If you’re considering making Barcelona, Spain, your next destination, use these tips below to save on some cash!
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Overall, you’ll have a few big items you need to worry about when planning your trip. Flight, Accomodation, Transportation and Adventure.
Flights to Barcelona
When you can, it makes sense to use points and miles for your flight. When I traveled to Spain, I used my CapitalOne Venutre cards to get us across the Atlantic for free. While I understand not everybody uses travel reward cards, it does significantly save on your budget.
If you have not done so already, read through My Favorite Travel Rewards Credit Cards.
If you’re not a pro on using Google Flights, read The Ultimate Guide to Google Flights & Becoming a Travel Pro.
Skyscaner is a great website to browse destinations that inspire you. Skyscanner check’s 1,200 travel companies, so you don’t have to. Sign up for Price Alerts and we’ll tell you as soon as prices change on a flight you like. Then you can decide whether to book — or not.
Hopper is a unique app that predicts current and future flight prices. It’s unique algorithm helps us travelers get a beat on when a flight price may jump. Hopper sends you alerts from your tracked flights that suggest “buy now” or “wait for a better price.” Their slogan is “never overpay for travel again”.
When to Visit Barcelona
Europe is jam-packed with travelers in the summer. Particularly in July and August, the crowds in Barcelona are huge and the prices are sky-high. While a lot of travelers come to Barcelona in the summer to enjoy the great weather and plazas, you can get good weather throughout much of the year.
Traveler Tip: Visit During the Shoulder Season
Shoulder seasons are May and September. Barcelona is best enjoyed during the summer season, but shoulder season is a great way to save a ton of money. Starting in April, afternoons get up to 20 degrees C (68 degrees F) and they stay there until well into October. Winter months are colder for the Mediterranean city of Barcelona, be prepared with jackets, gloves and a hat.
To maximize the weather while minimizing prices and crowds, opt for the couple of months on either side of summer. You’ll save some serious cash and have a better time across the board.
Where to Stay in Barcelona
Location, location, location!
First off, location will always be your most important decision. You should base all your plans around the location you want and then start picking out your accommodations and narrowing down your list.
Also, note that while you may love a specific location, you may not be able to fit it in your budget. So, you may end up with the next best thing, which is not always a deal breaker. You may just need to work a little harder to make the most of it.
Or, if location is everything, you may want to allocate most of your budget to your accommodation and save elsewhere. Pick a place that is of great value to you but don’t blow your budget. Let’s be real, you’re not going to stay in the hotel all day, are you?
Forget about staying in Las Ramblas unless you love overly crowded, expensive, and a bit generic. This popular pedestrian street is worth a stroll but it’s not a good place to stay or eat. Expect sky-high prices and a lot people.
Gràcia is where you can find budget accommodations, hostels and more exquisite (for a price) stays. You will find mostly locals here, as its the business district of Barcelona. It’s a great value if you’re willing to travel into the city center. The vibe here is more casual and relaxed than the inner city. There are many attractions in this area including Park Guell, Mt Tibadabo and Casa Vicens. Gracia is a great place to stay but it’s far from the beach.
What I love about Barcelona is it’s public transportation network. Good thing, because, Uber and Lyft are banned. However, buses and trains make it easy and convenient to get around.
El Ravel is just West of the city center and while cheaper accomodations can be found here, its location is just OK. The nearest attractions include The Magic Fountain, Montjuïc Castle, Mercat de Sant Antoni, and Plaça d’Espanya. It’s a great area full of friendly locals and tourists alike, but it’s slightly outside the central hub. Stay here if you want to be outside the chaos of the city and can afford to take a 5 minute bus ride to get to the beach or Las Ramlas.
Eixample, Catalan for ”expansion’ or ‘Expansion District”, is one of the upcoming areas to stay, just outside the city center. It’s a bridge town between the old city and Grecia. This makes it a solid choice to get to any attraction throughout the city. It’s less congested than Las Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter. The best part, you’re steps away from La Sagrada Familia! Accommodation can still be found for a good price, but I expect that to change in the next few years as La Sagrada Familia becomes closer to being finished.
Last but not least, the Gothic Quarter. The Gothic Quarter is the historic centre of the old city of Barcelona. It stretches from La Rambla to Via Laietana, and from the Mediterranean seafront to the Ronda de Sant Pere. It is a part of Ciutat Vella district. The Gothic Quarter comes at a major premium though. While you can find a few bargains in this central spot, they are few and far between. If you must stay here, and it’s a gorgeous area, you will pay for the ambiance, architecture and location.
Here are a few affordable places to stay in Barcelona that I love:
Hotel Ciutat de Barcelona
Hotel Ciutat de Barcelona, while not directly in the Gothic Quarter, is just a couple blocks East. So, you stay in roughly the same location, but at half the cost. Also, if you fancy a nice little rooftop pool and lounge area, this one is for you. Great value!
Bright & Colorful Apartment near Arc de Trimof
Search AirBnb for “LOVELY APARTMENT IN TRIUMPH ARCH“. This is for those really saving on their budget, single or couples. Everything you need and in a great location. Nothing fancy, but clean and get’s the job done.
