Taking part in an exchange to Barcelona will be an even more rewarding experience than you probably realize! From the great weather, the friendly people and the simply gorgeous cuisine, you’re in for a good time. To help you handle the tricky parts, like finding accommodation, applying for a visa and estimating the cost of living, our dedicated team at Housing Anywhere has put this guide together. We’ve also thrown in a few tips of where to eat, drink and hang out.
Have a great time!
Barcelona is a stunning city, found in the north-east of Spain in the region of Catalonia. With its own language, culture and personality, Catalonia is quite unlike any other region in the country - most find it a refreshing and incredibly enjoyable place to live! With 1.6 million people living in the city alone (and around 5 million if you include its suburban surroundings) it’s also absolutely massive. For all that, it’s a comfortable city and once you get to know it, you’ll feel at home.
Barcelona has two official languages, Spanish and Catalan. Catalan is essentially an offshoot of Spanish, and many locals consider it the "proper" language for the area - if you only know Spanish, then feel free to use it, but consider opening by saying “Sorry, I don’t speak Catalan - do you speak Spanish?”. Unless you’re talking with some of the older population, the answer will invariably be yes and, crucially, they’ll appreciate that you understand the difference between the two languages.
You’ll also find plenty of locals (especially students and other young people) will speak English, so it’s a very internationals-friendly area, and communication shouldn’t be too much of a problem!
Hot. If you’re from rainy Rotterdam or other, more Northerly parts of the world, you may be delighted to hear that Barcelona’s average annual temperature is about 21°C during the day and 15°C at night. The coldest months are December to February, where the average is still about 15°C during the day - safe to say, you’re going to come home will a hella good tan.
If possible, you should try to get to Barcelona a little before your studies start. In part to acclimatize before you begin hitting the books, but mostly to enjoy the sunniest days in the city and to learn what to do in Barcelona when it’s nice and hot!
There are plenty of national holidays every year in Spain, as well as a few which are region-specific, like the Feast of St John the Baptist - unique to Catalonia and Galicia. A handful of the most important days of the year are highlighted below.
January 6th - Epiphany (known colloquially as "Three Wise Men Day") is one of the most family-oriented and enjoyable days of the year. Parades take place throughout the major cities, celebrating the Three Wise Men who, much to the excitement of adults and children alike, leave presents in everyone’s homes! The next day, families will eat a Tortell de Reis, a tasty marzipan-stuffed pastry dessert, with two surprises inside: a dried bean and a sculpted figurine of a Wise Man.
Whoever draws the Wise Man gets to wear a paper crown (the winner!) but if you draw the dried bean, you pay for the Tortell!
September 11th - National Day of Catalonia - most of the celebrations are of a political nature, particularly among Catalonian nationalists who pay their respects to the soldiers who risked and gave their lives to end the Siege of Barcelona. It’s an emotional holiday, and one close to the hearts of all who live in Barcelona.
October 12th - National Day of Spain is a national holiday, but given the tensions between Catalonia and the State, there aren’t very many celebrations in Barcelona as compared to the rest of the country. However, the political demonstrations do shed an illuminating light on the relationship between the Catalans and the Spanish government.
Forget Valentine’s day - the Catalans celebrate their very own matchmaker, Sant Jordi! Traditionally the men will buy roses for their better halves, while the women give books as presents to theirs. It takes place every year, and it’s a bit more romantic than the commercialized February 14th the rest of us indulge in!
Just edged out by Paris and London, Barcelona is visited by more tourists every year than any other city in Europe. Pretty crazy. I wonder if Ed Sheeran will be responsible for Barcelona topping the list this year?
We’ve been waiting 135 years, but we may have to content ourselves with another couple of decades before La Sagrada Familia is complete, even using modern technology. For comparison, the ancient pyramids at Giza are estimated to have only taken 20 years to build!
Unlike the accepted story of Rome’s founding by Remus and Romulus, there are two clashing fables which describe the origins of Barcelona. One says Hercules founded the city a half-millennium before Rome was created, while the other was named after Hamilcar Barca (hence the name), the father of Hannibal and a great leader of Carthage. But which tells the truth…?
The largest park in Spain sits right in Barcelona - Montjuic Park. It spans an area of 203 hectares and is a great place to relax, chill out and enjoy yourself!
The Royal Institute of British Architects has awarded a Royal Gold Medal for Architecture to only one city in the world: Barcelona.
If you are intrigued by the Spanish Flamenco dancing, be careful about praising it too highly in Catalonia! They have their own form of the dance called La Sardana.
Barcelona FC boast the 2nd-largest football stadium (the Camp Nou) in the world, and easily the biggest in Europe, with a capacity of over 99,000.
You’ll notice that Barcelona’s taxis all have a yellow and black design. This was standardized in 1934 so that all taxi drivers were united under one banner, all conforming to the same legal conditions. It makes taxi driving a more respectable professional, and keeps pricing reasonable.
Though Barcelona has a substantial subway system, there are as many as 12 abandoned underground stations throughout the city. Keep your eyes peeled, as occasionally events arise which allow you to visit them!