While not the capital of Spain, Barcelona is the capital of the Catalonia region and sees over 30 million visitors each year. Known for its La Liga football team, exciting nightlife, and unique architecture, it's not surprising that Barcelona is a big draw for tourists worldwide.
No matter what people say about Barcelona, one thing it isn't is boring. Full of quirky structures by Gaudi and the famously incomplete Sagrada Familia, this Catalonian city genuinely has something for everyone, from families with kids to seniors to young adults looking for a night out.
All this popularity comes at a price, and exploring this coastal city can get expensive. Luckily for travelers short on cash, there are tons of free things to do in Barcelona. From museums to shows to beautiful churches, free attractions abound. Don't be weighed down by your luggage as you set about a Spanish adventure. Drop off your bags at a Bounce luggage storage in Barcelona and let the free things to do in town guide your sightseeing.
National Art Museum
Home to a collection of almost 300,000 pieces of art, it would be a shame to visit Barcelona and not experience the National Art Museum, known as MNAC. The museum showcases primarily Spanish and Catalonian art, and you can view collections of well-known modern artists like Picasso and Dali alongside Gothic, Romanesque, and Baroque styles. The museum is housed in the Palau Nacional, a spectacular ornate structure on Montjuïc Hill worthy of a few photos itself.
Luckily, taking in all this history and beauty doesn't have to break the bank. Gaining free entry to this Barcelona treasure can be free, as long as you time it right. Free entry is available on the first Sunday of every month and Saturday evenings after 3 pm. This activity is best left to the weekend.
Parc de la Ciutadella
Once Barcelona's only green space, the Parc de la Ciutadella is ideal for a relaxing picnic and a leisurely walk around the expansive grounds. Tour the lake, wooded areas, and many monuments for a glimpse of peace and quiet in this cosmopolitan city. For those that prefer a more strenuous hike rather than a casual stroll, check out the best hikes in Barcelona.
Although this Barcelona park's surface area is green, it is surrounded by impressive buildings, like the Castle of the Three Dragons. Add to that a waterfall adorned with sculptures, and you have a very well-rounded Barcelona activity. Ciutadella Park is centrally located east of the Gothic Quarter, easily accessible on foot. Barcelona's public transport serves the park well, since the park is popular with locals and tourists. Bus, tram, and metro stations are all close by.
People often associate Spain with Flamenco music, and while that's true, the music scene in Barcelona is diverse. Budgetary restraints can limit the ability to attend live music shows, but not in Barcelona. Most commonly showcased in the summer, planned and impromptu free music concerts abound in the city.
Tourists in town at the end of summer might be lucky enough to experience La Mercè Festival. Held annually at the end of September in venues across Barcelona, La Mercè is a way to celebrate and bid farewell to another summer. Various events, including free music concerts, are an entertaining way to fill up your time for low to no cost.
La Boqueria Market
The Mercado de la Boqueria is a market with free entry that will delight all your senses. Known worldwide, La Boqueria market is lined with colorful food stalls selling everything from meat to produce to cheese. Although not technically free, the market is famous for sit-down food service, so if you can spare a few euros, the calamari or eggs with baby squid make for a memorable lunch. Whatever you do, just be careful not to get hit in the face by a swinging leg of jamón ibérico.
The market's central location on Las Ramblas is no surprise. It started as an open-air market where local farmers and traveling merchants would meet to sell their various goods. Another excellent way to keep your budget in check on vacation is to cook your own meals. Where better to get the ingredients than this easily-accessible iconic market? Step back in time and shop like the Spanish instead of at the local supermarket.
Magic Fountain Show
One of the more unique free things to do in Barcelona is to take in the Magic Fountain Show, ideally paired with a trip to the nearby National Art Museum. The majestic fountain anchors the Palau Nacional and is one of the best things to do with kids in Barcelona. Picture over 3,500 jets perfectly synchronized to music in an array of colors. Let's face it; this completely free show is captivating for adults, too.
The Magic Fountain Show is easy to squeeze into a day of free things to do in Barcelona since it's relatively quick and centrally located. The show lasts about 20 minutes and runs in 30-minute intervals throughout most of the day. Twenty minutes will fly by, and you'll be on your way in no time humming the show's music, which ranges from 80's hits to Spanish classical to swing.
Free Walking Tours
One of the best free things to do in Barcelona is a free walking tour. Lasting anywhere from an hour or two to most of the day, these free tours offer an insight into local culture and history you wouldn't get on your own. You cover lots of ground, learn interesting facts, and meet new people.
A free walking tour of the city's Gothic Quarter, Barcelona's old historic center, will take you past some of the best sights. View remnants of the ancient Roman wall, shop-adorned alleys, and Barcelona Cathedral. It's a lot to take in, but keep an eye out for Gaudi-designed lampposts and street art among the Catalan gothic architecture.
