Barcelona is my favorite city in the world. There, I’ve said it. I think I’ve delayed writing this post because not enough people realize how amazing Barcelona is, and a selfish part of me wants it to stay that way. Is that terrible? In any case, after reading this list of free or inexpensive things to do in Barcelona, I think you too, will fall in love with Barcelona. It is a city of gorgeous beaches, rich culture, warm people, and some of the coolest architecture in the world. On top of that, it is filled with world-class restaurants and healthy eating options. Join me to see some of the amazing things to do in Barcelona!
18 Great (Free or Inexpensive) Things to do in Barcelona
- 1 1. Playa de Mar Bella
- 2 2. Walk the Beach Promenade
- 3 3. Head to Eixample
- 4 4. La Sagrada Familia
- 5 5. Casa Batlló
- 6 6. Casa Mila
- 7 7. Passeig de Gracià
- 8 8. Rambla de Catalunya
- 9 9. Mercat dels Encants
- 10 10. Biblioteca Pública Arús
- 11 11. Plaça de Catalunya
- 12 12. Plaça de España
- 13 13. Montjuic
- 14 14. Park Güell
- 15 15. La Boqueria
- 16 16. Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona campus
- 17 17. The Gran Teatre del Liceu
- 18 18. Las Ramblas
- 19 Eat!
- 20 So many great things to do in Barcelona!
1. Playa de Mar Bella
I’ve made the beach number one on the list, because it is such a unique activity for a city. There are a whole series of beaches along the coast of Barcelona, but this is the favorite of locals. You’ll see why. There is a pier where kids (and adults!) can jump off into the cool water. There is lively music. The water gets deep quickly, so you can swim, but it is also protected with lifeguards and lots of people. Perfect for an afternoon, or a quick cool-off after a day of shopping.
2. Walk the Beach Promenade
After reveling in the beautiful water and fun beach-y scene, you can walk back towards central Barcelona along the promenade, or rent one of the newly available bicycle rickshaws. You will love the scene of cyclists, musicians, and locals out enjoying the beach and the beauty of the city. This is an especially beautiful walk in the evening around sunset.
3. Head to Eixample
This old area of the city is one of the most upscale, boasting the architecture of Antoni Gaudi and lots of culture. Eixample literally means the extension, and it was the area Barcelona expanded to beyond the original city center. Here you will find so many restaurants and activities, that the next 7 items are all within Eixample
4. La Sagrada Familia
The Sagrada Familia is one of the most famous churches in the world, and an incredible example of the work of Antoni Gaudi. While it is best to buy tickets for an assigned time online ahead of time, you can enjoy the architecture from the outside, or even book a private or group tour. I enjoyed looking from the outside, and then stopping in a nearby café to continue to admire the beauty while enjoying a gelato.
5. Casa Batlló
Located on Passeig de Gracia, one of the main upscale shopping areas of Barcelona, Casa Batlló is uniquely beautiful, from the stained glass to the shape of the windows. You can book tickets with a free audio tour, or schedule a group tour. There are also special evens like life music on Casa Batlló’s rooftop terrace, which are absolutely magical in the joyous Barcelona evenings.
6. Casa Mila
Yet another one of the architectural wonders of Antoni Gaudi, this unique home is often called La Pedrera, which is a reference to the rough stone exterior appearance. You can purchase tickets for as little as 3 Euros; making this a good choice if you are on a tight budget. There are also generally far fewer tourists here as compared to the other Gaudi sites around Barcelona, making it a more peaceful stop. http://www.lapedrera.com/en
7. Passeig de Gracià
This famous street, with a central walking area (a rambla), is filled with everything from designer shops to cute cafes, and of course, the famous Gaudi buildings. Passeig de Gracià is also the perfect stop for art lovers, as there are many unique galleries tucked between boutiques and more famous International brands. Walk here during the day to do your shopping, but come back in the evening when it comes alive with locals, music, and general joy of living.
8. Rambla de Catalunya
Another main artery of Barcelona, Rambla de Catalunya is a street that runs parallel to Passeig de Gracià in Eixample. The street stretches from Plaça de Catalunya to Avinguda Diagonal, making it a perfect walking street to experience the wonderful outdoor life that happens on the streets of Barcelona.
9. Mercat dels Encants
Whether you like flea markets or not, Mercat dels Encants is worth a stop for the lively atmosphere and the incredible mirrored roof. You can find everything from furniture to artwork here. However, if new items are more your style, you can also kind clothing, and many handcrafted items, and even some delicious food! It is open 4 days a week, so be sure to check the schedule before you go.
