The travel icon that is Barcelona is home to thousands of attractions and activities that keep us obsessed. From tasty cuisine to world-class architecture, gorgeous beaches and raging nightlife, there’s something for every backpacker in Barcelona – that’s why we love it so much! It’s known as being a little on the pricey side, but with uniquely awesome experiences to be had without spending a penny, it’s easy to stretch out your budget here. Without further ado, here’s 15 free things to do in Barcelona!
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! Lined with an endless array of motionless human statues, noisy stalls, heaving restaurants and hawkers selling all types of fluorescent objects, it’s inevitable that you won’t only end up here once, but several times (particularly when looking for your hostel at the end of a night out). Strolling up and down it for a couple of hours is one of the essential free things to do in Barcelona. 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 centre you’ll find over 4km of golden sandy shores where you can lay out your towel and work on that tan. Barcelona is the best of both worlds! One of the closest beaches to the city is Barceloneta Beach, meaning it can often be the busiest. But it’s quite a big beach and has some bars and cafes along the waterfront, so is defo worth a visit. The quickest way to get to here is to catch the yellow metro line and get off at Barceloneta.
Another great Barcelona beach is Icària, which you can get to via the yellow line to Ciutadella Vila Olimpica. It’s a little quieter here and way more relaxing. And if you’re feeling confident and want an all over, line-free tan, then check out Mar Bella Beach. It’s an unofficial nudist beach, which means you can also wear your swimsuit even if your friends don’t want to! It’s a 20 minute walk from Poblenou on the yellow line.
3. Visit Parc Güell
One of many stunning creations by legendary artist Antoni Gaudi that are dotted around Barcelona is Park Güell. This unusual park was originally commissioned by entrepreneur Eusebi Güell, who wanted a stylish park solely for the Barcelona aristocracy. The good news is that today anyone can visit Parc Güell, and often without paying a penny! Access is free at certain times of year – you can check the latest prices here. Otherwise, general admission is a very reasonable €10 and the park is open from 08:30-17:30.
In this unique park you can expect to find astounding stone sculptures, colourful tiles and breathtaking buildings. There’s also a terraced area at the top of the park with incredible mosaics and a seating area where you can take in the magic of the park (and snap a few selfies – it’d be rude not to).
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 that’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. Strolling around this picturesque neighbourhood is without a doubt one of the best free things to do in Barcelona.
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 architecture geeks all across the world, so to see his work up close is a true bucket list moment. There’s the outdoor spectacle that is Parc Güell, where you can sit in a park designed by Gaudi. Casa Batlló is a breathtaking building on Passeig de Gràcia that looks like it’s been made from bones and skulls (they’re 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 with its famous chimneys on top.
Most famously though is Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia, which is still being built… since 1882! This church is a work of art, genius and patience, so it’s no surprise that one of Barcelona’s top attractions. If you want to enjoy it for free, take a walk around the exterior and spend hours studying the designs and sculptures on its facade. However, if you’re gonna splash out on any attraction we’d suggest this one. For €20 you can explore the basilica from the inside at your own pace. It’s open daily from 09:00-19:00.
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 to 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, several museums and more. If you’re looking for one of the best free things to do in Barcelona on a sunny day (which they have a lot of!) then look no further. This green oasis in the heart of the city makes for the perfect escape from the crowded city. Spend a few hours wandering among the walkways, flowerbeds and palm trees while checking out the fountains and sculptures dotted around the park. You can even hire out a rowing boat if you wish to go out on the lake. It’s open daily from 10:00-22:30, so take your time.
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, through which you can see the deep relationship with Barcelona that formed throughout his lifetime. There’s normally a €12 entrance fee for the museum, but it has free entry from 6pm every Thursday, and it’s also free all day on the first Sunday of the month. Winning! It’s open Tuesday-Sunday from 09:00-19:00, with later closing times on freebie Thursdays.
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.
Shows take place at different times and days depending on the season, so be sure to check here before you visit. You can reach the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc by Metro, just hop off at 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 is 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. It’s free to visit every day from 12:30-19:45.
11. Enjoy the colourful Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueira
This large, colourful public market is known locally as just La Boqueria and you’ll find it in the Ciutat Vella district of Barcelona. Browsing here is one of the best free things to do in Barcelona. It dates back to the 13th century, so it can’t be beaten for an authentic experience. You’ll be met with loud noises, overpowering smells and colour as far as the eye can see on arrival. Don’t miss it for its bargains and delicious local cuisine! The market is open 08:00-20:30 from Tuesday to Saturday.
12. Have free tapas with a drink
When you think of Spanish food, tapas comes to mind – and there’s no shortage in Barcelona. It can be tough to find free tapas in the city compared to other parts of the county, but there are 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, 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 isn’t free, they offer dishes for just two euros once you purchase a drink. If you’re peckish in the Gothic District then check out Bar Mingus, 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 get in for nothing. It’s one of the top free things to do in Barcelona if you’re visiting at the weekend.
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: 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, 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? One of the most famous Barcelona festivals – that’s absolutely free – is 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, taking 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 the Giants Parade, where huge 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.