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Areas to Avoid in Barcelona

Areas to Avoid in Barcelona: A Guide for Safe Travel

by Christian Petzold - updated August 29, 2023

Barcelona, Spain’s artistic gem and a hotspot for tourists worldwide, offers an enchanting blend of history, culture, and innovation. However, amidst the allure, it’s essential to navigate wisely. While Barcelona largely provides a safe environment, some areas warrant caution.

This guide is designed to keep you informed about the areas to avoid in Barcelona and tips to prevent unsavory experiences, ensuring your visit is memorable for all the right reasons.

General Safety in Barcelona

When it comes to safety in Barcelona, it’s crucial to maintain a keen awareness of your environment and adopt necessary measures to circumvent potential misadventures. Although Barcelona is largely a secure city, some parts are best avoided, particularly after the sun sets.

As a visitor to this vibrant city, it’s important to be mindful of the risk of pickpocketing and bag theft in high-traffic tourist locales such as Las Ramblas, Sagrada Familia, and Park Guell. To enhance the security of your valuables, including passports, credit cards, and cash, it’s advised to securely store them in diverse places instead of carrying them all together.

Vigilance is also recommended in metro and train stations, particularly during nighttime hours. Steer clear of vacant compartments and remain observant of your possessions. If you’re journeying solo, aim to position yourself near other passengers or the train’s driver.

Should you require aid, Barcelona has an array of local resources at your disposal. From tourist information centers and police stations to emergency services, help is never far away. Remember, your safety is paramount during your enjoyable visit to this beautiful city.

Where to stay in Barcelona?

There is no area that you completely have to avoid in Barcelona at all cost. In the old town some areas of el Raval will feel unsafe at night if you walk on your own. So if you are a solo traveller maybe avoid that area.

Here are the best places to stay in Barcelona when you are concerned about safety:

  • Eixample district: Barcelona’s fancy modernism district, featuring wide boulevards, the famous Gaudi Houses and luxury shopping on Passeig de Gracia. Expect great hotel options with a higher price tag. The old town will be a 10min walk.
  • Sarria / Sant Gervasi: Upper class resident district just above Avenida Diagonal. To get to the old town you will need to take a 10min taxi ride or use public transport. But you will be close to some great shopping options that are very popular among locals.
  • Gracia: Former village with that was incorporated into Barcelona during the city expansion in the 19th century. Narrow lanes with little traffic and picturesque plazas. Bohemian lifestyle with hip shops and trendy bars. Located just above the Eixample district.

To search for a specific area or accommodation close to an attraction, please use the map below:

Booking.com

Common Problems and Scams in Barcelona

While Barcelona is a magnificent city with much to offer, there are typical problems and scams to be aware of as you explore. Knowing what to look for can help you avoid these petty crimes and improve your travel experience.

1. Petition Signing Distraction Scam

A common scam in Barcelona targets unsuspecting tourists at popular attractions with a seemingly innocent request: to sign a petition supporting a noble cause.

  • How it works: While engrossed in signing, one person distracts you, allowing an accomplice to steal your wallet or phone swiftly.
  • Safety Advice: Stay alert when approached by petitioners. Keep your valuables secure and in sight at all times.

2. “Found” Ring Scam

This scam leverages a “lucky find” to lure you into a trap.

  • How it works: A stranger approaches you, claiming they found a ring on the ground and offers to sell it to you at a bargain price. The ring is usually worthless; once you’ve paid for it, the scammer vanishes.
  • Safety Advice: Maintain a healthy skepticism about any deal that seems too good to be true.

3. Pickpocketing

Petty theft, such as pickpocketing, is unfortunate in many bustling cities, including Barcelona.

  • How it works: Thieves typically operate in crowded areas, such as La Rambla, making away with valuables while their victims are distracted.
  • Safety Advice: Keep your valuables in a secure place, preferably hidden. Stay aware of your surroundings, particularly in crowded spaces.
Pickpocketing

Areas to Avoid in Barcelona

When visiting Barcelona, it’s essential to be aware of areas to avoid in Barcelona to ensure your safety. While Barcelona is generally a safe city, some specific neighborhoods and locations are known to have higher crime rates and safety risks. 

