City Guides

Ulitmate Barcelona Travel Guide — How to Visit Barcelona on a Budget

What to see, do, eat and where to stay while visiting Barcelona.

Barcelona

Barcelona finds its way onto most itineraries… and for good reason. It has a vibrant food scene, a plethora of unique historic architecture, great Mediterranean weather, beautiful beaches, and arguably the best nightlife in Europe. This Barcelona on a budget travel guide will help you plan your trip and hopefully give you some tips for getting the most out of your time in the city.

[We’ve also written travel guides for Amsterdam, Berlin, London, Paris, Rome, and More]

What You’ll Find In This Barcelona On A Budget Travel Guide:

  • How Much to Budget to Visit Barcelona
  • How Long to Visit Barcelona
  • The Good and Not-So-Good Things About Barcelona: A Quick Overview
  • Barcelona’s Must-See Sights and Attractions
  • Barcelona’s Best Neighborhoods
  • Cheap Eats and Drinks
  • Best Barcelona Hostels
  • Barcelona Nightlife
  • More Resources to Help You Plan Your Visit on a Budget
  • Public Transportation
  • And More

How Much to Budget to Visit Barcelona

Budgeting and money in Barcelona

Barcelona isn’t a cheap city but it isn’t too expensive either — especially when compared to Europe’s other most-visited cities.

I recommend budgeting €45-€85/day if you’re on a backpacker’s budget — you can easily spend more if you want to stay somewhere nicer than a hostel but this is a good range for planning purposes. Check out my Barcelona Daily Price Guide to get a more in-depth look at daily travel costs.

DAILY COST OF BUDGET TRAVEL IN BARCELONA: €75 ($87 USD)

  • Attractions: €22 (one paid attraction + any free sights)
  • Food: €27.50
  • Transportation: €2.2
  • Accommodation (hostel): €25

DAILY COST OF FRUGAL TRAVEL IN BARCELONA: €45 ($52 USD)

  • Attractions: €8 (free walking tour + visit one of the free sights)
  • Food: €15.50
  • Transportation: €0 (explore by foot)
  • Accommodation (cheap hostel bed): €20

How Long To Visit Barcelona

Barcelona is one of those cities where you can easily spend more than a week exploring but it’s recommended to spend at least 4 or 5 days in the city.

If you plan on partaking in the city’s famous nightlife, you may want to add a few days to your visit so have adequate time to recover while also having time to explore the city.


The Best Time to Visit Barcelona

The most popular time to visit Barcelona is in the summer but this means tons of people and sweltering 85+ degree weather. (Then again, this is great beach weather.)

Winters are mild and the temperatures average in the mid-50s — it’s also when you’ll find the lowest number of tourists.

Late spring and early fall bring excellent weather and fewer crowds than in the summer. Personally, I think either spring or fall is the best time to visit Barcelona.


The Good and Not-So-Good Things About Barcelona

Barcelona offers so many wonderful things to visitors but (like any city) Barcelona has a few negative that you should be aware of before visiting.

The Good Things About Barcelona

The Nightlife. This is one of the main reasons people flock to Barcelona. The night doesn’t get started until about 10 pm, and you’ll find people eating in restaurants until well after midnight. Then they hit the bars until the early morning and then the clubs until 6 am. Clubbing not your thing? Don’t worry, Barcelona has options for just about anyone.

The Beauty of the City. Barcelona is undoubtedly a beautiful city, and it boasts some of the most impressive architecture in all of Europe. Simply walking/getting lost in its charming medieval streets is a pleasure that you’ll love.

The Beaches. Barcelona is constantly rated as the best beach city in the world, so it’s no surprise that the beach plays a huge role in the city’s identity.

A Living City. It’s easy to see why people love living in Barcelona and that joy is in the air. There is always something going on, and you’ll constantly see people outside in the streets, parks, and cafes enjoying life. Watch out, it’s contagious.

Culture and Museums. Barcelona has something for everyone, including a number of excellent museums.

Great Weather and Excellent Outdoor Life. Barcelona has mild winters and warm summers. In the winter, you can expect temperatures to be in the mid-50s; in the summer, temps stay around the low-80s. This means that Barcelona’s citizens spend a lot of time outdoors in the city’s many parks, squares, beaches, and outdoor cafes.

The Not-So-Good Things About Barcelona

Loads of Tourists. Barcelona is one of the most visited cities in Europe, so the city becomes overrun with visitors and long lines to the famous sights — especially in the summer months. That said, it’s no reason to avoid the city… but the weather is nice all year so you can have a nice visit at any time.

Pickpockets and Tourist Scams. Hoards of tourists always attract lots of pickpockets and other scammers… and Barcelona is no exception. You have to remain very vigilant in Barcelona, especially in the touristy areas and on the beaches. Read our guide to avoiding pickpockets in Europe for more tips.

