20 Top Free Things to Do in Barcelona

Spain, Barcelona, panoramic view of Barcelona Cathedral
Westend61 / Getty Images

When planning a trip to Barcelona, you'll want to indulge in the excellent Spanish food and wine, tour the famous museums and landmarks, and perhaps relax on the beach. To keep your budget balanced, take advantage of as many free attractions as you can. Plan to visit the museums on free entry days, stroll along the winding streets in the historic sections of the city, and enjoy tastes of fresh regional produce at open air markets. Here's how to make the most of your time in this fabulous part of the country—for less.

01 of 20

Visit Park Güell Before (or After) It Opens to the Public

Park Guell in Barcelona

Sylvain Sonnet / Getty Images

08024 Barcelona, Spain
Phone +34 934 09 18 31

While guests of Park Güell in Barcelona do normally need to purchase tickets to see some of Gaudí's greatest works, featured on display in the Monumental Zone, there are still a few ways you can visit for free. Plan to stop in around regular hours of operation—in this case, early in the morning or late in the evening—as admission is free before the park opens (7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.), and after it closes (8 p.m. to 10 p.m.).

Otherwise, you can try your luck with free entry days on the first Sunday of the month from Nov. 1 to March 30, or every Sunday between Apr. 1 and Oct. 31 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

02 of 20

See Traditional Sardana Dancing

Traditional Sardana Dancing in Barcelona

Tracy Packer Photography / Getty Images

Pla de la Seu, 08002 Barcelona, Spain

Keep an eye out for the Sardana, a traditional Catalan folk dance that is typically performed during festivals, or in Barcelona, every Sunday at Pla de la Seu near the cathedral. The dance begins with a handful of people making small, precise steps while holding hands and dancing in a circle. As the beat goes on, more people are welcomed in and the circle grows.

You can usually see people dancing the Sardana on Sunday mornings and afternoons, from about 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Extra dances may also be performed on Saturdays as part of summertime festivals highlighting Catalan culture. If you're lucky, you'll be invited to join in.

03 of 20

Enjoy a Free Movie on the Beach

Cinema Lliure

Cinema Lliure

08003 Barcelona, Spain

Every summer, you can catch a free flick on the sand during Cinema Lliure a la Platja, an independent film festival that takes place from late June to mid-August at several beaches throughout the Catalan and Mallorcan coast—in Barcelona, you'll find it along Barceloneta Beach.

Pick up some takeout from a local restaurant or snacks from La Boquería Market, throw yourself a picnic on the beach, and check the website to see what the lineup is like when you're in town. And don't worry about a language barrier—there are English subtitles for any Spanish-language films (and Spanish subtitles for English-language films) so you won't miss a beat.

04 of 20

Explore the City at Night

La Sagrada Familia lit up at night

Sergi Escribano / Getty Images

Barcelona, Spain

If you thought Barcelona was beautiful during the daytime, wait until you see its buildings, like La Sagrada Família, pictured here, lit up at night. Hit up La Rambla, which always seems to be crowded no matter what time you're there, and just absorb the energy. For a real treat, go for a stroll up and down the beach alongside the locals, who are out for a walk in the breeze just like you are.

It goes without saying that you should keep an eye on your belongings and your surroundings if you're out and about after dark—in any city, not just Barcelona. Go with your gut if anything seems shady or you start to feel uncomfortable and stick to well-lit areas with other people whenever possible. Otherwise, enjoy the cool night air and the chance to walk around in smaller crowds than you'd normally see in these spots.

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05 of 20

See Gaudi's La Sagrada Família

La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

TripSavvy / Daniel Gioia

15955 Paramount Blvd A, Paramount, CA 90723-5113, USA
Phone +1 562-531-9806

Barcelona's most famous landmark may charge admission, but viewing it from the outside is free. La Sagrada Família church is Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí's greatest masterpiece and is a must-see for everyone visiting Barcelona. Even if you're returning to the city, stop by again—as the construction continues, there's something new to spot each year.

Of course, paying the entrance fee does at least help guarantee that they finish the building—it's been over 120 years and counting, so far—but if you're on a very tight budget, you can still appreciate 90 percent of the building's impressive design from across the street.

06 of 20

Stroll Along La Rambla

Wide shot of Las Ramblas and people walking down it

TripSavvy / Daniel Gioia

La Rambla, 91, 08001 Barcelona, Spain
Phone +34 934 13 23 03

Barcelona's most famous series of streets, La Rambla, is a tourist attraction in itself. The street performers are there all day and at night the area comes to life with lights, quaint cafes, and people out strolling after dinner.

Start by grabbing a bite to eat at La Boquería, Barcelona's flagship market featuring a colorful explosion of fruit, vegetables, seafood, rows and rows of cured jamón, and some mind-boggling butchers’ displays. There are also tapas bars, pizza stalls, and all manner of produce you can try before you buy. Next, the Plaça Reial can be found just off the main street—look for the Gaudi designed lampposts—where there are some great nightclubs to check out.

