Have you ever gone on vacation and cried when you looked at your bank statement? And not the good cried but the, “Oh my God what have I done” cried. Well, if you’re nodding your head yes right now then this backpacking in Barcelona guide is for you.
Because guess what?
Yeah, 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.
You’re gonna need to get a little creative if you’re budget traveling Europe long-term and visiting Barcelona. Not like DIY your own toilet level creative but when backpacking Barcelona, plan for a Barcelona budget per day of between $60-70 a day.
So not awful but you also probably won’t be staying at the Ritz for $5 a day while swimming around in huge piles of money.
But then the real question is:
How can backpackers in Barcelona actually save money while having fun? And no, I’m not gonna give you a mom level lecture about how money doesn’t buy happiness.
I’ll give you some FREE, fantastic Barcelona budget backpacking tips. Heck, i’ll even show you where to stay in Barcelona on a budget, give you a list of super fun, free things to do in Barcelona, and even throw in a sprinkling of Barcelona travel tips so that you can stay safe and get around without spending a small fortune.
So get ready because we about to pump this party!
No? Too much. Okay, I’m just gonna rock out with my Golden Girls marathon.
Me looking at the balance of my bank account after coming home from vacation.
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***Best time of year to visit Barcelona if you’re broke like a joke? Basically any season that isn’t summer. Okay, more spefically, September- November, or March-May. And if you do visit during the fall, add a raincoat to your Barcelona packing list because the weather can get a bit damp.***
Where to Stay in Barcelona on a Budget!
Like with all real estate, in Barcelona, it’s all about location, location, location.
The closer your Barcelona backpackers hostel is to the center of the city, the more expensive it will be. But generally speaking, prices for a hostel dorm room range between 15 and 35 euros a day, depending on the season and your hostel’s location.
Are you a snob (joking) like me who only does private rooms?
Then Airbnb is the way to go since these rentals are usually cheaper than private rooms in hostels; perfect for anyone trying to save money while backpacking Barcelona alone.
You can also split a hotel room (or Airbnb) with friends or look for a couch to crash on through the Couchsurfing community. Just be aware that couches are hard to come by, so an Airbnb might be a more realistic choice.
***Looking for some of the best backpacker hostels in Barcelona? Then check out Rodamón Hostel (couples), Casa Gracia (solo-travelers/ groups), YEAH Barcelona (Backpackers), and Sleep Green (eco friendly). All these Backpacker hostels have a vibrant, social atmosphere, free WIFI, and a kitchen where you can cook to save money. CHA-CHING!***
Sadly, I probably can’t even afford a hotel with a chair.
Barcelona on a Budget: Epic Barcelona Backpacking Tips
The first rule of visiting Barcelona on a budget:
We do not talk about visiting Barcelona on a budget! Kidding. Fight Club anyone? Sorry, I had to throw a lame joke in there because this is the boring but essential part of the post where give you some Barcelona travel tips that will hopefully save you oodles of money.
So I had to throw a chuckle in there before we get down to business and check out their essential tips for backp[acking in Barcelona…like a BOSS!
1. Avoid cabs: Instead, try and walk or take the metro as much as possible. But honestly, Barcelona is a pretty walkable city. You can easily walk to many of Barcelona’s top attractions which is great since it means you can eat more tapas. YUM!
2. Take a Free Walking Tour: Free Walking Tours Barcelona and SANDEMANs both offer excellent walking tours of Barcelona that will help you see more and spend less while visiting some of Barcelona’s top attractions like Barrio Gothic, Las Ramblas, La Sagrada Familia, and more.
3. Find Accommodations Outside the City Center: Remember that the further you are from the city center, the cheaper your accommodations will be. Therefore, consider staying outside the city center, in Barcelona neighborhoods like Montjuic (a bit South of the city center) and Barceloneta (a quaint village vibe that is great for families).
4. Don’t Eat Out for Dinner and Cook Instead: Yeah I know, I ain’t no Julia Child and cooking is the last thing I wanna do on my Barcelona holiday but in reality, dinner is the most expensive meal at any restaurant. Therefore, try and have a cheap/free breakfast at your hostel so that you only have to eat out for lunch. You can then use your hostel kitchen to cook dinner and maybe even have your very own cooking party where you can meet tons of wicked awesome people in your hostel.
5. Chillax at the Beach: Sure, other Catalan regions have better beaches but it’s still nice to walk along the shore, embrace the salty ocean breeze as it caresses your face, and feel the sand wriggle around between your toes. Some of Barcelona’s best beaches include Nova Mar Bella, Bogatell, Barceloneta and more (Barcelona’s many plazas are great places to hang out too).
