Barcelona is a perennially popular destination, and with its Mediterranean climate, spectacular food, nightlife, culture, and beaches, it’s not hard to see why. Recently tourism has faltered after the terrorist attack, and the more recent demonstrations regarding Catalan independence, but there is no denying Barcelona has long-lasting appeal. Barcelona does tend to be more expensive compared to other cities in Spain, but there is still plenty to do for the budget traveller. Here are just a few of the awesome free things to do in Barcelona, whatever time of year you visit Barcelona.
Free Things to Do in Barcelona:
Admire Gaudí’s Architecture
You can’t move in Barcelona without seeing Gaudí’s influence everywhere. From lampposts in Plaça Reial, to colourful, curvy homes on Passeig de Gracia and in el Raval, the modernist architect’s work is everywhere you look. Park Güell is on the hill above Barcelona, and although there is a charge to see the most famous areas, the majority of the park is free for the public – including spectacular views of the city below. Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece La Sagrada Familia is impressive from the outside, just walk around and admire the façade. However, if you do have some cash to spend it really is spectacular from the inside! If you do choose to go inside, make sure you book your tickets online in advance to beat the queues!
Ramble Down La Rambla
La Rambla is an institution in Barcelona. The leafy avenue runs from Placa Catalunya to the port, and is filled with tourists, locals, market stalls and street performers. Keep a tight hold of your belongings here as it is notorious for pickpockets, but it really has to be done at least once during your visit to Barcelona! It is more enjoyable in the morning before the crowds get too hectic, and don’t try to rush here, it’s impossible!
Soak Up the Views
Barcelona is known as the city between the mountains and the sea, and its hilly terrain provides some incredible views, and one of my top free things to do in Barcelona is to climb up somewhere and just enjoy the view! You could try Montjuic for great views of the port, the bar & roof terrace of the Museum of the History of Catalunya for Barceloneta, the bunkers at Carmel for a romantic date, and a hike up to Collserolla to see it all!
Love the free stuff but want a guided tour? Check out these options for paid tours in Barcelona provided by GetYourGuide:
Hit the Beach
The beaches at Barceloneta are the most convenient, but can be overcrowded and dirty. Instead of taking the easy option, walk along the beachfront to Bogatell or Mar Bella beaches near Poblenou, or venture further to Badalona a few metro stops away for even quieter beaches where the locals go.
Take a Free Walking Tour in Barcelona
There are several companies offering free walking tours in Barcelona; and these are a great introduction to the city and its history. Most focus on the Gothic Quarter, but you can also find special Gaudi tours too. Of course, tipping the guide is highly recommended.
Or a Free Bike Tour
Most companies charge for a bike tour, but not Free Bike Tour Barcelona! They offer a free 3-hour bike tour of Barcelona, including free bike hire, to explore areas of the city you may not visit otherwise. Again, tipping the guide is recommended. See their website for more information.
Admire the Street Art
Another one of the awesome free things to do in Barcelona is spot the amazing street art all over the city. Hot spots include the maze of streets in the Gothic Quarter, Poble Nou, Gracia and Three Chimneys Park in Poble Sec, although you will find art dotted around other areas too. Just wander round and keep your eyes peeled!
If you plan on having an extended stay in Barcelona, the Catalan government offers 45 hours of free Catalan classes for beginners. Check out the government website for details.
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Catch a Free Movie on the Beach
In June and July there is free a cinema on Barceloneta beach a couple of nights a week. Films are shown in their original version with Spanish or Catalan subtitles. Show up early to get the best spots, and bring a beer and snacks to munch while you watch.
During the summer months, green spaces in Barcelona play host to musical groups offering free live performances across the city. Jazz and classical music are the key genres, keep an eye on the Barcelona Town Hall website for details of the timetable, from June to August.
Explore the Markets
The Boqueria Market on La Rambla is an essential stop for any visitor to Barcelona. Head there early in the morning to beat the crowds (remember, it’s closed on Sundays) and stroll around enjoying the sights and smells. Other markets to explore include Santa Caterina opposite the Cathedral, Sant Antoni on the other side of the Raval, and the market in Gracia. The flea market Mercat dels Encants is perfect for hunting bargains, and is full of second hand and new items, furniture, pictures, books.
Visit a Museum on Sunday
A lot of museums in the city are free after 3pm every Sunday, or all day on the first Sunday of the month. There may be long queues, but if you are prepared to wait you can get free entry to popular museums like the Picasso Museum, the Hospital of Sant Pau, the Museum of Catalan History (which has awesome views over Barceloneta port), the Barcelona History Museum and the MNAC National Museum of Catalan Art, among others.
Enjoy a Local Fiesta
Each neighbourhood in the city celebrates its own Festa Major, or street festival, at different times of the year. The most popular is the Festa Major de Gràcia in August, when residents decorate their streets with different themes, and have live music concerts, free dance classes and more. Other major festivals include La Merced in September, Las Festes de Santa Eulàlia and the Light Festival in February, and San Joan in June when everyone heads to the beach for fireworks.
Watch Sardana Dancing
The Sardana is a traditional Catalan dance that was banned during the Franco dictatorship, along with the Catalan language. Despite the ban, Catalans continued to dance in defiance, and now the Sardana is a symbol of Catalan culture and pride. During the summer in the early evening you can catch a performance in the square in front of the cathedral on Saturdays, or in Placa Jaume 1 on Sundays, when groups of locals young and old form circles and dance to the sound of a live band.
Watch a Human Tower
Castellers are teams of people of all ages who come together to create human towers, and are one of the most awe inspiring free things to do in Barcelona. Castellers usually perform at every festival in Barcelona, and regularly at various events throughout the year. At major festivals, teams from different areas of Barcelona and Catalunya compete to create the highest and most complex towers, while at other times you may find one group practicing in front of the Cathedral. Check the Castellers de Catalunya website for details of upcoming performances.
This is just a small sample of free things in Barcelona that you can enjoy, so what are you waiting for? Have you been to Barcelona and done any other free activities? Let me know in the comments below!
Looking for a hostel in Barcelona? There are plenty of hostels and budget hotels in Barcelona, I recommend using Hostelworld to check prices, read reviews and book your hostel online.
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