April 19, 2024
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Visiting Barcelona on a Budget

Barcelona is one of Spain’s most popular cities. Nearly 20 million people visited Barcelona in 2019, and now that Covid travel restrictions have eased, visitor numbers are slowly creeping back up once again. People come for the amazing food, the vibrant culture, and because it has a unique vibe compared to cities like Madrid and Seville. The good news is that you don’t need a huge budget to plan a trip to Barcelona. If money is no object, you can stay at the Mandarin Oriental for £700+ a night, but for everyone else, there are lots of budget-friendly accommodation options, attractions, and more.

Read on for a guide to Barcelona on a budget.

When to Visit Barcelona

You can visit Barcelona all year round, but the weather will be changeable, depending on the season. July and August are the busiest months in Barcelona, so expect everything to be more expensive. The same applies to school holidays, public holidays, and religious holidays.

The off-seasons in spring and autumn are the best time to visit Barcelona. Prices are cheaper and everything is less crowded. If you decide to book your stay in the colder months, do pack some warm clothing, as it can get chilly. While there are some fabulous shopping opportunities in Barcelona, being forced to buy a new coat won’t do your budget much good.

Cheap Travel to Barcelona

Despite the rising cost of air travel, it is still possible to find cheap flights to Barcelona via budget airlines. The main airport is located outside the city, but catching a bus, Aerobus, the metro, or train into the centre is a lot cheaper than a taxi. Transfers take between 25 and 40 minutes.

If you are traveling from another European country, the train is a good budget option. European train networks are fast and efficient. A train from Paris to Barcelona will cost as little as 29 Euros and take around 10 hours to reach its destination.

From the UK, you can catch a ferry to Santander and drive to Barcelona. Ferry crossings take 20-36 hours and you will need to budget for a night on board, plus meals. However, if you are travelling in a group and want to take a lot of baggage or are on a cycle tour, this is an option worth considering.

Accommodation

The more central the accommodation, the more expensive it will be. When looking at accommodation, bear in mind that hostels, Airbnbs, and hotels in the Gothic Quarter and around Las Ramblas are going to be pricier. Check out the various neighbourhoods (barrios) and see where they are located in relation to where you want to be.

El Borne is still central, but not as expensive as the Gothic Quarter. Gracia is trendy, and El Raval is edgy but interesting, although a bit dodgy at night.

Staying out of the central areas will save you money and you won’t lose much time as Barcelona has a great metro system. While searching for accommodation, look at a map and check the transfe3r time to the central areas. In addition, make sure the area isn’t a crime hotspot.

Hostels are usually the cheapest place to stay, with beds in dorms costing around £40 per night. For younger travellers and students, hostels are ideal, as you can meet like-minded travellers and make new friends. If you’d prefer a private room, expect to pay £100+.

There are plenty of Airbnb accommodation options in Barcelona on any given date. You can book a shared room in an area like L’Hospitalet for as little as £12/night. If you want a bit more privacy, a private room will cost around £30 per night. Self-contained apartments are a lot more expensive, but there are some bargains to be had in less expensive areas.

Hotels are a mixed bag, depending on the location and ambience of the hotel. As an example, a room in a boutique hotel in the Gothic Quarter is around £200 per night.

Try and book your accommodation as quickly as possible once you have travel arrangements in place. The later you leave it, the harder it will be to find accommodation at a reasonable price.

Attractions

Taking a stroll around Barcelona will cost you nothing. You can window shop on Las Ramblas, meander down to the beach to soak up the sun, or simply admire the amazing Gaudi architecture. But that’s not all! There are plenty of attractions that cost nothing.

Join a walking tour of the city; these are usually free, although it’s standard practice to tip the tour guide. Try and join a tour when you first arrive in the city, as it’s a great way to get your bearings early on. There are tours starting from Plaça Reial twice a day during the summer and once a day in winter. You may need to book if you want a guaranteed place. Some tours also explore the work of Antoni Gaudi, the master architect whose work is so prevalent in Barcelona.

If you want to take some lovely photos, catch the funicular up to Montjuïc Castle. You can explore the perimeter of the castle for free, admire the expansive views of the city and port, then walk back down the hill on foot.

