How to Live Your Best Life in Barcelona

An informational guide giving advice for international students planning to live and study in Barcelona, on how to take advantage of the amazing opportunity that is living in Barcelona. This article will also include my own experiences as an International student Living in Barcelona, Spain. I love Barcelona and have truly enjoyed the past year balancing life and completing a demanding Masters program, and hope my anecdotes can help you achieve the same. I am currently living in Barcelona doing an internship and if that is something that interests you too, keep reading, to know how it too can be possible for you to study and live in beautiful Barcelona and enjoy time here.

Experience life to the fullest in Barcelona

Barcelona is a popular study destination for international students, and for good reason. The Catalan capital offers a cosmopolitan city with excellent schools, a booming music and nightlife scene, and a rich cultural heritage. However, living in Barcelona can be a drastic change for students coming from the United States or other countries. To make the most of the experience, it is important to learn about life in Barcelona, find the right accommodation, navigate the city, explore the culture, and make friends. This article will provide a detailed guide on how to live your best life in Barcelona.

What Is It Like to Live in Barcelona? Expat Life in Barcelona
Sunset in Barcelona City

Finding Accommodation

One of the first things to consider when moving to Barcelona is finding accommodation. There are several neighbourhoods to choose from, each with its own unique character and advantages.

Choosing the Right Neighborhood

  • Ciutat Vella: The Gothic Quarter is the oldest part of Barcelona, with narrow streets and baroque buildings. The gothic quarter is said to be the genesis of the Catalan Capital where Romans built their first settlement. It is a popular area for tourists and students alike, with many bars, restaurants, and art galleries. 
  • Eixample: This neighbourhood is known for its modernist architecture, including the famous Sagrada Familia. It is a more upscale area with many shops and restaurants. 
  • Gracia: This bohemian neighbourhood is popular with artists and young people. It has a lively nightlife scene and many outdoor cafes.
  • Sant Antoni: This up-and-coming neighbourhood is known for its food market and trendy bars and restaurants. It is a great place for foodies and those who love living in a vibrant community.
  • Nova Icaria: This beachfront neighbourhood is perfect for those who love the Barcelona sun and outdoor activities. It is also close to the city centre and has excellent public transportation.

When choosing a neighbourhood, consider factors such as proximity to your school or job, safety, and cost of living. It is also important to visit the neighbourhood and see if it fits your lifestyle and personality.

Barcelona City
Aerial View of Barceloneta Beach

Tips for Finding the Right Accommodation

  • Start your search early, as the best apartments tend to go quickly.
  • Use online resources such as Vita Student or Eolia to find apartments and shared rooms.
  • Consider using relocation services to help you find the right accommodation.
  • Look for private rooms in shared apartments to save money and build relationships with other students.
  • Check out the following article where I give you the Top 5 best websites to find an apartment or accommodation in Barcelona.

Navigating the City

Barcelona has a great public transportation system, making it easy to get around the city.

Public Transportation

The public transportation system in the catalan capital, consists of buses, metro, and trains. The TMB website provides information on routes, schedules, and fares. The T-Jove card is a great option for students, as it allows for unlimited trips during 90 days on any mode of transportation for a discounted price.

Biking and Skating

Barcelona is a bike-friendly city, with many bike lanes and a growing biking culture. There are several bike rental companies in the city, such as Tipsy Tour and Barcelona Rent a Bike. Biking is a great way to explore the city and get some exercise. There

Personally, I have been skateboarding a lot this past year. I bought a board at the beginning of the year and have been skating until now. The thing about Barcelona City is that in 1992 due to Hosting the Olympics it made Barcelona evolve a lot in terms of public infrastructures. The smooth pedestrian pavement and existing relatively flat city was the ideal mix to make it a perfect city for Skateboarding. Nowadays, Barcelona is Europe's capital of skateboarding and you can see it by the  skaters that are present all over the city. There are quite a few skateparks too, but one thing I recommend visiting too even if you do not skate is MACBA. MACBA stands for the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona and is main hub of skating in Barcelona. At any day of the year you it is a great place to visit the museum entrance and observe skate tricks from a variety of talented skaters. 