Catalonia Avinyó, Barcelona
This newly remodeled and renovated hotel a few blocks away from La Rambla is away from the busy streets. Catalonia Avinyó, Barcelona is located in the Gothic Quarter and affordable. This is one of those gems. It makes a great location for shopping and being in the heart of the action.
Hotel Colón Barcelona
Hotel Colón Barcelona is in the heart of the city and while you’ll pay a premium for this luxury stay, its location is the absolute best. Their rooftop terrace, spa pool and restaurant looks right at the Cathedral of Barcelona. I raved about this location in The Best Spain Road Trip Itinerary. Expect to pay around $250US or $220€ per night.
Read More: The Best Spain Road Trip Itinerary
Public Transportation in Barcelona
This one is pretty easy. Almost always, public transportation is the way to go in Barcelona, Spain. You can even get an Hola Barcelona Travel Card for roughly 30€. It entitles you to unlimited travel across the city’s metro and bus network, as well as the RENFE suburban trains network.
You can get these cards for 48, 72, 96 or 120 hours, and they’ll give you the freedom of the city.
You can even use this card to get to the airport. It’s a major savings over hiring a taxi or bus driver.
Or, if you’re feeling adventurous and have experience on two wheels, I highly recommend renting a Vespa from Via Vespa! Renting a vespa is so much fun and super easy. It makes parking a breeze and hopping from location to location quicker. For around 35€-45€, you’ll have the freedom to roll wherever you want for the day. Hit the open road or explore lesser known roads, towns and spaces throughout the city.
Adventures and Attractions in Barcelona
Surprise, there are a lot of things to do for FREE in Barcelona. That’s right, no strings attached, absolutely free.
If you’re there on a Sunday, hit the museums. All-day on the first Sunday of each month, and every Sunday between 3-8 pm, the majority of the city-operated museums are free.
Mercado La Boqueria
The “Goat Market” is an organized chaos of vendors selling smoothies, fresh meat, baguette’s and produce. It’s America’s version of a fresh market fruit stand in a giant tent. It’s the perfect place to find inexpensive local veggies, fruits, cheese, and ready-made snacks to pack for a picnic. Once you are all stocked up, head over to one of the stunning local parks. Great spot for some classic instagram pics and good eats!
Parks like Ciutadella, Cervantes, and Palau Reial are must-visits in Barcelona. My favorite park in the city was Ciutadella Park and it was only two blocks away from our hotel, Hotel Ciutat de Barcelona. If one were to make an argument, Park Güell is also free. However, the famous tile wall and overlook is not free. That is extra, and speaking of extra, I want to introduce….
Bonus: If you travel outside the city to Mt Tibadabo, it’s free to walk around and get amazing views of the city of Barcelona. On clear days you can see all the way to the Mediterranean!
Antoni Gaudi Free Walking Tour
I love free and the best free thing to do may be the Antoni Gaudi walking tour. You could do one of two things here. You can map out your favorite Gaudi architecture and make a day of it and walk yourself- Places like La Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló, Casa Mila and Parc Güell are picture-perfect from the exterior.
Or you may join a free walking tour already designed for you. There are tons of them all day and night. Led by a local at, https://freewalkingtoursbarcelona.com/. These tours are not just limited to Gaudi architecture, so if you’re not really into architecture, no worries they have something for everybody planned. While the tours are free, tips are usually appreciated for a locals hard work.
Travel Tip: If you want to see more of Gaudi and don’t have a problem spending a little money, I’d suggest buying your tickets online, way ahead of time!
If you want to discover some places in more detail, I’d suggest hiring a trained guide like the options below.
Spain has some of the greatest food in the world—you’ve just got to know where to look! As discussed earlier, Mercado de La Boqueria is one of the top spots to grab a bit on the go or for cheap. I’d highly recommend getting over to Mercat de Santa Caterina or Mercat de Sant Antoni as well to shop like a local.
Traveler Tip: Some of the stalls are cash only or have a surcharge for using cards. Be sure to arrive with at least a few euros in your pocket.
The big thing in Spain is Menu del Dia or Menu of the Day! Every day from roughly 1pm to 4 pm, you’ll find deals on lunch from 9€ – 14€. We are talking about a three course meal. That means you can save or skip dinner and snack on some tapas later that evening, making is a “cheap eats”.
Lunch is traditionally the biggest meal of the day in Spain so you are probably looking at a three-course meal with wine.
Usually the lunch consists of soup or salad, bread, main course with a side dish, dessert, and coffee. Wine or water is normally included as well. The Menu del Dia was invested to help the hard working and local people but its a saint for travelers too!
Drinks in Barcelona
Most drinks are cheap in Spain compared to the rest of the world. Wine, especially is very cheap. Spain is one of the biggest wine-producing countries on earth. That means the wine is not only world-class, but cheap! Cava and vermut are the typical drinks of choice. While you will find sangria, it’s better and more popular in the Andalucia region and southern Spain.
Traveler Tip: You can bring along an empty water bottle (they charge by the liter so make sure it’s at least that size) or you can grab a refillable bottle for a small price. More often than not, they are happy to give you samples directly from the barrel so you can get an ultra-affordable wine tasting on the fly.
If wine is not your thing, have a locally brewed cerveza (beer) for a few euros or less. Salud!
Feeling inspired? Check out everything you need to know for a great Spain trip!