For a great view, stop by the Colon Monument toward the bottom of La Rambla, which marks the spot Christopher Columbus came ashore in Spain following his first voyage, which has a small viewing tower at the top—note that there is a small fee to ride the elevator to the top.

07 of 20

Visit the Museu Nacional D'Art de Catalunya

View from the national museum of art in catalonia

TripSavvy / Daniel Gioia

Montjuïc, 08038 Barcelona, Spain

One of two mountains in Barcelona (the other being Tibidabo), Montjuïc offers a wealth of sights for those who don't mind a bit of a climb. Take a walk with a nice view of the sea, wander around the old watchtower, and marvel at the Mayor's Belvedere, a collage of broken bottles and pottery by Carles Buïgas.

The Museu Nacional D'Art de Catalunya, or National Museum of Catalan Art, is free for those under 15, over 65, and everyone on the first Sunday of the month, as well as every Saturday after 3 p.m.

08 of 20

Have Fun at the Parc de la Ciutadella

Parc de la Ciutadella

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre

Passeig de Picasso, 21, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
Phone +34 638 23 71 15

All big cities have a green area to do some jogging, have a picnic and, basically, chill-out on sunny days. In Barcelona, Parc de la Ciutadella fills up on weekends with people who are not so crazy about the beach and prefer a bit of greenery. On special dates, the park also serves as the perfect scenery for festivals (think food trucks and activities galore).

Located on the northeastern edge of Ciutat Vella, it was created during the mid-19th century and once was the only park in Barcelona. Go for a run in this very pleasant park in the center of Barcelona. Parc de la Ciutadella also features Barcelona's Arc de Triomf (much nicer than the one in Paris), fountains, a boating lake, ornate museums (not free), a zoo (also not free), and beautiful running and walking trails.

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09 of 20

Relax at Barceloneta Beach

Barceloneta Beach

TripSavvy / Daniel Gioia

You can spend time catching some rays on the sand without even leaving the city at Barceloneta Beach. There's a lot going on at this urban beach and you can expect to see everything from drummers and sand-artists to singing donut salesmen. It tends to be crowded but is also a fun place to people-watch and be entertained. There's also a nudist section of the beach a bit of a walk from the main tourist area.

You'll also find some great seafood restaurants in the Barceloneta neighborhood, a onetime fishermen's quarter that still retains its old-world charm.

10 of 20

Marvel at Barcelona Cathedral

Barcelona Cathedral

TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre

Pla de la Seu, s/n, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Phone +34 933 15 15 54

Entry to Barcelona Cathedral—also known as La Seu (another word for cathedral), La Catredal, or the church of Saint Eulalia—is free so you can explore the beauty of this Romanesque building from outside and within.

La Seu's spires dominate the Gothic Quarter and the cathedral is surrounded by some of Barcelona's most romantic old quarter winding narrow streets. Look for the 14th-century cloister, overseen by carvings of 13 geese representing the 13 years of the martyred Saint Eulalia, whose tomb is located inside the cathedral.

11 of 20

Visit the Picasso Museum on First Sunday

Looking up to a skylight in the Picasso Museum

TripSavvy / Daniel Gioia

C/ de Montcada, 15-23, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
Phone +34 932 56 30 00

Several popular Barcelona museums have at least one free day a week or month. The most famous is the Picasso Museum, the best showcase of works by the Spanish cubist artist. It is only free on the first Sunday of the month. Be forewarned: The line to get in is gigantic so get there early.

The museum is also free to children under 16 and to study groups (only on Wednesday afternoons). Inquire at the museum for more information.

12 of 20

See Joan Miró's Public Art

A man standing in front of a Joan Miro painting

TripSavvy / Daniel Gioia

La Rambla, 71, 08002 Barcelona, Spain

Joan Miró, born in Barcelona in 1893, is one of the city's most notable artists. Known internationally, Miró's art can be found in many public spaces in his native Barcelona. In 1960, he donated four significant pieces of art to the city. You'll see your first Miró piece, the Mural de l’Aeroport, on the outside of Barcelona International Airport’s Terminal 2. There's even a mosaic piece in the middle of the street (look down) on the Pla de l’Os, part of La Rambla just outside the Boquería market. 

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13 of 20

Explore El Raval District

Palm tree lined pedestrian street in the Raval district of Barcelona

TripSavvy / Daniel Gioia

El Raval, Barcelona, Spain

While El Raval lacks the historic impact of the neighboring Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter), the network of lively streets around this part of town is home to an eclectic cast of characters including artists, backpackers, punk rockers, and students.

Here, you'll find plenty of cool bars and vintage clothing stores, not to mention the colossal Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art or MACBA), which is as impressive from the outside as it is within. Adjacent is the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona. La Boquería market on La Rambla is fun to explore, while the nearby Maritime Museum features replica boats on display in medieval shipyard scenes.

