Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, certainly has no shortage of cultural wonders, but entry fees to its various attractions can add up quickly, making a trip to this fabulous Spanish city expensive. If you're on a tight budget, the good news is that it is possible to see and do a lot without paying anything at all. Below, we rounded up the best free things to do in Barcelona.
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1. Admire Antoni Gaudí's architecture in Barcelona.
If you’re a fan of Modernist architecture — and particularly Catalonia’s very own Antoni Gaudí — then Barcelona is the place to visit. While the majority of museums dedicated to the Catalan Modernist movement have entrance fees, you can view the beautiful exteriors of most of Gaudí’s famous buildings for free (Sagrada Família, Casa Calvet, Casa Milà, and Casa Batlló, among others). You can also see his six lamp posts (Gaudí’s first ever commission) in Plaça Reial and Pla de Palau. It’s also worth noting that Gaudí’s Palau Güell, one of Barcelona’s most famous attractions, is free to enter on the first Sunday of every month.
2. Relax on one of the beaches in Barcelona.
Beaches are always a good free option — and Barcelona delivers with several beautiful sandy stretches. The beaches are technically man-made, but no less enjoyable. Conveniently located, Barceloneta Beach is the most popular option. Throw down a towel and soak in the sunshine after spending some time roaming around the Gothic Quarter or Ciutadella Park. Further along are numerous smaller beaches, which get progressively quieter until you reach Fòrum beach — the quietest of them all.
3. Visit top Barcelona attractions on Sunday.
Visiting more than one museum and/or major attraction during your trip to Barcelona can eat into your budget, but if you time it right, you can check out some of them for free. The trick? Wait until Sunday. Many tourist spots, like the National Museum of Art, the Barcelona History Museum, the Botanical Gardens, and the Museum of Natural Sciences, are free on the first Sunday of every month. It’s worth doing your research, though, as some are also free every Sunday after 3 p.m.
4. Wander around the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona.
One pleasant (and free) way to spend the afternoon is to wander the Barri Gòtic (or Gothic Quarter), which is packed with a wonderful mix of architecture — many dating back to Roman times, others medieval, and some more recent. Peruse the numerous small shops and bars while navigating the narrow cobbled streets. You will also stumble across quiet squares that beckon you to stop, rest, and enjoy a drink and some tapas.
5. See the Montjuïc Magic Fountain.
This huge fountain was built in 1929 by Carles Buigas for the International Expo and is one of Barcelona’s most popular attractions. Dramatic light and water shows can be viewed here for free — at scheduled times. Music, from Spanish classical tunes to 1980s hits, soundtrack the whole spectacle. Tip: Get there early to secure the best seat, and if you don’t want to get soaked, don’t stand downwind on gustier days.
6. View Joan Miró's art.
Fun fact: You don’t have to visit the Joan Miró Foundation to see his art, thanks to a large Miró mosaic on La Rambla and numerous sculptures dotted throughout the city streets. Plus, a trip to Parc de Joan Miróallows visitors to see the artist’s colorful Woman and Bird sculpture, Dona i Ocell. The huge sculpture was commissioned as part of a series that was designed to welcome visitors to the city.
7. Hang out in Ciutadella Park.
A veritable oasis in the city, Parc de la Ciutadella (or Ciutadella Park) is the perfect place to relax and unwind without dipping into your wallet. The park is alive with dog walkers, cyclists, and rollerbladers, and there are numerous picnic spots, free ping-pong tables, and children’s play areas. One highlight is La Cascada fountain, a spectacular arch with a water feature (inspired by the Trevi Fountain). Gaudí helped design this attraction while he was still a student. Throughout the summer months, there are also frequent free jazz concerts in the park. If you do happen to have a bit of spare cash, there’s a small lake with rowing boats for hire, plus the park also houses the city zoo and numerous museums.
8. Visit the cathedral in Barcelona.
If historic, religious architecture is your thing, then a tour of Barcelona’s 15th-century cathedral, located on the very edge of the Gothic Quarter, is a must. Entrance to this spectacular building is free of charge in the mornings and late afternoons, but if you want to go up on the roof or into the cloisters, you will have to pay a small fee.
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