Have you ever gone on vacation and cried when you looked at your bank statement? Well, if you’re nodding your head yes right now then this backpacking in Barcelona guide is for you.
Because guess what? Barcelona ain’t cheap. In fact, Barcelona and Madrid are currently doing battle to see who is more expensive and who can plunge me into even more credit card debt.
Therefore, You’re gonna need to get a little creative if you’re backpacking Spain on a budget and visiting Barcelona.
And I am just the person to help you with planning a trip to Barcelona. Not only have I visited many times, but I was deffo there as a broke college with a woefully small budget.
Therefore, I know all about some of the best free things to do in Barcelona and about some of the best hostels in Barcelona – cool places where you can meet people and save money.
So, if you want to read the ultimate expert’s guide to backpacking Barcelona then this is the post for you. Just use all of my fave money saving tips and get ready for the trip of a lifetime.
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How Does Backpacking Barcelona Cost?
Barcelona is easily one of Spain’s most expensive cities. However, budget-savvy Barcelona backpackers can explore this vibrant Catalan capital without breaking the bank.
In fact, a typical budget for Barcelona per day could be between $60.00 and $70.00.
Yet, anyone who wants to try house sitting or Couch Surfing (so your accommodations would be free) could spend as little as $30.00 per day.
To save money in Barcelona, try visiting at off-peak times outside of the busy summer season to save money on your hostel.
That being said, you’ll probably spend most of your money on food/Barcelona attractions since hostels in Barcelona offer good value for the price you pay.
Now, if you want to save even more money, consider getting the Barcelona City Pass. The price of the card is equivalent to the cost of a metro ticket to the airport or a 10 ride metro ticket.
So, the benefit is that you get free public transportation and then Barcelona attraction discounts on top of that.
However, when riding the metro and bus, it’s good to know that you’ll pay €2.20 per ride, with a discounted 10 ride ticket costing €10.20.
Additionally, many of the top Barcelona landmarks are accessible by foot or by bike – Gaudí sites, museums, Barrio Gotic/Barceloneta, etc.
The exception to this is Parc Guell and Mont Juic which both require a metro ride to visit
So, if you wanna bike around the city, you can rent a bike for about €5.00. However, you can probably pay even less if you book one through your hostel.
Pro Tip: If you want to save money on accommodations but don’t want to stay in a hostel then you can try Couch Surfing (FYI, book well in advance since couches are hard to come by), house sitting, or splitting an Airbnb as part of a group.
Average Prices for Backpacking Barcelona
- Bed in a Hostel Dorm: $20-$30 per night
- Beer: $4.00 or more
- Coffee: $2.00+
- Metro Ride: €2.20
- City-Airport Transfer: €5.00
- Room on Airbnb: $30+ per night
- Apartment on Airbnb: $75+ per night
- Sandwich: $7.00
- Lunch Set: $8.00+
- Dinner per Person at a Restaurant: €20+
- Sagrada Familia Ticket: €22 (online)
The Best Time to Visit Barcelona
The best time to visit Barcelona is typically between May and June, This is when the weather is warm, but not too hot.
A wide array of events and festivals also take place around the city, making this a fun time to visit Barcelona.
But, this also corresponds with high season, which is typically between May and September. And high season means high prices and huge crowds.
So, if you are backpacking In Barcelona then the best time to visit Barcelona is September through December.
You’ll score great deals on hostels, can comfortably explore the city on foot, and can attend festive local events.
Getting To/From Barcelona
Most visitors will arrive at Barcelona’s El Prat International Airport, which is approximately 35 minutes from the city center.
One-way tickets for the airport shuttle, Aerobus, cost around $6 and stop running around 1:00 am. You could also take public transporation but the bus is easiest.
Other airports you could potentially fly into include Girona-Costa Brava airport and Reus Airport. Both are around 90 minutes away from the city and are serviced mainly by budget airlines.
Additionally, bus run from these airprots to Barcelona’s Estació del Nord (for Girona-Costa Brava) and Estació Sants (for Reus).
