How to visit Barcelona and save money while you’re at it



Barcelona is one of the most iconic cities in the world — and not just for its football team.

The Catalan capital is a favourite destination because it has everything: sun, sea, culture, great food, entertainment, and various buildings that you’d have to see to believe, courtesy of one Antoni Gaudí.

While there is so much to see and do here, Barcelona doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, you can quite easily enjoy a fantastic holiday on the cheap, while experiencing the many things the city has to offer.

Remember that from 2023, if you’re from a country outside the Schengen Area, you’ll have to fill in an online ETIAS application for Spain before setting off (don’t worry, this will only take a few minutes). Once the form is done, your trip to Barcelona will be authorised and you can get on to enjoying your holiday.


visit Barcelona and save money


Take in the views 

One of the best ways to enjoy a fantastic day out in Barcelona without spending much is to hike up one of the many hills in and around the city. There are a number of spots where you can take in the cityscape in all its glory.

Montjuïc, Mount Tibidabo, and the Carmel Bunkers all offer impressive vistas, where you can get the perfect photos of Barcelona’s skyline.

If you’d rather avoid lots of walking, there are easier ways to get up to these lofty lookout points. Barcelona has virtually every public transport system under the sun. You can get a bus up each of these hills and Tibidabo and Montjuïc have other options, such as funiculars and cable cars. Of course, these come at the price of a ticket.

Of the 3, the Carmel Bunkers are the least well-known to tourists and there is a short walk from where the bus leaves you. However, it is probably the best place to see the Sagrada Familia, Torre Agbar, and other landmarks against the backdrop of the Mediterranean Sea.


Montjuïc: castle, Olympics, and the magic fountain

Montjuïc deserves a section of its own, simply because there is so much to this hill, which overlooks Barcelona’s port.

If you fancy the hike, you can have an amazing morning or afternoon climbing up the slopes, covered with green gardens and parkland, without having to spend money on anything.

However, for a reasonable price, there are 2 separate cable car systems that are well worth considering. The first crosses the port from a tower near the beach and leaves you half-way up Montjuïc. The second is located a short distance away and carries you up to the fortress that sits on top of the hill. As well as saving you a walk, it lifts you above the tree line, offering incredible views over Barcelona.

Montjuïc Castle is a fascinating, if sombre experience. The fortress’s chequered history includes use for bombarding the city in past wars and being used as a nightmarish prison by the fascists after the Spanish Civil War. Today, however, it hosts exhibits (both historic and artistic) and the panoramic views from the ramparts are second to none.

Heading back down the hill, you’ll find the immense Olympic Stadium and have a look inside for free. Explore the extensive plaza and water features built for the 1992 Summer Olympics, before crossing the road and heading through the gardens and passing the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (Catalonia’s National Art Museum).

In front of this imposing building are steps leading down to the transport hub of Plaza Espanya. All the way down are fountains and waterfalls, including the huge “Magic Fountain of Montjuïc”. If you time it right, you’ll be treated to a dazzling show of water, light, and sound — again, all for free!


visit Barcelona and save money

Gaudí’s Barcelona 

You can’t come to Barcelona without seeing some of the works of Gaudí. The famous Catalan architect left his mark on the city, with many of the city’s most-visited landmarks being designed by him. He is one of the reasons that Barcelona is one of Europe’s top destinations.

The immense basilica known as “La Sagrada Familia” is the best-known of these. Its multiple towers dominate Barcelona’s skyline. In Gaudí’s signature style, you’d be hard-pressed to find any straight lines in its unique, curving design.

The main street of Passeig de Gracia is home to 2 private houses built by Gaudí, which are now open to the public (at the price of an entry ticket, of course). Casa Battló is meant to evoke a sleeping dragon with its roof covered in glittering, colourful scales, while the undulating waves of Casa Milà make this another fascinating building to visit.

The immense grounds of Parc Güell are free to enter, but there is a small entry fee to access the centre of the park, where the more interesting bits of Gaudís architecture can be found — including his iconic salamander statue (see any Barcelona tourist shop for small replicas of this). The house where Gaudí lived, now a museum, is also found here.

There are also lesser-known gems, such as the Palau Güell, which is found near the centre of the old town, just off the Ramblas. Tickets are much cheaper than the more famous buildings mentioned above.

Further away from the centre, on the slopes of Mount Tibidabo, you can visit Bellesguard, another lesser-known, but beautiful home built by Gaudí.

Of course, if you’re doing Barcelona on a budget, going into all of these locations is going to add up to a lot of money, and if you’re travelling with kids, they might get bored going round lots of buildings. The best idea is to choose one or two that you would like to go inside. It’s also worth remembering that almost all of Gaudí’s buildings can be enjoyed from the outside for free, including getting holiday snap with the Sagrada Familia in the background.


Wander the streets of the old town

One of the best things about Barcelona is the old town. Divided into the Gothic Quarter, the Ravel Quarter, and the Ribera or Born Quarter, this part of the city is a maze of narrow, winding streets, old stone buildings, quirky little shops, and interesting cafés, bars, and restaurants.

You can easily lose yourself exploring this network of streets, but you’ll always wind up discovering something new.

Plus, it’s atmospheric. Many of the buildings, streets, and the remains of the old city walls have been there since medieval times. A few structures even date back to Roman times (you can see some of these near Barcelona’s Cathedral).

The best thing for travellers on a budget is that it costs nothing to have a wander through old Barcelona… Unless you’re tempted into some of those shops by one of the many bargains on offer.


Hit the beach 

Of course, one of the biggest draws of Barcelona as a summer destination is that it’s a city with a beach. Several beaches, in fact. And as every parent knows, if you’re travelling with kids, the beach is a must.

The beaches closest to the city centre (Barceloneta and Somorrostro) tend to get very crowded. However, a short walk along the coast brings you to Bogatell and Mar Bella beaches, where it’s a lot easier to find some space to enjoy the sand, the sea, and the Mediterranean sun. Of course, there are also plenty of even nicer beaches near Barcelona, further out of the city.

To save money, bring plenty of drinks with you — the chiringuitos (beach bars) tend to be overpriced. If you have drinks and snacks with you, it is basically a free day out.