Barcelona is one hell of a cool city – but the cost of tapas and sangria can sure add up…
Luckily, it is possible to see Barcelona on the cheap, thanks to the heap of free activities just waiting for cash-strapped travellers to try them.
We’ve rounded up 10 of the best things to do in Barcelona – no money required.
1. Ramble down La Rambla
A mile-long tree-lined avenue stretching from the Columbus Monument to the Plaça Catalunya, all of life can be found on La Rambla. From groups of tourists examining its pavement mosaics to flower sellers outside the erotic museum, La Rambla is busy almost all of the time. Be sure to stop off at La Boqueria, Europe’s biggest food market, even if it’s just to take a look at the vast array of juices, candies, meats and deli treats on offer.
2. Mosey over to Montjuïc
Montjuïc is the nearest thing Barcelona has to a museum quarter; this hill is home to the Museu Nacional d’Art de la Catalunya, Fundació Joan Miró, and the Olympic, archaeological and ethnological museums. Throw into the equation gardens, a castle, an outdoor pool and cable cars and you’ve got yourself a full day’s worth of sightseeing. Time your visit right (evenings Thursday through Sunday) and you’ll be able to see the Magic Fountain displays of Montjuïc as well.
3. Culture Vulture
As hinted at above, Barcelona is not short on museums – and if you plan your visit strategically (often the first Sunday of the month and/or every Sunday afternoon after 3pm), you’ll be able to enter many of there for free. From the Picasso Museum, Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona, and Museu Barbier-Mueller d’Art Precolombi, to the Museum of History of Barcelona (full of Roman ruins and 4,000 m2 of archaeological digs), you’ll be spoiled for choice. The Chocolate Museum is also free on the first Monday of each month.
4. Head to El Born
El Born is the perfect neighborhood for rambling. Meander down medieval, pedestrianized streets, rifle through the clothes in the quirky boutiques, pop into the stunning 14th Century Santa Maria del Mar Church (AKA ‘the People’s Cathedral’) – and then top it off with a visit to El Born Centre Cultural. This beautiful old iron-roofed market was converted into an archaeological exhibition space in a self-described effort to create ‘a time axis that binds three centuries of history’. Exploring the remains of medieval Borne, a city laid to ruin following the 1714 War of Spanish Succession, costs nothing at all (although there is a separated ticketed exhibition space should you want to learn more), and is a lovely way to spend a sunny morning.
5. Promenade Through the Park
Parc de la Cuitadella, with its multitudes of skaters, musicians, sculptures and waterfalls, spans 74 acres, sits on the site of an old military citadel, and is now home to the city zoo, a lake and the Catalan Parliament. Barcelona might be short on green spaces generally, but when it does them, it does them with style.
6. Life’s a Beach
Who doesn’t love a city by the sea? Sure, the city beaches were only created in the early 1990s – that sand you’re lying on was pumped up from the sea bed, and those palm trees are really from Malaga – but when you’re sunning yourself by the surf it feels natural enough. The city beaches follow several kilometers of coastline, meaning there’s something for everyone. Don’t forget to explore the Old Fisherman’s Quarter in between dips.
7. Architecture Detection
You can’t visit Barcelona without paying homage to its famous modernist architecture, made famous by Antoni Gaudí. Although many of his masterpieces – including La Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló, La Pedrera, and now sadly the Park Güell as well – charge entry fees (the last one especially is well worth paying if you can swing it though – it really is out-of-this-world), you can still see a lot from the outside, not to mention on streets all around the city. Print out and carry this ‘Modernism Route’ and take yourself on a free walking tour.
8. Head to the Hills
They might be a bitch on the knees, but Barcelona’s hills have one advantage: it’s not hard to find stunning views. Walking costs nothing, and bikes can be rented cheaply, so use your legs and head outwards and upwards on a clear day. The old anti-aircraft Carmel Bunkers (leftover from the 1937 Civil War) at the top of Turó de la Rovira have great views over the city, while the 10km Carretera de les Aigües trail along the Tididabo mountainside takes you into the Serra de Collserola Natural Park.
9. Go Gothic
No visit to Barcelona is complete without seeing the Gothic Quarter – the place is bursting with both beauty and history. Its characteristic medieval alleyways lead to secluded places, bomb-scarred buildings, and the old homes of artists such as Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró, to name just a few gems.
10. Get Lost!
Throw away the map and get exploring. Who knows what you might find?
Have you been to Barcelona? Have you got any tips? Share them with other travellers below.