I would just check the schedule of the bus from the airport to both train stations since the bus doesn’t run all the time.
Additionally, if you’re taking a long-distance train to Barcelona then it will arrive at Estació Sants which is well-located in the center of the city.
Meanwhile, long-distance bus services will arrive at Estació del Nord in the L’Eixample neighborhood.
Pro Tip: Buses are way cheaper than trains when traveling around Spain. And if you do travel by train, book your tickets WELL in advance for the best rates.
Getting Around When Backpacking in Barcelona
Barcelona has an efficient metro system that makes for a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to get around the city.
However, the metro does stop running at 12:00 am from Sunday through Thursday, and at 2:00 am on Fridays.
It runs for a full twenty-four hours on Saturdays and you can easily save money by purchasing a pass with 10 rides on it. After hours, you can alwayseuse a taxi/Uber since they are both safe an reliable.
That being said, Barcelona is a very bike and pedestrian-friendly city. So, this is an economical way to explore the city while backpacking Barcelona.
Pro Tip: Watch your valuables carefully when using the metro and walking in Barcelona. Pickpockets are everywhere and I had my wallet stolen when I was in the metro.
Safety Tips for Backpacking in Barcelona
Barcelona is generally a safe city. However, de be careful at night in areas around El Raval and southern La Rambla.
However, the most concerning safety issue to be aware of is pickpocketing. So, always be mindful of your belongings, especially in tourist areas where large crowds of people.
Additionally, keep your bag securely fastened and avoid storing valuables in your back pocket. Be particularly vigilant around Passeig de Gracía, Las Ramblas, and on the metro.
In fact, a common trick used by thieves is that they will grab your belongings just as the metro doors are closing so that you can’t chase after them.
Backing in Barcelona: Money Saving Tips
When backpacking in Barcelona, you need to be smart and save money wherever you can. So, use my expert travel tips to help you quickly and easily save money in Barcelona.
- Pack a Reusable Water Bottle – This will help you save a ton of money on drinks. Also, try to fight the urge to buy anything to drink…unless you wanna party like a rockstar at night.
- Walk as Much as Possible – Many of the top attractions in Barcelona are within walking distance of most centrally located hostels. So, save money and get exercise by visiting Barrio Gothic, Parc Ciutadella, the beach, and La Sagrada Familia on foot.
- Avoid Las Ramblas and La Sagrada Familia When Eating – These places are expensive and do not serve great food. Go elsewhere.
- Hop on a Free Walking Tour – This is a great way to orient yourself to the city, especially when you first arrive. Companies like Discover Walks and Feel Free Tours routinely run tip-based tours that you can add to your 3-day Barcelona itinerary.
- Take Advantage of Happy Hour – Like in most cities, you can drink for way less if you go to bars early in the evening and during a weekday. Some of my fave spots include Belushi’s Barcelona, Sub Rosa, and CocoVail Beer Hall.
- Enjoy Music in the Parks: Between June and August, the city hosts a free concert series that you can enjoy from within a variety of different parks.
- Explore Plazas – Barcelona has tons of vibrant squares with expansive seating areas that are perfect for relaxing. So, grab a gelato and watch the people stroll by.
- Relax by the Beach – Does Barcelona have the best Catálan beaches? No, but they are nice and a great place to chill by the water. Just watch out for your stuff if decide to go swimming since there are pickpockets everywhere.
- Get a Discounted Metro Ticket with 10 Rides – You can save 50% on metro rides if you skip the single rides and opt for a 10-ride ticket instead. And if you’re staying in the city long-term, consider purchasing more metro rides at one time.
- Go to Museums on the First Sunday of the Month – Believe it or not, most museums/attractions are totally free to visit on Sundays between 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm.
- Eat Out for Lunch, Not Dinner – If you want to go out to eat, avoid dinner since it’s the most expensive meal of the day. Try dining out for lunch instead and save even more money by ordering the set lunch menu of the day.
- Cook Your Own Food – Many of the best restaurants in Barcelona are expensive. So, avoid lame restaurants and just cook in your hostel kitchen. Try not to cook at peak times or prep in advance since hostel kitchens can become packed and hard to navigate at peak times.