Spread Out Sights. Many of the famous sights are spread throughout the city, so you will have to do a bit of traveling to see everything. The public transportation is good though so it’s not too much of a problem.


The Best Neighborhoods in Barcelona

You can’t talk about Barcelona without talking about its amazing neighborhoods — all of which are a joy to simply explore on foot. Below are a few of my favorite “must visit” neighborhoods:

Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic)

Barri Gothic Quarter and Bridge of Sighs

The most visited, and oldest neighborhood of Barcelona is called the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic) and it contains many of the top attractions, including the Cathedral of Barcelona and a handful of Roman ruins. Yes, it will be overrun with other tourists but getting lost in its winding medieval streets and alleys is still one of the great joys of visiting Barcelona.

Las Ramblas

Aerial view of Las Ramblas from the Columbus column in Barcelona, Spain

The second neighborhood (which is technically part of the Gothic Quarter but has its own personality) is Las Ramblas — which is a pedestrian-only street (and surrounding area) lined with shops, chain stores, tacky tourist stalls, cafes, and restaurants. 

This is the most visited tourist spot in Barcelona so it’s buzzing all day and night. It’s also one of the biggest pickpocket hotspots in Europe, so be extra vigilant. The cafes and restaurants are super overpriced, so wander off Las Ramblas for better prices.

Additionally, La Boqueria Market is a massive indoor market located off Las Ramblas and it’s been rated the best market in the world. It’s a massive tourist draw, so it’s super busy, but it’s still a fun experience. If you want to escape the tourist hoards, head to Plaça Reial — which is a beautiful square that’s just off Las Ramblas.

El Born

Typical street in the El Born neighborhood

El Born is the most trendy and artistic neighborhood in Barcelona and its narrow medieval streets add to its charm. In addition to its tapas bars, restaurants, avant-garde galleries, cool cafes, and vintage shops, this neighborhood is the home of the impressive Church of Santa Maria del Mar and the excellent Santa Caterina Market (which has an amazing Gaudí-esque roof).

El Born is also where you’ll find a lot of Barcelona’s famous nightlife so you’ll find yourself here often.

L’Eixample

Street view of the Eixample neighborhood

L’Eixample is the largest neighborhood in Barcelona and it’s home to many of the city’s most famous architectural highlights — including La Sagrada Familia. L’Eixample is popular with the locals because it’s a lively neighborhood without being as densely populated as the city center thanks to its wide, tree-lined boulevards.

Because of the massive size of this neighborhood, you’ll also find that different parts of the neighborhood have their own personalities so it’s worth spending extra time here exploring.

El Raval

El Raval is one of the largest and most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in Barcelona. It’s more gritty than other parts of the city, so don’t be surprised if you see prostitutes in some parts, but the neighborhood is currently in the midst of rapid gentrification.

El Raval is popular with young, hip folks, and there are new and interesting businesses, boutiques, thrift stores, bars, and restaurants opening all the time — in short, it always has something going on and its a nice break from the “touristy” parts of the city.

Gràcia

Gràcia is a quiet (by Barcelona standards) neighborhood that’s often described as a village within a city so it’s a great place to visit to live like a local — plus it doesn’t attract the same tourist crowds as other parts of Barcelona. You’ll find plenty of trendy shops, bars, outdoor cafes, and restaurants filled with equally trendy locals.

This bohemian neighborhood is located on a hillside so it offers great views of the city and it’s also home to Gaudí’s famous and whimsical hilltop park, Parc Güell.

El Poble-sec

The El Poble-sec neighborhood is buzzing with local life, cozy bars, an up-and-coming foodie scene, and creative energy. It’s also less frequented by tourists so the area feels much more authentic than other parts of Barcelona.


Barcelona’s Best Museums

Joan-Miro-barcelona

Barcelona feels like a living and breathing museum but it also has a handful of excellent museums that are worth checking out (if you’re not too tired of partying until 6 am).

Picasso Museum

The most popular museum in Barcelona is the Picasso Museum. This museum houses one of the most extensive collections of Picasso’s works and focuses heavily on his earlier years. The Picasso Museum often has long ticket lines and can sell out so buying tickets early is recommended.

Fundació Joan Miró

The second-most popular museum is the Fundació Joan Miró — which is the top collection of artwork by Joan Miró and many other twentieth and twenty-first-century artists. This is another museum that I recommend buying tickets in advance so you can skip the long ticket lines.

Barcelona Contemporary Cultural Center

Joan Miró also created the Barcelona Contemporary Cultural Center to feature contemporary, alternative, and innovative art. 

CaixaForum

If you’re up for something different, check out the CaixaForum. This museum is located in a former brick factory, and it features an ever-changing collection of excellent art.

