:12 P.M.

God, how ignorant and philistine are you? Shall I come to your land and just photo nuclear warheads lying around, ready to bomb the weird people you cant and dont wish to speak with or understand?

Joseph siew , November 20, 2007; 04:39 A.M.

I am looking at taking a producer,photographer and makeup artists to Barcelona in Febuary for a fashion shoot requiring 7 diverse locations/themes. Can anyone tell me if permits are required to shoot in public places ? Thanks.. The last time I was in Barcelona was 7 years ago.

Laurent Vuillard , January 28, 2008; 04:32 P.M.

Was there a week ago, such a brillant European town!! Plenty to see and photography. My guidebook,French 2008 edition, was like PG, very much on the caution side as to pickpockets but I did not see any obvious sign of pickpocket activity, nor dubious characters milling about apart from gangs of semi drunken tourists....

marcello dimascio , March 02, 2008; 05:46 P.M.

I have visited Barcelona 8 times and never been robbed or felt remotely under threat.I have walked the streets day and night its a fantastic place to visit.You just got to use some common sense and you'll be fine.Enjoy it.

Alexandra Baltog , April 29, 2008; 03:41 A.M.

Thanks for this article... I was in 2007 for the first time in Barcelona.. Wonderful place .. I have taken a lot of pics... After two weekes I'll be there again .. I hope I'll be back with beautiful images, too... About the "safety" feeling I had NO problem then .. I hope I'll be in safe now too... :-)

bye, Alex

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Andreas von Estorff , November 08, 2008; 04:56 A.M.

Screen Production Paradise Photography Barcelona


I just wanted to present a very good website where you find best photographers, studios, equipment, photo agents, photo production companies and much more in and around Barcelona.

emire stitt , January 17, 2009; 11:16 A.M.

I booked a photo tour with barcelonaphotographer.com and had a great time! Chubby showed me some really neat spots around his city. We were staying at Grouphotel Gravina, just one block from the famous La Rambla. Great place for the price. I will be posting some of the photos on my page

Emire Stitt

Andrew Prokos , February 07, 2009; 11:59 A.M.

Barcelona is an architectural photographer's paradise. It's one of the few places in the world where linearity gives way completely to curvaceousness. it's the antithesis of New York where architecture is concerned...although NYC is seeing some fairly curvy new buildings going up these days.

Charles Griffin , May 01, 2009; 06:04 A.M.

Just a note to update. Yesterday in Plaza Real we saw a woman pulled out of her chair while dining when a purse snatcher grabbed her purse, which was looped over the chair back. The thief ran very fast and even though some people tried to run after him, he was too quick. She was sitting at a corner table next to an alley which made it convenient for the thief. She was a Japanese tourist and they often don't understand about street crime, since it is not tolerated in Japan.

Monica Brown , May 09, 2009; 11:08 A.M.

Is photography allowed inside those architectural places and at live shows/concerts? In specific - Casa Batllo, Casa Mila, Gran Teatre Liceu, Palau de la Musica Catalana, Sagrada Familia, the Cathedral & other churches, and the Flamenco show.

Are backpacks 'safe' enough to lug around? If I use the chest and hip strap to make it less snatch-able, would that be a good idea, or would that make me more of a target, do you think?

I'd hate not to be able to take photos in Barcelona, but I'm also concerned over its safety (or mine) and was wondering, what's the best way to carry your camera at these 'high-risk' areas - around the neck, in hand against stomach with the strap looped around the wrist, or take it out of the bag only when it's needed?

I'm going there next week, planning to take my Canon 40D and 3 lenses along, in a backpack. I could do with just the 10-22mm lens seeing Barcelona sounds like a wide-angle type of place, but I thought the 50mm/1.8 might come in handy at the Flamenco show and the 28-135mm for everything else just in case. Suppose I could leave the 28-135 behind ..

Ron Giacone , May 12, 2009; 07:29 P.M.

I have just returned from a trip to Spain, Madrid & Barcelona, 4/08 - 4/17. Had a terrific time in both cities. Shot about 400 pics, never a problem with crime, never felt unafe, never had to look over my shoulder. Walked the streets at late hours, shooting pics. I'm sure there are pickpockets & theives, but never encountered any. Would suggest; look confident and know where you're going. I brought a Canon 30D with only one lens, 24-105. Plenty of range for all types of scenery and architecture. Did not feel I could have captured better shot if only I had brought another lens. Travel light and be creative. Carried camera in a shoulder sling bag when not in use, or strapped on the wrist when walking about. I'm from NYC, so big cities are home to me. Both Madrid and Barcelona are extremely clean, the local people are friendly and warm. Go, enjoy, shoot pic's 'till the cows come home !


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Ron Giacone , May 12, 2009; 07:41 P.M.

Forgot to mention, YES, you can shoot pictures in all of the Gaudi buildings, churches, etc. Only encountered two limitations; in the National Art Museum of Catalonia, but just in the Picasso section, and in the Picasso Museum itself. All other venues, shoot away!


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Vendrell Joan , August 20, 2009; 11:58 A.M.

More Barcelona pics... specially barcelona from the ground here:


Great post!

Joan Vendrell

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steve moskow , November 17, 2009; 09:30 A.M.