14 of 20

See the Magic at Font Màgica de Montjuïc

Font Màgica

 Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 1.0

Pl. de Carles Buïgas, 1, 08038 Barcelona, Spain

Built for Barcelona’s 1929 World Exposition, this epic water, sound, and light show has been drawing tourists ever since. You'll love the jets of multicolored water rising in sync with vintage numbers and show-tunes from this large fountain located at Plaça de Carles Buïgas.

Every year, the Magic Fountain (Font Màgica de Montjuïc) is also the site for the "Piromusical," a huge fireworks display with a music and laser show.

15 of 20

Go on the Hunt for World-Class Street Art

Pedestrians going past street art in an alley

TripSavvy / Daniel Gioia

Passeig del Mare Nostrum, 19, 21, 08039 Barcelona, Spain
Phone +34 932 21 63 17

Barcelona’s graffiti artists are a proud bunch and you’ll find some great examples of their work around town, particularly in the El Raval and Poblenou neighborhoods. The city also has a long tradition of street art and sculpture.

Some better-known examples include Peix, a giant fish sculpture designed by Frank Gehry that overlooks the beach; Roy Lichtenstein’s 15 meter-high Barcelona Head at Port Vell; Catalan artist Antoni Tàpies’ Monumental Homage to Picasso on Passeig de Picasso; and Fernando Botero’s enormous cat on Rambla del Raval.

16 of 20

Hunt for Treasure at the Mercat dels Encants Flea Market

People hovering over tables in the Encants flea market

TripSavvy / Daniel Gioia

C. de los Castillejos, 158, 08013 Barcelona, Spain
Phone +34 932 45 22 99

Located next to the Design Museum, the Mercat dels Encants Flea Market offers an intriguing mix of trash and treasure. While it’s not without its fair share of odd shoes and outdated electronic devices, there are enough random oddities and antiques to make it a worthwhile visit. There's even a gourmet food court up on the first floor.

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17 of 20

Catch the View from the Castle

Montjuic Castle

TripSavvy / Daniel Gioia

Ctra. de Montjuïc, 66, 08038 Barcelona, Spain
Phone +34 932 56 44 40

Iconic Montjüic Castle is accessible via funicular or a walkway up the hill. Once you are there, stroll along the trail around the outside of the castle and admire the view of the city and the port.

Inside the castle (admission is charged), there are gardens as well as a fascinating military museum featuring artifacts and dungeons where prisoners were once held. 

18 of 20

Take a Free Walking Tour of the Gothic Quarter

Alleyways in Barcelona

TripSavvy / Daniel Gioia

Rambla del Poblenou, 56, 08005 Barcelona, Spain
Phone +34 636 10 87 76

Runner Bean Tours will lead you on a leisurely walk through the fascinating Gothic Quarter explaining the culture and history of the area. You'll see both the landmarks of the area as well as hidden places you might not discover on your own.

The area has a mixture of impressive churches, quaint plazas, and narrow, winding streets to explore with your walking guide. The 2.5-hour tours run daily except on December 24, 25, 26, and January 1.

19 of 20

See the Art Nouveau Buildings

Casa Batlo and the surrounding gaudi buildings

TripSavvy / Jamie Ditaranto

Pg. de Gràcia, 43, 08007 Barcelona, Spain
Phone +34 932 16 03 06

In the Quadrat d’or (Golden Quarter) you'll find quite a few Art Nouveau buildings, probably the most in the world. In the area, make time to view Casa Batlló and La Pedrera, Gaudí’s houses at Passeig de Gràcia.

Along the "Gaudi Trail," you'll find more impressive and artsy buildings, which you can admire from afar free of charge. The walk starts at Plaça Reial just off La Rambla, goes up Passeig de Gràcia, taking in Casa Batlló and La Pedrera before veering off to the east to La Sagrada Família and ending at Park Güell.

20 of 20

Visit the Fascinating Cemeteries

Wide shot of all the cubical graves at Poblenou Cemetery

 TripSavvy / Jamie Ditaranto

Av. d'Icària, 204, 08005 Barcelona, Spain
Phone +34 934 84 19 99

You might not think of visiting a cemetery during a trip to Barcelona, but the intriguing monument art makes it more worthwhile than you'd think. Some of them even offer free guided tours, although understanding Catalan or Spanish will allow you to full enjoy them.

Poblenou Cemetery, built in the 1700s, was the first modern burial ground in Barcelona. The architecture and monumental art alone makes it worth a visit. Make sure you stop by the famous sculpture, El Petó de la Mort, or The Kiss of Death.

Also up on Montjüic Hill is a cemetery where the rich and famous of Barcelona are buried and impressive monuments decorate their graves. You can also visit the museum and see the horse-drawn hearses and carriages for free on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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20 Top Free Things to Do in Barcelona