Safe and Dangerous Places in Barcelona

by Louie Lazar, an AOL Travel ContributorPosted Oct 5th 2010 10:11 PM

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Areas to Avoid Barcelona

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Barcelona is a world-class city with unrivaled architecture, culture, and history. More good news concerns its overall safety: incidents of violent crime, like sexual assault and murder, are very rare, according to the U.S. Department of State, which provides travel information on its official website. Yet have a chat with someone who has spent significant time in Spain's biggest cities (Barcelona or Madrid) and chances are they know someone who's been pick-pocketed or had something stolen - if they haven't fallen victim themselves. It's a reality in any major European city - Paris and Rome are also infamous for this - but Barcelona's tourist spots seem to be a special haven for petty thievery. Here are some areas to avoid in Barcelona, along with some reliably safe places:

Areas to avoid in Barcelona


1. The Metro Without a Travel Belt

A ride on Barcelona's crowded metro with a wallet in your pocket is a recipe for petty theft. Savvy, professional pick-pockets roam the city's subways, identifying vulnerable tourists as prey and capitalizing on every twisted opportunity. To avoid being targeted, secure your valuables in a money belt. Buy a cheap one at your local travel store - there's no better investment to avoid disaster during your vacation.

2. Crowded, Touristy Areas While in a Large Group

You might assume that being around lots of people will protect you from the bad guys. You might also think that touristy areas are safe places. This may be true of violent crime. But unlike in the United States, where pick-pocketing is existent but not widespread, in Europe's population centers it's more common. Petty criminals salivate at the sight of a jam-packed train platform or backed-up museum entrance, as it provides them the sufficient chaos necessary to bump and steal or to snatch a briefly-unattended camera or valuable.

3. Beaches and La Sagrada Fam'lia

While for the most part beaches and churches are safe places, Barcelona's beaches and the Sagrada Fam'lia area are pick-pocket havens due to the large number of tourists who flock here. The U.S. Department of State lists these two neighborhoods as areas to avoid in Barcelona if you wish to avoid getting pick-pocketed. Nonetheless, if you keep your antennae up, you should be perfectly safe here.

4. Ciutat Vella After Dark

The Ciutat Vella district, including side streets off La Rambla, is notorious for late night crime and is one of the areas to avoid in Barcelona after dark. Exercise good judgment by never walking alone near La Rambla in the late evening. The U.S. Department of State, on its website, warns tourists that thieves can work in groups of two or three, with one of them distracting you while another makes off with your bag.

Neighboring Montjuic, a historic hill popular with tourists, has also seen a spike in crime the past several years. Although it's not one of Barcelona's dangerous places, do be careful when in this neighborhood after dark.


Safe Places in Barcelona


Despite the Department of State's warnings about pick-pocketing, Barcelona is largely a safe city full of safe places for travelers. Ironically, some of its riskiest spots in terms of pick-pocketing - on La Rambla, around the Sagrada Fam'lia, in the Parc Guell and on the metro - are Barcelona's safest areas when it comes to more serious criminal activity. Areas of high tourist traffic attract petty thieves, as shadesters thrive on misdirection and pandemonium, but violent crime rarely occurs in such parts. So to protect your physical well-being, here are some areas where you can feel comfortable in Barcelona.

1. La Rambla

As long as you don't stray from this main tourist drag at night, La Rambla avenue is one of Barcelona's very safe places. With hoards of foreigners confined to a relatively small pedestrian walkway, violent criminals have little chance to do too much evil. So, enjoy your shopping and people-watching on La Rambla while staying on guard against pick-pockets and you should be fine.

2. Eixample

Known for its impressive architecture and Gaud''s must-see Sagrada Fam'lia church, this neighborhood is very safe. Its wide scenic boulevards, charming restaurants, and higher end hotels tend to deter bad guys, who prefer things a little seedier.

3. Gracia

Just to Eixample's west is Gracia, the neighborhood which contains Gaud''s Alison in Wonderland-like Parc Guell. Gracia is peaceful and safe, with a calm mix of cafes, restaurants, green spots, and plazas. The U.S. Department of State urges visitors to be alert when in Parc Guell, as it is a tourist trap, but withholds any strong warnings about Gracia in general. Assaults and similar violent activities almost never occur here.

4. Sarriˆ-Sant Gervasi

With its narrow streets and charming village-type feel, Sarriˆ-Sant Gervasi, located in northwest Barcelona, is virtually free of any kind of crime. Primarily a wealthy residential neighborhood with high-end restaurants and bars providing some culture and nightlife, Sarriˆ-Sant Gervasi is a near sure bet when it comes to safe areas in Barcelona. Head here without hesitation.

Like in most major European cities, petty crimes generally occur when tourists fail to be aware of their surroundings. So, common sense rules apply. Remain alert. Never leave valuables unattended. Carry a money belt. Stay in well-lit areas at night. Keep an overall low profile. Do not call unnecessary attention to yourself by being perceived as a loud and obnoxious foreigner. You may end up an angry and passport-less foreigner. Abide by these simple guidelines, and you should leave Barcelona unscathed.

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