Eating Whitebait and Getting Mugged in Barcelona - URBANETTE: Lifestyle Magazine & Blog

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Eating Whitebait and Getting Mugged in Barcelona

What happened when I, and a group of my best girlfriends, went to Barcelona for a little fun.

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Vacations: we all love them. Some of them are simple; others…. are spectacular. Whether you’re traveling to Portland or Paris, vacations are something to cherish. This year I was lucky enough to go to Barcelona for a few days.

Ah, Barcelona. When I first purchased my tickets, all my friends said the same thing: “Be careful. Everyone I know who’s been to Barcelona gets pick-pocketed.” Whatever, party poopers!

Eating Whitebait and Getting Mugged in Barcelona

There we were; Me, and four of my best girlfriends, on a flight to Barcelona. Having never been there before, I was pumped to explore this amazing city and all its history. Since traveling is best done on the fly, I decided to go with no itinerary. This, to me, was the best way to travel. With the help of a handy Lonely Planet book, there was no need to schedule anything. Barcelona, get ready!

Eating Whitebait and Getting Mugged in Barcelona

When we first stepped out of Barcelona El-Prat Airport, my body rejoiced. New York was in the low 50’s, so arriving ditching the chilly NYC weather and slipping into the mid 70’s was simply divine. Sure, it’s not like I was in Mexico or anything, but at least I wasn’t dodging snowflakes! It was so nice to trade my heavy wool coats for pashminas, shorts and tights. I was pleased my sense of style had returned, however, the Spaniards were not. The locals, still decked out in their warm jackets and boots, were all glaring at me as if I’d been drinking too many sangria’s….

Eating Whitebait and Getting Mugged in Barcelona

Barceloneta Beach, with the W Hotel in the background

Since I hadn’t planned anything, my friends took the responsibility of playing tour guide, relying on our trusty Lonely Planet book. First, we first hit Barceloneta Beach. Sandy beaches as far as the eye could see, waves crashing onto the shore and beautiful sunshine…it was worth the trip.  I was admiring the W Barcelona hotel in the distance when all of a sudden a more intriguing view came into sight. A naked man, in his 60’s, was strolling past us with a bright smile on his face. Here I stood, in my jacket and leggings, opposite an elderly man with nothing but his package. I tried to be mature and look away, but my childishness got the better of me and I giggled out loud.

Feeling as if our time at the beach has just peaked, we pushed off for more of the city. As our day continued, we went on to view many other glorious sights such as La Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, and Casa Mila; all of which were designed by the one and only Antoni Gaudi (a Catalan architect whose distinctive works were found mostly in Barcelona). We gawked over the dark beauty of his style (Gaudi’s buildings seemed very Gothic to me) and then did what we did best: took countless unflattering photos that would not do any of his works justice.

Eating Whitebait and Getting Mugged in Barcelona

La Sagrada Familia

We were now famished, so we decided to refuel. We ate as the Spaniards ate. We had tapas for every meal. We devoured everything, including the dish that almost severed our friendship, as everyone was fighting over the fried whitebait. These little fish (reminded us of anchovies) were fried an appetizing golden-brown, and served with a dash of lemon juice. Our waiter had recommended the dish, and all of us inspected it carefully before diving in. Within minutes, we were ordering more. They might have tasted better with beer, but this was Barcelona! Instead, we washed our food down with white sangria. De-lish! 

Not only was the food lovely, but so was our Spanish waiter. This handsome and flirtatious stud in his twenties told me repeatedly that I was “extremely beautiful” in English, and between him and the fried whitebait, I couldn’t decide which I liked better. Happy as a clam, I took note of the fact that none of us got pick-pocketed…..yet.

