World Travel

Trip tips: Barcelona for free!

Alasdair Baverstock
Thursday, December 6, 2012
Barcelona for free!
Best things in life are free: Get lost in the Parc Guell. Image: Getty

Spain's most popular city should take your breath away, not your hard earned bucks. For those travelling on a shoestring the Catalan capital has plenty to offer, and Alasdair Baverstock has essential advice to help you make those Euros go further.

Las Ramblas

Barcelona's mile-long thoroughfare is a must-see, but when it comes to value for money, it's little more than a mobbed street with over-priced paella. Make sure you keep hold of your personal possessions as pickpockets are common, and never get involved with the 'ball and cups' games that set up along the road. However, Barcelona at its best isn't far away.

Once you have a feel for its character, wander the less crowded streets that run alongside it. These are quieter, more atmospheric, and with no crowds, the pretty tree lined squares are perfect picnic spots.

Make sure you check out the Boquería market close to Liceu (line 3) metro station. Browsing costs nothing and there's a hell of a lot to look at. Some stands in the colourful sweet section offer free samples if you know how to loiter effectively.

Parks

Park Güell, Barcelona's living modernist mecca is free all year round and is open from 10am-6pm (9pm in the summer).

The Parc de la Ciutadella, a short hop from Barceloneta metro has free seasonal community activities (check the notice boards throughout to see what's on). There are also permanent fixtures like ping-pong tables and weekend bongo drum circles, in which welcoming communities of all abilities congregate in circles on the lawns.

Barcelona's excellent botanical garden (metro Espanya, lines 1 and 3) is free on Sunday afternoons.

Monjuïc, behind the Museu National D'Art de Catalunya (free on the first Sunday of the month), is a pleasant uphill stroll which takes about an hour. The fort at the top is free to enter and the ramparts offer brilliant views in every direction.

Modernism

The Ruta del Modernisme walking tour takes architecture enthusiasts past 115 of the city's best modernist buildings; watch out for the circular red paving slabs marking the way. Enquire at Plaça Catalunya's underground tourist office for a route guide.

Barcelona's architectural gem, Gaudi's Sagrada Família is free for under-10s ($13.70 adult, $11 concessions), but standing outside and admiring costs nothing. If you're keen to see the inside, remember all entrance fees go towards the completion of the project.

Museums

The Catalan capital has more galleries than it's possible to visit in an average trip. Free entries tend to be on Sundays, so visits should be planned in advance and based on your interests.

Caixaforum, close to Monjuïc, is the city's best exhibition centre and free all year round. Permanent art exhibits, music and varying conferences make this renovated textile warehouse an essential diversion.

The Picasso Museum offers free entry on Sundays from 3pm onwards, join the queue alongside the building early to ensure entry.

Most museums offer free entry at some point during the month; enquire at the underground tourist information centre in Plaça Catalunya 17.

Barceloneta

It's no Bondi, but bumming around Barceloneta is definitely worth your time. Play on the public volleyball courts, use the outdoor gym apparatus or lounge on the nearby art deco furniture.

Close by is Barcelona's harbour, between the bottom of La Rambla and the western end of the beach. Sit on the wharfs and listen to the buskers, or wander the Barceloneta Village streets between the docked boats and the sand. These cobbled alleys have a distinctly Caribbean feel to them, and the little restaurants offer some of the cheapest and tastiest food in the city.

Entertainment

Barcelona has a lively art scene, and exhibitions of film, music and dance are constant fixtures, always with that Catalan twist. Many bars, such as the Harlem Jazz Club offer free entry and great live music. Events are changing constantly, so the best source of information are the websites which keep their finger on Barca's beating pulse.

The website Butxaca is a particular local favourite, and allows you to refine your search results by order of price (hit "ordenat per preu" on the drop-down menu). Free events show up in bright orange, so you waste neither money nor time in choosing your agenda.

Best accommodation for:

Culture vultures

The Hostel Orleans is ideally located right in Barcelona's coolest neighbourhood. Far enough from the Ramblas to afford yourself some peace, close enough to the beach to stroll out with a towel draped over your shoulder and well-priced enough to keep those bank balance blues at bay. Doubles from $66.

Pavement pounders

Determined to see everything Barcelona has to offer? The Hostel Centric is the best-priced hotel you'll find in the city centre. The multi-lingual, 24-hour reception desk is helpful. Doubles from $60.

For more tips on seeing the city for less, check out Dirt Cheap Barcelona or forfree which has daily events across Catalonia.

What are you top tips for free things to do in Barcelona? Share below!

In pics: Top 10 photo spots in Barcelona

Search Barcelona hotels and reviews here!

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