When it comes to jaw-dropping architecture, mouth-watering Mediterranean cuisines, sun-drenched beaches, and nightlife that stretches into morning-life, Barcelona is a bit of an expert. For one reason or another, Spain’s most famous northern destination is most likely on your bucket list, but probably not under the “budget-friendly” column. Catalonian culture has been known to do a number on bank accounts. That being said, there’s an art and a science to traveling frugally, and if done right, it’s entirely possible to do Barcelona on the stingiest of budgets. Check out our tips and tricks on how to soak in all of Barcelona without breaking the bank.
Things to Do
If you were to select one aspect that best embodies Catalonian culture, it would arguably be the architecture of Antoni Gaudí. During the late 19th and early 20th century, Guadí set about creating an illustrious collection of modernist, Gothic-inspired buildings that floor even the least architecturally-inclined travelers. La Sagrada Familia is his most famous, but many budget travelers consider it not worth the entrance fee. Swing by and get a good look from the outside for free. Elsewhere, a visit to the mosaic and ceramic-layden Park Güell, with beautiful views of the city, is an absolute must that will only set you back about $9.50. Casa Batlló is another Dr. Seuss-esque masterpiece that feels like it belongs in a fantasy world. Feel free to just gawk at the exterior for an hour and bypass the $24 entrance fee.
Free Walking Tours
If you’re only visiting Barcelona for a short period of time, a free walking tour is by far the best way to squeeze in the most, in the shortest time. Companies like Feel Free Tours and the Travel Bar organize daily tours that will leave you feeling fairly knowledgeable about the city and its history.
Bikes and Beaches
One of the best and cheapest ways to spend an afternoon in Barcelona is to rent a bike and coast along one of the many pristine Mediterranean beaches. In the summer months, the beaches are packed with people with lots of vendors selling drinks and snacks. Close to the city you’ll find Nova Icaria, Bogatell, Mar Bella, and Llevant — technically separate beaches but essentially just one long stretch of sand. Outside of the city you’ll find Montgat and Castelldefels, both great options for an afternoon of sunshine and people watching.
If you’ve traveled around Europe at all, you’ll know that touring the museums can get pretty pricey. Luckily, Barcelona has plenty of museums that offer at least a few free days per month. Check out the Picasso Museum, the Caixa Forum, the Maritime Museum of Barcelona, and MACBA. Many of these have free entry on Sundays and Mondays. MNAC (Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya) is also free for under 16-year-olds and people over 65 years, plus they offer discounts for students.
Eat and Drink
Explore the Markets
A budget guide to Barcelona wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the markets. Spend an hour or so getting lost in La Boqueria, Barcelona’s most famous market just off Las Ramblas. Although it’s usually packed with tourists, push through the crowds and you’ll be rewarded with a much more local experience. Watch clams and crabs jitter on shaved ice, try a slice of the region’s famous meat, jamón ibérico, and peruse the crowded aisles of olives, bread, and sweets. Other markets around the city include the Mercat de Sant Antoni, the Mercat de la Concepció, and the Mercadillo de la Plaça de Sant Josep.
Pintxos in Poble Sec
Pintxos are little bite-sized pieces of freshly-baked bread with different dollops of Spanish goodness on top. If you’re tired of tapas and are looking to change things up, this is a good option that’s still pretty affordable. Head to Poble Sec, the up-and-coming gastro neighborhood of Barcelona, where you’ll find loads of interesting cuisines at better prices than Las Ramblas.
Other Good Eats
Barcelona is a foodie haven, and frankly there’s too many delicious, wallet-friendly options to list here. Start off with Mosquito, a hip joint serving Asian fusion tapas in the Born district. Try Bacoa for a delicious burger, Chivuo’s for sandwiches and craft beers, and Bar la Plata, a tiny corner restaurant in the Gothic Quarter serving the same exact menu since opening in 1945.
Where to Stay
The Loft Hostel: a stylish hostel located near la Sagrada Familia and offering some of the best value-for-your-money available in Barcelona.
Hip Karma Hostel: Prices here usually hover around 10 euros per night and it’s just a 10-minute walk from Plaza Catalunya (the city’s main square), and Parc de la Ciutadella (its biggest park).
Kabul Party Hostel: If you’re visiting the city to enjoy its world-class club scene, this is the budget option for you. They usually organize pub crawls and transportation to and from many nightlife spots around the city. It’s a great place to meet other like-minded party souls.
Casa Gracia: Boasting a tasteful minimal chic aesthetic with vaulted ceilings, Corinthian columns, and an animated social scene, Casa Gracia is etching out a name for itself amongst the budget options in Barcelona.