Barcelona survival guide for interns and graduates
If you are considering an international internship in Barcelona, you will be in one of the most wonderful cities in the world, it has so much to offer plus it has amazing weather and is located right on the Mediterranean Sea! So ihere is a quick guide to everything you need to know about this amazing city.
Barcelona has a long and prosperous history. The Romans first arrived in the area in the first century B.C! Barcelona was first called Tarraco but was changed to Barcino (Barcelona) in the third century A.D. You will still find remnants of this time if you take a walk through the Gothic quarter of the city – it is truly amazing !
Barcelona (and Spain) has seen its fair share of wars, poverty and invasions over the course of its history. One of the largest wars was when Spain declared its independence from France in the 17th century and Barcelona was quite damaged and it lost a bit of its magic during this time. It wasn’t until the 19th century, at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, that Barcelona got its spark back and became one of the central hubs in Europe.
In recent times, Barcelona has hosted the 1992 Olympic Games which was a hugely popular games all around the world. And in 2004 it also hosted the seat for the Universal Forum of Cultures.
10 reasons to choose Barcelona
1. It is not an enormous city – which makes getting around and travelling very easy. Barcelona only has around 2 million people living it so you can access a lot of areas around the city by bike or on foot. It is perfect for those of you who find the size of New York City or Hong Kong daunting!
2. It is very Cosmopolitan – there are so many different people from all walks of life and all different cultures here. So if you want to live somewhere with a Spanish flavor, but that still has the luxuries you would find at home, Barcelona is the city for you.
It is a very cultural-minded city. There are constantly artistic exhibitions showing throughout the city, showcasing its Cosmopolitan vibe.
3. There are activities all the time – whatever it is you are looking for: language schools, sporting activities (such as volleyball, running groups, surfing, sailing, kayaking), concerts in the park, book clubs, art classes – I could go on and on! There is always something happening in the city, rarely is there a night without an event being hosted somewhere.
There are plenty of carnivals hosted by the city every year. These carnivals showcase rich Catalan culture, dazzling displays of fireworks, air shows, concerts and children acts. Festes de la Merce, which is celebrated in the month of September is the largest carnival in the city. It originally started as a religious parade but now, it’s one of the major reasons to visit the city. Every neighborhood in the city has its own chief celebration. Among them, the celebrations of the neighborhoods of Gracia and Sants are the biggest ones.
4. Location – we have already mentioned this point, but we cannot say enough about the location – it really is amazing! You are located right on the Mediterranean Sea so you get all the benefits of a beach lifestyle, but then France is only three hours away, Portugal, Italy and Switzerland are only a short (and very cheap) flight away, as well as more exotic places like Morocco, Algeria and Malta!
5. The beach – this is deserving of its own point, because there are only a few European cities where you can complete an amazing internship but also have the luxury of living on the seaside! There are miles and miles of beaches along the coastline right near Barcelona and all of the beaches within the city itself are also pretty relaxing. So if ocean-life is up your alley, its another main reason to choose this city for your internship.
6. The weather – Barcelona has a very nice, mild climate and is perfect for those of you who hate being frozen. The weather is usually quite predictable with very little rain so it is a great place to live all year round.
Winter is from December to February and the average temperature sits around 10-12°C. Summer runs from July to September, with August being the hottest month. Temperatures usually hover around 25-30°C which makes it perfect beach weather!
7. The food – the Catalan cuisine is based on the fresh and healthy Mediterranean diet so it involves a lot of vegetables, bread, cereals, fruit and olive oil. The most famous dish is called ‘tapas’, which is basically a smorgasbord of olives, cheese, peppers, bread, oils, nuts and seeds – yum !
Because Barcelona is also located on the sea, seafood options are everywhere here! It is so fresh and you will be able to find almost every seafood dish on offer for a relatively cheap price.
8. The architecture – because it has such a long history, the architecture in Barcelona is incredibly diverse. There are buildings and monuments dating back a thousand years which stand right next to modern-day structures, the architecture is a wonderful mix of energy and vibrancy. Most of the famous buildings were designed by architect Antonio Gaudi.
9. It’s rich history – Barcelona is a great city for history buffs, wherever you may be within the city you won’t be far away from something historically significant. The Museu d’Historia de Barcelona (the Museum of Barcelona’s History) is also a great place to brush up on your Spanish history and they have some pretty amazing artifacts on display!
10. Wine – oh yes, Spanish wine has been known to rival the best French wine (but don’t tell the French that!). So if you enjoy a glass of red wine over dinner, Barcelona is the place for you. For a very cheap price you will have the option of an amazing selection of wines.
What to see :
- La Sagrada Familia church – receives over 3 million visitors every year! The temple was designed by Antoni Gaudi over 100 years ago and construction is not expected to be completed until 2026, which will coincide with the centenary of Gaudi’s death.
- The Magic Fountain show – at the Font Mágica Fountain. Built in 1929 it is still one of Barcelona’s main attractions. Think lights, music and a huge amount of water!
