The ever popular Barcelona has a whole host of attractions and activities awaiting it’s visitors from tasty fare to world-class art. There’s also a lot of great things to do for free across the city if you find yourself on a tight budget.
1. Ramble down Las Ramblas
Located in the heart of the city and packed with people almost 24/7, Las Ramblas is one of the world’s most famous strips. And rightly so. Adorned with an endless array of motionless human statues, noisy pet stalls, tourist-heaving restaurants and hawkers selling all types of fluorescent objects, it is inevitable that you won’t only end up here once, but you will end up here several times. Strolling up and down it for a couple of hours is an attraction in its own right. When you get there you’ll understand why.
2. Go to the beach
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city streets and take a trip to some of Barcelona’s beaches. Just 10 minutes from the city you will find over 4km of golden sandy shores where you can lay out your towel and work on that tan. One of the closest beaches to the city is Barceloneta Beach, and as it’s the closest it can often be the busiest. But it’s quite a big beach area and has some bars and cafes along the waterfront. The quickest way to get to here is to catch the yellow line metro and get off at the Barceloneta stop.
Another great Barcelona beach is Icària Beach which you can get to by the yellow line metro to Ciutadella Vila Olimpica. It’s a little bit quieter here if you like to relax in peace on your beach. And if you want an all over, line-free tan, then check out Mar Bella Beach as it’s an unofficial nudist beach, which means you can also wear your swimsuit even if your friends don’t want to. This is a 20 minute walk from the Poblenou yellow line metro stop.
3. Visit Parc Güell
One of many stunning creations from Antoni Gaudi that are dotted around Barcelona is Park Güell. This unusual park was originally commissioned by Eusebi Güell as he wanted a stylish park solely for the Barcelona aristocracy. The good news is that today anyone can visit Parc Güell, and for free too. In this unique park you can expect to find lots of amazing stone sculptures, colourful tiles and breathtaking buildings. There’s also a terraced area at the top of the park with wonderful tile mosaics and a seating area where you can take in the magic of the park.
4. Walk the streets of the Barri Gotic
The Barri Gotic area is also known as the Gothic Quarter and it’s the old town area of Barcelona. There’s a Roman feel to this historic area and it’s a maze of narrow cobbled streets and squares. It was once home to famous artists such as Picasso and Joan Miró. Today it’s where you’ll find the City Hall and the seat of the Catalan Government, beautiful Gothic churches such as Santa Maria del Pi and Sants Just i Pastor. There’s also the old Jewish Quarter and the Plaça del Rei, an interesting medieval square steeped in royal history.
5. Admire Gaudi’s architecture
Barcelona and Gaudi go hand-in-hand and you’ll soon start to recognise his work as you discover it dotted across the city. Gaudi is admired and studied by architect lovers and admirers all across the world, and to see his work up close you simply need to walk the streets of Barcelona. There’s the outdoor spectacle that is Parc Güell (see point 3) where you can sit in a park designed by Gaudi. Casa Batlló is a breathtaking building on Passeig de Gràcia where the facade looks like it’s been made from bones and skulls, which are actually pillars and balconies. There’s an entrance fee to go inside, but you can take in the stunning exterior for free.
On the same street you’ll also find Guadi’s La Pedrera/ Casa Milà where you’ll find Gaudi’s famous chimneys on top of the building. And finally, Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia, which is still being built… since 1882! This church is a work of art, genius and patience and is one of Barcelona’s top attractions. Take a walk around the exterior and you can spend hours studying the designs and sculptures on its facade.
6. Soak up some sun along the Passeig Marítime
Take in some views of the Mediterranean along with some rays of sunshine (in the finer months) along the seaside promenade that is Passeig Marítime. You’ll find this seafront walk just northeast of the Old City. The boardwalk here is the perfect place a coastal stroll or stop off for a glass of sangria. Here, you’ll also find Port Olímpic which is a stunning marina area full of restaurants and bars. You’ll easily recognise it from the two seafront skyscrapers, one of which is home to the Casino Barcelona.
7. Get outdoors in Parc de la Ciutadella
Barcelona’s most central park is the expansive Parc de la Ciutadella that covers close to 74 acres and has a lake, a zoo, several museums and more. This green oasis in the heart of the city makes for the perfect escape from the crowded city. Spend a few hours wandering amongst the walkways, flowerbeds and palm trees while checking out the fountains and sculptures dotted around the park. You can hire out a rowing boat if you wish to go out on the lake or check out the zoo.