- Attend a Festival – Barcelona usually has a lot of free events and festivals going on. So, check in with your hostel to see what is happening when you’re backpacking in Barcelona.
- Put Yourself on the Guest List for a Club – You can avoid a €25.00 cover charge for many local clubs if you go out before 2:00 am. You can also avoid long lines by putting your name on the guest list. You can do this on the club’s website.
- Drink Before Hitting up the Bar/Club – Ordering drinks can be super expensive. So, hit up a local market first and drink with your buddies so that you have a good buzz before visiting the bar/club.
Where to Stay in Barcelona on a Budget
Like with all real estate, in Barcelona, it’s all about location, location, location.
Therefore, the closer your Barcelona backpackers hostel is to the center of the city, the more expensive it will be.
But, generally speaking, the price of a bed in a hostel dorm room should be between €15 and €35 a day, depending on the time of year and the location of your hostel.
Personally, some of my fave budget hotels and hostels in Barcelona are:
- Sleep Green – This eco-friendly youth hostel in Barcelona is well-located near Las Ramblas and has fast/free Wifi. So, if you’re a digital nomad then this place is for you. You can also rent a bike and use the on-site printer/well-stocked kitchen.
- The Central House Barcelona Gracia – The Central House is great if you hate hostels but are on a budget. It feels like a boutique hotel, not a hostel. It is also conveniently located near the Diagonal Metro Station. Set inside a historic 19th-century building, bunk beds include lights, outlets, curtains, lockers, NICE pillows, and a blanket. Book a bed if you need a good night’s sleep.
- Yeah Barcelona Hostel – Book a bed in this hostel and you’ll enjoy a short 10-minute walk to La Sagrada Familia. Plus, all the bunk beds are NICE and have curtains. Dorms also come with en-suite bathrooms and a buffet breakfast is served daily. A nightly dinner is also prepared on-site and you can meet other travelers at the on-site bar. This is probably my fave hostel for backpacking in Barcelona.
Local Tip: My fave hostel is Yeah Barcelona Hostel. The beds are well-priced and the rooms are really nice. The location is great and you can’t beat the epic buffet breakfast. The staff are also lovely and super helpful.
Best Things to do in Barcelona Overall
If you only do one of the best things to do in Barcelona, let this be it.
After all, La Sagrada Familia is probably THE most famous Barcelona landmark of them all
This cathedral was designed by legendary architect Antoni Gaudi and is a marvelous structure that remains a work in progress even 90 years after his death.
Now, I’m sure you have been to many cathedrals. You may not even really like cathedrals since they all kind of look the same.
However, this miracle of modern architecture 100% unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Inspired by nature and fairy tales, it is filled with a forest of towering columns supporting the roof.
Sunlight cascades through stained glass windows, casting a kaleidoscope of colors on the pews below.
Truth be told, the building is unfinished so I didn’t really find the exterior all the impressive. However, the real magic happens once you step inside and see the stunning interior.
It’s not cheap at €22.00 when purchased online. But, if you’re backpacking in Barcelona then you won’t regret purchasing your ticket.
Pro Tip: Lines are SUPER long. So, book a priority-access ticket in advance for a quick and easy visit.
Even if you’re not big into football, experiencing the electrifying atmosphere of a match at the stadium in Barcelona is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
After all, Camp Nou is one of the world’s largest football stadiums and is the home turf of the one and only, FC Barcelona.
Even if you aren’t fortunate enough to see football master Lionel Messi score a goal, the stadium offers awe-inspiring tours that are sure to leave you impressed.
And should you find yourself in Barcelona during the weekend, there’s a fifty percent chance you could witness the magic of Barca playing in their home city.
Embark on a gastronomic adventure through the lively streets and alleys of Barcelona’s El Born neighborhood.
Tantalize your taste buds during this tour by tasting the delectable flavors of traditional and modern tapas – all of which are perfectly paired with an expertly curated selection of wine, beer, cava, and shots.
