Looking to visit Barcelona on a budget? In this guide, we’ll help you out with some of our favourite money-saving tips to make the most of your trip to the Catalan capital!
It was a last-minute flight special from Lisbon, Portugal to Barcelona, Spain that spurred us on to book an extended weekend getaway to vibrant and beautiful Barcelona! Having never travelled to the Catalan capital before, we were excited to get to grips with the city that so many of our friends have raved about and all its brilliant sights, even though we were heading there on a cold, yet sunny February weekend.
14 Top Tips for Planning a Budget Trip to Barcelona!
Perhaps it was due to our last-minute planning, but we decided to make it our mission to explore Barcelona on a budget. Whilst the city is still cheaper than many other European counterparts, you can still easily lose touch with how much you’re spending on dining out, travel, and general sightseeing costs.
Whilst there are so many wonderful things to see and explore throughout this sprawling city, you can still enjoy a memorable visit without breaking the bank. In this post, we’ve decided to round out some of our favourite money-saving tips and hopefully inspire you to discover Barcelona on a budget!
1. Book a flight with budget airlines
Europe is big on low-cost airlines, and there are many options to choose from. For example, suppose you are travelling to Barcelona from another European country. In that case, you can easily find flight tickets for as low as 50 euros or less.
The downside is that you can only bring your hand luggage, so if you have oversized luggage, you’d have to pay extra for these additional items of luggage. Many airlines fly directly to Barcelona El Prat (the main airport) from across the UK and Europe, including airlines such as Easyjet, Vueling, and Ryanair to name a few.
2. Visit Barcelona during the shoulder season
Summer is a busy time for travellers in Europe. Barcelona is exceptionally crowded and expensive in July and August. Many tourists come in the summer to Barcelona to enjoy the glorious weather and golden beaches found in the Catalan capital. Still, you can find a temperate climate primarily throughout the year.
If you decide to travel during the winter, you should pack a warm jacket, especially if you want to enjoy the nightlife. Temperatures drop to 7 degrees C (44 F) at night. If you’re travelling on a budget, your best bet is to visit Barcelona in April through May, or mid-September through October, when you can still enjoy warm days.
Take advantage of the slower off-season or shoulder-season periods when tourists’ numbers are at a minimum and you can still bag a good deal on airfare and accommodation (usually the most expensive items on any travel budget) too. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find airfares for as low as €20 – €30 from nearby European cities.
When we visited in February it was definitely cold, but sunny throughout the day. We loved exploring all the sights with smaller crowds and absolutely loved seeing the city in this light.
3. Plan your itinerary around free things
When visiting Barcelona, you’ll no doubt want to explore the city’s stunning Spanish landmarks, including all the exquisite works by Gaudi that the city is so known for. Unfortunately, when travelling on a budget, entrance fees to these top sights can add up quickly! Thankfully, you can still take advantage of many free attractions and experiences throughout the city.
4. Free and Discounted Museums
Some museums offer free entrance one day a week. If you don’t want to spend a lot on museum tickets, which can be pretty costly, find out when they offer free entrance and plan your itinerary accordingly.
In Barcelona, many city-run museums are free on Sundays, from 3 to 8 p.m. For example, you can check out Picasso’s masterpieces for free at the Museu Picasso.
A few other museums that offer free days include the National Art Museum of Catalonia, the Maritime Museum of Barcelona, the History Museum of Barcelona, and many more.
5. Free Barcelona Attractions
Apart from free Museum entry, you may also be interested in visiting these free attractions throughout your stay:
Barcelona’s Magic Fountain: The best time to check the Font Màgica de Montjuïc is at night when there’s a colourful light show.Walk the Olympic Park: Barcelona hosted the 1992 Olympics. There is plenty to see, including the Olympic Stadium and sculptures.Watch out for the El Peix metal fish sculpture: It stands 52 metres tall near the Port Olympic shopping centre. Its appearance changes with the weather.Santa Maria del Mar: You are welcome to visit the nave of this beautiful Gothic church in the mornings and evenings for free.Look for street art wherever you go. Apart from its well-known masterpieces, Barcelona is also home to some pretty impressive street art and graffiti.
You can also check Barcelona’s official touristic website to find more free activities.
6. Barcelona is walkable
Barcelona has many stunning buildings, thanks to its architectural geniuses that you won’t see any of if you are stuck inside a train. Whilst the city is huge, depending on where you choose to base yourself, you can still visit many of Barcelona’s top sights on foot instead. Saving you money on train day passes by walking from one destination to the other.
Of course, from time to time you will need to catch the metro or make use of the city’s other public transport options. Barcelona offers a 10-one-way ticket deal for 9.95 euros. If you don’t mind walking for the most part, then this option could last you a week.
7. Watch for pickpockets
You can’t lose anything when you’re travelling on a budget — especially not money. But, unfortunately, because Barcelona is always full of tourists, pickpockets are everywhere. So find ways to keep your money safe with you and pay attention to those around you, especially when you see a big crowd. Read: Travel Safety Tips – How to Have a Safe Vacation for more tips.
8. Steer clear of “Tourist Hotspots” such as La Rambla
La Rambla is one of the most famous pedestrian streets in Barcelona. Everybody wants to go there, so of course, businesses and restaurants will take advantage of that. You can definitely go there, take some pictures (that’s free!), and take a stroll, but don’t book any hotels, hostels, or AirBnBs there and don’t eat there either. Many places found here are overpriced and dare I say not 100% authentic Catalan.
