Tapas are generally a little more expensive in Barcelona than in other parts of Spain (though it is possible to get free tapas in the city if you know where to look). On your quest to discover the most inexpensive tapas bars, the trick is to avoid the ones with any semblance of a chic decor or modern makeover. Or indeed, any locale with the word "tapa" in its name. These are usually chain joints and charge an arm and a leg when you can find the same dishes at half the price in tiny mom-and-pop eateries. Hone in on the hole-in-the-wall restaurants with grease-splattered tiled walls and napkin-littered floors. That's how we do it in Barcelona: if you're looking for cheap tapas bars, then roll your sleeves up and be prepared to get messy.
Several blocks off Passeig Joan de Borbò on Carrer Ginebra is one of Barceloneta's cheapest tapas deals, La Jai-Ca. It specializes in fried baby squid, mussels au gratin, and other seafood classics drenched in olive oil. The ambiance is loud, lively and inebriated. If you're looking for the hustle and bustle experience an authentic Catalonian tapas, this is the spot.
On a dinky cobbled sidestreet of El Born just off Passeig Picasso is La Paradeta, where you weigh whatever seafood you want and tell them how to cook it. The fish market-style feel is accompanied by market prices and, again, a lively atmosphere. Don't be afraid to raise your voice above the din, or you might be left behind int he fray!
On Carrer Mercé, in Barrio Gòtico, is Bar Celta. It's where you should go for all things Galician; octopus and potatoes in olive oil and paprika (pulpo a la gallega) is the house specialty. It's very cheap and very cheerful.
La Xampanyeria, on Carrer Reina Cristina, is perhaps the cheapest way to get tipsy and fill your stomach in the whole city. It's a small bodega beside Port Vell serving greasy rolls full of chorizo, morcilla, jamon, butifarra and other local favorites with absurdly economical bottles of cava, which get spilled all over the floor in the thick of the exuberant crowds.
There are literally hundreds of tapas spots in Barcelona, and these are our favorite, but by all means, don't hesitate to explore the city and try something new. We have a list of the best Barcelona restaurants here, and once you've had your fill, you can check out the Top 100 things to do in Barcelona. You can also book a tapas tasting tour that will take you through the whole city.