Plus. you’ll be escorted through the area by a local guide who will introduce you to some of the city’s finest tapas bars and restaurants.
Your guide will then offer intriguing insights into the history and culture of Catalan cuisine as you visit four incredible locations.
But this El Born Tapas Food Tour is not merely a food excursion – it’s a social and immersive experience that gives you the chance to meet other, like-minded travelers.
So, bring your appetite and prepare to discover the essence of Barcelona’s tapas and drinks culture during this unforgettable tour. Reserve your spot now and make the most of backpacking in Barcelona.
Pro Tip: This is an amazing tour and I highly recommend it if you want to enjoy the best tapas and nightlife in Barcelona. However, it is NOT cheap and definitely skip this tour if you’re on a tight budget.
During this incredible, 40-minute performance, step into the vibrant world of flamenco at Los Tarantos in Barcelona’s Plaça Reial.
It is an experience like no other. Nestled in the heart of the city, you can immerse yourself in an exciting blend of music and dance that is undeniably captivating.
The venue, a respected tablao, has been the cornerstone of Barcelona’s flamenco scene since its opening in 1963.
Therefore, it is a place that has helped earn Barcelona the title of Spain’s third flamenco capital behind Andalusia and Madrid.
So, listen to the alluring strums of the guitar, enjoy fervent vocal performances, and marvel at passionate dance performances during an unforgettable evening.
Because whether you’re a seasoned flamenco connoisseur or a first-time spectator, Los Tarantos promises a dazzling performance that features top-tier talent.
A beloved destination for both visitors and locals in Barcelona, Parc Güell is an architectural marvel that pays homage to Barcelona’s unique, Mediterranean lifestyle.
Set against Barcelona’s stunning skyline and offering sweeping views of the city, Parc Guell is a must-vist, even though you do need to pay to enter (you can visit the forest area for free).
However, the price is worth it since the park is a masterpiece created by Antoni Gaudí that features cool tree-shaped columns, free-flowing forms that harmoniously blend in with the natural landscape, and broken tile mosaics.
Just be aware that the park is divided into two sections, the forest and the monument area. The monument area is where you want to go to see Gaudi’s work.
Enter from Carrer d’Olot and check out Casa del Guarda, La Plaça, and the Pabelló de l’Aministració, among other things.
You’ll also want to book your tickets well in advance to avoid lines/sold-out tickets. After all, a limited number of visitors are allowed in the park per hour to protect the buildings.
Pro Tip: For the best views head to El Calvari since it is the highest point in the park. You’ll also need to pay €10.00 to visit the Gaudi-awesome section of the park.
6. Watch the Sunrise on the Way Home from the Club
If there’s one thing Barcelona is known for it’s for an amazing nightlife scene.
So, if you’re backpacking in Barcelona and want to visit some of the best bars in the city then head to areas like Sant Antoni and El Raval.
You can also head to a local beach club at Barceloneta and party with an international DJ.
Then, on the way home, watch the sun creep above the horizon as it illuminates the city. Trust me, Barcelona is beyond beautiful at this time of day.
7. Visit Some Cool Cafes in Gracia
Gracia is this super cool, uber-Bohemian place in Barcelona that you will absolutely love.
After all, this incredible neighborhood is home to 19th-century boulevards filled with indie boutiques, galleries, and cinemas.
Head to the clock tower at Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia if you want to hang out at some of the coolest bars and bistros in the city.
Also take a look at the stunning art nouveau architecture since Antoni Gaudi designed epic structures like the neo-Moorish mansion Casa Vicens (Parc Guell is also here too).
Pro Tip: Some of my fave cafes in the area are Fourmi, Onna Cafe, and La Nena.
8. Visit the Museu Picasso
Hidden along the medieval street of Carrer de Montcada, the Museu Picasso is dedicated to the life and works of one of the world’s greatest artists, Pablo Picasso.
Born in the Andalusian city of Málaga in 1881, Picasso moved to Barcelona at the age of 14. Here, he spent much of youth with his family while honing his exceptional artistic talents.
