Not only will you be in a new city, speaking and hearing new languages, but you're also sure to get caught up in a bit of red tape when trying to figure out how things work. Allow us to help with a few bureaucratic steps to setting up a life in Barcelona, the transport options, how to validate a degree, and where to learn Catalan or Spanish.
What do I need to open a bank account?
You need a letter of acceptance from your host university or research centre, or any document that proves you’re studying or doing research at a centre in Catalonia, as well as a passport and a foreigner’s ID number (NIE). If you’re a national of an EU member state, apply for the NIE at the police station located at Rambla Guipúscoa, 74. You’ll need a prior appointment, which you can make at https://sede.administracionespublicas.gob.es (some of the info is in English, but certain sections are in Spanish only). If you don’t come from an EU member country, you should go to the police station at Pg. de Sant Joan, 189; to make an appointment, email email@example.com.
Do I need to register with the authorities?
Registration ('empadronament') with the city council enables you to become a resident of Barcelona. Everyone, with or without Spanish residence permits, has to register, and it enables you to carry out various administrative processes. To register, go to a Citizen Service Centre (Oficina d'Atenció Ciutadà); the addresses are listed on www.barcelona.cat, and it's a good idea to call 010 or go online to make a prior appointment.
How can I access the public health system?
If you come from an EU or EEA member state or Switzerland, you need either a valid European Health Card (issued in your home country) or private medical insurance for the duration of your stay. Non-EU citizens: you'll require private medical insurance that covers your time here. Primary medical care is provided at neighbourhood CAP centres: see www.catsalut.cat or call 902 111 444.
Which card should I use to travel by public transport in Barcelona?
The most popular integrated travel cards (for metro, bus, FGC, tram and Renfe trains) are:
T-10: A multi-person travel card allowing 10 journeys to be made on all operators in the Integrated Fare System (IFS) across one to six zones. In the case of one-zone cards, passengers have 75 minutes from validating the ticket to change lines or mode of transport (eg, bus to train); this time increases by 15 minutes per zone.
T-Mes (monthly travel card): A holder-specific travel card allowing unlimited journeys on all operators in the IFS, and which lasts one calendar month. T-Mes cards must be used in conjunction with a valid ID such as a national ID document or any ID issued by IFS operators.
T-Jove (young person travel card): Under-25s can use this personalised card to make unlimited journeys over 90 days (from the first validation) on all operators in the IFS. Proof of age is necessary with a valid national ID document, NIE or passport.
T-50/30: An individual travel card valid for 50 journeys over 30 consecutive days from the first validation. In the case of one-zone cards, holders have 75 minutes between the first and last validation when changing lines or mode of transport.
For more details on ickets and route maps, visit www.tmb.cat.
Where I can get my foreign degree approved/validated?
You should go to the High Inspectorate Area of Education in C/Bergara, 12, ground floor. T. 93 520 96 03.
Where can I learn Catalan?
Consorci per a la Normalització Lingüística (CpNL)
Where can I learn Spanish?
Merit School UPC
How can I get free WiFi internet access?
Barcelona WiFi is a service from the local council that enables you to connect to the internet through WiFi hotspots in various municipal amenities and public access points. You can find a list of WiFi stations at www.bcn.cat/barcelonawifi/.
Where can I find the contact details of my consulate?
The website of the Generalitat has information about the 100 or so consulates in the city: afersexteriors.gencat.cat/.
Every big city has its risks. While there’s no need to be paranoid, it is a good idea to stay safe. Here’s a guide to what to look out for and what to do in case you need help.
Before starting out on your big Barcelona adventure, you may want to gather practical information just in case you run into problems. For example, get the phone number of your country’s embassy or consulate, and any numbers you might need to cancel credit cards or handle medical emergencies. During your stay, there are many things that you can do to keep yourself safe:
When making reservations or renting accommodations it’s best to use the services of institutions and organisations dedicated to that purpose, as recommended by Barcelona Centre Universitari (www.bcu.cat).
If you use public transport, be sure to keep an eye on your personal belongings, especially your phone and money.
If you travel by car, take the appropriate safety measures. Note that everyone in the car needs to wear a seat belt, and it’s best not to stop for strangers. Try to park in well-lit locations where there are other people about.
Avoid showing your cash in public and, if possible, carry a small amount.
In any crowded place, you might want to strap your bag and/or camera across your front, rather than your back. It’s also important to use a secure closure, such as locks, zips, etc., ensuring that it's always properly closed.
In restaurants and bars, ask for the price of food and drinks to avoid surprises when paying.
You may come across people who will try to divert your attention with various excuses (saying you have stains on your clothes, selling flowers, asking for your signature, etc.). Do your best to avoid them, as they could be pickpockets.
