barcelona

Tipping

A certain gallantry keeps Spanish service workers from seeming to care about your small change, but waiters and other service people expect to be tipped, and you can be sure that your contribution will be appreciated. On the other hand, if you experience bad or surly service, don’t feel obligated to leave a tip.

Restaurant checks always include service. The bill may not tell you that the service is included, but it is. An extra tip of 5% to 10% of the bill is icing on the cake. Leave tips in cash, even if paying by credit card. If you eat tapas or sandwiches at a bar—just round up the bill to the nearest euro. Tip cocktail servers €0.20 a drink, depending on the bar. In a fancy establishment, leave no more than a 10% tip even though service is included—likewise if you had a great time.

Taxi drivers expect no tip at all and are happy if you round up in their favor. A tip of 5% of the total fare is considered generous. Long rides or extra help with luggage may merit a tip, but if you’re short of change, you’ll never hear a complaint. On the contrary, your taxi driver may round down in your favor.

Tip hotel porters €1 a bag, and the bearer of room service €1. A doorman who calls a taxi for you gets €1. If you stay in a hotel for more than two nights, tip the maid about €1 per night. A concierge should receive a tip for service, from €1 for basic help to €5 or more for special assistance such as getting reservations at a popular restaurant.

Tour guides should be tipped about €2, barbers €0.50, and women’s hairdressers at least €2 for a wash and style. Restroom attendants are tipped €0.50 or whatever loose change is at hand.

Tours

Special-Interest Tours

Art Tours

The Ruta del Modernisme (Moderniste Route), a self-guided tour, provides an excellent guidebook (available in English) that interprets 100 Moderniste sites from the Sagrada Família and the Palau de la Música Catalana to Art Nouveau building facades, lampposts, and paving stones. Tickets (books of coupons valid for a year) and manuals are sold at the Plaça Catalunya Tourist Office, Pavellons Güell, and Hospital de Sant Pau.

The Palau de la Música Catalana offers guided tours in English every hour on the hour from 10 to 3. Sagrada Família guided tours cost extra. Casa Milà offers one guided tour daily (6 pm weekdays, 11 am weekends). The ticket price, €18, gets you 50% discounts at numerous sites around town, as well as free guided tours (in English at specified hours) at Pavellons Güell, Hospital de Sant Pau, and the Manzana de la Discòrdia (at 11,12,1, 2:30, and 5).

Architect Dominique Blinder of Urbancultours specializes in explorations of the Barcelona Jewish Quarter, but can also provide tours of the Sagrada Família or virtually any aspect of Barcelona from the architectural standpoint.

Contacts

Centre del Modernisme, Centre d’Informació de Turisme de Barcelona (Pl. Catalunya, 17, soterrani, Eixample, Barcelona, Catalonia, 08002. 93/285-3834. www.rutadelmodernisme.com.)

Centre del Modernisme, Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau (C. Sant Antoni Maria Claret, 167, Eixample, Barcelona, Catalonia, 08025. 93/317-7652. www.rutadelmodernisme.com.)

Centre del Modernisme, Pavellons Güell (Av. de Pedralbes 7, Pedralbes, Barcelona, Catalonia, 08034. 34-902-076621. www.rutadelmodernisme.com.)

Centre d’Informació de Turisme de Barcelona (Pl. Catalunya 17, soterrani, Eixample, Barcelona, Catalonia, 08002. 93/285-3834.)

Urbancultours (info@urbancultours.com. www.urbancultours.com.)

Culinary

Aula Gastronómica del Mercat de la Boqueria (Cooking Lessons at the Boqueria Market) includes tours of the market with breakfast, cooking classes, and tastings, but they’re not in English. Jane Gregg, founder of Epicureanways, offers peerless gourmet and wine tours of Barcelona, Catalonia, and the rest of Spain. Teresa Parker of Spanish Journeys organizes cooking classes, seasonal specials, custom cultural or culinary tours, corporate cooking retreats, or off-the-beaten-path travel in Spain.

