7 British Things to Do (and Not to Do) in Barcelona
Everything we do has its ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s. Though, when it comes to holidays, we usually scour the internet, looking for reviews and guides for the ‘do’s — but never the ‘don’t’s. You would think we would prioritise the ‘don’t’s when it comes to gallivanting to different countries with different cultures and different languages and their own ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s. But we don’t. We chuck our cups of tea to the side, tighten our sandal straps, and enter another country with a skip and a hearty ‘Ello!
I know what you are thinking: ‘But, Becky, we wouldn’t be British if we didn’t embarrass ourselves and degrade our nation as a whole when we went on holiday!’
True. And, if we’ve learnt anything from VeryBritishProblems on Twitter, it’s that we, as a nation, are not only members of the Neighbourhood Watch with neighbours we have never met — we are also the world’s most awful tourists.
Only climbing aboard, hyperventalating, and clenching the armrests of a plane for the first time in sixteen years, I learnt my own ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s during my holiday to Barcelona with my sister, back in March.
1) The Cheek-Tap
Simple. When you are offered a friendly European cheek (face-cheek, people, face-cheek) to kiss, don’t actually kiss it.
Slap you and your acquaintance’s cheeks together (face-cheeks, remember) and do your best impression of a fish gasping at air. If not, they will look at you with such confusion and distaste as if you were driving on the wrong side of the road (which, come on, you have been close to doing).
2) Casa Batlló
This masterpiece is a sight to behold, and exquisitely more so inside. The building captures architect Antoni Gaudí’s artistry of nature in curved walls, scaled tiles, and illusions with light. I guarantee it will take your breath away and return it the moment you step back through the front door.
A self-guided tour, with the aid of headphones and a phone-like 360° film for a more in-depth tour, and a whole floor’s worth of souvenirs to blow your savings on, it’s the best place to break your tourist seal and lose your Gaudí-work-related virginity before heading to his life’s work at Park Güell and the Sagrada Familia cathedral.
3) Segway Your Heart Out
If you didn’t already feel like an idiot, then this will just take the ticket.
The two Alexs from Segway Glides really went out of their way to make our group’s tour one of a kind. They took their time, not rushing for us to complete it within a set time, us ultimately finishing after over three hours. It was easy to learn, amazing fun, and they were patient when teaching us — and even after when there was one (minor) accident, which was surprisingly not from me.
They made you feel confident and, God forbid, ‘cool’ as we cruised through the city streets, around the outskirts, and along the beach — that is, until you caught yourself in a passing window or saw the gloriously uncomfortable photos they took of you, like this gem:
I should note that accidents are the first thing you think of when you hear of Segways. Honestly? It is the cocky ones who fall. Believe me — I am the most un-confident of them all and I have never felt safer. And my feet hate each other. Even when standing still, my feet think it’s fun to trip the other one up. And my balance… well, let’s just say I wouldn’t get far in the gymnastic finals of the Olympics without a few broken limbs or, let’s be honest, death.
So, what I’m trying to say is, in the cheesiest cliché reveal of all… If I can do it, you can too.
4) The Language
You can learn a few words if you want, but that won’t stop the Spanish shop owner or restauranteur guessing your hometown before you have even tried to correctly pronounce ‘Hola’.
Yes, as much as learning some of the language of your chosen country is polite and respectful, I am afraid you will still scream British tourist. And, if not, they will guess it once staring at your blank face after they just asked if you want a bag in another language — shocker.
5) A Good Ol’ Fashioned British Booze-Up
There are endless amounts of places in Barcelona where you can ‘get your drink on’, each with their own character, from Ye Olde taverns and sports bars to Irish pubs and cocktail bars. But, most of all, a must-see/must-booze-up is Las Rambles.
The longest street I have probably ever walked along (which says a lot about my hiking talents), but by far the most mesmerising. A street isolated between two main roads, full of gazebos and minibars parallel to their main restaurants, Las Rambles makes for a gorgeous evening. The relaxed buzz of chatter, the warm night air, and the hum of passing musicians will be unforgettable — depending, of course, on how much you drink.
WARNING 0.1: Do not make eye-contact with that accordion woman — she will play for you at the table and not leave until money is exchanged.
WARNING 0.2: Barcelona’s alcohol servings are WAY bigger than our pretty British guts can manage. So, no, you won’t be able to drink that two litre pitcher of Sangria between the two of you.
WARNING 0.3: Non-British bartenders don’t have the awkwardness of a customer ordering a Sex on the Beach; they will suggest the ‘On the Table’ and ‘In the Kitchen’ versions, and will not stop winking at you for the rest of the night. I learnt that the hard way through a 60-year-old waiter.
So drink up! You’ll need to hide the embarrassment.
The highlight of visiting a different country, for some, is exploring a different culture of food. In Barcelona I was introduced to the world of tapas on every corner, greeted by the smell of whatever came from that bakery we passed every day, and tomato bread — that’s a thing.
Though, if you’re picky like a certain author of a certain Barcelona article, there are always options of chicken and chips and the home of the best burgers to have ever touched this world — Bacoa. Everything that I say may be an exaggeration, but believe me when I say that putting a rösti in a beef burger is the best discovery to have improved humanity’s existence since the discovery of popcorn.
Side note: If you have the chance to order freshly squeezed orange juice, YOU. TAKE. IT.
7) Pack Heavier than Planned
Yes. You heard me. None of that ‘light’ bollocks. As much as you want to leave the UK behind you for a few days and enter a world of sleeveless shirts, shorts, and shades… don’t be too optimistic.
When it rains in Barcelona, it rains.
Pack more than one pair of shoes. Pack more than one jacket. Pack a jumper or two. And, as much as it will emotionally hurt, pack a coat. The flight home isn’t a comfy one when you martyr yourself by wearing those soggy clothes and shoes from the night before to save your dry, packed clothes from contamination. You may also be the source of the smell on the plane.
And there we have it. Of course, there is a ton more than I have listed to do in Barcelona, and you may not even listen to my warnings (I mean, cough, suggestions). But as much as you will inevitably embarrass yourself and our country, embrace your inner Mr. Bean and just remember to have fun — and try to not insult anyone.