As one of Europe's most visited cities, you might not think it's possible to visit Barcelona on a budget.
But while you've certainly got to work a little bit harder to save money in the stunning capital of Catalonia, Barcelona offers plenty of ways for budget travelers to enjoy the city.
From finding relaxing beaches and free museum days to eating on a budget, here are our top money-saving tips for visiting Barcelona, Spain.
Barcelona on a budget: Know before you go
Embrace the local schedule
What you've heard is true. In Spain, you eat dinner late and you stay out even later. Many businesses even close completely after lunch, which is the biggest meal of the day, from around 2-4 p.m. for an afternoon siesta. This could be frustrating if you're not expecting it, so plan your trip accordingly and just go with the flow.
Don't stay or eat around La Rambla
While we think La Rambla is certainly worth a visit, it's not where you want to be looking for a hotel or a cheap meal in Barcelona. The restaurants in this area cater almost exclusively to tourists, meaning the food is often very underwhelming and even more overpriced.
See the city by bike
Biking is a great way to see the city quickly and cheaply. There are a number of bike rentals in Barcelona, some with rates as low as €5 per day. Some of the best bike rental companies in Barcelona include Green Bikes Barcelona, Mattia 46, Bike Rental Barcelona.
Free and cheap things to do in Barcelona
Free Museum Days in Barcelona
Some of the best museums in Barcelona offer free admission on select days or during select time windows. For the most part, these free museum days will be either every Sunday or on the first Sunday every month. If there’s a Barcelona museum that you’re looking to visit, be sure to check their website for free days. Here are a few examples of free days and times at Barcelona museums.
Catalan National Museum of Art (MNAC)
Saturdays from 3 p.m. onwards, the first Sunday of each month, May 18 (the International Day of Museums), and September 11 (the national day of Catalonia).
Thursday afternoons from 5 p.m. to 8.00 p.m., the first Sunday of each month, February 12, May 18, and September 24.
The first Sunday of each month, every Sunday from 3 p.m. onwards, February 12 and 13, May 18, and September 24.
Take a stroll down La Rambla
Yes, La Rambla, sometimes called Las Ramblas, is as touristy as it gets in Barcelona. Still, no budget trip to Barcelona would be complete without taking in the vibrant sights and sounds of the city’s most famous street.
Take a walk down tree-lined La Rambla and enjoy the historical buildings, kitschy souvenir shops, vendors, street performers. After stopping for an (overpriced) coffee, you can check out some of La Rambla’s most iconic attractions, including the mouthwatering La Boqueria Market, the Erotic Museum, and the Miro Mosaic.
Explore Barri Gotic's narrow streets
Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, or Barri Gotic, is the oldest area of the city, with some parts dating way back to the Medieval period. After enjoying a coffee in one of the area’s many cafes, spend some time getting lost in the narrow cobblestone streets and alleys on your way to the famous and stunning Barcelona Cathedral, which the locals simply call La Seu.
Admire the stunning Barcelona Cathedral
The full name of the Barcelona Cathedral is actually the Cathedral of the Holy cross and Saint Eulalia. As one of Barcelona’s most iconic landmarks, this stunning 700+ year old Gothic cathedral is stunning both inside and out.
There is an entrance fee (€9-€15) to visit during tourist hours but you can visit the cathedral for free during prayer and worship hours.
Hit Barcelona's best beaches
With all of the incredible art and architecture throughout the city, you could be forgiven for forgetting that Barcelona is a beach city.
Make time in your itinerary to soak up the sun on one of Barcelona’s beautiful beaches. Barceloneta is the most popular beach, meaning it’s also the most crowded and touristy. For something less crowded, get a bit further out to Mar Bella, Bogatell, or Nova Icaria.
Where to stay on a budget in Barcelona
Sant Jordi Hostels - Multiple Locations
Sait Jordi is a locally own hostel chain with 3 locations across Barcelona and one in Lisbon. You can’t go wrong with any of Saint Jordi’s eclectic spots – the Gracia location puts you in one of Barcelona’s trendiest neighborhoods, their Sagrada Familia outpost is a skateboard themed hostel complete with an indoor mini ramp, and the Rock Palace hostel comes with a live jam room and rooftop pool.
Casa Gracia is one of Barcelona’s hippest and most stylish accommodations. Inside this elegant building, the experience is a mixture of welcoming hostel and boutique hotel, with stylish rooms, chic decor, and comfortable beds. Casa Gracia has rooms for each budget, offering dorms, private rooms, and even apartments.
Hostel One - Multiple Locations
Hostel One is a popular hostel chain with locations all over Europe from London to Budapest.
All 3 of Hostel One’s Barcelona outposts – Ramblas, Sants, and Paralelo – are clean, modern, and comfortable. They’re also great for meeting fellow travelers, as they each offer free family dinners, city tours, and pub crawls.
Cheap flights to Barcelona
Recently, Dollar Flight Club members have saved between 70-90% on cheap flights to Barcelona. On average, our members spent $335 on their tickets and saved over $300 per ticket. Here are a few samples of cheap flight deals that Dollar Flight Club members have received recently.
New York City (JFK) to Barcelona (BCN)
Price with Dollar Flight Club: $295
Average Price: $600
Boston (BOS) to Barcelona (BCN)
Price with Dollar Flight Club: $269
Average Price: $585
Orlando (MCO) to Barcelona (BCN)
Price with Dollar Flight Club: $374
Average Price: $800
Best cheap eats in Barcelona
Tapas are arguably Spain’s most famous culinary contribution to the world. And while tapas are traditionally meant to be enjoyed as a snack in a bar or between meals, many people now simply order several plates to try and make a meal of it, allowing you to save money and try more dishes!
These snack-sized plates are a great way to eat on a budget in Barcelona, especially if you can find any of the few remaining places that serve free tapas with the purchase of your wine or beer.
Pinchos (or pintxos) are similar to tapas, except that they’re served atop a piece of bread with a stick or skewer through them. They’re equally small and snackable, giving you the perfect chance to try a few without emptying your wallet.
Menu del Dia
Massively popular throughout Spain, the Menu del Dia is a 2 or 3-course meal at an affordable set price. Thanks to the influx of tourists, these deals aren’t as easy to find in Barcelona these days, especially around the touristy areas, but they can still be found by either look for restaurants advertising Menu del Dia or simply asking the staff.
Specific budget-friendly restaurants in Lisbon
- Tucco Real Food Born
- A Tu Bola
- La Taqueria
- Bo de B
Start planning your trip to Barcelona
Barcelona may not be the cheapest city in Spain, but it's still possible to plan an incredible trip to Barcelona on any budget.
So when you're ready to visit the beautiful capital of Catalonia, be sure to save this budget travel guide, sign up to receive cheap flight deals, and start planning your trip to Barcelona today!
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BY: ZACH ANDERSON, CONTENT MARKETING & FLIGHT EXPERT
Zach is a digital marketer, copywriter, and flight deal expert at Dollar Flight Club where he helps 1 million people travel more. As a digital nomad, he is deeply passionate about location independence, Thai food, and helping others see the world affordably.