Just got back from Barcelona and wanted to report that pickpockets abound there. You can still have a nice time because the city does feel safe, but that's because the pickpockets I saw dress nicely. You won't know who they are until they put their hand in your bag. Within a 3 day period, I witnessed 2 pickpockets with their hands in bags and pockets of tourists. During that same period, an acquaintance had her wallet stolen on the Metro (she's a resident of Barcelona of 8 years). I went back to the Metro station where one event occurred and the pickpockets were still there 2 hours later. They work in teams with impunity. They'll get to you in crowds, on escalators, while you shop, etc. The best defense is to keep things inaccessible. If necessary, use safety pins on pockets and bag zippers. Use inside pockets that are not easily accessible. I kept my camera in the lining of my coat when not in use. I witnessed a lot of activity, and I intervened once to prevent an incident. In the end I was fine, but I let my guard down at the airport after going through airport security xray and had 3 euros stolen, most likely by airport security. I reported that to the airport police, but the shift had changed and I couldn't find the people who "examined" my bag and tray.

In summary, Barcelona is beautiful and non-threatening (compared to the US) but you will be a victim of pickpockets if you don't take heightened precautions.

Christian Gloesl , July 19, 2010; 01:18 A.M.

Barcelona ist a beautiful town - made also photos outside the town to show the coastline from barcelona.


Ben Evans , May 17, 2011; 09:24 A.M.

Interesting article, and certainly a good synopsis of Barcelona photography opportunities.

However, I don't completely agree with the strong slant about petty crime here.

Sure, it's a problem, as it is in many major cities. But I think a lot has been done by the Catalan government to address this, and their efforts have had an effect - which should be recognised.

I'm not saying that photographers here should be careless, but from teaching photography here (www.barcelonaphotographycourses.com) and photographing A LOT in the streets, I've never had any challenges.

Otherwise, great article. If there are any photo.net users coming to Barcelona, I'd be happy to offer a discount on our courses here - just get in touch via the website (www.barcelonaphotographycourses.com) and quote 'photo.net' and I'll sort out the rest.


Brian Wiese , July 13, 2011; 07:09 P.M.

For Your Situational Awareness...

I'm glad I read this page and discussion just before going to Barcelona (week of July 3-9, 2011). From the numerous people I talked with who live there, they all recommended I watch out for "pick pocket thieves" and had stories to share of their own and friends experiences with pick pockets, especially from La Rambla, the subway, the beach, and other crowded tourist locations. They opinionated that the police really don't take pick pockets too seriously and let them go soon after or just rough them up a bit. I didn't even see police on the streets much in Barcelona -- however I did in Palma de Mallorca! The "La Rambla" there is much nicer, filled only with flower shops. =)

While no one stole my camera gear, unfortunately I unwittingly gave my money away on La Rambla in a scam con/confidence game - the infamous "Shells Game" / Trilero (great example video). So just beware and if you watch or play it, step your foot on the box you "call", then I dare you to "try" to unturn the other 2 boxes on your own to prove it's there! =)

The con artists use a crowd/team of a dozen guys or so all as part of the con as the wiki page describes. It looked/sounded interesting so I checked it out?! They act like they play the game and loose/win money to entice you to join in, the dealer even 'shows you the ball', and they all heavily encourage, prod, and close in around you to put your money in - literally taking it from your wallet as you attempt to "win" it back. Before I knew it I was immediately surrounded by big guys on all sides as I fumbled with my SLR camera, camera bag, water bottle, wallet, etc -- just a bad situation -- I'm glad I got out of there after only loosing my money. A youtube video says people have lost up to 1000 euro in the con!

Other than that sour note from my experience (shared by many others in perhaps all major cities) Barcelona is quite beautiful and I never had anyone mug me or try to pick pocket - but again - I was also defensive, projected strength and looked people in the eye on the streets. I'm not an easy target, except unwittingly!

Camera gear was stolen from rental car in Ibiza the same week - they were quick!

Ben Evans , January 24, 2012; 04:06 P.M.

Vaguely ironic; I previously wrote in defense of Barcelona saying that petty crime had diminished here so photographers needn't be worried.

I've since been robbed so I've changed my mind. I'm incredibly careful (and 6'3" tall) so I didn't think I'd have any trouble.

I don't think anyone coming to take photos of Barcelona should worry, but they do need to be aware of how skilled the naughty thieves here are.

I had my netbook stolen while I was teaching photography near Placa Catalunya in an almost empty street; didn't see anyone at all.

Be extra careful when you come and don't underestimate these villains; nor can you expect to receive any help at all from the police.

But don't be put off coming. Barcelona is a beautiful city; I've put together a photoblog since the theft with photos of Barcelona; check it out here; www.i-Barcelona.com

And if you happen to see anyone wearing a colourful Duchamp scarf during your visit, it could be the same one stolen along with the laptop; so steer clear!

Spanish, European and Union Jack flags in Barcelona; www.i-Barcelona.com


Chrisy Clifton , June 18, 2012; 09:58 P.M.

I came here to get information for an upcoming trip to Barcelona, and to hopefully find some unique photo areas and opportunities.  While Philip was probably a little zealous in his guidance, I'm sure most was based on his own experience.

However, the constant criticism and jabs at OTHER cities/countries by several solicitors completely turned me off to this whole site!  EVERY city has crime.  EVERY city has issues.  I'm not going to the other cities you keep comparing it to, I'm going to Barcelona.

I have traveled the world over, and am always on alert to not single myself out as a tourist.  I will do the same while in Barcelona and I am thankful for the head's up about specific areas that people have mentioned here.  However, for those of you that continue to repeat yourselves over and over about how wonderfully perfect and crimefree this city is, you serve no purpose for me here.  Philip, this article is NOT going to sway me (or probably anyone else that loves to travel) from going to Barcelona.  Thank you for sharing your experience.

MAYBE I'll post mine in a couple of weeks.

Ben Evans , March 22, 2015; 01:31 P.M.

We've made a free guide for photographers visiting Barcelona. Hope it's useful! https://www.mediafire.com/?re9b6w0s0p5e869 

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