Definitely an art-form in Spain. Catalan drivers are more patient than others (especially Madrid), but the art of parking is common.
Here's some tips:
- Parking in a blue zone without paying is stupid, especially on sunny days. Remember in most places you don't need to pay during lunch time. The meters are smart enough to add that to your time.
- Parking illegally just outside a blue zone is generally OK, since the meter readers aren't allowed to give tickets for illegal parking (only the police is allowed to do that)
- Loading zones are usually ok for a short time as long as it's not the last spot, or the shop owner will yell at you.
- Watch out at the end of year/month when the police has a quota to fill.
- Don't block pedestrian crossings or driveways (this is one of the few instances where you can get your car towed)
- Parking outside roundabouts is fair game, although for experts only. Even parking on top of the roundabout island can be ok.
- Leave the emergency lights on if you are feeling guilty. Not sure if it helps to avoid getting a ticket, but it is there to tell the police that you are just going to be a couple minutes.
- Pedestrian streets in Sant Cugat are a challenge, since you have to know the entrances/exits that don't have a security post. If the police stops you, act stupid and pretend to be lost.