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When planning a trip to Barcelona, one of the most commonly asked questions amongst first-timers and inexperienced travelers is, “is Barcelona safe?” Fortunately, the answer is an overwhelming YES! (And in fact, any experienced traveler will tell you that you are a thousand times safer in most European countries than you are in the United States!) Having said that, any country or city can fall victim to crime. In Barcelona, the most common type of crime is “petty crime,” such as pickpocketing. In this blog post, I’ll give you the best tips to avoid pickpocketing in Barcelona and keep yourself and your belongings safe.

Barcelona, Spain
The streets of Barcelona

Is Barcelona Bad for Pickpockets?

In short, the answer is yes – Barcelona has actually been referred to as the “pickpocketing capital of Europe.” However, don’t cancel your trip just yet. This is NOT solely a “Barcelona problem.” Almost all major tourist cities in Europe are bad for pickpockets, and Barcelona just happens to be one of the most widely visited tourist destinations in all of Europe.

Having said that, whenever I have gone to Barcelona, I have never had an issue. And it’s ALWAYS been because I have been aware and conscious of my belongings, and I use common sense measures to keep myself safe.

Why Are There So Many Pickpockets in Barcelona?

As previously discussed, Barcelona is a major tourist destination in Spain, but that’s not the only reason for pickpockets. To put it simply, there are a lot of low-income people or families who want (or need) things for free. You may be thinking, “Spain isn’t a third-world country!” – but it’s the same concept as having homeless people in New York City. People end up in life situations where they have little to no money, and they think their only option is to steal. Some pickpockets are mentally ill, others could be jobless or drug addicts.

Keep in mind, civilians aren’t allowed to carry guns in Europe like we are in the United States. Even though Barcelona gets a bad rep for petty crime, at least you know your chances of being held up at gunpoint are slim to none.

Do Children Actually Pickpocket People?

As sad as it is, children are one of the main groups of people that pickpocket. Often times, their parents will train them to do this because they are unsuspecting to the average person. I was told once that in Europe, adults will teach children to pickpocket by wearing a set of bells near the object that the child is supposed to take. If the child is able to retrieve the item without making the bells jingle, he or she is considered “trained” in the art of theft.

Other (Seemingly Innocent) Pickpockets

In addition to children, a lot of women will try to get money out of you not just through pickpocketing but also through pity. You will have women come up to you and say they need money because they are pregnant, they need money to feed their children, their husband left them and they can’t afford to live, etc.

While this is certainly sad – especially if it’s actually true – keep in mind that as soon as people see you handing money out, you immediately become a target. Your best bet is to ignore these women and keep walking.

Some women will try the opposite approach to get money out of you, and choose flattery instead! I have stepped off the Barcelona metro platform and practically into the arms of women handing me flowers and necklaces, trying to hug me and give me jewelry, etc. Know that when this happens, they always want money. Give the “gifts” back and keep walking.

What Are The Most Common Places to Get Pickpocketed in Barcelona?

Although pickpocketing can happen anywhere, any area that is tourist-heavy or crowded with people carry the biggest risk. Places to be extra careful include:

  • Riding the Barcelona metro
  • At the metro station
  • The Gothic Quarter
  • Near La Sagrada Familia
  • Plaça Catalunya
  • Park Güell
  • Las Ramblas

Pro Tip: Las Ramblas in Barcelona is known as the true pickpocket capital of the city because of the high volume of tourists and therefore the abundance of opportunity for thieves. Be extra careful here!

The Best Ways to Avoid Pickpockets in Barcelona and Keep Your Belongings Safe

The Best Purses and Bags to Carry to Avoid Pickpockets

Any time I travel anywhere, I always carefully plan out what purse, wallet, and/or backpack I am going to carry when I am out and about. In European countries, this is especially important. You want to make sure you have something that you can keep on you at all times and is not easily accessible. Additionally, knowing the main targeted items that people tend to steal is also important, as you can take extra care to secure those items.

  • Pro Tip: When I travel, I will always take my entire wallet with me, but usually only take one credit card and a little bit of cash when I am out and about. I keep my wallet, passport, and the rest of my cash locked in the hotel safe,

Crossbody Purses

Ideally, the best purses to carry in Barcelona are crossbody purses because they are not easily taken off of your body the way that a purse slung over only your arm would be. When I carry a crossbody purse, I will also walk with my hand over the top of it for extra security.

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Many crossbody bags have slots inside of them that you can keep your credit cards and ID in. I will usually put my credit cards in one of these pouches because they are harder to get out; therefore I feel like I would notice if someone was trying to take them out of my bag.

Fanny Packs

Ohhhhh sheeeeeit the fanny pack is BACK! The bag that was all the rage in the 80-90s and then became the symbol of “uncool middle age style” is now back with a vengeance. (And we have designers like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Prada to thank for that!)

Shop this top rated fanny pack from Amazon

Even if you can’t afford a Louis Vuitton fanny pack, at least you know they’re back in style AND fully functional for your Eurotrip. Any bag that you are wearing in front of you is a good idea because you are much more likely to see and notice someone trying to steal from you. Your belongings are essentially right in front of your eyes at all times.

Neck Wallet

Out of all the options I’ve listed, this is the best one for the guys and everyone else who doesn’t want to carry a purse. A neck wallet is essentially a wallet attached to a strap that goes around your neck and holds your credit cards, passport, money, and more. These are extra safe because you can put them down inside your shirt, keeping them out of sight of pickpockets! The downside to using neck wallets is they aren’t always as easily accessible as some of the other options I’ve listed here.

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Some might say NO to a wristlet, but I have carried one in Europe multiple times and have never had an issue. However, I think that is largely because of the way that I carry my wristlet.

