Whether you crave Catalonian cuisine, are a lover of the arts and architecture or simply long for some sun and sangria, Barcelona has something for you. The Catalonian capital city is rich and vivacious, its ambience just as bold as its buildings.
Whether you are heading to Barcelona for a weekend away or as part of a longer cruise holiday, it needn’t cost the world to experience a taste of the Mediterranean. Read our guide to five free things to do in Barcelona and save your precious euros for more important things, like tapas and sangria. Salud!
Or read here to find out how to spend 36 hours in Barcelona
Five Free Things to do in Barcelona
Meander in the museum
All of Barcelona’s city run museums offer free entry every Sunday afternoon, between the hours of 3pm and 8pm. Spend a lazy Sunday afternoon at the Picasso Museum or the Museum of History of Barcelona, whilst the CCCB is full of intriguing contemporary exhibitions.
In addition, the National Museum of Art of Catalonia is also free on the first Sunday of each month.
Be amazed by the architecture of Santa Maria del Mar
Built during the 14th century and named after Mary Patroness of Sailors because of its position by the sea, the church of Santa Maria del Mar is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in the world. The church took just 54 years to build, a feat of engineering that was unheard of at the time, yet the result is utterly spectacular. Be sure to visit the adjoining cathedral too.
Visit Santa Maria del Mar for free between 9am-1pm and 5pm-8pm.
Soak up the sights and sounds of the city markets
Barcelona is home to over 40 markets, with a 10,000 combined stalls between them. Locals head to the market for fresh produce and flowers, but those who are in the city for even a day can easily while away the hours amongst the sights, sounds and smells of the colourful stalls.
Mercat de la Boqueria is the best known of all the markets in Barcelona, with tourists flocking throughout the week. The market sits in the perfect location, just off La Rambla, and is open Monday to Saturday 8am to 8.30pm. Visit first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds and you will find yourself surrounded by an explosion of colour and the echoes of Catalan calls.
Santa Caterina is another of Barcelona’s notable markets. Open since 1848, the market recently received an extensive and vibrant facelift courtesy of designers Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue. The new waved roof blends beautifully in the colourful city of Gaudi, perfectly mirroring the vibrant produce on offer inside. While it won’t cost you anything to visit the market, a meal at its restaurant Cuines de Santa Caterina is money well spent.
Hike the hills and see the scenery
Barcelona is surrounded by spectacular natural scenery and nowhere is this more abundant than in Collserola Park and the hills that border the east of the city. The Carretera de les Aigües is a 10km trail along Tibidabo Mountain on the north-western edge of the city. The trail runs from Sant Pere Màrtir to the Carretera de la Rabassada and it is popular with both locals and tourists. Hike or bike the trail and you’ll be rewarded with incredible views across the city; Tibidabo Mountain sits 450m above sea level at its highest point.
Stroll La Rambla
The pedestrianized walkway of La Rambla cuts through the heart of Barcelona and a stroll along the 1.2km path places you in the middle of the action. Street performers, artists, flower stalls and book kiosks line the street, and historic buildings soar alongside. Visit La Rambla early in the morning and watch the walkway come alive with a coffee or see the evening in sipping sangria at one of the bars and restaurants that spill onto the pavements.
Alternatively you can also do these things for free in Barcelona…
Admire the architecture
It is impossible to think of Barcelona without thinking of Antoni Gaudí, and the great thing about his art is that is can be appreciated for absolutely nothing from the outside. Search the internet and you’ll come across countless free-to-download walking tours of Gaudí’s most notable works, alongside some free-of-charge hosted tours too. Even without a purposeful tour, you’ll stumble across his unmistakeable style throughout the city, from the unfinished masterpiece of the Sagrada Familia, to Casa Batlló and Casa Milà on Passeig de Gràcia to the notable Barcelona Lizard known as “El Drac”.
Bask on the beach
Barcelona has everything in one place; amazing shopping, incredible food, historic buildings and, best of all, some stunning beaches. Barceloneta Beach is the biggest and best known sandy stretch in the city, which also means that it is often the busiest. Locals prefer to shun the crowds and bask at Bogatell Beach instead, and if you’re willing to spend a little on a 20-minute train ride out of the city, you’ll be rewarded with near-empty sands, tapas joints and beach shacks galore at Castelldefels Beach.
Time travel in the Gothic Quarter
Strolling in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter can feel like being lost in an elaborate labyrinth at times, but it is a great way to get a feel for the history of the town – and it’s free! The warren-like medieval alleyways twist and turn, before suddenly revealing sheltered squares and shaded patios when you least expect it. Santa Eulalia Cathedral is the Gothic Quarter’s most sought out site, thanks in part to a gaggle of geese which occupy its courtyard, but it’s perfectly possibly to waste hours here just wandering.
Have you experienced the hustle and bustle of Barcelona? The Catalonian capital is a hugely popular port of call on countless Mediterranean itineraries. Read our Barcelona destination guide to find out more about this vivacious city!