Eating Whitebait and Getting Mugged in Barcelona

The subway in Barcelona

We were now on the train back to the hotel. Our group of six got separated in two carriages. It was close to midnight, and the train was getting packed. I found myself in the last carriage with one of my other friends. As I nestled against a pole, I heard her shout, “Hey!” I turned to look, and saw a group of well-built men, all dressed in black leather, surrounding her. My friend had her hands in her pockets, trying to elbow her way out from the group. I wanted to help – but I stood transfixed. She managed to squeeze her way through and ran out to the platform. She shouted my name, and I ran out after her. My sister and our friends who noticed the commotion also came out of the train. So did the group of men.

I knew if a fight broke out among us, we would lose for sure. We were no match for this group of men, and the train conductor knew too.

The train didn’t leave. After a death stare match that felt like forever with the men, they finally walked away but not without leaving their mark, as tiny pieces of glass surrounded us when one of them threw a beer bottle at our direction. Thankfully, none of us were hurt. We asked our friend what exactly happened and she told us they were feeling her up as they surrounded her. We didn’t know if it was a Lonely Planet tip or if our friend was just cautious, but keeping her hands in her pockets was a smart move. If she had taken them out to maneuver, the men would’ve stolen her phone, camera, and passport, which were all nestled in her jacket pocket.

Once we were back at the hotel, we thought about our narrow escape, feeling a little shaken from the experience. I thought about our trip, and while had loads of fun stories to share, I knew I’d always be starting off with: “Be careful. Everyone I know who goes to Barcelona gets pick-pocketed. We almost did.” But besides the incident on the metro, our trip was perfection. Overall, Barcelona is incredible- and I can’t wait to go back. With the culture, the sights, the drink and naked men walking around, how could a woman not love this city?! Just hope that on your next trip here, the naked man isn’t in his 60’s 🙂

Have you had an experience like this? How do you stay safe while traveling?

I hold a bachelor's in magazine writing and an associate's in fashion merchandising management at Fashion Institute of Technology, New York. My love for fashion has led me to several opportunities in the industry including but not limited to styling, writing, brainstorming, producing fashion shows, and public relations.

Reader Discussion: 94 Comments

  1. Brett Lee

    I was a victim!!! I was pickpocketed on the metro. A girl kept bumping into me and was standing so close, that was the distraction while her friends got my camera! 😩😡

  2. Andrea Jones

    WOW! I’ve heard a million tales of robberies in Barcelona!

  3. Carmen Griffin

    Simply being aware will ensure that your possessions are kept nice and safe, no one alert has ever been pickpocketed 🙃

  4. Zoraida Martin

    I’ve read that pickpockets operate basically anywhere where there are tourists —foremostly on the metro, Las Ramblas, on the beach (especially at night), in the Gothic District and El Borne.

  5. Della Martin

    An almost misadventure in Barcelona…

  6. Rosalia Russell

    Be alert and mindful at all times!

  7. Elizabeth Gonzalez

    Wonderful write-up. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Karen Abeyta

    Great article! I feel glad that you still enjoyed your vacation despite that frightening incident.

  9. Connie Schmidt

    Excellent article. You described the experience in great detail 👍👍👍

  10. I knew that pickpocketing is common in Barcelona and your article is EXTREMELY helpful. I’m about to travel to Spain at the end of September, I’ve bookmarked this!

  11. Jessy

    Wherever we are, we should ALWAYS be CAUTIOUS!

  12. Marjory Brooks

    Although Spain, esp. Barcelona is beautiful, this seems to be a very common story.

  13. Maria Rapier

    I appreciate your article. This serves as a reminder to be aware of surroundings and be prepared. I’ll be visiting Spain this May and I have this article bookmarked.

  14. Oxi Harger

    So sorry to hear about your “almost traumatic” experience in Barcelona. But thank you for writing about it. Serves as warning 😉

  15. Florence Frederick

    Excellent advice!!! I’m a seasoned traveler and this is a good reminder and wake up call. I think Barcelona is a great city to visit (we just need to be vigilant 😎😎😎)

  16. Joyce McAllister

    Thanks for sharing! Having recently visited Barcelona I felt fortunate to come home with none of “terrible” stories like this.

  17. Francis Vest

    Antoni Gaudi is an amazing architect. I dreamt of being an architect someday, and he’s one of my inspiration.