10. Biblioteca Pública Arús
A large public library specializing research volumes, this is a book lover’s dream. The majestic building is reminiscent of some of the great libraries of the world, or at least a scene from Harry Potter. Although you will generally need a research pass to enter, they regularly offer special tours. You can find tickets here.
11. Plaça de Catalunya
If you took the bus from the airport (you should, it is fast, easy and inexpensive), then you will have already seen Plaça de Catalunya. This large square is considered the center of Barcelona. You can watch the skateboarders. And possibly watch the police stop the skateboarders.
After admiring the beautiful fountains, you can wander the many streets that extend in all directions from this central square. Here you will find cute bakeries, incredible cafes, interesting shops, and lots of warm, friendly people. Every time you walk around Plaça de Catalunya will be like a new discovery.
12. Plaça de España
While mainly considered a gateway hub (and another stop for that useful airport bus), Plaça de España is beautiful in its own right. You will find large historic buildings encircling the statues and fountains of a central square. You will also find more of those amazing cafes, interesting boutiques and even some hidden gem art galleries.
Plaça de España is the perfect starting point for a trip to Montjuic, where you can see the light and music fountain show on a mountain overlooking Barcelona. Built in celebration of the Barcelona Olympics, the free magic fountain show is just the beginning. You can see a castle, visit the Olympics rings, or walk through the botanical gardens. All are free, and they are all spectacular. When you need a quiet moment, find a nice place on the hillside overlooking Barcelona and sit and meditate or relax after a busy day.
14. Park Güell
Set on another hillside overlooking Barcelona and out to the ocean, Park Güell is another Gaudi creation set in what has become a large park. You will need tickets to tour the Gaudi buildings, but the park itself is free and worth a visit for the views, the beautiful flowers, and the peaceful atmosphere. This is also a great place for a stroll and a picnic.
15. La Boqueria
La Boqueria is one of the oldest markets in the world, dating back over 750 years. Here you will find the ripest red cherries, juiciest peaches, freshly caught fish, and beautiful bouquets of local flowers. Plan to arrive hungry and with lots of small bills, as you will want to sample the treats from many of the vendors selling not only meat and produce, but pastries, drinks, olives, cheese, and more.
16. Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona campus
Only a 20-minute train ride into the mountains outside of the city, this campus is ideal for experiencing Spanish village life. I went to sign up for their online Spanish course (which I highly recommend), but you can also go just to experience the campus vibe.
The beautiful mountain towns of Bellaterra, Serraperera, and Montflorit are worth a visit for the interesting streets lined with cafes and shops, or to visit the large natural park for hiking. This is also a perfect outing to get away from all the tourists in Barcelona in summertime!
17. The Gran Teatre del Liceu
The grand opera house of Barcelona, the Gran Teatre del Liceu hosts all types of musical productions as well as theater shows. You can tour the building or get tickets to a show. Locals tell me that because of the unique acoustics and beautiful architecture this is a must-see in Barcelona.
18. Las Ramblas
Last but certainly not least, Las Ramblas is perhaps the most famous street in Barcelona. Running from Plaça de Catalunya through the Gothic Quarter and down to the port, you will find a little bit of everything over its length. Towards Plaça de Catalunya, there is upscale shopping, while the Gothic quarter has many tiny winding streets going off of Las Ramblas in all directions. These streets are packed with restaurants, galleries, shops, and cafes. From clothing to gelato, you can find it all here. Las Ramblas ends in the Mirador de Colom by the harbor.
Finally, with all that walking and site-seeing, you will need to eat. There are so many delicious restaurants, bakeries and cafes in Barcelona that almost anything you try will be incredible. Here are a few not to be missed:
Las Muns is good for a quick bite to eat. Their empanadas are out of this world. I tried the basil and tomato variety, which was fresh and very satisfying. With three locations around the city, and a delivery option, they will always be available for you! This is a great budget-friendly option.
DeLaCrem currently ranks as my favorite gelato in the world. Yes, it is that good. And clearly others agree. I found it for its #1 Yelp ranking, and when I arrived there was a line around the block. The charming tree-lined square was also filled with happy gelato-eaters. Don’t miss this opportunity.
Flax and Kale is the premier healthy eating option in Barcelona. With everything from quinoa to kombucha, they are there to help you find something delicious and nourishing. After a long day of walking and site-seeing, go to Flax and Kale to relax and take in the cheerful, friendly atmosphere.
So many great things to do in Barcelona!
As you can see, Barcelona is the perfect city to get out, explore, and eat. From the shopping, to the architecture and the beach, there is so much to see and do. One of the most special aspects of Barcelona is how much of the city life is lived outside on the streets. From the cafes with sidewalk seating, to local outdoor concerts, beachside gatherings, and families out walking, when you walk the streets of Barcelona you feel the pulse of the city and join its rhythm.
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