6. Free Museums on the First Sunday of Every Month: Most museums are free the first Sunday every month, between 3 pm and 8 pm. So take advantage of this and visit one of Barcelona’s many awesome museums.
7. Don’t Eat in Touristy Areas: Like in most cities, if you eat near tourist attractions, the food is gonna suck and be as expensive as hell. Therefore, stay away from places that offer dinner at 5 pm and that have menus printed in five different languages. Instead, get off the beaten path and go where the locals go (Some of my favorite Barcelona cheap eats are Cal Cuc (Asian tapas), Escairón (barbeque, sirloin steak), Sifó (Argentinian cuisine), Gat Blau (vegetarian), and la Taqueria (Mexican).
8. Buy Metro Tickets in Bulk: Depending on how long you plan on staying in Barcelona, it is much cheaper to buy as many metro rides as you can at one time. Therefore, try and figure out how many metros rides you will actually use and buy them all at once.
9. Avoid El Raval and Southern La Rambla at night since these areas can be a bit dangerous.
10. Watch Out For Pickpockets: Pickpockets are everywhere in Barcelona, especially near tourist attractions and in the metro. Accordingly, only carry the cash you need for the day (much of Spain doesn’t accept credit cards). This way, if you do get pickpocketed, you still have some money back at your hotel. Also always keep an eye on your belongings and never leave them unattended because your stuff will get stolen, especially at the beach.
11. Use a Water Bottle so that you don’t have to constantly spend money on drinks (plus it’s good for the planet too).
12. Always Exchange Money at an ATM since the exchange is better here than anywhere else.
13. DO NOT GET THE BARCELONA CARD: Generally speaking, the Barcelona Card is not super beneficial to most, not all, Barcelona Tourists. Not only are the discounts rather skimpy, but most tourists will not have time to see everything included in the card. And free public transportation? Ehh, Barcelona is a walkable city so that perk isn’t all that enticing, especially when Barcelona cards start at $52.96 a person when purchased online. Also note that when you use the card to enter discounted museums, you don’t get to skip the line as you do with free admission. Rather, you have to wait in line to receive the discount. Instead, you may want to consider the Barcelona Museum Pass for 30 Euros, especially if you plan on visiting a lot of museums.
How you’ll feel after using all these Barcelona budget travel tips.
Backpacker Barcelona Guide to 10 of the Best Free Attractions in Barcelona
1. Els Encants Vells flea market
I have been known to like a good flea market in my day.
I never have the energy to comb through someone else’s junk just to find a hidden treasure. 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 even the architectural beauty of the structure’s canopy; an angular, zinc and aluminum, multi-level canopy that is studded with mirrors which irregularly reflect the surrounding area.
Like a trippy funhouse mirror only much cooler and you don’t have to be high to enjoy it.
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!).
***Arrive early to grab the best stuff, avoid the markets on Saturdays because of the crowds, watch out for pickpockets, and don’t be afraid to haggle. ***
2. Las Ramblas
Look, I’m not gonna lie to you:
Lass Rambla 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?
Well first of all, and I know you won’t believe this but walking is free! Shocking I know, but true.
But aside from Las Ramblas being free, this street is also emblematic of Barcelona.
It’s kind of every Barcelona tourist’s duty to stroll along this tree-lined, pedestrian highway. and enjoy 1.2 kilometers of heaven or hell, depending on how you feel about crowds and people hawking stuff everywhere.
It’s really not that bad and totally worth checking out since it is a true Barcelona icon.
***If you’re in the area then might as well treat yourself and explore some of the best bars in Barcelona.***
3. 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 even mildly enjoys eating.
But as delicious as this food is, this market has so much more to offer, like it’s 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 humble beginnings has exploded a cultural buffet of sorts, with the establishment of the Boqueria Cooking School, which teaches students the fine art of Catalan cooking.
Throw in over 200 food stalls, selling any and every food imaginable, (fish and seafood to fresh garden fruits and vegetables, meats, dairy, spices, and flowers) and you have a market that is a pure expression of local culture,
But the best part?
Mercat doesn’t just offer street food. Instead, this vibrant and dynamic places provided visitors with an assortment of food options that include restaurants, take away places, and even traditional tapas bars.
So sit back, relax, rock your elastic pants, and use food to explore the history and culture of this amazing city.
4. Walk the Modernist Architecture Route
So, I am not an architecture buff and had no clue who Gaudi was before I visited Barcelona.
But anyone who has spent five minutes in Barcelona knows that modern architecture is a BIG deal here. Which is as it should be since Barcelona is the birthplace of the Catalan Modernist movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Even if architecture is not your thing, I can almost guarantee that you fall in love with modernism in Barcelona; truly the most awesome and most innovative architectural movement that I have ever seen.
