20 Budget tips for free things to do in Barcelona
Looking for free activities, or are you travelling on a modest budget? In that case Barcelona – despite its sometimes expensive attractions – is still a perfect destination for a fun city break. The 20 tips below will help you enjoy many free things to do in Barcelona, cheap activities, museums and sights. Barcelona on a budget:
- Fonta Magica: The magical fountain show with light, sound, and water at the base of the Palau Nacional on the Montjuïc is free to visit. Once built for the World Fair, but still operational because of its success. See this page for the show times.
- Picasso Museum: Normally the Mueu Picasso de Barcelona is a pricey museum, but at some times the museum can be visited for free. You can visit the museum for free on Thursdays from 6:00 pm - 9:30 pm, as on the first Sunday of every month from 9:00 am - 7:00 pm.
- Bunkers del Carmel: Near Park Güell is Barcelona's most beautiful viewpoint near the Turó de la Rovira, a former military bunker. Enjoy a free 360-degree panorama over Barcelona after a short, steep climb. It's particularly popular among the locals and doesn't have many tourists yet.
- Beaches: Barcelona has five beautiful and well-maintained city beaches. Are you going for some sunning, swimming, running, or to play some volleyball? Or do you prefer to relax on the terraces of the beach bars (‘chiringuitos’). You won't soon be bored on Barcelona's lively beach.
- Boqueria Market: The fresh market in Barcelona's city centre, near the Ramblas popular among tourists, is the perfect place to stimulate your senses. It's a great place to get vegetables, smoothies, nuts, fresh fish, or tapas from one of the many market stalls.
- Mercat El Born: This building was one of the largest covered markets in Barcelona. However, when the complex was being renovated, many remnants of the old city were discovered underneath the market. These archaeological digs and their exhibition can now be viewed free of charge in Mercat El Born.
- Some museums on the first Sunday of the month: A number of museums can be visited for free on the first Sunday of each month, the most interesting being: Picasso Museum, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC), the botanical gardens, Museu Blau, Palau Güell and the Pedralbes monastery.
- Some museums every Sunday after 3 pm: A number of sights and museums in Barcelona can be visited for free on Sundays after 3 pm. The most interesting museums on this list are: Maritime museum, Museu Blau, Pedralbes Monastery, castle of Montjuïc, the history museum of Catalunya and the botanical gardens.
- CosmoCaixa: Barcelona science museum is a fun, interactive museum about scientific phenomena. It's certainly recommended when travelling with children who get in for free up to 16 years old. Tickets for this modern museum are cheap for adults, so this is a good low-budget tip for your trip to this city.
- Parc de la Ciutadella: A beautiful park next to Barcelona's historic city centre with a lovely fountain, World Fair buildings, and a beautiful boulevard leading to the Arc de Triomf. The perfect spot for a walk through the city centre, a picnic, or to bring your own bottle of cava.
- The Barri Gotic, or Gothic Quarter is Barcelona's old town centre, and its many narrow alleyways and cosy squares make it a fun district to get lost in for a while. Be sure to visit the La Seu cathedral (visit between 8:00 – 12:45 or between 17:45 – 19:30 when the cathedral is free to visit because of the mass) with the adjacent cloister of Santa Eulalia.
- Sardanes: The ‘Sardanes’ is a traditional Catalan dance that has regular demonstrations on the square in front of the cathedral (Placa de la Seu, 9 February - 13 July and 14 September - 17 November: every Saturday at 6.00 pm. From 15 September to 28 July: Sundays and public holidays at 11.15am. There are no shows in the summer months)
- Festivals and events: Barcelona has an extensive calendar of activities, including free activities such as beautiful parades or the castellers, the tradition of human towers. Highlights are the week of celebrations ‘Festa major de Gracia’ in August, Feste de Santa Eulalia on 12 February, and the Festes de la Mercè honouring the city's patron saint on 24 September. Always check the event calendar before planning your visit to Barcelona.
- Barrio de Gracia: The district Gracia is Barcelona's most pleasant quarter with many bars and boutiques. It's a district where locals like to meet and a great place for an evening drink or snack.
- Montjuïc Cemetery: On the sides of the Montjuïc hill is this large and unique cemetery with a lovely view of the harbour. Walk among the many unique tombs and burial vaults of the Cementeri de Montjuïc.
- Mercat dels Encants Vells: Near the metro station Glòries you can find Barcelona's largest and renovated flea market (8,000 m2) in a building with unique architecture (the flea market is open on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 9:00am to 8:00pm.)
- Passeig de Gracia: This street isn't just the most luxurious shopping street in Barcelona; it also has a number of beautiful buildings, such as the Casa Mila and Casa Batllo by Antoni Gaudi. Going inside these buildings for a visit is relatively expensive, but the houses' beautiful exterior makes just walking through this street worth it. Next to Casa Batllo is the unique façade of Casa Amatller by architect Puig i Cadafalch.
- La Rambla: This 1.2-kilometre long boulevard is the tourist centre of the city. Walk from Placa de Catalunya past countless shops, restaurants, stalls, and street artists toward the Columbus statue at the harbour of Barcelona. Skip it if you're not into crowds and overly touristy sights!
- Port Vell: In Barcelona's harbour at the end of the Ramblas there is always plenty to see and do. Walk past luxury yachts and the Columbus monument or go shopping in the Mare Magnum shopping centre. There is always something to do in Barcelona's harbour.
- The free walking tours from DiscoverWalks (through the Gothic Quarter: A free walking tour from the square of the cathedral departs every day at 11:00 and at 15:30. The guide speaks English, and the tour takes about three hours. The idea is that you give a tip if you feel this walking tour was worth it. You have to register at their website beforehand.
- Parc del laberint d'Horta: This park is known for its maze of bushes and is a fun trip with children. The park is at the outskirts of the city, but can be visited for free on Wednesdays and Sundays.
Tip: save even more money in Barcelona?
A city break in Barcelona can be quite expensive if you don't arrange your tickets for the main attractions in advance. Sights such as the Sagrada Familia and Park Güell sometimes have very long queues and are often quickly sold out. The best solution is the Barcelona City Pass; this attractively priced combined ticket contains all your most important tickets for a successful city break in one ticket and is much cheaper than getting each ticket separately. Read more about this popular Barcelona City Pass.
More tips for saving money?
- Buy a T10 ride ticket for the metro (9.95 euros), because a single ticket otherwise costs 2.15 euros per ticket. What many people do not know is that if you are traveling with several people, you can have the T10 card pass through the gate several times in succession.
- Cheap food and drinks? Avoid the Ramblas, Placa Reial and Passeig de Gracia; these streets are super touristy, so you also pay the main tourist price. Many (non-touristy) restaurants offer a fixed "menu del dia", a cheap three-course menu for around 10 euros.
- Rent a bike to discover Barcelona. For only 10 euros you can rent a bicycle at BajaBikes for a whole day, so you can easily explore the city on your own. Take a wonderful bike ride along the beach, the harbor or over the Montjuïc. The cheapest and my favorite way to discover a lot of the city.