Instead, we found some wonderful and reasonably priced restaurants by meandering through the various side streets, often stumbling upon hidden gems that only locals would otherwise know of.
9. Take advantage of complimentary breakfast
A complimentary breakfast is invaluable if you’re on a budget and staying at a hotel that offers one. You should take advantage of that by planning a substantial meal that will fill you up for a few hours, especially when planning a full day of sightseeing!
10. Sightseeing is (almost) always free
Whilst on the subject of sightseeing, the architectural splendour of Barcelona is unparalleled. Antoni Gaudi’s work is spread throughout the city. His whimsical buildings are all definitely Instagram-worthy.
Probably the most famous landmark is the Sagrada Familia, with its intricate exterior. Because of the magnitude of this piece, it’s taken more than a century to complete the church. However, Gaudi’s masterpiece is finally set to be completed by 2026.
Though you’ll need to pay to go inside, the breathtaking view is just as impressive from the outside. And guess what? It’s free!
Here is a list of Gaudi’s works you might also find interesting: Or read our – Tour of The Works of Gaudi in Barcelona
La Pedrera, or Casa MilàParc GüellCasa BatllóCol·legi de Les Teresianes – closed to the publicCasa VicensTorre BellesguardCasa CalvetColonia Güell
Many of these sights do end up costing an arm and a leg to get into, which is why we decided to focus only on one or two of these and opted to admire a few of the others for their gorgeous exterior architecture instead.
11. The menú del día is going to be your favourite meal
Although you’ll be distracted having so much fun in Barcelona, you’ll need to fuel up from time to time. If you start feeling hungry around lunchtime, you’re going to love menú del día; that’s one of those locals-only secrets.
Menu del día has been a tradition since 1965, and even though restaurants are not required by law to serve them, they are commonly offered.
It is generally available as a weekday lunch menu. Still, many restaurants serve a similar menu at the weekends as well. Check with your server if there is a special menu for the day.
You can also find other cheap eats in the Mercat de Santa Caterina or Mercat de Sant Antoni. Spain has some of the most sumptuous cuisines in the world, so don’t miss out on this experience.
12. Spanish cuisine
The city is filled with tapas at every turn. Typical tapas include mixed olives, fried baby squid, meatballs, and chorizo. Spaniards view them as a snack between meals, but you can order two or three to eat as a meal.
They are usually very affordable, but that depends on the location. For example, save money by eating tapas at a cafe that tourists do not heavily frequent.
Another must-try is pinchos (also known as pintxos) — a skewer type of snack. You can experiment with different pinchos at a bar to discover exciting food choices and new recipes. This is also a great way to understand the culture and local lifestyle in northern Spain.
Visit Carrer de Blai in Poble Sec for the ultimate pincho experience. Try a new pincho or two at every different bar you go.
Whilst on the topic of dining out, you will definitely want to down the money-saving app, The Fork, that’s not only free of charge but also offers you the chance to pre-book a restaurant with discounts of up to 40 – 50% off the main dish! It’s a great money saver, in fact, it’s how we discovered an incredible Asian restaurant in Gracia in Barcelona called Mantura Tapes asiatiques i Vinswhich we can highly recommend for your next visit!
13. Hola Barcelona Travel Card
Although Barcelona is very walkable, there will be days where you will need to take the train to get around. Hola Barcelona Travel Cards are the best option for getting around town. This unlimited travel card provides access to the city’s metro, bus, and suburban rail networks.
There are cards available for 48, 72, 96, or 120 hours, and you’ll be set to explore the city. The card is also good for getting to the airport. You can save a good deal of money by using it rather than getting airport taxis or buying individual cards.
Get a Barcelona Card
The Barcelona Card gives tourists free entrance to many museums and attractions, free public transportation tickets, tour discounts, and other entertainment activities such as the Opera y Flamenco and the Zoo de Barcelona.
The card costs approximately €50 per person and gives you discounts on dozens of attractions. This card is worth every cent if you want to make the best out of your trip. Just with museum entrances alone, you can save up to €170.
If you have an extra €50, you can also get the Gaudí Bundle with your Barcelona Card. That will give you fast-track tickets to the Sagrada Familia and Park Guëll. Gaudí Bundle allows you to skip the long ticket lines and visit both attractions. Additionally, you’ll receive two free audio guides.
14. Go to La Boqueria and then hit a park for a picnic
The Mercado de La Boqueria is an excellent place to buy fresh vegetables, fruits, cheese, and ready-made snacks for your picnic. You can also take some fabulous Instagram pictures there!
Then, head over to a picturesque local park. Must-see parks include Ciutadella, Cervantes, and Palau Reial. Finally, take a stroll down the beach before making your way through the cobbled streets of the historic Gothic Quarter.
15. Budget Tips for wine lovers
Spain is one of the biggest wine-producing countries globally, which means their wine is not only spectacular, it’s also cheap. There are bodegas all over the city where you can fill up a bottle for very little. Read more from Marco at Guide to the Douro Valley from Porto – Portugal’s Most Famous Wine Region
You’re welcome to bring an empty refillable bottle or buy one at a local bodega; make sure they are at least one-litre bottles, as they will charge you by the litre. Also, you can usually sample wines directly from the barrel.
Why not round out your visit to Barcelona by grabbing one of these lovely wines, perfect for that picnic in the park, and cheers to a successful visit to Barcelona on a budget!
And there you have it, the best ways to visit Barcelona when you are on a budget. Do you have other tips for budget travel? If you need more inspiration check out our post: How to Travel on a Budget – Top Tips for Traveling Cheap.
Why wait? Start planning your Barcelona travels today.