- Picasso Museum – the Picasso Museum is Barcelona's most famous museum and displays many of Pablo Picasso’s famous artworks. It is a must see for art lovers visiting Barcelona!
- Las Ramblas Street – stretches from Plaza Catalunya to the Columbus monument at the Port Vell marina. It is full of quaint shops, cafes, restaurants and bars – perfect for an afternoon walk or to pick up a gift for loved ones back home.
- Magical Montjuïc Mountain – located a little outside of the city, the magical Montjuïc is the perfect place for a walk and a bit of exercise. It is located on top of a hill and offers excellent views of the Barcelona’s scenery.
How to get around in Barcelona
Barcelona offers excellent public transport for such a small city. You can basically get anywhere you need to be via the many buses, subways, trains, cable cars and funiculars.
However, if you live close-by to your internship office then you might want to consider getting a bike for your stay. As the city offers amazing infrastructure for cyclists and it really is the perfect way to get around and see the city.
Walking is also another great option since the city isn’t that large. So your choices are endless and it is all up to how you feel on the day!
Barcelona is not a cheap place to live, however, compared to cities like London and Paris, you will save a lot on your budget. You will also save a lot of money if you do choose to walk to work or if you have a bicycle for the duration of your internship. Many of the local attractions, like museums and art galleries, can also be seen for free on certain days, so there are plenty of ways to save a penny.
On average, including all accommodation, food, activities and transport costs, you would need about $70USD per day. Obviously this can be cut back if you opt to cook food at home and do minimal or only free activities.
Spaniards are notoriously friendly, especially to tourists. So do not ever hesitate to ask a local for help or directions! However, there are some topics that should be avoided – politics, personal topics, and also anything to do with the bullfighting. These are considered taboo topics so don’t bring them up with anyone unless you feel certain they won’t be offended.
Another thing to consider is that, while Spaniards are friendly to tourists, they can often be seen “quarrelling” with each other – this is completely normal, but unusual for most Western tourists. They are passionate people and they like to talk about their problems in-depth with each other.
When being greeted, expect a kiss on the cheek if you’re a woman or an embrace if you are a man. Just like other European countries, the people in Barcelona are an affectionate breed and it is customary to be greeted in this way regardless of who you are.
Punctuality is not their forte. If you have an appointment or meeting scheduled be prepared to wait 5-10 minutes for everyone to arrive.
Traditionally, people in Spain would take a “siesta” or afternoon nap between 2pm-5pm, however, this is becoming less common these days. It does mean though that it is sometimes considered rude to contact or call someone between these hours. Avoid it if you can, but if it is urgent ensure that you apologise for calling at such an hour.
Best areas to live in
Ciutat Vella (Old Town)
This is the cultural and historical area of Barcelona and it is also quite central. It is full of museums and galleries and the streets are lined with endless shops and trinkets. It is also close to the beach and Las Ramblas, so you are literally a stones throw away from a lot of the action. A 1 bedroom apartment would set you back around $1,000 EUR per month.
Packed with Gaudi designed and inspired buildings, Example is a beautiful neighbourhood if you are an architect lover. It is also close to the center of Barcelona so it has easy access to most of the popular spots in the city. Because of the fact it is beautiful and centrally located, it is more expensive and a 1 bedroom apartment will cost you around $1,000-$2,000 EUR per month.
This is the area for you if you have an active lifestyle. It has many parks, including the Botanical Gardens and also the former Olympic sports facilities, which is why it’s a good choice if you love to exercise. You will have an endless list of running trails and activities to do while you live in this area! While it is not as central as the other mentioned areas, it has great public transport and is also fairly reasonably priced, with two-four bedroom apartments averaging around $900-$1,500 EUR per month.
Located just down the hill from Sants-Montjuïc, this is another great choice for those of you with an active lifestyle. This area is home to the Olympic village and many of the buildings are quite modern. It also has very easy access to the beach, so if you’re into the ocean as well, then this might be the right area for you. It is possible to find small apartments in the area for $800-$1,200 EUR per month.
- Medical Supplies – Spain does not internationally ship prescription medication, so if there is anything you need it is best to bring it with you.
- Sunscreen – especially if you are going to be in Barcelona during the warmer months!
- Formal but conservative clothing – people in Barcelona are very well dressed, however, compared to other countries their style can be described as conservative. It is always better to be a little more covered than usual, especially for your internship.
- Umbrella or poncho for the rainy months.
- Walking shoes – you’ll be doing a lot of it!
- Comfortable active wear – lets be honest, there are so many activities to do, even if you’re not generally a “sporty” person you will likely need some active wear at some point!
- Bathers/swimmers – you are on the Mediterranean Sea, after all.
- Backpack – because it is so much easier to carry when you are walking around so much.
No matter the type of internship you are going to be undertaking, you are sure to have an amazing time in Barcelona. It really is the city that offers it all !