  18. Helen Boone

    I guess there are shops in Barcelona that sell pepper spray and knives? I just want to protect myself from the muggers.

  19. Maddi Lemmon

    You can actually see a lot of men fully naked around the Barceloneta because it’s beach you know. Most of them are actually tourist

  20. You can just leave your important belongings at the hotel. Pretty sure, your room has a vault so, you can leave cash and important files there.

  21. Ofelia Ruley

    Your friend is right. It’s never wrong to listen to a friends’ advice. I know that you’re too excited to travel, but your safety is important more that anything else.

  22. I wish that the next time I visit Barcelona, I still have no experience of being mugged.

  23. Doreen Morales

    That’s why whenever I travel, I have a self-defense kit. This is to protect me from muggers.

  24. I always dream of going to Barcelona, it’s very romantic place. I feel like I’m Juliet in the Romeo and Juliet. Lol

  25. Hachi Komatsu

    It’s really fun to travel without any plans. Just wandering around, having no clues where to go. It’s the best way to enjoy a vacation.

  26. There’s a lot of people being naked in Barcelona because of the weather compared to NYC.

  27. Swami

    What month is the best time to travel to Barcelona? I’m going there!

  28. Maxine Ford

    I don’t know how will I react if I’m the one who sees the naked man in his 60’s. lol

  29. Esther Devine

    Too bad, there’s a lot of bastards in Barcelona. But going there is still worth it. Just be safe when you wander.

  30. Joan Morales

    It’s really delicious, as for how you describe it. I love fish!

  31. Brittany West

    Pick-pockets are really insane people! Why would they steal something? Get a job mofos!

  32. Lisa Bryson

    I’m a fan of Antoni Gaudi! His designs are really amazing. I wish I can be a great architect as him.

  33. Deanna Woods

    Whenever place you go, whether it’s just in NYC or outside NYC, safety is always important.

  34. Eloise Ferris

    Is there a lot of naked guys at the beach? Please say yes! Lol.

  35. Genie Mackenzie

    You should leave important things at the hotel. Just bring your money and some of your handy gadgets like mobile phone or GoPro.

  36. April Henry

    Oh, If you’ve just listened to your friend. But thank God your friend was alert.

  37. Jewel Mische

    Though there are reported incidents like this, I still can’t deny the fact that Barcelona is beautiful!

  38. Thanks for the “warning.” But if a pickpocket does manage to pull one over on you, remember to stay calm and don’t panic.

  39. Jazmin

    Have a sharp eye!!!

  40. Sharlene Robinson

    I’d advice ladies to avoid handbags that are easy for “grab and run” thieves.

  41. Don’t be an easy target! Have the look of a savvy traveler 😉

  42. Sasha

    Experience is the best teacher! Thanks for taking time to write about yours 😉

    Pickpockets gather around tourist spots and train stations. It’s obvious that it would be difficult and indeed silly for you to avoid these places completely.

  43. Whenever I feel someone’s trying to squeeze between me and my friend’s (and that is anywhere in the world), I feel my possessions are in jeopardy, so I stay alerted and constantly check my things.

  44. Heather Cagle

    Oh! I believe this is “The Crowded MetroScam” that involves a group of thieves who’ll push in front of you as you try to get on or off a train.

  45. Veronica Christophers

    Don’t be afraid to confront anyone, particularly if you feel you’re being robbed.

  46. Does this mean I have to be paranoid when visiting Barcelona?!

  47. Lakeshia Liu

    I think in every destination, research is important! What I’ve read about Barcelona, the crooks often work in groups, preying on distracted and disoriented tourists.

  48. Loiza

    Barcelona is known for its vibrantly artistic heart, incredible food, and unforgettable nightlife. Unfortunately, the city is also known for an unresolved honor: Barcelona is the pickpocket capital of the world.

