Is Barcelona Safe for Solo Travellers?

The Catalan Capital, Barcelona, is without a doubt one of my favourite cities in the world. Every time I visit I find myself falling more and more in love with the wonderful architecture of my favourite modernista buildings and the smatterings of Gaudí’s work that punctuate the city. I remember how much I adore the juxtaposition of the buzz of the city compared with the far more relaxed pace enjoyed at the beach. My taste buds perk up at the scent of tapas and jamon and I am constantly surprised by the different panoramic views across the sprawling city afforded from various different points.
I’ve visited Barcelona around ten different times – as an undoubtedly annoying 12 year old on a school trip, with family, as a cruise passenger, with friends, with my boyfriend, for work and also alone. I’ve had many readers ask (via my Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter) if Barcelona is a safe place for solo travellers. My answer? YES!

I’ll be the first to admit that Barcelona has quite the dodgy reputation when it comes to safety. Years of spades of stories of pickpockets and thieves will undoubtedly do that to a city, but I’ve certainly never felt unsafe there.

I’ve heard stories of friends having their bags emptied of the money and passports while they’ve ridden the Metro and one friend had their phone stolen during a trip a few years ago. The stories are all out there and I can certainly see why this might be enough to put some people off visiting, but please don’t let it put YOU off.

On my most recent visit it was clear to me that something was being done to rid the city of this poor reputation and clean it up for tourists and travellers. The police presence during my trip was high and I felt safer for it. There were none of the ‘street entertainers’ setting up card games and other diversions on Las Ramblas to distract tourists whilst their ‘colleagues’ swiped purses, wallets and other valuables. (How people even still manage to fall for these schemes is beyond me. Don’t do it people!)

Las Ramblas has always been a notoriously bad stretch of the city for pickpockets to work their magic, but this time I strolled up and down the street countless times and didn’t see any evidence of anyone with an ulterior motive. It was simply full of locals going about their daily lives and visitors admiring the grandiose architecture that lines the street.
I’ve never felt unsafe walking in Barcelona at night and have always found the streets to be busy at night with people going to and from their homes and apartments so much so that I’ve never had to walk down a deserted street.

With regards to pickpockets and thieves then I exercise the same precautions that I do in any other large city or destination. I keep my bag close to me at all times (on my latest trip I used a small clutch bag which I carried in one hand and kept zipped at all times), I didn’t keep anything in my pockets, didn’t wear any particularly flashy jewellery and made sure to keep my wits about me. I didn’t feel under threat or in any way uncomfortable at all during my trip.

These are things I do in every place I travel to and I have never had anything untoward happen to me *touches wood*. I feel that you’re just as likely to be a victim of pick pocketing in any large, anonymous European city as you are in Barcelona. I don’t treat Barcelona as a particularly dangerous destination and I don’t think you should either.
Don’t let tales of pick pockets and thieves put you off exploring such an exciting city. Go to Park Güell and admire the views of the city from Gaudí’s playground. Order more tapas than you could ever possibly eat. Drink cava and enjoy the afternoon sunshine. Stroll down Las Ramblas and admire the architecture. Soak up the beach atmosphere and feel the sand between your toes. After all, if we let a few bad tales put us off visiting destinations then we’d probably never leave our own hometowns, right?!


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4 Responses to Is Barcelona Safe for Solo Travellers?

  1. kami

    I’ve been few times to Barcelona, always solo, and even if I was slightly paranoid due to the bad reputation the city has, nothing ever happened to me or to anyone I know. I guess it might be just an urban legend and as long as you use your common sense you will be fine in Barcelona, and everywhere else in the world!

    • Emma Gray

      I definitely don’t think it’s urban legend as I know people who’ve experienced it, Kami but I definitively think it’s not as bad now. And yes, as you said, always use your common sense!

  2. Parka

    Well, you can be a pickpocket victim and still feel safe. The pickpocket is not a robber after all.

    I’ve heard first hand account from many friends who had their stuff pickpocketed, me included. The number of incident itself is quite disappointing. I’ve one friend who had her handbag snatched twice from on top a table in a single year.

    My advice is not to be over-confident, always be aware, keep your belongings out of sight, and zipped up if possible.

  3. Jessica (Barcelona Blonde)

    I live in Barcelona, and I definitely agree that you shouldn’t let the threat of pickpockets ruin your trip. Honestly, it’s only “dangerous” for your belongings. Physical safety isn’t usually an issue.

    As long as you have your bag literally on you at all times and are sensible about leaving your important stuff in your hotel or whatever, you’re probably going to be just fine. Almost everyone I know who has gotten robbed has been drinking at the time, by the way. The thieves are really clever here and inarguably an issue for visitors, but if you’re prepared you can avoid becoming a target.

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