Contacts

Aula Gastronómica (Sagristans 5, Barri Gòtic, Barcelona, Catalonia, 08002. 93/301-1944. www.aulagastronomica.com.)

Epicureanways (507 Nottingham Rd., Charlottesville, VA, 22901. 866/642-2917. www.epicureanways.com.)

Spanish Journeys (805 Long Pond Rd., Wellfleet, MA, 02667. 508/349-9769. www.spanishjourneys.com.)

Day Tours and Guides

Boat Tours

Golondrina harbor boats make short trips from the Portal de la Pau, near the Columbus monument. The fare is €6 for a 35-minute tour of the harbor and €12.50 for a 90-minute ride out past the beaches and up the coast to the Fòrum at the eastern end of the Diagonal. Departures are spring and summer (Easter week-September), daily 11-7; fall and winter, weekends and holidays only, 11-5. It’s closed mid-December-early January.

Fees and Schedules

Las Golondrinas and Trimar y Ómnibus (Plaza Portal de la Pau s/n, Rambla, Barcelona, Catalonia, 08001. 93/442-3106. www.lasgolondrinas.com. Drassanes.)

Bus Tours

The Bus Turístic (9:30-7:30 every 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the season), sponsored by the tourist office, runs on three circuits that pass all the important sights. One covers upper Barcelona; another tours lower Barcelona; and a third runs from the Olympic Port to the Fòrum at the eastern end of the Diagonal. A day’s ticket, which you can buy on the bus, costs €21 (a two-day ticket is €27) and also covers the fare for the Tramvía Blau, funicular, and Montjuïc cable car across the port. You receive a booklet with discount vouchers for various attractions. Rides for Buses 1 and 2 start at Plaça de Catalunya; Bus 3 starts at the Olympic Port. Each bus stops a dozen times, allowing visitors to jump off and catch a later bus after visiting each monument. A live narrator explains the sites and monuments. Julià Tours and Pullmantur run day and half-day excursions outside the city. The most popular trips are those to Montserrat and the Costa Brava resorts, the latter including a cruise to the Medes Isles.

Contacts

Bus Turístic (Pl. de Catalunya, 3, Barcelona, 08040. 93/318-7074. www.barcelonabusturistic.cat.)

Julià Tours (Ronda Universitat 5, Eixample, Barcelona, Catalonia, 08007. 93/317-6454.)

Pullmantur (Gran Vía 645, Eixample, Barcelona, Catalonia, 08010. 902/240-070. www.pullmantur.es.)

Helicopter Tours

Baló Tours S.L. runs balloon and helicopter tours in and around Barcelona. Cat Helicopters circles Barcelona for €75 per person for 10 minutes, €220 for 30 minutes.

Fees and Schedules

Baló Tours S.L. (Montecassino 2, Eixample, Barcelona, Catalonia, 08006. 93/414-4774. www.balotour.com.)

Cat Helicopters (93/224-0710. www.cathelicopters.com.)

Private Guides

Nicholas Law of Spain Step by Step can take you on brilliantly planned and guided treks all over Spain, including walks through Barcelona, the Costa Brava, or the Catalan Pyrenees. Guides from the other organizations listed below are generally competent and encyclopedic, though the quality of language skills and general showmanship may vary wildly. For customized tours including access to some of Barcelona’s leading chefs, architects, art historians, and artists, Heritage Tours will set it all up from New York.

Contacts

Associació Professional d’Informadors Turístics (93/319-8416.)

Barcelona Guide Bureau (93/268-2422. www.barcelonaguidebureau.com.)

City Guides Barcelona (93/412-0674.)

Heritage Tours (800/378-4555; 212/206-8400 in U.S. www.heritagetoursonline.com.)