Opened in 1963, the Picasso Museum doesn’t just showcase some of the painter’s earliest works. It explores the deep, emotional connections Picasso had with this vibrant city, a bond that shaped his art.
Spread across five impressive Medieval palaces, this museum allows visitors to see over 4,000 of his works on display.
Pro Tip: If you want to visit this museum for free you can visit on Thursday afternoons from 5.00 pm to 8.00 pm or on the first Sunday of the month.
1. Els Encants Vells Flea Market
I have been known to like a good flea market in my day. However, I never have the energy to try and find VERY well-hidden treasures. I don’t know, I just don’t have the patience for it.
But Els Encants Vells is so much more than JUST a flea market.
It is an epicenter of modern, Catalan culture that is expressed through the market’s food stalls, seasonal concerts, and the beauty of the structure’s canopy
But all this culture doesn’t even account for the fact that not only is this the largest flea market in Barcelona, but it is also one of the OLDEST markets in Europe
A legacy of history that is worth a visit for even the most unenthusiastic shopper in the family (In my family, that would be me!).
Pro Tip: Arrive early to grab the best stuff. Avoid the markets on Saturdays because of the crowds. Also, watch out for pickpockets, and don’t be afraid to haggle.
2. Las Ramblas
I’m not gonna lie to you, Las Ramblas is crowded and touristy, with people constantly in your face, telling you to, “Go to this club, ” or “Eat at this restaurant.”
It’s also loaded with tourists and slightly devoid of Catalan culture; a glorified tourist trap where cars are prohibited so that they could fit as many suckers, I mean people, on the sidewalk as possible.
So why is it on this list of the best things to do in Barcelona?
Well, it’s one of the best free things to do in Barcelona. This street is also emblematic of Barcelona.
Therefore, it’s kind of every Barcelona tourist’s duty to stroll along this tree-lined, pedestrian highway. and enjoy the 1.2-kilometer walk.
3. Check Out the View from Bunkers del Carmelo
For a unique experience in Barcelona, and for some of the best views in the Balearic Sea, check out Los Bunkers del Carmel.
Originally constructed as an anti-aircraft fortification during the Spanish Civil War, this structure is steeped in Catalan history and sits atop Turó de la Rovira.
Standing at 262 meters above sea level, get ready for a steep and somewhat arduous climb. It’s worth it though if you wear good shoes and bring plenty of water.
Because Los Bunkers del Carmel is growing in popularity, the best time to visit is early in the morning. This way you can avoid the crowds and enjoy a quiet sunrise.
4. Mercat de La Boqueria
Possibly one of the best food markets in Europe, and maybe even the world, this place is like Disneyland to anyone who likes eating.
But as delicious as this food is, this market has so much more to offer, like its extensive history.
Believe it or not, this market dates all the way back to 1217, when local farmers began to sell their meats by the city gate.
Out of such a humble beginning a cultural buffet has exploded, with the establishment of the Boqueria Cooking School.
Yup, it educates eager students about the fine art of Catalan cooking.
Throw in over 200 food stalls, selling any and everything and you have a market that is a pure expression of local culture,
But the best part? Mercat doesn’t just offer your street food. This vibrant and dynamic place is home to a wide variety of restaurants, takeaway places, and traditional tapas bars.
So sit back, relax, and rock your elastic pants while backpacking Barcelona.
5. Walk the Modernist Architecture Route
Anyone who has spent five minutes in Barcelona knows that modern architecture is a BIG deal here.
And that makes sense since Barcelona is the birthplace of the Catalan Modernist movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Now, even if architecture is not your thing, I can almost guarantee that you will fall in love with modernism in Barcelona.
It’s easily the most awesome and most innovative architectural movement that I have ever seen.
That being said, you will have to pay to get in most of these buildings.
However, a lot of these buildings are almost as impressive from the outside, as they are on the inside (like Casa Batlló and La Pedrera).
So leave your wallet at home and check out some of the best modernist architecture in Barcelona.
6. Relax at the Beach
Pretty self-explanatory huh? Well, some beaches are better than others, and Barcelona has a bunch.