You may also find people in the street seeking your participation in forms of gambling games that appear easy to win. Remember that these people run their games ‘professionally’, with the aim of earning money through dishonest means. Such activity is illegal and prosecuted by the police as fraud.
On the beaches respect the coloured flags indicating whether it's safe to swim. If you’re going alone to the beach and planning to swim, it’s best not to leave valuables unattended, and, in general, you should only take with you what you really need.
Emergencies: 112 (see below)
Fire brigade: 080
Health emergencies: 061
Local police (Guàrdia Urbana): 092
Duty courts: 93 567 31 40
Duty pharmacies: 93 481 00 60
If you’re the victim of a crime, ask for help from a police officer or call 112. This number works for all emergency services, including ambulances and the fire brigade. It’s free, works 24/7 and you can even call using your mobile from places where you can’t get a signal with your provider (so long as another company can; you can get a signal everywhere in Barcelona except a few spots underground). Operators can help you in English, French and German as well as Catalan and Spanish. If you prefer, there are two pass you can download, ‘112 accessible’ and ‘My 112’, for accessing the service – your phone will then use geolocation to identify your position so the respondent can find you. Both apps are free, useful and easy to use. For details, contact
Barcelona's most visited site is expected to be finished by 2026. Entry allows you to wander through the interior of the church, with its novel tree-like columns. You can also see the museum, which explains the history of the basilica and architect Antoni Gaudí's creative process.
The last secular building designed by Gaudí, the 1912 Casa Milà (popularly known as La Pedrera, 'the stone quarry') is the culmination of the architect's experimental attempts to re-create natural forms with bricks and mortar (not to mention ceramis and even smashed-up cava bottles).
Gaudí designed Park Güell to emulate the English garden cities admired by his patron Eusebi Güell, and it was to be a self-contained suburb for the wealthy. The idea never took off – perhaps because it was too far from the city, perhaps because it was too radical – and the Güell family gave the park to the city in 1922. Gaudí's imagination is once more on display – as are panoramic views of the city.
The three stories of the Museum of the History of Barcelona documnet the city's Roman roots. Stretching from Plaça del Rei to the Cathedral are some 4,000 square metres (43,000 square feet) of subterranean Roman excavations, all discovered by accident in the late 1920s when part of the Gothic Quarter was dug up to build Via Laietana.
Get a lengthy overview of Catalonia, from the Lower Paleolithic era to Jordi Pujol's proclamation as President of the Generalitat in 1980. There are two floors of text, film, animated models and reproductions of everything from a medieval shoemaker's shop to a 1960s bar. Excellent temporary exhibitions typically examine recent aspects of regional politics and history while the huge rooftop café terrace has unbeatable views over the city and marina.
The old Born market has reopened as a cultural centre with a focus on life in the city before and after the siege of 1713-14. Inside the market, which was built in 1876, are archaeological remains from 1700. You can walk around and visit the 'De les pedres a les persones' ('From Stones to People') exhibition and archaeological sites (by reservation only).
Design & fashion
With winter and summer editions that each run for five days, 080 gives the Barcelona fashion scene a biannual shot in the arm with the support of the Generalitat. It mainly showcases local designers, from skilled arteliers such as Natalie Capell and Miriam Ponsa to big-hitters like Desigual, Custo and Mango.
It's more than a kilometre of sand an sea within walking distance of the city centre. The most southwesterly part, at the foot of the W Hotel, has a view of the entire Barcelona coastline, from the three chimneys to the huge solar panel in the Fòrum grounds, plus the Olympic Port and Barceloneta Beach in between.
The coastal renewal process that began with the 1992 Olympic Games breathed new life into this beach, which combines two very different areas: a nudist beach at one end and a children's playground at the other. You'll also find groups playing football and volleyball.
Marató de Barcelona
The Barcelona Marathon is a popular classic on the world marathon calendar. Begun in 1977, it follows a flat and scenic route through the city.
Length: 42 km (26.17 miles)
When: March 12, 2017
La Cursa de Bombers
The Firefighters' Race, organised by city firefighters and sponsored by Nike, began as a protest against working conditions for Barcelona firefighters. The 2015 edition saw it take place at night, as an attempt to widen its appeal.
Length: 10 km (6 miles)
When: October 30, 2016
La Cursa del Corte Inglés
This race through the city, which has its starting point and finish line at El Corte Inglés in Plaça Catalunya, is the second largest in the world (64,656 runners in 2016). That might have something to do with the fact that it's free to take part.
Length: 10.766 km (6.1 miles)
When: April 2017