Walking Tours

Turisme de Barcelona offers weekend walking tours of the Gothic Quarter, the Waterfront, Picasso’s Barcelona, Modernisme, a shopping circuit, and Gourmet Barcelona in English (at 10:30 am) for €16.21. The Picasso tour, a real bargain, includes the entry free for the Picasso Museum (€9). Tours depart from the Plaça de Catalunya tourist office. For private tours, Julià Tours and Pullmantur both lead walks around Barcelona. Tours leave from their offices, but you may be able to arrange a pick-up at your hotel. Prices per person are €35 for half a day and €90 for a full day, including lunch.

For the best English-language walking tour of the medieval Jewish Quarter (or Gaudí’s Sagrada Família), contact Dominique Blinder at Urbancultours.

Contact

Turisme de Barcelona (Pl. de Catalunya 17-S, Eixample, Barcelona, Catalonia, 08002. 93/285-3834. www.barcelonaturisme.com.)

Visitor Information

The Tourist Office of Spain (and its Web site) provides valuable practical information about visiting the country. Turisme de Barcelona has two main locations, both open Monday-Saturday 9-9 and Sunday 10-2: Plaça de Catalunya, in the center of town; and Plaça Sant Jaume, in the Gothic Quarter. Other tourist information stands are near the top of the Rambla just below Carrer Tallers, at the port end of the Rambla (just beyond the Columbus monument) and at the main entrance of the Sagrada Família. There are smaller facilities at the Sants train station, open daily 8-8; the Palau de la Virreina, open Monday-Saturday 9-9 and Sunday 10-2; and the Palau de Congressos, open daily 10-8 during trade fairs and conventions only. For general information in English, dial 010 between 8 am and 10 pm any day but Sunday.

El Prat Airport has an office with information on Catalonia and the rest of Spain, open Monday-Saturday 9:30-8 and Sunday 9:30-3. The tourist office in Palau Robert, open Monday-Saturday 10-7, specializes in provincial Catalonia. From June to mid-September, tourist-information aides patrol the Gothic Quarter and Ramblas area 9 am-9 pm. They travel in pairs and are recognizable by their uniforms of red shirts, white trousers or skirts, and badges.

Barcelona Tourist Offices

Sants Estació (Pl. dels Països Catalans s/n, Eixample, Barcelona, Catalonia, 08014. 93/285-3834.)

Plaça de Catalunya (Pl. de Catalunya 17-S, Eixample, Barcelona, Catalonia, 08002. 93/285-3834. www.barcelonaturisme.com.)

Plaça Sant Jaume (Ciutat 2, Barri Gòtic, Barcelona, Catalonia, 08002. 93/285-3834.)

Servei d’Informació Cultural-Palau de la Virreina (Rambla 99, Rambla, Barcelona, Catalonia, 08002. 93/316-1000. www.bcn.cat/cultura.)

Regional Tourist Offices

El Prat-Barcelona Airport (Terminal T1/T2, Barcelona, Catalonia. 902/404-704.)

Palau Robert (Passeig de Gràcia 107, at Diagonal, Eixample, Barcelona, Catalonia, 08008. 93/238-8091. www.gencat.net/probert.)

Tourist Office of Spain

U.S.-General (666 5th Ave., 35th fl., New York, NY, 10103. 212/265-8822. 212/265-8864. www.okspain.org.)

Chicago (845 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL, 60611. 312/642-1992. 312/642-9817.)

Los Angeles (8383 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 960, Beverly Hills, CA, 90211. 213/658-7188. 213/658-1061.)

Miami (1221 Brickell Ave., Suite 1850, Miami, FL, 33131. 305/358-1992. 305/358-8223.)

Canada (2 Bloor St. W, 34th fl., Toronto, ON, M4W 3E2. 416/961-3131. 416/961-1992.)

United Kingdom (22-23 Manchester Sq., London, W1M 5AP. 020/7486-8977. 020/7486-8034. www.tourspain.co.uk.)