Can You Drink Tap Water in Barcelona?

If you’re planning a trip to Barcelona in Spain, you might be wondering if you can drink tap water in Barcelona. The answer is “Yes,” but it doesn’t taste very nice and there are some good reasons why you might want to consider not drinking it for a long period of time. Most people drink bottled water rather than drinking tap water.

In this guide, I’ll answer every question you have about washing clothes, bathing, brushing your teeth, drinking tap water, having drinks with ice in them, swimming, buying bottled water, and using filtered water in Barcelona.

Where Does Barcelona Tap Water Come From?

The tap water in Barcelona, a bustling metropolis on the eastern coast of Spain, comes from two main rivers, the Ter and Lobregat Rivers.

Winter in Lobregat river waterfall, Barcelona, Pyrenees, Spain
Winter in Lobregat River waterfall, Barcelona, Pyrenees, Spain

The Llobregat River, a significant river to the south of the city feeds into the Mediterranean Sea.

The water from these sources is gathered and treated in modern sophisticated processing facilities before it is sent across the city as the tap water that residents and tourists drink.

But due to the region’s increasing population and frequent droughts, this has often not been enough.

To supplement the natural supply, Barcelona has been drawing upon desalinated seawater from the Mediterranean and underground aquifers.

Barcelona’s desalination plant, one of Europe’s largest desalinization plants, was built during a severe drought in 2008.

It now plays a crucial role in ensuring the city’s tap water supply is reliable and resilient, particularly in the face of climate change and the potential for droughts to occur more regularly.

So can I drink tap water in Barcelona?

You certainly can drink Barcelona’s tap water. It is meticulously treated and tested to ensure it meets the stringent health and safety standards set by both the European Union and the Spanish authorities.

So, from a safety perspective, Barcelona’s tap water is absolutely safe to drink.

Boy drinking water from a tap in Barcelona, Spain
Boy drinking water from a tap in Barcelona, Spain

The hardness of Barcelona’s tap water is significantly high, with mineral content—mainly calcium and magnesium—above the levels found in many other parts of Spain or Europe.

While not harmful to health, this hardness can lead to build-up in pipes and appliances, reducing their efficiency and lifespan. It can also lead to a ‘soapy’ taste, which many find unappealing.

Furthermore, the tap water’s flavor is often described as ‘metallic’ or ‘earthy,’ largely due to the chlorination process essential for disinfection.

Although chlorine ensures the water’s microbiological safety, it can lead to an unpalatable taste.

Though the minerals in tap water in Barcelona aren’t harmful, your taste buds might prefer bottled water. If you’re staying in Barcelona for an extended period, consider a water filter to improve the taste.

Should I drink bottled water in Barcelona?

Bottled water offers a solution to the not-so-great taste of Barcelona tap water, by providing a softer, cleaner taste.

Cafe goers drinking bottled water at Park Güell, Barcelona, Spain
Cafe goers drinking bottled water at Park Güell, Barcelona, Spain

With a wide variety of both local and international brands readily available in stores across the city, you can choose from still or sparkling, mineral-enriched, or pure spring water, catering to individual preferences.

However, it’s worth noting the environmental implications of consuming bottled water. The production and disposal of plastic bottles contribute to pollution and resource depletion.

Barcelona, like many cities, is working hard to improve its environmental footprint, and opting for tap water over bottled water can contribute to this effort of reducing plastic waste.

To navigate these factors, many residents and conscious tourists use a refillable water bottle combined with a portable water filter.

This strategy improves the taste of tap water but minimizes your environmental impact, providing a balance between personal comfort and ecological responsibility.

Water Filters for Barcelona Water

In Barcelona, water filters are a common household item due to the city’s hard and somewhat metallic-tasting tap water. These filters serve to improve the taste of the water, making it more palatable for drinking and cooking purposes.

Reverse osmosis water purification system under sink in a kitchen
Reverse osmosis water purification system under a sink in a kitchen

Water filters work in various ways, but they typically contain activated carbon and ion-exchange resin. The activated carbon effectively removes the taste of chlorine, which is used to disinfect the tap water, and reduces other contaminants.

The ion-exchange resin helps to soften the water by removing the minerals—mostly calcium and magnesium—that cause hardness.

Popular water filters in Barcelona range from simple jug filters, like Brita, which are easy to use and don’t require installation, to under-sink or whole-house filtration systems that provide filtered water directly from the tap.

The choice often depends on the consumer’s needs, budget, and living situation.

While filters require an initial investment and regular maintenance, they can be a cost-effective and eco-friendly alternative to buying bottled water.

Besides, they contribute to the reduction of plastic waste and energy consumed in producing and transporting bottled water.

Therefore, using a water filter in Barcelona not only improves your drinking water’s taste but also helps protect the environment.

Water filter bottles for travelers

For travelers prioritizing convenience, hydration, and environmental sustainability, individual water filter bottles make an excellent companion.

These innovative devices integrate water filtration systems into a portable, reusable water bottle, making them perfect for providing clean, refreshing water on the go, whether in Barcelona or beyond.

