Free Things To Do
Enjoying Barcelona on a budget…
By Jessica Bowler
We can’t make your flights and hotels any cheaper I’m afraid, but once you get here there’s no need to go broke. Here’s our list of the best free attractions for enjoying Barcelona on a budget…
The best things in life are free… or so they say! But in fact the Catalan capital is one of the most expensive destinations to visit in Spain, and many of the city’s most popular attractions, such as Camp Nou, La Sagrada Familia and the Aquarium, all charge hefty entry fees. But don’t despair, there are also plenty of free things for travellers to see and do if you know where to look.
We wrote this guide to show our readers that you don’t have to be a Messi-esque millionaire to have a fantastic time here, and so here are well over twenty suggestions to help you plan an affordable budget break in beautiful Barcelona. If you have any more suggestions please leave them in the comments section.
20+ Free Attractions
See Gaudi’s works from the outside
Going inside a Gaudi building can be pretty pricey, but admiring his architecture from the outside is free. Often, the outside is even more spectacular than the inside.
Go to museums on Sundays
Lots of them have free entry, especially on the first Sunday of the month. Check the websites before you go for opening hours. More info on the best of the city’s museums here.
Visit the beaches and parks
Barcelona isn’t short of great places to catch some Mediterranean sun, whether you prefer plonking your posterior on a towel in the sand, or spreading out the picnic blanket on the grass. Follow the links for more on our favourite spots.
Stroll through the picturesque Gothic Quarter
This postcard pretty section of the city is 100% free of charge to walk through, and is full of top attractions like the Cathedral and Placa Reial (more on them below) and delightful hidden corners squares, like the Placa Felipe Neri. You’ll also find evidence of the city’s Roman history in the district.
Give your eyes a feast at the Boqueria Market
…or at any of the city markets, really. You don’t have to buy anything to enjoy this visual indulgence at one of the world’s most famous food bazaars. Although it might make your tummy rumble.
Walk around Montjuic
With a selection of parks, gardens, and fantastic views of Barcelona, you can easily spend an entire day enjoying the treasures dotted all over this magical mountain. It is also has a Magic Fountain (see below).
The Born Cultural Centre
See the roots of the city at the Born Cultural Centre. It’s a former public market that was built over the ruins from the 18th century. Recently, the ruins were exposed for visitors to see.
People watch in Placa Reial
This square hosts a 24 hour moving selection of all sorts of curious figures, from elegant diners at the terrace restaurants at midday to wild revellers in the wee hours of the morning.
The Magic Fountain
Fall under the spell of the Magic Fountain, a light and water show at the base of Montjuic hillside. The schedule varies depending on the season, but there are always some shows on Fridays and Saturday evenings even in winter. Click on our review for a full timetable.
Check out Poblenou’s street art scene
This former industrial district has recently become an epicentre for all sorts of hip movements going on in Barcelona, including a blossoming street art scene. Take a stroll and you’re likely to chance on some impressive murals.
Go window shopping on Passeig de Gracia
The grandest street in the city, this boulevard is dotted with designer shops and Gaudi buildings, making it the ideal place to simply stroll and take in the sights.
Kick back and relax at the Parc de la Ciutadella
This large park between El Born and Poblenou is very popular with locals. Normally, there’s some sort of impromptu music or party going on here too. Take a picnic and enjoy!
Get lost in the Encants flea market
Housed in an ultra-modern silver building, over 500 vendors show up to show off their wares here. There are public auctions held at 7:30am on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (if you happen to enjoy getting up early).
Take in the views from the bunkers at the Parc del Guinardo
If you’re so inclined, this is also a favourite spot among amateur models and Instagrammers to take dramatic selfies with the backdrop of the city behind them.
Head to a summer street party
Catch one of the city’s traditional district festivals, most of which take place during summer. These are completely free for the public to attend and a whole lot of fun. Why not consult our list of the best ones?
Check out the Olympic Ring
This Olympic Park built for the ’92 summer games has a number of impressive buildings you can see, including the stadium itself and the telecommunications tower designed by Santiago Calatrava – and guess what, they’re free of charge to visit.
Take a hike in the Collserola Park
It’s actually the largest metropolitan park in the world. It’s 22 times larger than New York’s Central Park, for instance and the views back over Barcelona from its wooded peaks are – needless to say – sensational.
Enjoy the diversity of the Raval district
With a mixture of inhabitants from all over the world and a thriving art scene, there’s an endless amount of stuff to see here. La Rambla del Raval has to be one of the nicest streets in the city.
Ramble on Las Ramblas
Stretching from Placa Catalunya down to the port, this sprawling boulevardhas a large pedestrianised walkway through the middle and is one of the most popular places to see in the city – its famous for its flower stalls, street performers and magnificent architecture. It can get overcrowded in summer though, and do beware of pickpockets whenever you find yourself in a touristic zone.
Check out the future of Barcelona
Decide how you feel about modern architecture at the hip new 22@ district, where the iconic Torre Agbar – amongst others – adorns the skyline. It’s a newly refurbished area of the city and home to a massive amount of tech companies and startups.
Enjoy some sunshine and skateboarding
Sit in the sun in the Placa dels Angels outside the MACBA museum. This is where all the skaters gather to show off their latest tricks. You’ll see more than a few spills as well as some truly spectacular moves. And if you do have a spare euro to spend you’ll likely find a friendly Pakistani gent selling cans of Estrella – we should warn you that it’s illegal to drink on the streets but the cops usually turn a blind eye if you’re behaving yourself.
Get a workout at the beach
There are volleyball nets, ping pong tables, and outdoor gym equipment that are free for anyone to use. So go get a sweat on!
Wander around the Born district
This trendy neighbourhood has got a great mix of beautiful historical sights, chic boutique shopping and trendy bars that appeal to both locals and visitors alike.
Visit the Gothic Cathedral (at the right time)
Pay a visit to Barcelona’s beautiful gothic cathedral in the morning or late afternoon. From 1pm to 5pm during the week and 2pm to 7pm on Sundays, the cathedral charges visitors to enter. But if you go outside this schedule, you can visit totally for free. Map and background info here.
So there we go! Don’t worry if it’s the end of the month, you’ve tanked your overdraft limit or the student loans company have finally tracked you down… you can still afford to visit the amazing Catalan capital if you follow our advice. And if you do have a little pocket money to spend, we’d strongly suggest you check out this long list of fantastic and fun things to do in the city, from affordable cooking classes to boat parties and plenty in between.
About the Author
Jessica was born in England and grew up in California before moving to Seville to study Spanish. She now lives here in Barcelona, where she works in communications, studies for her masters and still finds time to update her award-winning blog Barcelona Blonde – as well as being a regular contributor to Barcelona Life!