If you are looking to spend money in Barcelona, there are some excellent places to do so. However, if you are on a tight budget it is still possible to enjoy this beautiful city without spending too much. Here are a few of my tips for enjoying Barcelona on a budget:
Explore the parks-
Barcelona has some nice parks throughout the city, the biggest of which is the Parc de la Ciutadella. They are great places to go for a jog, have a picnic, or just hang out. When buying food for a picnic, grocery stores like Aldi, Lidl, and Mercadona can be great places to get lower-priced food. Also, Barcelona has some excellent local market that can allow you to taste some Catalonian delicacies for a fraction of what they would cost at a restaurant or bar.
Unlike restaurants in the United States, restaurants in Barcelona (and much of Europe) do not serve free water. However, they do serve inexpensive, quality wine that can sometimes be even cheaper than the water. While there are some places to get quality craft beer in Barcelona, wine will give you the most value for your euros by far. To get you fill of water you can bring a refillable water bottle with you and fill it up at the many fountains around city. The tap water doesn’t have a great taste, but it's free from fountains and there are plenty of other tasty things in the city.
Eat the menu del dia, pintxos, and tapas-
Monday through Friday many restaurants in Barcelona will offer a “Menu del dia.” It is a fixed price menu that will usually be between 9-15 euros and will usually include an appetizer, and main dish, a glass of wine, and a dessert or an espresso. Pintxos are small pieces of food on top of a piece of bread that are held together by a long toothpick. They will be displayed buffet style, and you pay per stick which range in price from one to a few euros. In Barcelona, tapas are small dishes that are meant to be shared, but unlike much of Andalusia they unfortunately do not usually come with a free drink. For tapas it is best to go as a group and order a handful of different tapas so you all try a variety of Catalonian cuisine. Also, when choosing a restaurant it is typically best to avoid restaurants located on main streets like La Rambla.
Take a free walking tour-
As I have recommended before, free walking tours can be a great way to begin to explore a new city. The tours usually last two hours or so, and at the end of the tour you pay whatever you think the tour was worth. My favorite free walking tour company is Sandemans, but there are a number of different good ones in many cities throughout the world. And if you want more freedom with your tour times and locations, GPSmyCity is a great app to use. You can customize your own walking tour and go on the tour at any time you please. They have both a free and a premium version.
Use hostels or points-
Barcelona has a ton of different hostel options throughout the city. I will usually use HostelWorld or Booking.com when looking for and booking hostels. In the low season (winter) the accommodation prices will typically be much cheaper than the high (summer) season. Also, using hotel program or credit card points (like Chase Ultimate Rewards points) can be a great way to stay on budget with accommodation.
Walk and use public transport-
Unlike much of the United States, the public transportation is pretty good in Barcelona. For most Barcelona visitors a T10 will give you the best value. It offers ten rides at slightly more than a euro a ride, and can be used by multiple people (as long as they each scan the card). Barcelona is a very walkable city (although be aware of pickpockets), and walking around can allow you to see the beauty of the city. If you don’t want to pay the entry fees to Barcelona’s famous landmarks (although the Sagrada Familia is definitely worth it), you can at least walk by and marvel at them from the outside. There are also some mini hikes you can do, such as Tibidabo, Montjuic, Bunkers, and Parc Guell, that offer some excellent views of Barcelona.
Take advantage of free museum days/times-
Many of the museums in Barcelona are free on certain days. Some you can just show up to, but with others you may need to reserve a time during the free period. The museums will list their free times on their websites, which could be weekly or monthly. Also, in front of the MNAC museum is the Magic Fountain, which is impressive in its own right during the day, and even more so when it is lit up at night.
Visit the beaches-
There are a number of beaches in the Barcelona area. In the city the beaches are lower quality, but they are more convenient and offer multiple free workout areas with basic equipment like pull-up bars. If you want to relax on a beach that is a bit nicer, Castelldefels, Sitges, and Vilanova i la Geltru are great options and just a short train ride away.
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