Other Museums

If you’re interested in the history of the Catalan region and its accompanying art, check out the highly-rated Catalan Art Museum. If you want to learn more about the history of Barcelona, head to the Barcelona History Museum, which features some great Roman ruins. If you’re interested in checking out a few huge old ships, you should stop into the Maritime Museum that’s housed in a medieval shipyard (plus, it’s free and the building is really cool).


The Best Gaudí Architecture In Barcelona

gaudi-barcelona-guide

Barcelona’s signature Catalan Modernism architecture was created by one man — Antoni Gaudí. Examples of his work are scattered throughout the city so you’ll most likely come across many of his most famous works without much effort. Here are Gaudí’s best architectural feats:

La Sagrada Família

If you only see one thing in Barcelona it should be the Sagrada Família. This iconic Catholic church has been under construction since 1882 and isn’t expected to be fully finished until 2030 (or later). It’s one of the most impressive things I’ve seen throughout all my travels.

You should always book your Sagrada Família tickets in advance since they require a reservation for a timed entry and they limit the number of tickets sold (last-minute tickets are nearly impossible to buy). If tickets are sold out, you can often pay extra to book a guided tour.

Park Güell

View from Park Guell in Barcelona

Park Güell is the iconic park that overlooks the city and it’s another part of Barcelona that shouldn’t be missed. A small part of the park is free to visit but a majority of the park requires a timed-entry admission.

La Pedrera and Casa Batlló

La Pedrera

La Pedrera (sometimes called Casa Mila) and Casa Batlló are two other Gaudí buildings. You can visit the interior of the buildings but they’re also fun to observe from the street. Le Pedrera is great rooftop views but the Casa Batlló has a more interesting interior (although tickets are very pricy).


The Best Beaches in Barcelona

There were no natural beaches in Barcelona until the city built man-made beaches for the 1992 Olympics—the area was overrun by industry and pollution until the early 90s. The city’s beaches are now considered to be some of the best urban beaches in the world.

Barcelona has a number of beaches but the most popular is Barceloneta Beach. Here you’ll find plenty of beautiful twenty-something Barcelonians flaunting their stuff and escaping the hustle of the city.

Theft is very common on Barcelona’s beaches so don’t leave your stuff unattended.


The Best Walking Tours (Both Free and Paid)

I’ve said it a million times… but I love walking and bike tours. They’re simply a great way to explore and learn more about the city you’re visiting.

Luckily, Barcelona has a number of free tours (the guides work on tips) and paid tours. Most free tours offer a good overview of the city, while paid tours have more experienced guides who have a deeper understanding of their subjects.

Here are a few of the most popular tours:


Barcelona Nightlife and Clubs

barcelona-clubs-opium

Barcelona’s nightlife is legendary. Even on weeknights, the restaurants don’t fill up until after 9 pm and people don’t start hitting the bars until late at night — the dance clubs are still going strong until the sun comes up.

Drink prices tend to be fairly affordable (except in the clubs) and you’re often given free tapas with your drinks in many bars.

When it comes to clubs, expect cover charges and high drink prices for the more popular spots. Also, expect to put some effort into your appearance (no shorts, baseball caps, etc.) or the doormen might not let you in.

But the city’s nightlight isn’t just about clubs — there are tons of bars and restaurants that cater to just about anything you’re into. Check out these guides to help you find the best nightlife options:


What To Eat and Drink In Barcelona

Cervecería Vaso de Oro & Bar Jai-Ca

Barcelona has food options for just about any budget. In fact, Barcelona has one of the highest numbers of restaurants and bars per capita in all of Europe—unfortunately, many restaurants are nothing special. The quality generally gets a lot worse near the tourist attractions, so do some research so you don’t end up overpaying for low-quality food.

Also, don’t forget that lunch is generally the biggest meal of the day, and people don’t eat dinner until around 10 pm, so plan ahead.

Tapas and Pintxos

Spain is famous for its tapas and pintxos—which are basically mini portions of single dishes (pintxos are traditionally served on small pieces of bread) that are meant to be snacked on in bars and restaurants. But a lot of people make a meal out of sampling multiple kinds of tapas.

Tapas and pintxos can range from simple to extravagant but they’re typically affordable. In some parts of Spain (mainly Granada and Madrid), the tapas are free as long as you’re buying alcohol but this is fairly rare in Barcelona.

Seafood Paella

Seafood paella (and seafood in general) is very popular in Barcelona since the city is located on the coast.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of places selling terrible seafood paella at inflated prices. So do your homework on this one… trust me. Check out this article by The Barcelona Navigator for finding the best paella.

Cava

Cava (sparkling wine) might as well be the official drink of Barcelona.

