Need recommendation: guidebook for living in Barcelona
August 2, 2012 8:25 AM   Subscribe

My son will soon be traveling to Barcelona, Spain to attend a five-month student exchange program there. He may end up staying longer. What are the best guidebooks for an American living in that city/region?
posted by zainsubani to Travel & Transportation around Barcelona, Spain (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
From Barcelona it is possible to reach many other European countries easily - so something like a "Rough Guide to Europe" might be useful to research these kinds of possibilities. With that out of the way "Lonely Planet Catalunya" takes care of the region nicely. For more detailed specifics on Barcelona I would stick to online sources initially - and then see what his fellow students are reading when he gets there.
posted by rongorongo at 8:54 AM on August 2, 2012

I don't think he'll need one. He'll have already lived there for enough time to know the city / region pretty well, and probably better than any guidebook just published but written two years prior.

I speak from experience - I did an exchange program in London and after my first month in London, threw out the guidebook. I made friends and just hung out with the locals, and that was better than any guidebook in the world. That's the whole point of living in a foreign country - getting to know people and having them share their lives and culture with you.
posted by HeyAllie at 8:55 AM on August 2, 2012

I would possibly hold off any guidebook that attempts to cover all of Europe - through sheer lack of space these really will only give the most cursory of treatments to each country and focus on major tourist spots. If he ends up staying longer and planning trips around it's super easy to pick up a guide for a specific country, or read one in a library.

Lonely Planet guidebooks have always served me very well; both the individual country and individual region ones are well worth picking up. For me they strike a good balance between both practical and historical / cultural info, and between well-known "must sees" and more obscure things to search out.

Whilst meeting people and sharing / learning their culture is amazing, and to be hugely encouraged, I'd say that throwing out the guidebook once you've met a few people is a pretty bad move. Locals in big cities can be the worst people to ask about the best things to see in and around them; overexposure, underexposure and opinion coloured by years of having to put up with tourists whilst trying to get on with their daily lives all have a role here. 6 months into living in Paris, having bought and read cover to cover both the Rough Guide and Lonely Planet to the city, I found myself being asked for advice by local friends on whether things to do were worth it more often than the other way round.

A very bon voyage to your son, I'm sure he'll have an amazing experience. Student time in a major European city is a pretty awesome privilege.
posted by protorp at 11:11 AM on August 2, 2012

I´m Spanish and live near Barcelona. I though TimeOut Barcelona and the Barcelona Unlike City Guide might be helpful.

For the whole region, both this (Cultural Tourism in Catalonia) and this (Tourism - Generalitat de Catalunya) look like good starting points.

I hope that helps.
posted by lux at 2:40 PM on August 2, 2012

Lonely Planet has a Barcelona City app with great maps that include train stations, sights, food etc listed, as well as a Practicalities section with info on such topics as medical services, money, postal servces, taxes & refunds, public holidays, etc.
posted by lulu68 at 7:02 PM on August 2, 2012

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