Disclosure: This post was created in collaboration with Go Euro, but all opinions are my own.
The other day, I had the realization that I’ve written guides about most of the cities I’ve visited in Spain, with the exception of Barcelona. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to write about one of my favorite cities!
Despite being in Spain, Barcelona is distinctly un-Spanish, with its large expat population, Catalonian culture, and bustling international businesses. Even so, it’s on most people’s bucket lists and for good reason. Jaw-dropping architecture, beautiful weather, pristine beaches, and a vibrant food scene distinguish Barcelona from the rest. Having visited several times, I’ve put together this budget guide to Barcelona, which includes some of my favorite spots in the city as well as tips to help you save money both before and during your trip.
When to Go:
While most people choose to visit Barcelona in the summer, heed my warning and avoid it at all costs. Around 32 million tourists visited Barcelona in 2016, and after traveling there both in the winter and summer, I can confidently tell you that the city is brimming with tourists during the summer months.
More tourists mean more crowds and much higher prices, so if you want to have a good time and save money, plan your trip during spring or fall. Even winters in Barcelona are relatively mild, although you won’t be able to enjoy any of the beaches during this time.
How to Get There:
If you live outside of Europe, flying is the way to go. Traveling during low season can save you hundreds of dollars on flights. For more tips, check out my step-by-step guide on getting the cheapest flights here.
If you live in Europe or if you want to visit more than one city during your travels, then I highly recommend using GoEuro to plan your trip. Simply enter your departure city and destination to see the smartest, cheapest, and fastest way to get from place to place. You can see train, bus, and flight costs all in one place. I’ve used this site countless times to plan trips within Europe, and I’ve saved a ton by strategically planning how and when to travel to various cities. It’s an awesome tool!
What to Do:
Now that you have your flights and transportation options figured out, you want to know what to do once you arrive in Barcelona, right? Well, I have plenty of budget-friendly options for you!
Go on a Free Walking Tour
Did you know that most major cities in Europe offer free walking tours? All you have to do is tip the tour guide. I try to do one in every city, as it’s a great introduction to the history and sites in each place. I still vividly remember my Barcelona walking tour of the Gothic Quarter with Sandeman’s New Europe. My tour guide, Andy, was a Barcelona-based artist and had so many fascinating stories about art in Barcelona. Make a walking tour one of the first things you do upon arrival.
Explore the Gaudy Buildings of Gaudí
If there’s one person that defines Barcelona, it’s Antoni Gaudí, the architect behind the infamous Sagrada Familia. With 11 Gaudí buildings in the city alone, you could easily spend a day walking around the city and marveling at each one. Although you can pay to enter several of them, the one you absolutely can’t skip is La Sagrada Familia. Tickets cost €15, but the inside is just as mind-blowing as the outside. Do yourself a favor and include this entrance fee in your budget.
Go to the Parks
If you love green spaces, then Barcelona is the city for you. Despite its urban landscape, the city is dotted with a plethora of public parks and gardens. My two favorites are Parc de Montjuïc and the famous Parc Güell.
Parc Güell is another Gaudí masterpiece and offers spectacular views of the entire city. Although the park itself is free to visit, accessing the monumental zone and the mosaic balcony will set you back €7. Tickets are available online, and it’s worth visiting.
Parc de Montjuïc is located just outside the city center atop a giant hill. The fun way to access it is via cable car, but the budget way to arrive is via bus or a steep climb. Here you’ll find stunning views as well as the impressive Montjuïc Castle. It’s an excellent way to get out of the bustle of the city for awhile and bask in the great outdoors.
Meander Through the Neighborhoods
One of the coolest things about Barcelona is the distinctly different neighborhoods that define the city. There’s nothing quite like strolling through each neighborhood, noting the changes in architecture, decor, and people. Here’s a quick guide to the different areas:
- The historic Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic) is home to intricately designed buildings, the Cathedral of Barcelona, and the famous pedestrian-only Las Ramblas.
- The artsy and trendy El Born has cool street art and delicious cafés and markets, including Santa Caterina.
- The slightly seedy and multicultural El Raval is where you’re sure to spot some strange characters and even stranger shops.
- The upscale L’Eixample is the largest neighborhood in Barcelona, and it’s sub-divided into smaller neighborhoods.
- The hillside neighborhood of Gracia is where shopping and people watching go hand in hand.
- The bohemian Poble-Sec is home to some of the coolest tapas bars, and it’s just far enough away to avoid hordes of tourists.
- The beachside town of La Barceloneta rarely offers a quiet moment between the bustle of seafood restaurants and the crowded boardwalk.
Have a Beach Day
Barcelona is famed for its nightlife and beaches, and what better way to experience it than by visiting Barceloneta Beach? Although locals will tell you that the best beaches in the region are located outside of the city, Barceloneta holds its own as one of Europe’s best urban beaches. It has lifeguards, changing rooms, beach umbrellas, and biking facilities. Not only is it located just 10 minutes outside the city, but it’s also home to tons of great beachside restaurants.
Where to Eat:
La Boqueria or Santa Caterina
One of my favorite things about Europe is the abundance of food markets in most major cities, and Barcelona is no exception. Not only do the markets offer the convenience of countless fresh ingredients in one place, but they’re also an inexpensive place to sample multiple foods at once. Head over to La Boqueria Market in Las Ramblas or Santa Caterina Market in Barri Gòtic and pick up fresh cheese, bread, and meat for a DIY picnic. Alternatively, visit one of the cafés inside the markets for some delicious local food.
If you’re craving a proper breakfast or a light lunch in a lively atmosphere, El Casal is the place for you. I love breakfast and find that Spain’s quick toast and coffee combo just doesn’t cut it for me. For €6, you can get a tortilla, tomato toast, coffee, and fresh juice for breakfast. For lunch, you can get a three-course meal for under €12. Did I mention all the food is delicious?
As much as I love Spanish food, sometimes I just need some Mexican in my life. I’m a bit of a snob about Mexican food, but this place is an excellent fix when I’m far from home. Three tacos under €8? Yes, please! For more delicious and cheap eats, check out this list.
Other Things to Note:
- Be wary of pickpockets anywhere, anytime. If you look like a foreigner, your chances of being targeted are quite high.
- Walk as much as possible. Barcelona isn’t really that large, and a lot of the neighborhoods are quirky and better explored on foot. If you don’t want to walk, buy a Metro card. The 10-ride pass is €9.95 and saves you money and the hassle of buying a ticket every time.
- Whenever possible, buy tickets to tourist attractions online to avoid lines.
- Lunch typically starts around 2 p.m., and dinner starts around 8 or 9 p.m., so plan accordingly. You’re on Spanish time now.
- I haven’t personally been to any of the museums in Barcelona, but here’s a great list for those of you interested.
There you have it. With a few days, you can easily get a taste of budget travel in Barcelona and leave the city eager to return for more.
Tell me: have you ever been to Barcelona? What’s your favorite activity to do in the city? Share in the comments below!
Like this post? Pin it and save it for later!