Here are some areas to be cautious of:

1. El Raval

El Raval, a part of Barcelona with a rich cultural tapestry, is an area that deserves mention when discussing areas to avoid in Barcelona. Its history is as intricate as its vibrant street art, music, and thriving nightlife. However, this neighborhood also carries a reputation for higher crime rates, especially after sunset.

  • Safety Issues: The crimes range from petty thefts to more serious offenses like drug trafficking and assault.
  • Safety Advice: To mitigate risks, stick to well-lit, busy streets, particularly after dark. It’s essential not to flash expensive items and to keep your belongings secure.
  • Common Crimes: Predominantly, pickpocketing, bag-snatching, and drug-related crimes are a concern.
Bag Snatching In El Raval

2. Barrio Gótico at Night

The Gothic Quarter, known locally as Barrio Gótico, is a historic part of Barcelona that has maintained its medieval charm. But the labyrinthine layout, narrow alleys, and historical ambiance that add to its allure during the day make it one of the areas to avoid in Barcelona at night.

  • Safety Issues: The maze-like streets can become locations for petty crimes after sunset.
  • Safety Advice: It’s advised to stay alert, keep your possessions secure, and avoid venturing into secluded alleyways after dark.
  • Common Crimes: Pickpocketing and petty thefts are frequently targeted at unsuspecting tourists in this area.

3. El Born

El Born, a district known for its bohemian spirit, chic boutiques, and gastronomical delights, has its share of safety concerns. The area’s magnetic appeal to tourists also, unfortunately, attracts petty thieves, making it one of the areas to avoid in Barcelona without proper caution.

  • Safety Issues: The popularity of this district with tourists makes it a common target for thieves.
  • Safety Advice: Watch carefully on your belongings, particularly in crowded places like the Picasso Museum or Passeig del Born. Make sure to leave your belongings in sight.
  • Common Crimes: Pickpocketing and bag-snatching are frequent issues in El Born.

4. Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas, a major hotspot for tourists and locals, presents a kaleidoscope of shops, restaurants, and street performers. Unfortunately, this energetic area is also a hub for pickpockets and petty thieves, making it one of the areas to avoid in Barcelona without sufficient vigilance.

  • Safety Issues: The constant bustle and heavy foot traffic make it an attractive area for petty thieves.
  • Safety Advice: Stay vigilant, particularly of your personal belongings, and be wary of street-side vendors who might use diversion tactics for theft.
  • Common Crimes: Pickpocketing and scams are the main safety concerns in Las Ramblas.
Many People In Las Ramblas

5. Parc de la Ciutadella at Night

Parc de la Ciutadella, often called Barcelona’s “green lung,” is a beautiful haven within the city. However, the tranquility it offers during the day transforms it into one of the areas to avoid in Barcelona at night due to safety concerns.

  • Safety Issues: Dimmed lights and fewer crowds after dusk can increase crime vulnerability.
  • Safety Advice: Avoid wandering around the park alone after sunset. If you must, stick to areas that are well lit and populated.
  • Common Crimes: Incidents of robberies and muggings occasionally occur in secluded areas of the park at night.

6. Beach Areas

Barcelona’s sun-soaked beaches are a paradise for sunbathers and water sports enthusiasts. However, these popular areas are also notorious for pickpocketing and theft, leading them to be categorized as areas to avoid in Barcelona without sufficient caution.

  • Safety Issues: The distraction caused by the beach’s allure can lead to unattended belongings, making them an easy target for theft.
  • Safety Advice: Do not leave your belongings unattended while enjoying the water or sunbathing. Utilize beach lockers, if available.
  • Common Crimes: The most frequent concerns at Barcelona’s beaches are bag and mobile theft.
La Nova Icaria Beach

7. Nou Barris and Sant Andreu Districts

Nou Barris and Sant Andreu are residential districts on the outskirts of the city center. Although not typically tourist hotspots, these areas have higher crime rates than the average in Barcelona, which calls for visitors’ caution.

  • Safety Issues: The crime rates, particularly at night, are slightly higher than in Barcelona’s central parts.
  • Safety Advice: It’s important to stay vigilant, especially when walking alone at night, and to stick to well-lit, populated areas.
  • Common Crimes: These neighborhoods have reported burglary, mugging, and occasionally car theft.

