Make the most out of a top cosmopolitan European city even if you’re traveling on a budget. Check out our hit list of free things to do in Barcelona and get ready for a full picture of Gaudi’s wonderful city.
Enjoy the views and attractions of Montjüic
Montjüic is (literally) a breath of fresh air. If you like nature, tranquil streets, spacious and varied art museums, castles or breath-taking views, you’ll find your pick at this quite recently developed part of the city.
To get the full experience, you’ll have to start by hopping on the cable car (a crazy cheap deal at €9 for a return trip!) up to the Montjüic castle to enjoy the fully panoramic and totally priceless views of the city skyline.
Then head downhill. Walking the whole way down is very refreshing and will feel like a stroll in the park. When you get down, you have the chance to visit the Romanesque church murals and ongoing modernism exhibitions at the MNAC (National Catalonian Art Museum), which offers free entry to anyone after 3pm on a Saturday.
Save the best for last: the magic fountain by the Plaza de España is the perfect spot for a mid-afternoon rest, or show up at night for the daily lights spectacle and music show, which is nothing short of sensational!
Feast on the cultural banquet Sunday with free museum entry!
While we’re speaking of museums, many of Barcelona’s cultural institutes offer free entry on Sunday afternoons. There’s lots to explore, but we’d recommend that you try the Picasso Museum and the Museum of Barcelona’s History (MUHBA), which is located at Plaza del Rei.
On the one hand, the Museo Picasso will delight with an extensive collection of early, relatively rare works from the great cubist painter. On the other hand, the MUHBA just five minutes’ walk away will offer visitors a unique insight into the formation of Barcelona as a city, from Roman times to today. You’ll even be able to see how Romans used to live here.
Window-shop at La Boquería market
Barcelona is a city of markets – every neighbourhood has its very own. Nonetheless, busy Boquería stands out from the crowd – and that’s why it attracts it!
Wander through the immense variety of colourful fruits and vegetables, meats, curated cheesed and hams, exotic products, spices and the obligatory fish. You’ll find everything you might need in the kitchen, plus a sizeable amount of extra delicacies that you don’t. It’s going to be pretty difficult wandering through the Boquería without purchasing a treat or two, but the sizeable free samples will certainly make it an inexpensive lunch.
Extra tip: go to the Boquería at the end of the day, because the fresh fruit juices are cheaper than in the morning, and maybe even free!
Relax “Barcelona style” at Parc de la Ciutadella
The Ciutadella Park is an oasis in the city centre. It features a beautiful lake, an impressive fountain and lots of grass for you to enjoy a picnic, an afternoon of reading or a simple nap. Locals are fond of this park, not only for the relaxing time it offers, but also for the numerous activities it promotes. You can come across concerts, jogging groups, dancing groups, gymnastics, even children animation on the weekends.
You can never predict the great little happenings of Ciutadella Park, but you’re guaranteed to find an authentic slice of Catalonian life!
Take a free walking tour
There is a lot to see in Barcelona and it is definitely a place you will want to walk around. That is because distances are fairly close and the city is practically plane. You will see that a lot of our recommendations involve you getting on your feet, but in this particular one, you won’t be alone: you’ll have one of the Discover Walks to guide you.
They offer three free excursions, but the best is the Gaudi tour. Starting bright and early at 10:30am outside the Passeig de Gràcia metro station, not only does the 2-hour tour offer you chances to see the Eixample district’s many Gaudi structures (including the Casa Batlló, Casa Milà and the imposing Sagrada Familia) you’ll be enlightened by the expert guides’ explanation of the great architect’s life and “Catalanity” philosophy, which remains essential to locals living here today.
Watch a movie on the beach
It might be an obvious choice, but you really cannot leave Barcelona without a taste of one of its best attractions: the many sandy beaches along the coastline. You can act like the rest and just lounge on the sand, of course, or you can get active with one of the beach volleyball games so popular on these shores.
Tired and sun-toasted, you might even be lucky enough to catch one of the film festivals they hold at the beach around sunset – an excellent way to end a healthy day.
Stroll through the old Gothic neighbourhood
The Gothic neighbourhood is the oldest and most lively part of town, where Barcelona was first established. It’s no wonder that a wander through its labyrinth of winding cobbled streets feels like stepping back a few hundred years to a wine-soaked medieval street party!
Highlights include the majestic city’s cathedral and all the architectural treats adjacent to it, including the cloisters, bishop quarters and the King’s square (Plaza del Rei). Once you’re done seeing the Gothic neighbourhood old buildings, head for the Plaza del Pi at its centre, a lively square that is guaranteed to be filled with artists exhibiting their work and free Spanish guitar concerts.
Extra tip: After all the roaming around on foot, treat yourself to a cocktail at one of the exciting bars and discos of the Plaza Reial. They might not be free, but they are too good to resist!
Head to the Bunkers del Carmel for the most impressive city view
Re-opening in February 2015, this site is a symbolic landmark of the Spanish civil war. The bunkers were built in order to offer protection from a series of around 200 bombardments suffered in Barcelona during the civil war (1936-39).
On top of the historical interest, these bunkers are situated on top of a hill, which offers a unique and panoramic perspective of Barcelona. We recommend you take a picnic and enjoy the site at sunset – the view is one of a kind, as the sun disappears right in front of your eyes.