Barcelona on a budget
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Move around Barcelona like a local, don’t fall into these tourist traps.
The metro from the airport
It is slow, stops frequently and there is high chance it goes nowhere near where you are staying. It doesn’t go to the old town, nor near the most popular touristic areas of town. So keep in mind, you don’t need tickets that are valid for the metro (they cost extra).
The Hola Barcelona public transport ticket
The cheapest version is 15 Euros for 2 days. Sounds like a pretty good deal. Until you realize how walkable Barcelona is. If you want to see the city, you’ll have to walk around anyway, the major attractions are not that far apart, so you won’t need many rides of public transport. But let’s assume for sake of argument you want to visit two places a day that are too far to walk: you’d be much better off buying a T10 ticket for just above 10 Euros, that gives you 10 rides on any bus, metro (except airport) and train. Zone one even includes some of the villages around Barcelona.
The Aerobus from Placa Espana
The Aerobus is a private bus company that charges around 6 Euros to take you from Placa Espana to the airport, there are separate buses depending on which terminal you need to go to. The journey takes 20 minutes.
There is also a regular bus (line 46) that takes the same route from Placa Espana to the airport, stops at both terminals and you can use your regular public transport ticket. Meaning, if you bought the T10 it would cost you just above 1 Euro to get to the airport. It may make stops along the way in the beginning but then it goes on the speedway, just like the Aerobus.
Disclaimer: if you are staying on Placa Catalunya however, this may in fact be the most convenient option. Not the cheapest certainly, but convenient. Know where you have to go before you buy tickets.
The elevator to the 360 degree platform on Las Arenas
Ahhh Las Arenas, the modernist bull fighting arena that was repurposed after bull fighting was outlawed in Catalonia. No doubt, the view from the top of Las Arenas is marvellous in all directions. You can see Placa Espana, the MNAC museum on Monjuic and fountains leading the way there. The city on the other side, even Sagrada Familia cathedral. Near the main entrance there is an elevator where they charge you to go up to the platform.
Or, you could just go inside (there is a mall and a movie theatre now) and take the escalator, for free.
Parc de la Ciutadella
The Parc de la Ciutadella features an enormous fountain with cascades and golden Quadrille. A wide staircase around the back of the structure gives you instagrammable moments. The park itself is one of my favorite places to just chill and watch all the talented people around me, be it step dancers in the Gazebo, acrobats on the lawn or street artists along the gravel walk ways. It’s super close the Arc de Triumf as well, another monument to tick off your list 😉
On the first Sunday of each month, most museums offer free entrance, including the Palau Guell – to my knowledge the only palace in Barcelona built by the modernist star architect that you can visit for free.
Museo National de Art de Catalunya
The pompuos Museo National de Art de Catalunya on Montjuic also offers free entrance Saturdays after 3pm. Even if you are not into art, the view over Barcelona from the terraces around the museum alone are worth it!
Passeig de Gracia
If you want more Gaudi – of course looking at his showcase buildings on Passeig de Gracia, Casa Batllo and Casa Mila is free, at least from the outside.
On Plaça España don‘t miss the Magic Fountains at night. Free for all, it is like fireworks made of water with their light show and music. During the high season they have them Wednesday through Sunday, less often during other times of the year. Check out their times here.
Santa Maria del Mar
Walk around in the narrow alleys of Gotico and take advantage of the couple of free hours when you can see the cathedral Santa Maria del Mar from the inside.
Rooftop of the Museu de Historia de Catalunya
Another free spot to check out for a nice view is the rooftop of the Museu de Historia de Catalunya. It overlooks the old harbor and Montjuic hill as well as parts of the old town. If you are into rooftops, also check out my post on rooftop bars in Barcelona!
Bunkers of Carmel
Complete your tour of free spots with the best views at the bunkers of Carmel. On a day when you are up for a hike 😉
Bo de B
You have to go. The BEST sandwiches in town! There’s always a line. Well, two actually. One for take out orders and one for tables inside. Get in line, it’s worth it. Fresh European bread stuffed with whatever freshly prepared ingredients you chose for less than 5 Euros a piece.
Tapas for 1 Euro each. Need I say more?
Tight quarters indeed, but cheap cava and tapas at this popular bar in the old town.
And for breakfast, just walk into any bar with their metal chairs and tables outside. They usually offer some sort of coffee-croissant combo for less than 2 Euros.
Naturally, you are going to document your amazing time in Barcelona taking pictures. There is free WiFi in many public places, including the beach and some buses, called Barcelona City WiFi so you can upload what you want to share instantly. For the keepsake snapshots I love my Instax polaroid camera – it´s so much fun taking pictures with friends in this city and having them print immediately because I hardly print any of my digital pictures. If you´re like me, click here to get the Instax before your trip!
As I live in Barcelona, I am not an expert on where to stay when you visit, but there are other people who are! If you are looking for cheap places to stay I recommend you have a look at Dale and Franca´s slow travel guide that includes some great tips and Tom´s guide on Barcelona Hostels.
I‘d love to know if you tried any of these tips during your visit to Barcelona. Let me know in the comments!