A day in the life of Barcelona

Vista aèria de Barcelona de nit

Oriol Pàmies, texts Carles Javierre Kohan, infographics

In the course of a day, 1,660,314 people constantly breathing and on the move generate a great number of movements, interactions, needs, aspirations… In a year, 11,510 new lives are born and 15,575 lives are lost, a negative difference that is offset by the migration balance. The most popular baby names are Emma, Sofia and Júlia, for girls, and Pol, Bruno and Marc, for boys. And their life expectancy is longer than ever, 84.4 years on average: 87 for women and 81.3 for men. Statistical records and demoscopic studies can be used to convey the heartbeat of Barcelona on any given day.



Meters running

Barcelona’s pipes and wiring distribute energy that provides the city with well-being and helps it to produce non-stop. The meters keep running too: on average, by the end of the day, each inhabitant will have used 11.1 MWh of electricity and 150.1 litres of water. The challenge to ensure that the future is not compromised is to reduce the 6 kg of greenhouse gases emitted by each of them to obtain energy (only 7.5% of electricity comes from renewable sources). The process should be circular, like the 2,873 cubic metres of groundwater used for irrigation, ornamental fountains and cleaning.

1 am

Cleaning time

At night the city’s heart rate drops as the army of refuse collectors is mobilised. Waste is disposed of in the 27,599 household waste containers and the 12,910 commercial waste containers, not forgetting the 25,340 litter bins. It needs to be removed urgently because 2,005 tonnes of waste have accumulated over the course of the day. The streets also need to be swept and hosed down, and the sewerage network, essential for draining wastewater and preventing flooding, needs to be maintained.

2 am

Ensuring security

One in four Barcelona residents claims to have been a victim of crime. The most frequent crime reported to police stations is theft, followed by fraud and damages. The work of public security officers involves patrolling, investigating and, if necessary, making arrests, around 50 every day, which end up in one of the city’s 250 courts. Most of the detainees are released, but judges sentence 10% of them to detention and send them to penitentiary centres which, since the closure of the Modelo prison in 2017, are mostly located outside Barcelona.

3 am

The city that never sleeps

It never really gets dark in a modern metropolis. When the sun goes down, the street and shop lights come on, and while most people are sleeping, many services continue operating, especially security, health and emergency services, as well as nightlife, transport, bakeries and the press.

4 am

The biggest pantry

Without livestock and hardly any agricultural land, Barcelona’s residents rely on the efficiency of the logistics chains to fill their fridges. Much of these logistics are handled at the Mercabarna wholesale market, which at that time of day is bustling with wholesalers and retailers, with the produce then being dispatched to municipal markets.

5 am

Getting around the city

At this time, trains on the eight metro lines, the three urban train lines and the FGC suburban trains start carrying passengers. But there are other forms of mobility in the city: in total, 811,673 vehicles are registered, although the most common way to get around is on foot.

6 am

Umpteen emergencies

The emergency medical services (EMS) have been seeing patients non-stop throughout the night, both the EMS and primary care emergency centre teams: between them they treat approximately 3,000 Barcelona residents every day, 10% of them in the early hours of the morning.

7 am

The (virtual) sound of the bell

The morning shift kicks off in factories and workshops. Work, whether as a salaried employee, freelancer, self-employed person or any other type of employee, marks the organisation of the time of the 710,400 people who declare themselves to be active and employed. A further 50,500 are unemployed.

8 am

Classrooms start filling up

The morning begins with the procession of a total of 250,000 children and adolescents to the schools and secondary schools where they are educated and begin to shape their future and that of the community. Some 240,000 young people are further on in their studies and are pursuing university degrees or postgraduate studies.

9 am

The economic engine revs up

Shutters up, computers on, telephones connected: the service sector, which clearly drives Barcelona’s economy (it contributes 90% of the added value), is on an upward trend after the downturn in the wake of the health crisis in 2020.

10 am

The less visible economy

With the house empty, it is time to do the laundry, clean the windows and do the hoovering. As vital as they are undervalued, household chores have traditionally been done by women. There are around 150,000 people who declare these chores to be their only job.

11 am

Time for a stroll

It is still too early to think about lunch: there is still time to enjoy the 230 parks and gardens spread over the city’s ten districts, the Collserola natural park or the 4.8 kilometres of coastline that make up the city’s ten beaches.



Rush hour at the Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, the Barça Museum, and the rest of the monuments and cultural icons that draw huge numbers of visitors. Both in summer and winter, the volume of tourists once again runs into the millions as the travel bug bites anew.

1 pm

Time for prayer

If it is Sunday, the one o’clock mass is now commencing at the Cathedral, the city’s main Catholic church. Practising Catholics are now fewer than non-practising Catholics (6.9% compared to 26.5%) and far fewer than those who define themselves as non-believers (54.7%).

2 pm

Dining out

Eating out can be a necessity, a convenience or an exercise in cultural discovery. Whatever the case, Barcelona offers thousands of possibilities for grabbing a bite to eat or sitting down to a meal, from the modest local set menu to one of the nineteen gastronomic establishments bearing the coveted Michelin star.

3 pm

Caring for the vulnerable

Getting to this time of day in a dignified manner is already a challenge for Barcelona residents at risk of exclusion, especially for the 5,000 homeless people. This includes 21.7% of the population at risk of poverty (even if they work) and the more than 150,000 people with some degree of certified disability.

4 pm

Libraries start filling up

Half an hour ago the 40 public libraries opened after the lunch break, although, with the new digital browsing and lending system, opening hours hardly matter. Massive use has been recorded, with close to one million registered users, and public libraries are highly rated among the municipal services.

5 pm

Time for shopping

Although the chains, with more staff, can take shifts to avoid closing at lunchtime, small shops open at this time to serve customers who have finished their working day. Barcelona is a city of shops, with more than 21,000 of them.

6 pm

Doing exercise

Once the day’s obligatory tasks are over, seven out of ten Barcelona residents choose to spend part of their free time doing exercise, especially walking, swimming, running and working out on machines at the gym.

7 pm


Almost two out of every ten households in Barcelona have a registered pet. For both dogs and cats, the most popular name is Lluna/Luna.

8 pm

Homeward bound

Dinnertime usually brings the members of the household together. In one third of households there will be only one dish on the table: loneliness, whether intended or not, is common, especially among the over 70s.


9 pm

Live and direct

Grabbing a bite to eat and heading out to catch a show on time allows you to experience the thrill of the live, unique and multi-sensory event, a sensation that online entertainment cannot (yet) offer.

10 pm

Screens on

The desired prime time is not what it used to be. Now that everyone can hold a screen in their hands, the television set has lost its power as a family gathering place. Nonetheless, it is still the main source of news for more than half of the population.

11 pm

Weather forecast

Before bedtime, you need to know whether the following day will be a day for short sleeves, scarves or umbrellas. If the temperature does not fall below 25 °C, it will be a torrid night and it will be hard to get to sleep.

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