  49. Diana Bradley

    I’ve survived 20 years of traveling on the Prague metro (also a pickpockets’ haven) but was a victim on day 2 of my recent trip to Barcelona…

  50. Trisha Boyle

    I love Barcelona and it’s a shame that its reputation for theft keeps people away.

  51. Kerry-Ann M. Meyers

    Reading this gave me chilling memories of past muggings I experienced in Rome. I encountered gypsy girls, extremely skillful pickpockets. A lesson I learned: Do not venture in the dark alone!

  52. There’s a saying that if you pray in the La Sagrada Familia, you have a huge chance that God hears your prayer because La Sagrada is closest to heaven. I just heard it from the movie I watched.

  53. Lancy Stanford

    Whitebait sounds familiar to me. My friend is from Barcelona, and he told that when I visit their place, I should try that food. He said that it’s really good.

  54. Jeweli Prater

    Your safety is important whenever you go. You travel outside your country, it’s really important to take care your belongings while you’re not in your own country.

  55. Britni Baynes

    I will put this in my mind. Thanks, Urbanette! We’re planning to visit Barcelona, and we really have no idea about the culture and the place. It’s a great advice, we will ensure that the pick-pocketers will get nothing from us. Much love.

  56. George Sumanta

    Barcelona is really an amazing place. I visited it once, and I will definitely go back there someday. Don’t mind the pick-pocketers, as there’s a lot of that in the city.

  57. Katherine Donnelly

    Oh, wait? Seriously? A naked man? Lol. I will really laugh at that too.

  58. Eloisa Clay

    That’s why I love reading articles here in Urbanette. They give meaningful advice to all travelers.

  59. Ani Hoker

    I would want to stroll around and all I can see were all naked man with their 20’s. I would love to see their package as well. ROFL

  60. Kimberly Holder

    Do all the people in Barceloneta beach are naked? If that’s the case, then, it would be my favorite place! HAHAHA

  61. Now I’m craving! Lol. When I went to Barcelona, the waiter suggested whitebait as well, and it’s true that it’s good with beer. This article makes me want to visit Barcelona.

  62. Dawn Katz

    Oh, too bad you experienced like that in Barcelona. But I agree with you, the best traveling is done by fly! I wish I have lots of money to travel, or how I wish that traveling is free.

  63. Evelyn Harris

    I went to La Sagrada Familia when I went to Barcelona. I feel so blessed when I visited this place. It’s a great place to visit, especially if you’re a Catholic.

  64. Kelly Gonzales

    Whitebait? Hmmm.. I’m not a fish lover but I will try that. Do we have that here in NYC?

  65. Sherry Manust

    I am surely taking note of that place where you ate!!! Lol. I hope the waiter is the same too. Yikes!

  66. Carrie Bleau

    That’s a smart move of friends of yours! She’s alert to what is happening. Those guys, I wish I wouldn’t meet them if I visit Barcelona. I will kick their ass.

  67. Olive Williams

    I thank God, I don’t have any experience like this when I’m in Barcelona. It’s a great place to visit, you will definitely fall in love with their buildings.

  68. Carol Joyner

    If I were you, I will bring pepper spray or something that can protect you like a knife. Your friend already warned you about Barcelona, you should take it seriously

  69. I’m so in love with Barcelona!!! I definitely need to plan a trip back there ASAP…

  70. Candis Melton

    I like your way of traveling. No itineraries, just going with the flow where your feet will bring you. It’s more adventurous.

  71. If I go there, I think I’m like the naked guy you see. Will walk there totally naked because it’s too hot.

  72. Jodi Thil

    After reading your article, I think I want to visit Barcelona! I’m putting it on my list now.

  73. Blanche Martina

    I’ve been pick-pocketed before in NYC. The experience was really traumatic. What else is this? Those dudes! They’re getting on my nerves!

  74. Monique Malick

    I think I’ll definitely go to Barcelona just to eat Whitebait and, of course, to see a flirty waiter. Lol.

  75. Kathryn Gibson

    Be careful whenever country you go. Pick-pockets are not just in NYC or in Barcelona. Keep safe always.