Cheap flights to Barcelona | Plane tickets 2024 ✈️ | easyJet
Aerial View of Barcelona's Marina

Football in Barcelona

Spotify Camp Nou stadium is the largest football (soccer for the Americans) stadium in Spain and Europe, and the 5th largest in the world. The Camp Nou Stadium has the capacity of a little under 100,000 people, with exactly 99,354. However, Barcelona is currently not playing in the Camp Nou Stadium due to the ongoing renovation work at the stadium. FCB will be playing in the Olympic Stadium of Montjuic. The Olympic stadium of Montjuic this summer of 2023 has also been home to two concerts of Coldplay and Beyonce. (Buy FCB tickets here).

Exploring the Culture

Barcelona is known for its rich cultural heritage, including its food, festivals, and events.

Food and Drink

Catalan cuisine is a mix of Mediterranean and Spanish influences, with a focus on fresh ingredients and olive oil. Some popular dishes to try include paella, tomato soup, and Barcelona tapas. For drinks, try white sangria or a local beer such as Estrella Damm. Some of the more popular beer types are Estrella Damm, which is a light and crisp lager, and Moritz, which is a dark and malty beer. You can also find a variety of craft beers at local breweries

Me being portuguese, one of my favourite restaurants is about 5 minutes walking distance from Sagrada familia, Oporto Restaurante. Where I usually get a ¨Francesinha¨ a meat sandwich with melted cheese, french fries and sauce... delicious!

Festivals and Events

Barcelona hosts several major festivals and events throughout the year, such as the Festa Major de Gracia and the Barcelona Beach Festival. These events are a great way to experience the local culture and meet new people. Check out blogs such as Life in Barcelona or Arts Barcelona for information on upcoming events.

One of the Biggest festivals in Barcelona is La Merce and it is usually hosted at the end of September so around this time last year when I arrived in Barcelona to start my Master's of science in Marketing degree I remember it was the first festival and concert I attended in Barcelona. What is interesting about La Merce is that during the day they have Parades of giant mascots of about 4 metres tall or higher and human towers. And at night they have different free concerts and street performers around different neighbourhoods. I remember attending a Moroccan rock band concert in Eixample and the singer had a beautiful voice, and then a modern hip hop duo that was not as interesting. However, nonetheless a really nice evening since most concerts are open to the public and therefore free.

Closer to the end of the year I attended the notorious Primavera Sound Festival and I loved it. Primavera Sound is also hosted around the same time every year, in my hometown of Porto, Portugal, which I attend every year. It was great to experience it in Barcelona this time around. My favourite acts coming into it were Kendrick Lamar and Baby Keem and they definitely did not disappoint, they were electric performances and the crowd was having fun too moshing to their favourite songs. I also saw Fred Again, Skrillex, and Depeche mode. My favourite out of these three were Fred Again, as you could feel that he was truly passionate about his art and put a lot of effort into his craft. Halfway through Fred Again's set, the speakers made a loud bang and the whole festival short circuited, however he made sure to come back to finish the show. Really the only issue is that the festival ended at around 6 am and I only arrived back home at around 7 am. 

Barcelona has several amusement parks that offer a fun-filled day for visitors of all ages. PortAventura World is the largest theme park in the country, featuring roller coasters, water rides, and shows. I visited PortAventura a few times with my university friends and had a blast. I did not actually go on the rides in Tibidabo Amusement Park but visited it because it has stunning views of the Catalan Capital especially for watching the fireworks during the celebration day of San Joan. During San Joan apart from trying to watch the firework shows from rooftops people also usually end up in Barceloneta Beach and various nightclubs.

Primavera Sound | Parc del Fòrum: Web oficial
Primavera Sound Barcelona

Making Friends and Getting Involved

Joining clubs and organisations and participating in language exchange programs are great ways to meet new people and get involved in the Barcelona community.

Joining Clubs and Organizations

There are several clubs and organisations available to students, such as the Barcelona Expat Community and the Alumni Association of Barcelona. These groups offer networking opportunities, social events, and support for students living abroad.

Language Exchange

Language exchange programs are a great way to practise your Spanish and meet new people. Websites such as Conversation Exchange and Meetup offer opportunities to find language exchange partners and participate in language exchange events.

Conclusion

Living in Barcelona is an amazing opportunity for international students, and with the right preparation and mindset, it can be a life-changing experience. By finding the right accommodation, navigating the city, exploring the culture, and making friends, students can make the most of their time in Barcelona. Remember to take advantage of all that Barcelona offers, from its beautiful architecture to its adventurous activities. With a little effort, you can build a good life in this vibrant city.

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Living in Spain guide

Written by

Lourenço Almeida

Postgraduate, 2023

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