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LifeStraw Go Bottle 2-Stage with Integrated 1,000 Liter LifeStraw Filter & Activated Carbon, Green, 22oz

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  • Reusable LifeStraw Go filters water while drinking;
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  • Replacement filters are available separately

The built-in filters usually utilize activated carbon or more advanced technology like microfiltration or UV sterilization to remove contaminants, reduce chlorine taste, and in some cases, eliminate harmful bacteria and protozoa.

This means that not only can you improve the taste of Barcelona’s tap water, but you’re also equipped for adventures off the beaten path where water safety might be a concern.

Brands like LifeStraw, GRAYL, and Brita offer a variety of filtered water bottles catering to different needs, from everyday city use to rigorous outdoor exploration. The LifeStraw model above is perfect for hiking and as a regular everyday water bottle.

Beautiful view from hiking trail Carretera de les Aigues, Barcelona
A water bottle is essential when hiking at Carretera de les Aigues, Barcelona

They are easy to use, with replaceable filters that can purify hundreds of liters before needing a replacement.

These water filter bottles offer an excellent solution for the eco-conscious traveler. They reduce reliance on single-use plastic bottles, leading to less environmental pollution and waste.

You will also save money over time, especially in locations where bottled water is pricey. So whether you’re sipping water in a Barcelona café or hiking in the Pyrenees, filtered water bottles keep you hydrated and responsible.

Do restaurants serve tap water in Barcelona?

A new law came into force in Spain on April 8, 2022 (Law 7/2022, of April 8) which makes it a requirement for Spanish restaurants and cafes to offer customers tap water. It’s a law aimed at cutting down plastic waste, rather than making it cheaper for you to eat (and drink) out!

However, it’s still the case that when wait staff in Barcelona cafes and restaurants ask you if you would like water and you reply, ‘yes,’ then you are likely to get a bottle of mineral water.

People sitting and enjoying the sun at a restaurant in Marina Port Vell, Barcelona, Spain
Restaurant at the Marina Port Vell, Barcelona, Spain.

You are usually also asked if you would like “agua con gas” or “agua sin gas,” which means sparkling (carbonated) water, or water without bubbles (still water).

Hopefully, over time this new law will be taken seriously or enforced, but at many restaurants and cafes in Spain at present, you won’t get tap water unless you ask for it (“agua corriente”).

Frequently Asked Questions About Drinking Tap Water in Barcelona

Where does Barcelona get its water?

Winter at Lobregat River Waterfall, Barcelona, in the Pyrenees

Barcelona’s drinking water comes mostly from the Ter and Llobregat rivers.

However, due to growing demand and occasional droughts, the city also taps into underground aquifers and utilizes one of Europe’s largest desalination plants to convert seawater into the tap water you drink in Barcelona.

Is water free at restaurants in Barcelona?

People sitting and enjoying the sun at a restaurant in Marina Port Vell, Barcelona, Spain

In Barcelona, it’s not customary for restaurants to serve free tap water. Generally, patrons are expected to order and pay for bottled mineral water. A new law requiring establishments to offer tap water came into effect on April 8, 2022, but this practice isn’t yet widespread because it doesn’t taste good!

How do you say tap water in Spain?

Sign saying agua corriente

If you would prefer tap water instead of bottled water when you are dining out in Barcelona (and in Spain in general), you need to ask for it, otherwise you’ll be presented with mineral water. So just ask for “agua corriente” when your wait person asks you if you’d like water.

Can you drink the water at Barcelona airport?

Huge crowds at the EL Prat Airport, Barcelona

You’ll be able to drink tap water in Barcelona at the drinking fountains that you’ll find both inside the arrivals and departures halls at El Prat airport. You’ll also find them close to the departure gates once you’re on the ‘air side’ of the airport

Should I bring a water bottle to the airport?

Closeup of a young caucasian man opening a bottle of water at the waiting room of a train or bus station, or an airport

Bringing an EMPTY water bottle to Spain, especially one with an individual filtration system, is an excellent idea that helps reduce plastic waste.

It’s also cheaper than having to drink bottled mineral water throughout your trip.

Only empty bottles are allowed into the country.

Can you brush your teeth with tap water in Barcelona?

Teeth brushing using tap water

It’s entirely ok to brush your teeth with tap water in Barcelona and also to get some of it in your mouth when you shower.

It doesn’t taste great so many people use Barcelona tap water to brush their teeth but prefer to drink mineral water.

Are the fountains in Barcelona drinking water?

Drinking fountain with green and yellow tiles

Barcelona loves its public fountains – all 1645 of them! The water used is the same water treatment system as for Barcelona tap water, so it is safe to drink.

However, the water may have added contaminants in from people putting things in the fountains, ducks and water birds, and so on.

There are many water fountains in public areas and these are safe to drink from – so stick to the water fountains provided for drinking, and stay out of the public fountains!

Is bottled water free in Spain?

People at a Park Güell café in Barcelona, drinking bottled water and eating at tables

In restaurants in Spain, you will pay although it would be highly unusual to charge for Barcelona tap water, the restaurant can charge for any kind of drinking water if it chooses to.

Final Thoughts

In summary, tap water in Barcelona is safe to drink, but your taste buds may prefer a bottled alternative!