Visitors to Barcelona can enjoy the spectacular architecture for free. Antoni Gaudi’s wonderful creations are dotted around the city but there are plenty of other architectural marvels to see, too. Download a walking route map for a guide to where the best examples are located.

Barcelona museums charge an entry fee but most let visitors in for free on Sundays after 3 pm and also on the first Sunday of the month (do check before you turn up). The Picasso Museum, a must-see, is also free on Thursdays between 4 pm and 7 pm. Note: you may need to reserve a spot online for the free slots.

Street art is prevalent in Barcelona and as you explore the city on foot, you will come across lots of artwork, ranging from huge murals to small sculptures. The Jardins de Les Tres Xemeneies is a popular gallery of street art that changes each week, but you’ll find most examples in the Poble Nou district.

Look for bargains at the Els Encants flea market. There are hundreds of vendors selling everything from antiques to clothing. It’s a great way to waste a few hours.

History buffs will have a ball exploring the Roman remains in and around Barcelona. Since the city was built by the Romans, there are a lot of Roman remains. Parts of the original city walls are still standing, which can be traversed on foot. Two Roman houses are free to the public on the first Sunday of the month. There is also a Roman aqueduct, a Roman necropolis, and even a 2,000-year-old temple!

Make time to visit Park Güell. While there is an admission fee to see the Monumental Zone, the Forest Zone is free and there are some lovely views across the city. Visit the Parc de la Ciutadella, too. There is a wonderful waterfall, an outdoor café, and also Barcelona Zoo (which isn’t free).

If you plan to visit several museums and attractions, buy a Barcelona Card. This will save you money on many of the best attractions. An additional add-on provides extra discounts for Gaudi attractions, including the Sagrada Familia.

Food and Drink

It’s easy to save money on food and drink if you are visiting Barcelona on a budget. The food markets in and around the city are legendary. You can buy cheese, ham, salted fish, fresh fruit and vegetables, local Catalan specialties, and more. Stock up in the morning and have alfresco picnics in the park or on the beach; it’s a lot cheaper than splashing out on lunch in a pavement café or restaurant. The Mercat de la Boqueria is the most famous market, but there are others.

If you would rather eat in a restaurant, look for one that offers the ‘menu del día’. This is a midday meal at a standard price, so usually cheaper than other food on the menu and served at a time when most Spaniards have their main meal of the day.

Tapas are served at most cafes, but to save money, steer clear of cafes in the main tourist areas. Pick a café frequented by locals, which won’t charge tourist prices.

Pre-booking restaurants is also a good way to score discounts.

Wine is a national pastime in Spain and locally produced Spanish wine is very cheap. Save even more money by taking a refillable 1Litre bottle to a bodega, where they will fill it up for you for peanuts. Who needs water when you can drink wine like the locals?!

Nights Out in Barcelona

If your idea of a great holiday is clubbing all night long and sleeping in until noon, you won’t be disappointed. There are lots of trendy clubs and bars all over the city. However, bars and clubs in the more touristy areas are typically more expensive – this includes the Gothic Quarter and Las Ramblas. Save money by hitting the clubs and bars in other areas. Alternatively, have your own party in a park with some cheap wine and snacks. Outdoor socialising is acceptable in warmer weather and you’ll soon find that the locals enjoy a spot of public drinking in the squares, parks, and viewpoints after dark.

Just be sure to keep the noise down and pack up before midnight, or the police will call it quits for you.

Getting Around

Walking around the city costs nothing and is often easier, but some things are a bit further out and you’ll need to catch a bus or use the metro. The Hola Barcelona Travel Card offers unlimited use of public transport for various periods ranging from 48 hours to five days.

Travel cards can be purchased online, via the TMB app, from vending machines in metro centres, or tourist information offices. These are ideal for those visiting Barcelona on a budget.

Summary

You don’t need a bulging wallet full of credit cards to enjoy Barcelona on a budget. It’s an amazing city and well worth a visit, whether you decide to stay for one night or a week. One thing well worth doing once you have your itinerary and travel plans nailed down is to learn some basic Spanish phrases. Being able to say, Hola, gracias, cuánto cuesta, and por favore will go a long way to improving your overall experience.

Have fun!

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