Spain is a popular tourist destination and unfortunately, this often means that tourists are taken advantage of. Getting an authentic Spanish experience or shopping close to a popular tourist spot often means you’ll also have to reach deeper into your wallet. Today, we’ll explore some of the most common tourist traps in Spain and show you alternative ways to avoid them!

Shopping and Eating at Madrid’s Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor is wonderful. It’s one of the most popular attractions in Spain and a place that dates back hundreds of years. It’s definitely the one you should visit, but not the one where you should spend any money at. Cafe con leche? Sure, but you’ll be paying at least €2 more than you would pay at Madrid’s most popular coffee shop!

  • Alternative:

Plaza Mayor is a fantastic place to enjoy the Spanish atmosphere and meet people. But if you’re looking for an authentic shopping and food experience, check out the Sunday market El Rastro instead! We also recommend ordering and comparing the ‘menú del día’ options at various restaurants nearby. Chances are, it’s much cheaper and equally as delicious!

Hanging Out at Madrid’s Puerta del Sol

Puerta del Sol is Madrid’s version of Times Square. It’s a popular meeting point but, unfortunately, it’s also where you’ll find several scam artists and pickpockets. Because of its location, it attracts masses of tourists that are looking to spend money, which makes them a target for con artists. Because of its huge crowds, it is also impossible to take a good photo of the photogenic plaza, unless you’re an early riser.

  • Alternative:

You can see everything there is to see if you pass by Puerta del Sol on a tour bus or any other form of transportation. Stop by Plaza del Callao instead, or head up to the top of El Corte Ingles to snap some gorgeous pictures of Madrid from up above!

Souvenir Shopping at Las Ramblas in Barcelona

Similar to Madrid’s Plaza Mayor, Las Ramblas is extremely popular with tourist crowds. In fact, there’s a good chance you won’t find anyone else on this street other than tourists and vendors selling to tourists. While it’s definitely a picturesque and sunny street to walk on, you can easily find cheaper alternatives to any souvenirs and any other items just a few minutes away.

  • Alternative:

Stop by Rambla del Poblenou instead! Located next to Plaça de Catalunya, Rambla del Poblenou is often crowned as the non-tourist version of La Rambla. The street is also much more local-friendly and ideal for socialising and enjoying the authentic Barcelona atmosphere.

Authentic Flamenco and Sangria in Barcelona (and elsewhere)

Although Barcelona is a highly multicultural city, chances are the flamenco and Sangria experience won’t be authentic everywhere you go. Barcelona offers plenty of so-called authentic Flamenco shows and the best Sangria in the city. But because neither of those things actually originally come from Barcelona, you need to be mindful of the possible tourist traps.

  • Alternatives:

You can catch an authentic Flamenco show in Barcelona during festival times instead of going to a private performance. One of the most popular festivals, which lasts over three months, is Festival De Cajón - well-worth the experience.

Sangria is another popular tourist trap that’s actually usually made with very cheap wine and sold at high prices. When in Barcelona, go for Cava instead - it’s a popular Catalan champagne. As a bonus point, you can also order Sangria de Cava and pretty much get the best of both worlds.

The flower pin scam

The flower pin scam has made its way to all big Spanish and Catalan cities. You can pretty much find women handing out flower pins just about anywhere and if you’re a solo traveler, you’ll immediately become a target. These people will often ask for a coin from your country as a souvenir in exchange for a flower pin. They’ll find a way to hand you a pin without you even asking for it, But when you reach for your wallet, you might notice that there’s more than just a coin missing.

  • How to avoid the flower pin scam:

Be firm and decline the pin. They’ll sometimes refuse to take it back - just place it on the ground and walk away.

Overly inviting restaurant owners and good-looking food pictures

In some of the cities, Spanish restaurants will often have its owners outside, inviting people to come in. While this is often an effective gesture, they are also used by restaurants that might not necessarily have a huge amount of customers. Those particular restaurants might also often have good-looking food pictures on display, but once you step in, you’ll often see a totally different story. Of course, there are plenty of charismatic restaurant owners that will provide a completely different outcome, which is why researching the restaurant is incredibly important.

  • Alternative:

Make sure to do a good enough research of the restaurants you want to visit beforehand. You can also often get a good food recommendation from your hotel / hostel reception. On top of that, make sure you always do a quick online research, no matter how inviting the place might be from the outside.

And that's it for common tourist traps in Spain! Do you have any recommendations? Let us know in the comments!

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