Freddie Mercury sang, “Barcelona such a beautiful horizon.” He’s right, but it can also be a pricey one if you don’t plan your trip carefully. Thankfully, there are a ton of things to do, see and eat which won’t break the bank if you know where to look. Use these tips to soak up that Catalan ambiance without giving your credit card a bruising.
Hit the Museums on the First Sunday of the Month
Barcelona’s age-old tradition of keeping cultural sites available to the masses continues to this day. If you’re on a shoestring budget, try to visit on the first Sunday of the month when many of the museums offer free admission. Dates can vary, so hop onto the different museums’ websites to check. Then get there early to avoid the long queues. Scoring free tickets for the Picasso Museum, the MNAC and the Barcelona History Museum is a great way to check off some serious cultural sightseeing without spending any cash.
Go in Summer for Free Outdoor Concerts
If you visit Barcelona during a traditional balmy summer and you’re into music, you’ll hit the jackpot. Head down to Parc de la Ciutadella on Wednesday or Friday evenings throughout the summer months after 10 p.m. to listen to free jazz concerts. Or visit during the week-long La Merce fiesta in September when the city comes alive with gigs across Barcelona's clubs and bars. Many are free on a first come, first served basis though, so get there early to nab your ticket. You can also find the goings-on and venue listings on the festival’s website.
Gorge on the Good Stuff at La Boqueria Market
Barcelona dining can come with a wallet-busting punch if you don’t know where to look. If you head down to bustling La Boqueria, a large food market off the iconic Las Ramblas, you can bag a bargain on Catalonian snacks while taking in one of the city’s most endearing foodie attractions. Try the stalls at the back of the market as they are typically more cost effective. Perch at one of the vendor’s counters with a jamón-packed bocadillo or grab some picnic treats and head to the park. Failing that, keep an eye out for restaurants offering menu del dia, a fixed price and often quality three-course lunch with a drink at a relatively low price.
Get to Know the City on One of the Free Walking Tours
There is no better way to get to know Barcelona than jumping on one of the free walking tours led by born-and-bred locals who know the city like the back of their hand. Dive into the city’s modern architecture, weave through the winding streets in the Gothic Quarter, learn about Gaudi or gawp at some of the finest street art while the guide brings everything to life with historical anecdotes. Okay, so it’s not entirely free as you’re expected to cough up a healthy tip at the end of the experience, but it’s still considerably cheaper than traditional tours in the city and you’ll get to meet a bunch of folks from around the world.
Be a Beach Bum for the Day
Barcelona is blessed with long, consistent summer weather. You don’t need a cent to head down to Barceloneta Beach. While away the sunny days stretched out on the sand, occasionally tip-toeing to the water to cool off in the sea. It can get busy, so if you don’t want to get there early enough to stake out your spot, try nearby Poblenou Beach, which is just outside the city center and is popular with locals. You’ll find both urban beaches surprisingly clean. Plus, the water is typically calm between June and September.