And yes, you do have to pay to get in most of these buildings.
However, a lot of these buildings are almost as impressive on the outside, as they are on the inside (Casa Batlló and La Pedrera are two great examples).
So leave your wallet at home and check out the modernist architecture route outlined here.
I know everyone goes goo goo ga ga over Gaudi (and for good reason) but there are OTHER modernist architects on this route, like Lluís Domènech I Montaner and Josep Puig I Cadafalc.
5. Relax at the beach
Pretty self-explanatory huh?
Well, some beaches are better than others, and Barcelona has a bunch.
I would hit up Ocata beach. Sure, it’s a bit North of Barcelona and about a half an hour outside the city, but the trip is worth it for an old fogie like me, who wants a quiet, pristine beach, with no crowds, and plenty of room to stretch out my beach towel.
Barceloneta Beach is HILLARIOUS. Sure, it’s dirty, touristy, and crowded, but where else can you find drums from around the world, quirky cube monuments, sand-artists, and singing/dancing donut salesmen (The last one is my favorite).
I knew the singing/dancing donut salesmen would SEAL the DEAL. I rest my case.
6. Visit Born Centre Cultural
This is a cultural center. But you don’t need Spanish to understand that. The building’s name kind of gives it away.
I bet you didn’t know that this center is housed in 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 yes, there are actual informational panels so you won’t sit there thinking, “Oh look ma, rocks! We sure don’t have those at home!”).
And while the center itself is free:
The showcase of historical items, that details the area’s destruction, is €4.40 for adults, €3 concession, and free for children.
7. Joan Miró’s public art
I had no clue before I visited Barcelona, who Joan Miro was. And truth be told, I actually thought he was a she, but I digress.
So if you enjoy art or want to become a bit more worldly:
Definitely explore some of his sculptures which are scattered throughout the city so that every citizen can enjoy the spirit of innovation.
Some of his free works on display include a 22m-tall Woman and Bird sculpture rising from a sparkling pool in Parc de Joan Miró, a mosaic in the central walkway of Las Ramblas, and a piece displayed on the outside wall of Terminal 2 at the airport.
A series of sculptures that remind us that beauty can be found in even the most unexpected places.
All we have to do is open our eyes and look.
8. La Catedral
I know, I know. You’re probably thinking:
“Oh wow. What a surprise. ANOTHER Spanish Church that I JUST have to see. Shocker. I have never seen one of those before.”
Yeah, I get it.
You can get pretty churched out in Spain. But I swear, this one is worth a visit.
Now is it La Sagrada Familia?
No. It’s definitely 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.
Pretty good right? Sounds like I know what I’m talking about!
And if that architectural style means nothing to you:
Then think enormous domed ceilings, pillars galore, a cloister with a courtyard of palms, orange trees, and a gaggle of white geese (honk honk).
Visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon when it is FREE!
***This building is in the charming, medieval Barri Gòtic quarter. So take time to explore the neighborhood’s many bars, quirky shops, and quiet plaças.***
9. El Raval
This Barcelona neighborhood is definitely not as whimsical as Barri Gòtic. So sorry, but you won’t be romantically riding your bike, with a wicker basket and bell, through the charming, cobblestone lanes of a quaint alleyway where the scent of fresh baked bread hangs in the air.
Sigh, carbs have always been my one true love.
Okay, that scene sounds more like Sense and Sensibility than Barcelona but you get the idea.
We have this historic fantasy and El Raval ain’t it. This neighborhood is a more lively and exciting area that is home to swarms of artists, backpackers, punks, students and more.
Basically, a great place to people watch.
There are also some cool bars and vintage clothing shops in the neighborhood if you want to rock some groovy bell bottoms from decades past.
Don’t miss the MACBA (Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona) which is pretty amazing both outside and in.
10. Font Màgica
Is this water fountain and lights show a bit cheesy?
You betcha! But who doesn’t like cheese, unless you have a dairy allergy? And if you are allergic to cheese, I’m sorry you can’t enjoy the GOUDA stuff.
Three cheers for wicked awful puns!
Anyway, add in some over the top, vintage 80s music, and you might even be able to start a flash mob to the tune of “Let’s Get Physical”.
Don’t judge me! You know it would be awesome! Just bring your leg warmers!
This water fountain and lights extravaganza is no Broadway performance of the Lion King but it’s something fun and FREE to do 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.
You may get all nostalgic and feel like a kid again. Plus, it’s historical because it was created for the 1929 World Exposition.
So if anyone gives you a hard time, just drop that nugget of knowledge on them.
BOOM! Convo over.