Cultural Experience | Barcelona

Barcelona, a city with a story

With so many beautiful places across the world and a limited amount of time to travel during college years, students have to be very picky about where to invest their energy. Endless hours can be spent scrolling through the depths of Instagram and Pinterest, daydreaming about the places one can go. When it came to picking a place to study abroad, I had an equally as hard of a time choosing one location to settle down for the summer.

I’ve traveled multiple places throughout the United States, Mexico, and South America, but I had never been to Europe before. I knew that was where I wanted to end up, with its undeniable reputation as a haven for students like myself. After months of internal debate, talking to friends and family, I decided on Barcelona.

For weeks now, I’ve had the opportunity to live, work and play in the Catalan capital. I live with a wonderful host family and intern at Apartment Barcelona, an accommodations agency that specializes in helping travelers from all over the world find the perfect place to stay while they explore BCN. My job has been an integral part of my quick adjustment to the city. With a short time left in my trip and after visiting multiple countries across Europe, I can undoubtedly say that Barcelona is unlike any other place. Here’s why…

The people want to share their culture with you

In Barcelona the locals are very helpful, excited, and most of all, forgiving. I have felt more like an outsider traveling to New York as a Texan than I have at any point in Barcelona. The people here are incredibly friendly. They don’t begrudgingly huff and puff when you walk into the metro. They are overjoyed when outsiders take interest in their history and traditions, of which they are extremely proud. They enjoy and smile at your attempt to use Spanish, even if it is a little broken. People will generally understand even the worst attempts at asking for directions in Spanish – you can ask my roommate!

As I mentioned before, Barcelona is the gem of Catalunya. Therefore, a large amount of people and businesses also communicate in Catalan and embrace those cultural customs. You can see evidence of this throughout the entire city. A wonderful mix of young and old, the population is usually laid back and happy. You would be too if you were here.

It’s an easy city to explore

I don’t just mean there is a lot to do. I mean it’s pretty easy to begin your day without a plan and create a wonderful one. Getting lost is not scary in Barcelona because the public transportation system is well adapted with a metro every few blocks. Not to mention, the extensive bus system and large collection of taxi drivers means that if you somehow need to get from point A to B, it is easily manageable.


Each neighborhood is unique enough that you feel as if walking around is truly a treat! In Barcelona, you can begin the day with no agenda. One of my favorite things to do when traveling is letting the city unfold itself, tell its own story.

This type of wanderlust is not possible in all major cities. I have lost count of the sheer number of times I have set out to find lunch and ended up at the beach or at a fun, new boutique. Not to mention, there are architectural marvels around every corner thanks to Gaudí and the like. You don’t even realize you are sightseeing, but there are plenty of opportunities to see beautiful buildings and churches along the way. The streets are never empty, constantly filled with sights and sounds. It’s easy to have a good time doing just about anything in this city.

There’s a great mix of old and new

Barcelona is an icon of art-nouveau, mixing classic with modern in a way that excites the senses. The same is true in almost every facet of the city including cuisine, film, music, sports and shopping. The people of this area consider everything to be a representation of themselves and therefore an art form in and of itself. This standard creates a brilliant mix of heritage and innovation.

For example, in Barcelona you can view an established beauty such as the Sagrada Familia or you can go for a riveting FC Barça game at Camp Nou. Two totally different experiences are both symbols that people in Barcelona adore. There are delectable Catalan restaurants where you can try Pa Amb Tomaquet, adjacent to the most intriguing and forward thinking brunch spots in Europe. This contrast effortlessly creates a dynamic atmosphere where people are free to discover and learn. It’s a mix of bold newness and refreshing traditionalism that other cities cannot seem to pull off, but one that Barcelona dares to embrace.

It’s safe

Barcelona is a very safe city compared to other European and even American tourism centers. Safety is a characteristic not to be overlooked in this day-and-age, as you can never be too careful during travel. While Barcelona might have a reputation for pickpockets, there is very little violent crime and high police visibility. If you keep aware of your surroundings and belongings, you will find this city to be rather peaceful.

Crowds at events are well managed and there is always generally a security presence on the public transportation. The Spanish are not accustomed to drinking in excess either, so rarely are inebriated fights and quarrels an issue. People here are also very respectful of their neighbors and watch out for one another. There is definitely a sense of community when it comes to taking care of each other and even visitors.

It’s a cultural melting pot

I came to Barcelona thinking I was going to learn about Spain. While that is true, I am pleasantly surprised at the other cultures I am being exposed to during my time here. I have seen first hand that Barcelona is unique because it combines the best attributes of many different cultures in one place. It’s been an eye opening few weeks in Barcelona. I went to a British festival in an old bullfighting ring. I learned how to make my own sushi. More importantly, I think I finally understand soccer!

The amount you are exposed to that enrich you as a person are endless in this city. Beginning with the mix of Spanish and Catalan heritage, other cultures flawlessly weave their fashion, holidays, cuisine and personal vibe into society. This intermingling and graceful combination makes Barcelona distinct from any other city across the globe.


Erin Ball

University of Texas at Austin | 1 story

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