This is a difficult article to write because I don't want to scare people off from coming to Barcelona. By writing about safeguarding your personal safety in Barcelona and how to ensure you are not pick pocketed or robbed implies that the city is not safe.
However it's true to say that there is a pick pocketing and bag snatching problem in Barcelona.
So many times I walk down La Rambla and see tourists with maps open, looking lost and with their bags unguarded. These tourists will almost certainly be noticed by all the wrong people and be an instant target. You can be a tourist, no problem, but what you must behave like is a savvy tourist and you will be much, much safer.
Please take these precautions to safeguard yourself. I know you may think it will never happen to you. You may even think that "all big cities are the same in this respect" but I would say perhaps think again. I see so many tourists that are leaving themselves wide open for something to happen and all they need to do is just take a few simple steps to help safeguard themselves.
Is The Ramblas Safe? (The Ramblas is the main promenade through central Barcelona)
In my opinion, the Ramblas is safe. At night (after 23:30) the south end of Las Ramblas (between the Grand Theatre Liceu and Colum) may be a little seedy but still relatively safe. However, if you're not comfortable, you can avoid this area at night. The rest of the Ramblas is pleasant to walk at night as thousands of people come to see street performances you should however still keep your witts about you on Las Ramblas.
Credit should go to Barcelona town council that are taking steps to make the city safer for tourists. We have noted a significant drop in the number of site visitors writing in to us about thefts and robbery over the last year. This is not to say that there is no longer a problem - there is, but it does appear that things are defintely improving.
Site Visitor Feedback from Jan in the UK
I have lived in Barcelona for 18 years now ( drank from the fountain I'm afraid!) and I wanted to add my reassurances that Barcelona is indeed a safe city, however I would comment Spanish worry about their clothes and that people who live here don't ever dress in shorts on the metro or in centre of town .. to do so identifies you as a tourist.(Therefore increasing risks of being a pickpockets target)
In restaurants don't leave your bag on the floor or hanging over your chair especially in Ramblas area as they will pick it up or quickly cut the strap.
Thanks Jan - what you described actually happened to a friend of mine. She left her bag on the back of her chair. It was gone in minutes in a full restaurant with tables all around her. We still don't know how they managed to take her bag.
If you want to know the "dress code" in Barcelona and what you should wear to blend in with the locals - see our Barcelona Dress Code Article
Pick pocketing and bag snatching is a problem on the Ramblas, at rail stations, on the beaches and on the metro (subway). One visit to any police station will demonstrate that.
Following the next 16 Safety Guidelines will radically reduce the chances of someone trying to pick pocket or rob you. We have compiled these guidelines after reading actual real events sent to us from site visitors. Each one of the guidelines will help protect you against the most common theft types. Read more here.