Barcelona is a beautiful laidback city sitting on the Mediterranean Coast.
Much of the cities architecture is famously designed by Antoni Gaudi and it is incredible to see in real life.
I was lucky enough to spend a week in Barcelona last Summer, I had been on a France and Spain Contiki tour that spent 3 nights there and that’s where it ended.
I stayed on for a further 4 nights by myself and I had a brilliant time. I was into my final month of travelling around Europe so I was on a pretty tight budget, as I still had Greece, Italy and Germany yet to come on my big trip. You can read all about my solo travel trip here: Solo travel | My Experience & Thoughts.
This fabulous and fun Spanish city was a joy to explore and very easy to do so even on a budget. Here is my ultimate travel guide with top money-saving tips to help you get the most out of Barcelona.
From the airport:
From the airport there is a handy shuttle bus called Aerobus that picks up from both Terminal 1 and 2 and drives directly to the city centre, which takes around 35 minutes.
It runs every day of the year and departs every 5 minutes. It costs 5.90 €.
This is the easiest and cheapest way to get both to and from the airport, as taxis would cost at least 30 €. It stops and picks up from three of the most strategic points in Barcelona. Here is their website for more details: www.aerobusbcn.com/en.
Around the city:
Barcelona can easily be explored on foot, but for those attractions a bit further away there is an underground metro which is easy to navigate.
A single ticket costs 2 € so if you plan on venturing about for the whole day it might be better value to purchase a day ticket which gives you unlimited rides for 6.95 €.
If you are in Barcelona for a while, the best deal would be to get a 10 ticket book which you can use over any number of days, which costs 9.25 €.
The famous Park Guell is one of the most impressive public parks in the world.
Designed by Gaudi himself, it is full of beautiful gardens and showcases many of his major works in Barcelona. The architecture is amazing and there are nice walks you can take around the area.
However you do have to pay to enter the Monumental Zone. I didn’t do this due to the three hour waiting time, and also I was rather impressed with everything I saw without having to pay! I spent a good hour and a half there walking around and enjoying the park which is very large.
If you do want to buy a ticket it costs 7 € and I would recommend purchasing it in advance online to avoid the major lines and waiting time!
La Rambla is a famous street in Barcelona and one of the major city centre points.
Popular with tourists and locals alike, it is a great street to stroll along and browse the many stalls, pop-up markets and street performers. The tree-lined street stretches for 1.2 kilometres and on either side it is lined with many shops, bars and cafes.
Admire the architecture
There is an impressive amount of architecture in Barcelona practically everywhere you turn your head! Some notable buildings and places to check out include:
Barcelona Cathedral– located in the Gothic Quarter is the stunning Gothic Revival Roman Catholic church built from the 13th-15th centuries.
Casa Vicens was Gaudis first important building. Built between 1883 and 1888, this was an imaginative residential project made for a wealthy family that owned a ceramic factory.
Le Pedrera (or Casa Mila), is another modernist residential building designed by Gaudi. You can pay 20 € to go inside, but if you’re on a budget like me- you can just admire the architecture from the outside!
Casa Batllo is the result of an old conventional house built in 1877, restored by Gaudi in 1904. It was highly criticised by the public at first, but soon went on to win being one of the three best buildings of the year.
Torre Agbar is a 38 story bullet-shaped skyscraper and a new attraction in Barcelona. The tower represents a water fountain that constantly changes its appearance.
Depending on the light- the tower changes colours and is lit up brilliantly at night as well.
There are so many more dotted all around the city. I’m not sure of the name of the building below but it was across the road from a big mall quite close to La Rambla.
|In the distance|
The coastline stretches for 4.5 kilometres and offers a wide variety of excellent beaches.
Barceloneta is the closest beach to the city and you can walk there from the city centre in 20 minutes, or it is one stop away on the metro.
The beaches are a popular hot-spot in the warmer months and are well maintained and kitted out with sun beds and lifeguards. There are plenty of restaurants nearby and places that offer refreshments.
|Walking the boardwalk on the way to the beach|
One of Barcelona’s newest attractions, this used to be the Old City Bull Ring. As of 2012 bull fighting was banned in Barcelona and the old stadium has since turned into a trendy shopping and lifestyle complex.
On the top floor you can find restaurants and an observation point with excellent 180 degree city views.
Montjuic Magic Fountain
Just up the road from La Monumental is the Montjuic Magic Fountain. This is a free show at night which is a spectacular display of colour, light, motion, music and water acrobatics.
Times and days of the shows are dependent on the season. Check the website to find out when it is on: Magic Fountain website.
This is a must-see when you come to Barcelona and highly recommended. Try to get there earlier to get a good viewpoint- but don’t stand too close or you’ll definitely get wet!
Close to the fountain is the hill Montjuic, which offers fantastic views over the city.
The hill features a large number of other attractions too including The Spanish Village, MNAC- one of the cities most important museums, the National Palace, gardens, a fortress and much more.
It’s a bit of a hike to get to the top but the lookout points over Barcelona is worth it! Otherwise, you can pay to take a cable car to the top.
