3 years, 9 months ago
‘Bargain’ and ‘Barcelona‘ aren’t words you’re likely to hear in the same sentence any time soon. Design savvy and very slick, the Catalan capital is well aware of its abundant charms and doesn’t believe in selling them short. On the flip-side there’s plenty of Barcelona that’s typical, enchanting and unmissable and won’t cost you a centime. So the knack of stretching your budget is all about balance. Spend a day on one of the city’s brilliant beaches, pack a picnic, resist the many and very tempting beach bars and restaurants and it’s free. Explore the city on foot and discover the individual barrio, their markets, local festivals and singular character for no more than a bit of legwork. And many a Barcelona veteran will advise that standing on the outside looking up and around is the best (queue free and cost free) way to get to grips with Gaudi et al in the mobbed summer months.
Every city has a City Card these days and normally we’re a little cynical on the subject because they aren’t always as good as they sound. But the Barcelona Card is worth considering for the free, unlimited transport alone. Apart from the art and architecture, few things are as well designed as Barcelona’s transport network. The card also offers free entry to some of the big ticket sights and discounts on major hitters like Porta Ventura and the Sagrada Familia.
High up on the mountain with the best view of the city, don’t be deceived by Tibidabo Fun Fair’s slightly Scooby Doo appearance. This is one of the best old-style amusement parks you’ll ever visit and if you don’t arrive by Tram and Funicular you’re missing out on half the experience. Very family friendly, great for small children and not short on white knuckle rides including a fabulous roller coaster with aforementioned views – if you can bear to look.
Gaudi’s astonishing park is one of the strangest and most enchanting you’ll ever visit. Understandably it’s hugely popular and the city restricts ticket sales to 400 every half hour. If you buy tickets online you’re guaranteed entry to what they call ‘the monumental area’ – that’s the part you don’t want to miss.
Just half an hour by (free) train or bus from the centre of Barcelona, Illa Fantasia Water Park is a brilliant cool-down in summer. All the usual flumes, slides, pools, play parks and lazy rivers are in place and it’s on the coast so you can add a bit of beach into the day too. If you visit after 2pm ticket prices are reduced by 20%.
Barcelona’s most visited attraction isn’t the Sagrada Familia or Las Ramblas, it’s a Spanish Village recreated on spectacular Montjuic Hill for the city’s 1929 International Exhibition. Incorporating an example of every style of Spanish architecture, Poble Espagnol is beautiful and fascinating. It’s also a cultural centre and has events all year round celebrating every aspect of Spain’s heritage from food to Flamenco (take the cable car up to Montjuic, it’s stunning).
One of the biggest, best and most interactive aquariums in Europe and home to the vast Oceanarium Tunnel (yes, we know it’s toughened glass, but still). Visit in summer and the Aquarium is open until 11pm with a programme of evening events for a different perspective on the thousands of resident species. And if you need more drama, add quite a few euros to your ticket price and you can dive, swim or even sleep with the Aquarium’s sharks.
If you’ve taken our advice and discovered a great local market then the best place to picnic is Ciutadella Park. It’s the largest in Barcelona and it’s also where they keep the city’s famous zoo. Time your visit to catch the Dolphin Show – worth the ticket price alone. Give yourself at least half a day to explore, there are over 7000 animals. And if you’re with small children the Petting Zoo can eat up a whole afternoon by itself.
If you decide not to buy a City Card and you don’t want to walk, think long and hard before you opt to hire a bike in Barcelona. Fine for city’s Boardwalk and beachy bits, but this isn’t really a city to cycle no matter how good a bargain it seems.
Finally, if you are looking for further tips or suggestion on Things to do on a small budget, please have a look at our compact Barcelona infographic.