Interview with Federico García Barroso

Tour guiding is not a job for the meek or half-hearted. To excel requires an immense amount of knowledge, top-notch communication skills, and a real passion for one's work and the subject at hand. Hundreds of happy tour alums would agree that Madrid-based guide Federico García Barroso fits that bill.

In addition to leading several different Rick Steves tours around Spain, you are also listed in Rick's guidebooks as a local guide for hire. How does one kind of guiding differ from the other?

Leading a Rick Steves tour group requires that I know "enough about much." Working as a local guide requires that I know "much about enough."

Is there a secret to what makes an exceptional tour guide?

Any professional guide must be excellent in three ways: technically, culturally, and humanly. And if a guide has motivation, the traveler gets satisfaction.

Has tour guiding been in your blood for a long time?

Yes, ever since high school I knew I wanted to be a guide. So it's always been my vocation, never a hobby.

As a guide, you travel a lot, but you also bring other travelers to your home town. Do you have a preference?

On the one hand I will never stop traveling. Working as a Rick Steves tour guide leading Barcelona & Madrid tours and Basque Country tours, I just love to travel with new friends and share experiences all over Spain. On another hand, it is really satisfying to become a local expert and show the cultural legacy of my city to Americans and Canadians. I love Madrid — and I love to show you that.

We hear that you can sing opera like a professional. Tell us about that. Did you once have a career singing?

Never! It is just a natural talent. Since I was a kid I've always had a very good ear for languages and music. Later, I realized that I also had a good tenor voice. Guiding is my profession, but music is my passion. Classical music is simply the greatest art work ever done by mankind. It is a very, very important part of my life. I even think it can make someone a better person!