But what about sangria? That’s actually a specialty of southern Spain and it’s only served because tourists ask for it… and it’s rarely made well in Barcelona.

Buñuelos de Bacalao (Cod Fritters)

Who doesn’t love deep-fried fish and potatoes? You can find these tasty treats all over Barcelona—from tapas bars to hole-in-the-wall food stands.

Spanish Beer

Spain’s temperatures can get very high in the summers so beating the heat with a cold beer is very popular in Spain. And beer in Spain is cheap if you stick to the large domestic breweries.

Be sure to order a caña — which is a small size draft beer. Why a caña? The locals love their beer to be ice cold so they’d rather order two or three super cold small beers than have their bigger beer get warm. If you’re drinking a huge mug, then you’re probably drinking at a touristy spot.

Hot Chocolate and Churros

Barcelona is home to some of the best hot chocolate and churro spots in Spain—many of which have been open for over 100 years.

More Barcelona Foodie Resources

The food scene in Barcelona is vast and ever-changing so I rely on a handful of websites and Barcelona-based food bloggers to get the most up-to-date information on where to eat on a budget in Barcelona.

Online Resources:

Barcelona Food Bloggers:

Cheap Restaurants and Local Favorites:

Can Tosca: This budget-friendly, family-run restaurant is a local favorite thanks to their excellent bocadillos (sandwiches) and other homemade staples.

Bar Jai-Ca: A lively local favorite tapas bar that’s been around since 1955.

Cervecería Vaso de Oro: Very popular bar with tapas, desserts & draft beer.

Bar Mutt: Modern, upscale gastrobar serving traditional tapas & sommelier-recommended wine.

Baluard Barceloneta: Truly excellent bakery famous for their bread and croissants.

Barraca: A bright and modern seafood restaurant with excellent paella at a fair price.

Pastisseria Hofmann: Much loved pastry shop.

Demasié: Pastry shop famous for their cinnamon buns (they also have a vegan option) and large cookies.

Le Pain d’Éric&Benjamin: Excellent French bakery serving up authentic pain au chocolate, croissants, and baguettes.


The Best Hostels In Barcelona

best hostels Barcelona - Sants

The good news is that Barcelona has multiple great hostels.

However, the prices increase considerably in the summer thanks to the influx of visitors, so you’ll want to book as early as possible to ensure you get the best options. I’ve always used Hostelworld to book hostels, so you’ll want to poke around there to find the perfect hostel.

Below is a list of the best-rated hostels that won’t break your budget:

Read more about the best hostels in Barcelona.


Public Transportation in Barcelona

Barcelona has a good public transportation network. Most people use the Metro (subway) to travel long distances, but Barcelona is compact so many visitors end up walking everywhere. The Metro is nice to ride during the steamy summer because it’s air-conditioned.

Public Transportation Ticket Prices (Visit The Official Website)

  • Single one-way ticket: €2.40
  • T10 ticket (10 one-way journeys): €11.35

Hola Barcelona Travel Card provides unlimited journeys on public transport in Barcelona for consecutive periods of 2 days (48 h), 3 days (72 h), 4 days (96 h) or 5 days (120 h) from the time it is first validated. Travel to Barcelona-El Prat airport included.

  • 2-day pass: €16.40
  • 3-day pass: €23.80
  • 4-day pass: €31
  • 5-day pass: €38.20

Express Aerobus from the airport to city: €5.90

Train (RENFE) from airport to city: €4.10 + €2.15 (to switch to the Metro)

Taxi from airport to city: €25-€35


Practical Travel Tips

  • Many city-run museums are free on Sundays from 3-8pm.
  • Many restaurants close around 2-4pm and don’t open back up until 8 pm.
  • Catalán is the main language spoken in Barcelona but Spanish is also spoken by just about everyone.
  • Whenever possible, purchase museum and attraction tickets online. Attractions often attract huge crowds and even huger lines, so the savviest visitors buy their tickets in advance.
  • Walking is the best way to explore the city.
  • Watch for pickpockets. They’re everywhere.
  • Every Metro stop has free wifi and you can find free wifi in many parts of the city but I always reccomend buying a European SIM Card—read about How To Buy A SIM Card in Europe but SimOptions.com is the most well-known authorized SIM card reseller.
  • Avoid eating at any restaurant on Las Ramblas. There might be one or two exceptions, but 99% of the time you’re going to be overpaying for bad food.
  • Want to go to an FC Barcelona soccer game but can’t find a ticket? Head to www.fcbarcelona.com and you can find season ticket holders selling their tickets.

Packing Lists and Tips

If you’re looking at this article, then I’m going to bet you’re getting ready to travel. Check out these helpful articles that we wrote for tips and advice for packing for your trip.


More Barcelona Travel Planning Resources

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