Therefore, I would hit up Ocata Beach. Sure, it’s a bit north of Barcelona and about half an hour outside the city.
But, the trip is worth it if you want a quiet, pristine beach, with no crowds, and plenty of room to lay out your towel.
However, Barceloneta Beach is HILLARIOUS. Sure, it’s dirty, touristy, and overcrowded.
But, where else can you find drums from around the world, quirky cube monuments, sand artists, and singing/dancing donut salesmen.
7. Visit Born Centre Cultural
This cultural center is housed inside the Mercat del Born, a gorgeous, 19th-century structure that is made of slatted iron and brick.
Recent-ish excavations of former Barcelona streets are now on display in an exposed, subterranean exhibition.
And while the center itself is free to visit, you will have tp pay to visit historical items on display that detail the area’s destruction.
8. See Joan Miró’s Public Art
I had no clue before I went backpacking in Barcelona who Joan Miro was. And truth be told, I actually thought he was a she, but I digress.
So if you enjoy art then visit some of his sculptures which are scattered throughout the city, This way everyone can his masterful creations and spirit of innovation.
Some of his free works on display include a 22m-tall Woman and Bird sculpture rising from a pool in Parc de Joan Miró, a mosaic in the central walkway of Las Ramblas, and a piece on the exterior wall of Terminal 2 at the airport.
Yup, these series of sculptures remind us that beauty can be found everywhere, even in the most unexpected places.
9. Font Màgica and Montjuïc
Is this water fountain and lights show a bit cheesy? You betcha! But who doesn’t like cheese? I mean, it’s GOUDA stuff.
Now, this water fountain and lights extravaganza is no Broadway performance. But, it’s something fun and FREE, so why not?
I mean, it’s not like you’re paying for it. And if water fountains, lights, and music work for Disney, then why not give it a shot here.
Afterward, explore all that the surrounding park, Montjuïc, has to offer. You could take a cable car up to the summit and enjoy the views, explore the themed gardens, or grab a drink at an open-air bar/club
Stop by during the summer and you can catch an outdoor screening of your fave movie.
10. Barri Gotic and La Catedral
Now is it La Sagrada Familia?
No. It has a more classical style that is much less innovative than La Sagrada Familia. But, it’s still worth a peek to admire the stunning neo-gothic architecture that abounds here.
And if that architectural style means nothing to you then just imagine enormous domed ceilings, pillars galore – in addition to a cloister with palms, orange trees, and white geese in the courtyard.
Visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon when it is FREE!
Afterward, take some time to explore this cool neighborhood’s many bars, quirky shops, and quiet plaças.
You can even grab a beer at Els Quatre Gats, explore El Call Jewish Quarter, or grab sangria from El Bosc de les Fades (it’s a cool cafe that looks like a fairy forest).
11. El Raval
This Barcelona neighborhood is not as whimsical as Barri Gòtic.
So, you won’t be romantically riding your bike through the charming, cobblestone lanes of a quaint alleyway where the scent of fresh bread fills the air.
Yeah, this neighborhood is a more lively and exciting area that is home to swarms of artists, backpackers, punks, and students.
It’s a great place to people-watch. here are also some cool bars and vintage clothing shops in the area if you want to rock some groovy bell bottoms from decades past.
Also, don’t miss MACBA (Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona) which is pretty amazing both outside and in.
Backpacking Barcelona 3 Day Itinerary
If you’re backpacking in Barcelona and want a quick and easy-to-use itinerary then check out my fave hidden gems and iconic landmarks listed below.
- Day 1
- Morning – La Sagrada Familia
- Afternoon – Graciia neighborhood (Plaza del Sol) and Parc Guell
- Evening – Flamenco Performance
- Day 2
- Morning – Gothic Quarter, Picassio Museum, and Palau de la Música Catalana.
- Afternoon – La Rambla/La Boqueria Market/
- Evening – El Raval/Montjuic
- Day 3
- Morning – Poblenou and Palo Alto Market
- Afternoon – Barceloneta Beach
- Evening – Bunkers del Carmel