Barcelona is a perennially popular destination, and with its Mediterranean climate, spectacular food, nightlife, culture, and beaches, it’s not hard to see why. 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 without needing to pay entry to go inside – 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 Plaça Catalunya to Port Vell, 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!
La Rambla is more enjoyable in the morning before the crowds get too hectic, and don’t try to rush here, it’s impossible. Instead, take a leisurely stroll down La Rambla in the morning, pop into La Boqueria Market for some breakfast, then carry on. You can also take detours off La Ramba to see Plaça Reial or the lovely Gothic church of Santa Maria del Pi.
Soak Up the Views
Barcelona is known as the city between the mountains and the sea, and its hilly terrain provides some incredible views. One of my top free things to do in Barcelona is to climb up somewhere and just enjoy the view! Montjuic has lovely views of the port and of the city from the other side of the mountain.
The bar & roof terrace of the Museum of the History of Catalunya has great views of Barceloneta and Port Vell, which you can pop in to admire for free or buy a drink there for a more leisurely stay. The bunkers at Carmel are popular for romantic dates, or if you are feeling energetic you can hike up to Collserola or Tibidabo mountain 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:
Free Things to do in Barcelona: Hit the Beach
The beaches at Barceloneta are the most convenient as they are closest to the city and easily walkable, but they can be overcrowded and dirty. Instead of taking the easy option and stopping there, hire a bike or walk along the beachfront to Bogatell or Mar Bella beaches near Poblenou where the locals come to enjoy the sunshine and sand.
You could also venture even further to Badalona a few metro stops away for even quieter beaches without a tourist in sight.
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, so although it is technically free you could expect to tip around €5-€10 per person for a 3-hour tour.
If you don’t mind paying upfront for a tour, check out this walking tour in Barcelona.
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, although you do pay €3 per hour for the bike rental, it is still a pretty good deal to be able 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 spotting the amazing street art all over the city. Hot spots include the maze of streets in the Gothic Quarter, old industrial areas in Poble Nou, pretty much everywhere in Gracia and the Three Chimneys Park in Poble Sec, although you will find art dotted around other areas too. Just wander around and keep your eyes peeled!
Learn Catalan for Free
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, which only seems to be available in Catalan so you might need Google Translate to help!
Catch a Free Movie on the Beach
In July, Cinema Lliure set up a free cinema on Barceloneta beach a couple of nights a week. Films are shown in their original version with Spanish or Catalan subtitles, so check which films are showing before you go down there – you want to be able to understand what’s going on!
Show up early to get the best spots, and bring a blanket, 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 for Free
A lot of museums in Barcelona 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 some of the most popular museums in Barcelona.
Museums with free entry on Sunday after 3pm include 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. My personal favourite is the Hospital Sant Pau, which is a stunning modernist building (below).
Enjoy a Local Fiesta
Another one of my favourite free things to do in Barcelona is party! 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 Plaça 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 practising in front of the Cathedral. Check the Castellers de Catalunya website for details of upcoming performances.
This is just a small sample of the best 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!
Where to Stay in Barcelona
Although some people prefer to stay in a quieter area of the city, I love being right in the centre of Barcelona so I can walk everywhere. Areas in the Gothic Quarter and around La Rambla do get noisy at night, so bring some earplugs with you.
If you are travelling to Barcelona on your own, be careful walking around quieter streets alone at night, especially in Raval. Barcelona is a safe city, but still be aware of what’s going on around you.
Hostels in Barcelona
I stayed at Fabrizzio’s Petit Hostel and loved it, and they even had free paella nights if you are backpacking on a budget and want to try some delicious Spanish food. There are private rooms and dorms available, and I really enjoyed my stay here. Read my full review of what I think is the best hostel in Barcelona, or book it on Hostelworld.
If Fabrizzio’s isn’t available then there are plenty of other hostels and budget hotels in Barcelona, including plenty of options for private rooms in hostels. You could also try Hostel One Las Ramblas which is great for solo travellers or Fabrizzio’s Terrace which also gets excellent reviews and has private rooms or dorms to choose from. Take a look at all the hostels in Barcelona on Hostelworld to check prices, read reviews and book your hostel online.
Hotels in Barcelona
There are hundreds of hotels in Barcelona to choose from, and you can find something for every budget. Staying outside of the city centre is cheaper, but as you only have 2 days in Barcelona these options are all in or around the Gothic Quarter so you can easily reach the attractions in Barcelona on foot or with the metro.
Luxury: The 5* Mercer Hotel has a rooftop pool, chic décor with original beamed ceilings and exposed brick walls. Guests love the helpful staff, comfortable beds and the location.
Mid-Range: The H10 Madison hotel has lovely views of the Gothic Cathedral from the roof terrace and gets rave reviews for the friendly staff and excellent location.
Budget: Chic & Basic Born Hotel is in the popular Born neighbourhood. It has a restaurant and bar onsite, and guests loved the boutique style and the location.
Airbnb in Barcelona
There have been problems with Airbnb in Barcelona, with large companies buying up apartments to rent to tourists and pushing out local residents. If you do decide to book an Airbnb in Barcelona I would recommend staying in a private room in an apartment, so you are helping someone who lives here to pay their rent, which is now at record levels in the city. Something like this room in the gorgeous apartment hosted by the Soler family or this room in Mod’s flat in the Gothic Quarter are central places to stay and close to everything you might need.
If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to sign up & get up to $40 credit to use on your first trip! Read more about the Airbnb first time discount code and my full Airbnb guide or click below for your Airbnb coupon.
Getting Around Barcelona
Of course, walking around Barcelona is completely free, and you get to see so much more of the city as you have time to absorb your surroundings as you go. If you need to get anywhere fast you easily can flag down one of the many black and yellow taxis which are everywhere in the city. They all have a meter and should use it.
The bus system can be a bit confusing in terms of where to get off, although if you have wifi then Google maps will tell you the best way to get around. The underground Metro is the easiest public transport to navigate but do watch out for pickpockets.
Insider Tip for Barcelona on a Budget:
If you plan on taking 6 or more journeys by bus or metro (including the train from/to the airport), then you could buy a 10 journey ticket called a T-Casual. This allows you 10 journeys on the bus, tram, metro or train within zone one for just €11.35. If you only plan to use public transport once or twice, a single ticket costs €2.40. Children under 4 travel free.
There are also transport cards specifically designed for tourists, called the Hola Barcelona Travel Card. However, unless you plan on taking public transport everywhere, I don’t think they are the best value. For example, a 48-hour transport card costs €16.30, but you would have to take more than 10 journeys in 2 days to make it better value than the T-Casual Card.
Pickpockets in Barcelona
Although it is a safe city, unfortunately, pickpockets are a problem in Barcelona; particularly in popular tourist areas and on the metro. Do not keep your wallet or cash in trouser pockets and keep your hand on your bag at all times. Leave your passport and other valuables locked away in your accommodation, and only bring out what you need.
When you are eating at a restaurant or café, keep your bag on your lap, not hanging over your chair and personally I avoid leaving my wallet or phone on the table – especially if I’m eating outdoors. It only takes a second for someone to distract you and grab it!
I don’t want to scare you but please take care of your belongings and make sure you have travel insurance in case something does happen.
Travel insurance from WorldNomads is available to people from 140 countries, and you can buy and claim online, even after you’ve left home. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities. Get a quote now:
Barcelona is an incredible city, which you can enjoy without breaking the bank. I hope you’ve enjoyed these tips for free things to do in Barcelona, and if you’d like more information about Barcelona check out my other Barcelona blog posts below.
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