Any time I take a wristlet to Europe, I will keep the strap around my wrist and the actual wallet part in my hand, as shown in the photo below. If the strap is long enough that I can wrap it around my wrist twice, I will also do that.

Protecting my wristlet in Plaça Catalunya

When I am walking or riding the metro, I will keep my hand over the zipper part of my wristlet as opposed to on the side. If I am sitting down to eat, I will sometimes put my wristlet underneath my leg on the seat if it is small enough, or if I am eating somewhere that it is exceptionally busy.

This Patricia Nash wristlet from Macys was a splurge, but it was worth it for me because it’s made well and was the perfect size!

How to Keep Your iPhone From Getting Stolen

You may have heard the rumors, and I’m here to tell you they’re true: iPhones are the number one thing that people want to steal from you in Europe (aside from your money). For most of us, our lives are essentially stored on our phones, and therefore, keeping your iPhone safe is a huge priority. Some of the best ways to keep your phone safe include:

  • Do NOT carry your phone in your back pocket – this is one of the easiest places for pickpockets to snatch it out. Instead, keep your phone in your bag or purse.
  • Avoid setting your phone down on the table when you are eating – this is especially true for places that are crowded or if you are sitting outside.
  • Be wary of who you trust to take your photos – I have a not-so-lowkey fear of handing my phone to a stranger who offers to take my photo and then having him/her run off with it. I usually take a lot of photos myself using this tripod from Amazon!
  • Pay attention to your surroundings – a lot of times, many of us are lost in our phones when we travel, and not always for the wrong reasons. I rely on maps and direction apps a lot to get me places, but figuring out where I’m going can deter my attention from the people nearby. It is important to glance up every now and then, and remember to keep a tight grip on your phone if you’re using it while walking.

Pro Tip: My phone battery gets drained quickly when I travel because I rely so much on navigation apps. Because of this, I always carry this portable iPhone charger with me so I can charge my phone on the go!

Avoid Stranger Danger

I touched on this earlier when I talked about women and children being common pickpockets, but it bears repeating. As much as I love making friends and talking to locals on vacation, you gotta trust your gut.

How to Stay Safe From Pickpockets as a Solo Traveler

One of the downsides of being a solo traveler is you become more of a target to this sort of thing than you normally would be if you were in a group. When I am out and about, I always employ the same principles to stay safe no matter where I go:

  • Walk with confidence and assertiveness – or, like they used to tell me in dance class, “walk with a purpose”
  • You don’t have to always be polite – if someone seems sketchy, ignore them and keep going
  • Trust your gut – if you feel like someone is going to “try you,” you’re probably right
  • A little RBF never hurt nobody – practice your resting bitch face and avoid direct eye contact with anyone who’s attention you don’t want

What To Do If You Get Pickpocketed

File a Police Report with the Barcelona Police

In the event that you do fall victim to pickpockets, the best thing to do would be file a police report, otherwise known as a “denuncia.” This does not, of course, guarantee that you will get your items back, but it is unfortunately the best chance you have. Below is the contact information for the police station closest to Las Ramblas:

Comisaria de Policia de Barcelona (Ciutat Vella)
Carrer Nou de la Rambla, 76-78
08001 Barcelona, España
Tel: +34 93 306 2300

If you get travel insurance, make sure to clarify if it covers any type of theft or stolen items. If so, you will need to turn in a reference number to file the claim with your insurance, which you can find on your denuncia.

Register With the US Embassy Before Your Trip

One of my top European travel tips is to register with the United States Embassy’s S.T.E.P. program in the country you are visiting BEFORE you go on your trip. If your purse or wallet is stolen containing your ID or passport, the US Embassy is who you want to contact. I always recommend writing down their information and keeping it on a piece of paper in your suitcase and leaving it in your hotel room.

How to Locate a Stolen iPhone

Most people with iPhones know about the “Find My” feature, where you can use your cellular device’s GPS to track down your missing iPhone. I HIGHLY recommend enabling this feature not just for Europe, but for everyday use (you never know!). To make sure “Find My” is enabled, pull up the app and select Devices at the bottom. Open this tab, select the device you want, and make sure it is showing the correct location for your iPhone.

I highlighted a few key points about the Find My app below. For more in-depth information, check out this article from Apple and this article from Macworld.

A few key points about using the “Find My” app:

  • The feature must be turned on BEFORE the phone gets lost
  • If you don’t have access to another Apple device, you can use Find My on a PC browser or desktop with iCloud! Simply go to and type in your Apple ID/password.
  • You ARE able to track your phone even if it is offline or turned off! (This is apparently done using Bluetooth and is WAY too technologically advanced for me to go into further detail!)
  • You are able to clear your iPhone’s data and lock it down if you are worried it is gone forever. If you have to get a new phone, you should be able to restore most your data from iCloud backup

How to Use Someone Else’s iPhone to Find Your Stolen iPhone

  • Have your friend open the “Find My” app, and click on “Me” on the bottom right
  • Scroll to the bottom and click “Help a Friend”
  • Log into their phone with your Apple ID and password
  • You should now be able to view your phone’s location.
  • Pro Tip: If you have an Apple Watch, you can also use Find My on it to track your phone too!

In Summary

If you abide by these safety tips, you will likely be able to avoid pickpockets. Keep your belongings close to you at all times, know the closest Barcelona police station to your hotel, and be aware of your surroundings. Check your bag or purse when you sit down at a restaurant or get back to your hotel to make sure you have all of your items. Keep a tight grip on your phone at all times. Using these travel tips will ensure that you have a great experience AND return home with all your belongings!

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