8. Free entry to the Picasso Museum
This museum is dedicated to the life and works of Pablo Ruiz Picasso and is a must see for any fans of the artist visiting Barcelona. There are over 3,800 works of Picasso in the permanent collection and through them you can see his deep relationship with Barcelona that formed throughout his lifetime. There’s normally an entrance fee for the museum but it has free entry from 3pm every Sunday, and it’s also free all day on the first Sunday of the month.
9. Stare in awe at the popular Magic Fountain Show
The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc dates its first performance back to 1929, and today it’s as popular a spectacle as it was back then. This sensational fountain show is the centrepiece of a collection of waterfalls and smaller water features on Avinguda Maria Cristina. You can expect a stunning show encapsulating light, colours, music and lots of water. In fact close to 2,600 litres of water are pumped through this great fountain per second! Shows are on at different times depending on the season and you can reach the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc by Metro – stop Plaça Espanya.
10. Escape the city in the Catedral de Barcelona
Close to the busy streets of La Rambla you can find an oasis of calm in the city’s cathedral. Catedral de Barcelona, also known as Le Seu as it was named after Barcelona’s patron Saint Eulalia. You’ll find the stunning cathedral in the centre of the Barri Gòtic area and its origins date back to the 13th century. This medieval sanctuary has a vaulted interior, a number of little chapels, and a garden with a cloister that’s home to thirteen geese.
11. Enjoy the colourful Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueira
This large, colourful public market is also known as just La Boqueria and you’ll find it in the Ciutat Vella district of Barcelona. This is a popular attraction in Barcelona that dates back to the 13th century. You’ll be met with loud noises, overpowering smells and colour as far as the eye can see on arrival at the market. It’s the perfect place to visit at anytime of the day, and a great place to have a bite to eat too.
12. Have free tapas with a drink
When you think of Spanish food, tapas automatically comes to mind and you’ll find lots of great tapas bars around Barcelona. However, it can be tough to find free tapas in the city compared to other parts of the county, but there are still a few bars that keep up the tradition of free tapas when you order a drink. If you fancy a free nibble then check out Ambiente del Sur in the L’Eixample neighbourhood. This is a small, friendly bar that offers some great small plates of food with a drink. In the same area you’ll also find Bar Atrapatapa, and while their tapas aren’t free, they offer them for just two Euros once you purchase a drink. If you’re peckish in the Gothic District then check out Bar Mingus for their free tapas with a drink, and same for Gata Mala in the Gracia area.
13. Visit Museu Nacional d’Art de la Catalunya
The MNAC is the perfect place to spend a few hours if you have even the slightest interest in anything art related. This beautiful museum embraces all the arts and showcases sculpture, painting, engraving, drawings, photography and lots more, all with a Catalan focus. There is an admission fee but if you want to get in for free then visit on a Saturday from 3pm or the first Sunday of each month to avail on no admission fees.
14. Check out some other museums
There are lots of other great museums to check out that offer free admission at certain times around Barcelona. You can take your pick on the first Sunday of the month with free entry to any of these museums – Museu Picasso, Museu Barbier-Mueller d’Art Precolombi or the Museu d’Historia de Catalunya. If you’ve got a sweet tooth but would prefer to spend your money on chocolate than admission fees, the visit the Museu de la Xocolata (Chocolate Museum) on the first Monday of the month for their free entry. But, as they say, everybody loves a freebie, so get there early if you want to avoid the queues.
15. Plan trip around a festival
Barcelona plays host to a lot of festivals throughout the year so why not time your visit around one of them. Some of the more popular Barcelona festivals include Festa Major de Gràcia – a week long community celebration in the streets of one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods. For this festival, each street in the Gràcia area is decorated by residents depicting anything from storybook themes to homemade waterfalls. There’s also lots of entertainment along the streets and it takes place the week of August 15th.
If you’re visiting Barcelona at the end of September you’re in for a treat as the largest street party in the city takes place – the Barcelona La Merce Festival. This five day celebration is in honour of Mare de Deu de la Merce, the Patron Saint of Barcelona, and says goodbye to summer and hello to autumn. You’ll find a whole host of activities taking place around the city for this festival such as a ‘Giants Parade’ which is a great family event, where huge giants with effigies of kings, queens and nobles march through the streets. Then there are Castellers, which are Human Towers that people build in Plaça de Jaume. There’s also the popular Correfoc – a ‘fire run’ that’s all about fireworks and sparklers.