While the Sagrada Familia is a quirky architectural marvel, the entrance fee is pricy, and in the peak summer season, tickets can be tricky to get. For an equally awe-inspiring church experience, Barcelona Cathedral is a free jewel in the city's Gothic Quarter. Completed over the 13th to 15th centuries, this cathedral is dotted with gargoyles and other animals, intricate carvings, and powerful sculptures.
The cathedral's facade was updated in the 19th century to intensify its Gothic features, and although not original, it's no less spectacular. Barcelona Cathedral is also home to 13 white geese in keeping with Barcelona's quirkiness. You can't beat that photo op.
If you happen to be in Barcelona on a Sunday, many museums offer free entry. Pablo Picasso fans will be pleased to learn that the Picasso Museum is no exception to this rule. Sandwiched between the Parc de la Ciutadella and the Barcelona Cathedral, free admission is available on Thursday evenings from 3pm to 7pm and the first Sunday of every month.
You can't beat the price, especially when visitors get to peruse over 4,000 of Picasso's creations. Although his tenure in Barcelona wasn't long, Picasso's impact on the city and the city on him was huge. In less than 10 years, he achieved a lasting legacy.
Santa Maria Del Mar
Built in the 14th century, to say the Santa Maria Del Mar church is spectacular is an understatement. It's the only church still standing constructed in the pure Catalan Gothic style and it's the perfect free stop after visiting the adjacent Picasso Museum. The structure itself is huge, no mean feat in the 1300s. The detailed stained glass windows tell a story from years past, and the overall height offers a certain airiness and brightness.
Considered a church of the people, the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar is open every day for tourists, but only certain hours offer free entry. Plan your visit from Monday to Saturday between 9am to 1pm and 5pm to 8:30pm to take advantage of the free admission. On Sunday, it's free between 10am and 2pm and 5pm to 8:30pm.
A Day at the Beach
Travelers can easily get caught up in the city's beautiful churches, fascinating architecture, and abundant art collections, but one of the best, and simplest, free things to do in Barcelona is a beach day. Ideally experienced in the summer months, all you need is a towel, bathing suit, and sunscreen for a relaxing way to spend the day.
Barcelona's beaches are an anomaly. It's rare to find clear blue water and golden sand so close to a major European city. Head to Bogatell Beach, one of the best beaches in town, for fun in the sun, sand, and surf. Get there early in July and August because it fills up.
Tour Street Art
Not all art is inside museums and galleries. If you are traveling with kids who prefer to be outside rather than in a stuffy museum or church, street art is the answer. Start your Barcelona free street art tour in the Gothic Quarter. Street artists here have transformed the old city center into a melting pot of old and new styles. Something thought-provoking and simultaneously beautiful could be around the next corner.
To experience a graffiti park built specifically for artists to experiment, visit the Three Chimneys Urban Park. It's a vibrant tribute to both amateur and professional artists. Considered by some as an open-air museum, this Barcelona park has no entrance fee and never closes. It's worth the trip just outside the Gothic Quarter and closer to the beach.
Open year-round, Park Güell is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that's completely free to visit. A trip up the hill to this Barcelona park rewards you with stunning panoramic views of the city. Bring a picnic and enjoy the feeling of being surrounded by trees where locals come to relax, cycle, and walk.
Aside from a green space, Park Guell exhibits colorful mosaics and interesting shapes designed by Antoni Gaudí. In fact, he designed the whole park from the sign to the paths to the structures. Step outside the bright colors of the ceramic tiles and take a walk through the park's Austria Gardens. It's named after the donated Austrian trees planted up and down the hill. Intricately designed columns for balconies, lush vegetation, and a few flowers are an escape from the bustling city center.
Stroll Las Ramblas
Full of shops, bars, and restaurants, the promenade of Las Ramblas is an iconic rite of passage in Barcelona. If you haven't strolled up and down it, have you really been to the city? A walk on Las Ramblas will take you through the city center on a wide, paved boulevard perfect for window shopping or a drink.
Las Ramblas is especially animated at night when the bars and nightclubs come alive. Since the boulevard is often full of tourists, it's not uncommon to find street performers to entertain you as you walk by. While this is technically free, a tip if you enjoy the show is appreciated. Stick to the north end of Las Ramblas if you can, especially at night; it can get seedy.
Barcelona is a city that everyone should get to at least once in their lives. With so many great free things to do in Barcelona, a lack of budget is never an excuse. Without spending a dime, travelers can visit churches or tour works by Gaudi, Picasso, and Dali. Simply walking around offers street art, scenic views, and unparalleled architecture. Besides, wouldn't you rather spend your cash on tapas and red wine?