8. Metro Stations and Public Transport Hubs

The convenience and efficiency of Barcelona’s public transportation system are unquestionable. Still, metro stations and public transport hubs also have their share of safety concerns, thus making them areas to avoid in Barcelona without proper precautions.

  • Safety Issues: The bustling nature of these locations, especially during peak hours, attracts pickpockets.
  • Safety Advice: Keep your personal belongings secure and avoid displaying expensive items. Be aware of distractions, as these might be attempts to divert your attention.
  • Common Crimes: Pickpocketing is the most common crime experienced in these areas.
Barcelonas Public Transportation System

9. La Mina District

La Mina, located in Sant Adrià de Besòs outside of Barcelona, carries a reputation for high crime rates, including drug-related offenses, and is typically not recommended for tourists, marking it as one of the areas to avoid in Barcelona.

  • Safety Issues: High crime rates, drug-related offenses, and a less tourist-friendly environment are concerns here.
  • Safety Advice: Tourists should avoid this area and choose safer, more tourist-friendly districts.
  • Common Crimes: Drug-related crimes, assaults, and robberies occur frequently in this district.

Bottomline

Understanding the areas to avoid in Barcelona does not take away from the city’s charm but allows you to explore Barcelona’s beauty more securely. Remember to stay alert, stay safe, and enjoy your time in this magnificent city.

7 thoughts on “Areas to Avoid in Barcelona: A Guide for Safe Travel

  1. Seems that every touristic place is unsafe in Barcelona! All the areas says petty thieves at night. Where is it safe to stay and where is it safe to walk at night to go to bars and restaurants?

    1. Hi Lupita, Barcelona is generally a very safe city. The main problem is pickpocketing. This usually occurs in a way that you only realize something is missing later on, so often it is hard to tell if someone stole an item from you or if you actually lost it.
      This pickpocketing occurs mainly around the touristic hot spots in the old town and outside major tourist attractions like Sagrada Familia. So in these areas it is wise to pay attention to your belongings. In terms of where to stay, there is no area that you completely have to avoid. In the old town some areas of el Raval will feel unsafe at night if you walk on your own. So if you are a solo traveller maybe avoid that area.

    2. Hey lupita, I’m from Barcelona, all turistic areas are safe, just avoid raval. I give you a tip, don’t take a hotel in the center, at night some areas are pickpockets

  2. Barcelona is fairly safe, but it is a place to be extremely vigilant, especially at night on La Rambla, Gothic Qtr and El Raval. A man had his Rolex stolen off of his wrist on Carrer Ample in Gothic Qtr right by our hotel a few weeks ago. Do not wear expensive jewelry or watches and leave passports in hotel room.

  3. We just visited Barcelona, Sept/Oct 2023,walked throughout the center at popular tourist sites, and experienced no pickpockets or other harassment from anyone. We observed cautions with our valuables and were vigilant, but both the streets, shops, restaurants, hotels and Metro as well as popular tourist sites were totally safe and comfortable for us. We are very happy that all the worry was unfounded, though I’m sure bad things have happened and can still happen. We are very happy with our visit in Barcelona.

  4. My wife and I were in Bracelona for two one week long cruise departures last year. Heard multiple horror stories at hotel, cruise ship and at airport. Lessons learned:
    1)Be aware of bird poop trick, where someone will distract you with pretend bird poop on your shoulder (really some form of mayo or other liquid, and other will try to distract you 2)try not to dress like you have too much money and carry epensive purse, as you will be an easy target when shopping at department store, but keep your passport at hotel 3)don’t put your laptop bag down and be easily distracted, as you can kiss that laptop goodbye 4)try not to talk on iphone near curb as thieves on mopeds can easily swipe your phone and purse. My wife and I did not dress like wealthy tourists; in fact locals crossed the street when we were walking, so in a way, look poor and needy and sinister!

    1. Hi Steven,
      Thanks for your comment and recommendations. I don’t think it’s necessary to dress moderately. It is mainly a matter of paying attention.
      Thieves in Barcelona are unlikely to use force because they would face far more serious consequences. In most cases, the victim will only realize something is missing later on.
      What you say about passports is great advice. There is no reason to take it with you when sightseeing in the city, and losing it is a huge hassle, although it has hardly any value to the thieves.

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