Barcelona is one of the most culturally fascinating cities you will ever visit. With shades of Gaudí, Picasso, Miró and even Frank Gehry, it’s a melting pot of the Modernist and the contemporary. Many visitors believe it’s not a city which can be discovered on a tight budget – how wrong they are! If you already have your Catalan accommodation sorted, you can explore this captivating metropolis with very little money.
Where to Begin?
Barcelona is famous for its incredible architecture which for the most part, comes courtesy of Antoni Gaudí. The great thing is, you can see the Gaudí masterpieces without spending a euro! There are free walking tours where you can learn about the history of Barcelona and its famous inhabitants. The Gaudí tour takes around 2.5 hours taking in his most famous structures, La Sagrada Familia Cathedral, Casa Milà and Casa Batlló. Tours depart from Plaça de Catalunya in the city center each morning at 11.00. The free walking tours don’t cover entrance fees, but you will learn about the architect and buildings, and go home with amazing photographs.
Another place worth visiting is Park Güell - a tapestry of vibrant color in the heart of the city. Brightly coloured mosaics, undulating curves and glass covered obelisks will get all your creative juices flowing. The best part? A portion of the park is free to access if booked in advance.
Shop and People Watch
Most visitors to Barcelona have heard of Las Ramblas. It’s the main thoroughfare which links Port Vell to Plaça de Catalunya. With rows of chic boutique hotels, tapas bars, shops and lively markets, it’s easy to see why travelers make this their first stop in the city. It is a haven for tourists - lined with fragrant flower stalls, pet shops, entertainers and caricaturists. Whether browsing the stalls for souvenirs, people watching or dining al fresco, you will adore Las Ramblas. Close by, sits La Boqueria St. Josep, the city’s famous indoor produce market. A favourite haunt for restauranteurs and visitors alike, it’s the perfect place in which to procure fresh fruit, juices, breads, meats and cheeses. Venture here early in the morning, and select a veritable feast for only a few euros to enjoy while soaking up the sunshine on Barceloneta Beach.
Explore the medieval heart of the city
Continue along the labyrinth streets from Barri Gòtic to El Born district. El Born is a low-key version of the Gothic Quarter, it’s home to the Picasso Museum and preserved walls of the ancient city. El Born is upcoming, trendy and reasonably priced for those visiting Barcelona on a budget. It’s a superb place to try out local tapas – small sampler dishes of food which start from around one euro! Tuck into albondigas en salsa (meatballs in sauce) or boquerones (white fish), and wash down with a glass of local cava or Rioja. After dark, El Born really comes to life. You can dance till you drop at Hip Hop, Jazz, Funk, Retro or Salsa clubs, then head to the beach with new found friends to watch the sunrise. Bliss!
Beaches and Park Life
Barcelona has four beautiful golden sandy beaches which stretch over 4.2 kilometers. Barceloneta Beach is closest to the main tourist areas of the city. The Christopher Columbus Monument sits at the entrance to the beach where you will see a variety of beach shacks serving refreshments. If you’re feeling adventurous, there are several stations for watersports including windsurfing and jet skiing. Marking the end of Barceloneta Beach and the start of Icària Beach is Frank Gehry’s famous “Peix” sculpture, a huge glistening work of art which sits proudly above the promenade.
A short walk away, Parc de la Ciutadella is the perfect place for a lazy afternoon boat ride on the lake. The picturesque park hosts a variety of Modernist architecture to the west side of the park. Head north to explore Castle of the three Dragons and the Zoological Museum if you wish to escape the sunshine for an hour. Alternatively, enter the Catalan Parliament building and learn more about the politics of this unique region of Spain.
Barcelona for the Culture Lover
If you have a little of your budget spare consider visiting Montjuïc. The area is well known for having hosted some of the grandest events of the last century, including the Olympic Games of 1992.
Most of the city’s museums are located here, including the Miro Foundation, MNAC (Museum of National Art Catalunya), and the Museum of Archaeology. The mountain is also home to National Palace, Montjuïc Castle and Poble Espanyol with 117 replicated historical buildings from across Spain, all built to scale. Browse craft shops to discover how a traditional Spanish guitar is made, learn how glass is hand blown, and sculptures carved. If you feel you have seen all Montjuïc offers, don’t rush back to your hotel just yet. Most evenings, the Magic Dancing Fountains come to life. It’s a free spectacle where brightly colored jets of choreographed water sway and dance to music for your entertainment. Watch the sunset over this mesmerising city, as the fountains party in your honor, and plan your return trip to Barcelona.
If you always thought Barcelona was a city too expensive to cater to your budget, don’t put off your trip any longer. There are always free and cheap things to do in any city if you know where to look. Check out local markets, bars and eateries in less touristy areas, parks, free museums and walking tours, and you will be able to see any major city on a budget.