  76. Mildred Davis

    One of my dreams is to visit Barcelona. I love how the architectural structures were built in there.

  77. We are planning to visit Barcelona this coming June. Thanks for your advice! We will surely be safe when we go there.

  78. Linda Williams

    Hahaha! I would love to visit Barcelona if I can see a naked man in his 20’s. Lol. HAHA

  79. Veola Sancho

    That is why whenever I’m in Barcelona, I don’t bring too much while wandering the place. Barcelona is a great place, but it isn’t safe.

  80. Paul Daiz

    Oh, so next time, listen to your friends’ advice. Thanks for sharing your experience in Barcelona. I wish I have enough money to visit that wonderful place.

  81. Allow me to share an experience by friends. I guess it’s a scam being used for tourists. These friends of mine traveled in a group and ate by Sagrada Familia. Of course they were conversing in English. When they asked for the bill, they were surprised to find around 6 euros added on the total. They questioned it and because no explanation for it, it was removed.

    Be sure to check everything! Don’t be fooled…

    • Norisna

      I do that even in Canada. There are Swindlers everywhere! At stores, at restaurants and even at the banks! Sometimes I saw on my Bank statements are missing 1 dollars or 5 dollars I complain and immediately are added.Yes, everywhere! maybe the difference is on the percentage, 25% of corruption it is different of 75% of corruption. Anyway. It is our responsibility to check what we pay, what we receive and if all is correct and we must complain if it is necessary….

  82. WOW! Sharing your personal story is really appreciated 🙂 During my first trip to Barcelona, I was advised that pickpocketers come in group(s). They have spotter that will watch on you at a distance and will try to see what they can get from you…

    Well, I wasn’t robbed or experienced something negative during my trip and what I can advice is to NEVER EVER LOOK like a tourist. Act and look like a local 🙂

    • Donna

      I agree. Making an effort to fit in with the local’s dress code will make you less likely a target.

  83. Francis Woods

    If riding trains in Barcelona is not safe, what mode of transportation is safe then???!!! Is riding the bus or a taxi safe?!!! Mmmmm….

  84. I love and enjoy travelling! And I must admit that reading your personal story scared me…

    Whenever I travel, I make sure to avoid dodgy areas. Research really helps!

  85. Melissa Smith

    Wow! I appreciate you sharing your personal story! The bad guys almost got you there! Both positive and negative stories have been shared with me by friends and family who already visited Barcelona. And among the negative experiences, bag snatching is the hardest to avoid.

    I think the most important thing to remember is “not using camera bag or expensive looking purse or bum bags” AND “not putting” valuables in there.

  86. Hannah Mayers

    I have been hearing stories of pick pocketing and bag snatching and these are making me doubtful about visiting Barcelona…

    But I think pick pockets prefer to choose easy victims, always deliver well and don’t display valuables which can catch their attention.

    … And ALWAYS KEEP PASSPORT SAFE!!!

  87. I have visited a lot of places, both for work and leisure. For me, the key to being safe (and this applies to whatever place you visit, not only Barcelona), is to behave and display yourself as a savvy tourist! Avoid that “ignorant tourist look.”

    • I must agree with you! A big NO-NO act I have been observing tourists do is looking at their maps while on public places. To me, these tourists are making themselves instant target! It’s never wrong to ask questions, but it’s important that tourists look smart and sharp AT ALL TIMES!

  88. Shocking! Thank you very much for sharing your story! I’ve heard a number of “not-so-good” experiences with Barcelona tour. I personally think that Barcelona is still a good place to visit and explore. A tourist just needs to be EXTRA careful though…

  89. Being safe, having fun, and knowing how to speak different languages majorly helps on vacation. This a great story to share for anyone going abroad with friends!

  90. Courtney Watson

    Scary! Europe can definitely be a bit of a culture shock. Being overly cautious when traveling is much better than getting too adventurous and getting mugged or hurt.

    • Totally agree with you! Sometimes it’s better to be safe (and a bit boring) than be hurt and sorry…

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