Free Walking Tour
A few companies offer free walking tours around Barcelona, but one that I myself went on- Sandemans is one I can fully recommend! The tour was fantastic- you get taken to many of the main attractions and highlights, and the guides are full of interesting facts, information and stories.
It’s a fantastic way to start off in a new city as you get your bearings and learn where all the main landmarks are by walking. They offer help at the end of the tour if you have any questions at all, and do just ask to give a small donation for what you think the tour was worth- as it is their main job.
They also offer many other well-priced tours such as bike tours, Gaudi architecture tours, a tapas experience and so on. Here is the link to their website for more information.
La Sagrada Familia
Barcelona’s most famous attraction! This is my number one most recommended thing to do here- it is an absolute spectacle and worth every penny to admire from the inside as well as out.
I have been to many cathedrals in my time- but this is without a doubt the most amazing one I have ever been to.
Although incomplete, the building is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you can learn all about the history, construction and Gaudi’s visions inside.
A basic entry ticket costs 15 € and it is highly recommended to book a time-slot online in advance.
If you’re a football fan then you would probably love to do a tour of Camp Nou- home to the world-famous FC Barcelona.
The stadium is the largest in Europe and is one of the cities most popular tours.
Each year thousands of football fans from all around the world come to visit the grounds and football museum. Tours start from 24 €.
Hop on Hop off tour
Like many major cities Barcelona offers this bus tour which is a great way to see a lot more of the city than just by foot or underground metro.
It stops at all the major attractions and you can get on and off as you please. It also includes free wifi and an audio guide so you can learn all about the city while you ride.
You can purchase a 24 or 48 hour ticket and you can get discounts if you’re a student.
For budget friendly accommodation, hostels are a great option. For my first three nights in Barcelona I stayed at the Generator Hostel.
I highly recommend it- I’m pretty sure this is the best hostel I’ve ever stayed at.
The decor was modern and cool, it was in a great location, was clean and had great facilities.
Prices for a mixed dorm start at around 20 € a night.
For my other 4 nights I booked a private room for myself at Residencia Universitaria.
I found the place on Trip Advisor and basically it’s university residences that are available to book out over the Summer and other holidays. I chose here because it was well-priced and I got my own self-catered room. It was also just one street over from La Rambla, so it was very central and in perfect walking distance to everywhere.
The room was 32 € a night but worth it in my opinion to have my own room for a little bit since I had been sharing for the last two weeks and was about to again for another three!
AirBnB is always a great budget-friendly option as well to filter through places to stay in your price range and location wise.
|Hostel fun at the Generator bar|
Make use of the discount supermarket chains to save on eating out for every meal.
Carrefour Market Ramblas is a large supermarket I made frequent use of on La Rambla with everything you could need: groceries, products, fresh food, fruit, baked goods and there’s even a stall making fresh paella at the entrance (which was delicious!).
I was all over the fruit and salads here as I had been eating out a lot prior.
A popular market I enjoyed going to on La Rambla was La Boqueria. If you’ve ever been to London’s Borough Market- it’s very similar to that! It offers different sections such as fresh seafood, meat, fruit, pastries, sweets, you name it.
It’s also a hot-spot to come for lunch as there is plenty of delicious food made on site as well.
|La Boqueria Market|
Some must-try local food to have in Barcelona includes the famous paella– a delicious Spanish rice dish usually made with fresh seafood.
Tapas bars are all throughout Barcelona and a popular place to fill up on many tiny bites with a glass of wine.
Being on the coast, seafood in restaurants is abundant and good quality.
Churros can be found at street stalls and many restaurants and is a delicious dessert.
Of course trying sangria is mandatory and you can find this refreshing drink everywhere!
The local beer and wine here is also very good.
Barcelona, like most places in Spain has very different business hours compared to the rest of the world. Many stores open from 10 am and close at 2 pm for a ‘siesta’ break.
Stores then re-open at 4:30 pm until 8:30 pm, with larger chain stores in the city often staying open until 10 pm.
You don’t have to abide by the Spanish meal times, but if you would like to- it usually goes like this:
11:00+ Morning snack
17:30+ Afternoon snack
20:30+ Drinks & Tapas
Be Aware of pickpockets
Apparently Barcelona is the worst city in Europe for pick-pocketing so do be aware!
I never felt worried or unsafe but I did make sure to keep my bag secure at all times.
Try to choose a bag with hidden zippers or if you have a backpack, a small padlock might be a good idea. I had a bag that I strapped across my chest and I always kept one hand on the top when I could to stop any ‘flap-lifting.’
Barcelona is perfect for a coastal getaway and a good dose of Spanish! The locals are extremely friendly and English is widely spoken.
The shopping is fantastic, the nightlife is renowned- if that’s your thing. The streets are beautiful and clean, the bathrooms are free, the food is delicious, the attractions and amazing architecture makes Barcelona so unique- all of this makes the city a wonderful place to visit and I’ll definitely be back and look forward to it.
I hope this guide has been helpful! I have plenty more budget travel guides in-stall so stay tuned for those! As always feel free to comment your thoughts or if you have any questions or tips of your own you may have.
Thanks for reading ,
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