Barcelona on the Cheap

Barcelona offers something for everyone, from beautiful blue skies and sea to one-of-a-kind Modernista architecture.   It’s a city that you definitely want to immerse yourself in without worrying about breaking your budget.  So if you’re planning a trip to Barcelona soon, here are 6 ways to maximize your time and money while taking in all the city has to offer.

1. Tour Gaudi and Other Modernista Sights From the Outside
Some of Barcelona’s most iconic attractions – including Sagrada Família, Casa Milà and Casa Batlló – come with steep admission fees that can add up quickly.  Luckily you can still enjoy many of these architectural gems from the outside, avoiding both high costs and long lines.

My recommendation would be pick one to visit (the Sagrada Família is a must-see) and devise a walking tour to see other Modernista sights.  You can find a comprehensive list here.  And even though the once-free Park Güell began charging admission fees back in October 2013, it’s still pretty affordable by comparison.

2. Take Advantage of Free Sightseeing
Not everything in Barcelona requires a ticket.  In fact, some of the best highlights the city has to offer are completely free.  For example, no trip to Barcelona is complete without walking down the famous pedestrian street La Rambla.  You can also explore the winding streets of the Barri Gòtic neighborhood, visit the Barcelona Cathedral, wander through Citadel Park and enjoy street art, fountains and monuments all without opening your wallet.

Barcelona Cathedral in the Barri Gòtic neighborhood

In addition, several museums offer free admission after 3 p.m. on the first Sunday of the month, including the Picasso Museum and the Catalan Art Museum, while others like the Maritime Museum and the Barcelona History Museum have free afternoon hours every Sunday.  Click here for a detailed listing.

3. Get a Pass to Save Money AND Time
As with many cities, combo passes or cards can be a worthwhile investment if you plan on doing a lot of sightseeing in Barcelona.  The Articket BCN includes admission to 6 popular museums including their temporary exhibits, plus you’ll be able to skip the ticket-buying lines at these sights.  An added bonus, the pass is valid for 3 months so you won’t feel forced to cram in the sights in a set number of days.  If you have a packed itinerary, the Barcelona Card also offers free admission or discounts at many major sites (where you can also skip lines), as well as free public transportation for 2, 3, 4 or 5 days.

For transportation, full and multi-day passes are available but I recommend getting a T10 Card.  This handy 10-pack of tickets cuts the price of a single ride nearly in half, and is sharable among multiple people.  One ride is good for 75 minutes of unlimited travel on metro, bus, suburban and regional train lines, which includes trips to the airport.

4. Eat Like a Local
You can eat rather inexpensively throughout Spain thanks to the country’s tapas culture.  These light bites are a great way to sample and share many different types of food, and they make for a fun and conversational night out.  Even bigger portions called raciones offered at some places are still a better deal than fancy sit-down restaurants.  Be aware that prices can fluctuate too depending on where you eat – food and drink may be cheaper standing at the bar versus sitting at a table, or sitting inside versus outside.

With rows of beautiful produce and other local products, food markets like La Boqueria are another great way to fill up without spending a lot.   Also consider renting an apartment rather than staying in a hotel, which can help you save money by cooking some meals at your home away from home.

5. Spend a Day on Montjuïc Hill
Many sights on this hilltop overlooking the city are free, including the Montjuïc Castle, Olympic Stadium and the Worlds Expo fairgrounds.  Montjuïc also offers a slower pace away from the tourist-filled city center and has great views of Barcelona and the waterfront below.  Read more about what to see on Montjuïc Hill here.

Montjuïc Castle on Montjuïc Hill

6. Go to the Beach
Another great way to relax in Barcelona is by spending an inexpensive day at the beach.  Just steps away from the city center, the Barceloneta beach is home to restaurants, bars and stands selling light snacks.  Join a game of beach volleyball, walk along the promenade, rent a bike or sit back and unwind as you take in the golden sand and blue skies.

Barceloneta promenade, photo by Ashley Spoltore

Have any other tips for saving money in Barcelona?  Share them in the comments below!

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