I only spent a week in Barcelona, but those 7 days were enough for me to fall in love with a city filled with the most beautiful architecture, culture and food l had ever experienced. I was on a four-month trip around Europe, lugging myself and a group of friends to a different city every couple of days meant I had to keep myself to a very strict budget in each city. I never went hungry; it just meant that I would choose the free walking tour over the €45 Segway tour (although I’m still sad I never did this) and a shop over an expensive tapas bar.
Here’s a quick summary of how you can keep your trip to Barcelona as budget friendly as possible while still getting the most out of your trip.
Antoni Gaudi passed in 1926. Nonetheless, the legend left behind a legacy of architectural brilliance; La Sagrada Familia which continues to be built today, the Park Guell and Casa Batlló all in Barcelona. All are absolutely incredible feats of artwork. His gothic approach to architecture is stunning and the best thing of all is that they’re free to visit from the outside.
La Sagrada Familia
It isn’t exactly cheap to enter the basilica, however if it is one of the only entrance fees you pay while in Barcelona it is totally worth it. You can choose between an entry or entry+ informative guided tour which will reveal all about the basilica as well as the life of Antoni Gaudi. Tickets start from €14.80 for entrance into the basilica and €6.80 for the Gaudi House Museum. Handy tip for you… if you do decide to go inside, book in advance online and you’ll skip the queue that leads around the block. If Gaudi is your thing or if you just want to learn more about the genius, you can pick yourself up a book detailing all things Gaudi from the La Sagrada Familia gift shop for only €6 (it was the best €6 I spent in Europe).
Located in the upper part of Barcelona, Park Guell showcases some of the most beautiful views of the city. Here you’ll find Antoni Guadi’s multi-coloured mosaic salamander known as ‘el drac’ (the dragon). Take a stroll around the park and enjoy a day outdoors with the odd sit down to enjoy some people watching. To get to Park Guell, take the underground to Lesseps on Line L3 and follow the signs up to the park. It’s a bit of a walk, but totally worth it.
Cost: 98 cents* (*as explained later)
Spot this beauty as you turn around a street corner and you’ll be absolutely speechless… just as I was when I first saw it. I didn’t say anything and just walked right towards it as my friend followed behind me confused. Located in the heart of the city this beauty was built between 1904 and 1906. From the roof to the windows the whole building is an absolute delight. The Casa Batlló website describes it as ‘a statement of delight, a universe of symbolism, a canvas of marine inspiration a dream world that is suggestive of fantasy’. I couldn’t have summed it up better myself. It’s a bit steep to get into the Casa Batlló. Adults cost from €20.35 and students from €16.30. But if you are like me and on a tight budget you can just stare at the outside for a good hour and save yourself all that cash. You’ll never know what you missed.
Cost: €0… or €20.35
Magic Fountain of Montjuïc
A friend of mine visited Barcelona two weeks before me and spoke nothing but good things about this fountain… for about a week. So after I experienced everything Gaudi it was time to finally see the fountain my friend had been talking my ear off about. In one word I can sum up the magic fountain of Montjuïc… STUNNING (yes, capital letters are necessary). It’s a spectacular display of colour, light, motion, music and water acrobatics and a must see when you visit Barcelona. And completely free. It has some funky opening hours though so make sure it’s open before you make the trek there.
Spanish Cooking Experience
My Spanish cooking experience was maybe the most expensive thing I did in Barcelona but it was totally worth it. The class involved learning how to make fresh seafood paella, indulging in traditional tapas and making the most of the unlimited sangria all for €25! Run by a Spanish chef you will watch them make traditional paella and if you’re lucky will get to visit the fish market to watch them purchase the fresh seafood right in front of your eyes. And with a copy of the recipe at the end you can wow your friends and family when you get home and whip them up traditional paella. Classes start at 6pm every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at The Travel Bar.
Cost: €25 + one massive hangover the day after
Free Walking Tour
When in a city for a short amount of time, trying to fit everything in can be exhausting; this is where the free walking tour comes into play. They cram as much as possible into a short amount of time which makes you feel like you’ve seen everything you needed to see. Meeting daily at 11.15am, feelfreetours.com run free walking tours in Barcelona that just work on a tip basis, if you feel that your tour guide did a great job, tip them. If you feel otherwise then head on off with money still left in your pocket. The company runs many tours including The Gracia neighbourhood tour which meets Tuesday and Saturdays at 11.15am and the Old Town afternoon tour meets every day at 5pm.
Cost: €0 or however much you would like to tip
Festes de la Mercè
If visiting Barcelona in September, Festes de la Mercè is a great way to immerse yourself in the Spanish culture. Held from 20-24th September, the festival celebrates the city’s patron saint the Virgin de la Merce. You can watch the giant’s parade, correfoc (fire run) and view some of the ‘Els Castellers de Barcelona’ do what they do best… build human towers. The streets are filled with people all there for the same reason; to have a good time. The atmosphere is incredible. Being one of Barcelona’s largest street parties, this is one party you wouldn’t want to miss!
Some hostels will offer free entry before 2am into nightclubs like Shoko and Opium. Urbany Hostel is one of those hostels – they offer free entry into a different club each night. Register your name on the list at reception and meet at the bar and they will take you to the club for €3 which means no excessive taxi fare either. Casa Gracia Barcelona Hostel also offers free entry into a number of clubs and offer a free pub crawl where they visit different pubs, clubs and bars every night of the week. Again register at reception and enjoy Barcelona’s nightlife for free!
Cost: €0 or €3 if you venture to the clubs
If you’ve been travelling for a while you’ll start to realise that museums in all their glory sometimes charge exorbitant entry prices; so why not take advantage of the free entry days offered in Barcelonan museums? Spend your Saturday afternoon at MNAC for free or head in to ‘Centre de Cultura Comtemporánia de Barcelona’ on the first Wednesday of every month for free entry. Trip Advisor has put together a list of museums that open their doors for free after 3pm on a Sunday. So if you took advantage of the free entry into the clubs on the Saturday, 3pm Sunday is a pretty good time to roll out of your hostel and get a lesson in culture.
Cheaper travel in Barcelona
And to get you around for the week, get yourself a 10 journeys card. 10 trips within one zone will only set you back €9.80. That’s 98 cents per trip (here is the 98 cent reference from the Park Guell point). To sum it up, Barcelona has so much to offer whether it is sightseeing, festivals or nightlife and it doesn’t mean you need to spend a fortune to take advantage of this beautiful city.
The total cost of all of these activities was a mere €72.95, and that’s if you do decide to enter all of Gaudi’s masterpieces… otherwise, bargain!