If you’re traveling on a tight budget, don’t worry! There is a great selection of free things to do in Barcelona. It’s such a lively city, so free activities aren’t just limited to a day at the museum.
Here are my top picks, and they aren’t just activities for tourists either.
1. Catch a movie at an open-air cinema on the beach
During the summer, free movie nights are held right on the sand. The evening kicks off with a free concert before the sun sets and the feature film begins.
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2. Discover Catalan traditions
Experience La Mercè or Festa Major de Gràcia, two of the most important local festivities held in summer. The best part is that almost all of the activities are completely free. There are too many events to see them all, but the highlights of La Mercè include the parade of giants, correfoc (fire run), castellers (human towers), projections on the city hall, and the many concerts and theater performances held throughout the city.
3. Listen to music in the park
For three months in the summer, Barcelona’s parks are transformed into a lively space with a variety of free concerts ranging from blues and classical music to jazz. The city gets extremely crowded during this time and the outdoor music sessions are a welcome reprieve from urban life.
4. Take in the views from Tibidabo
The sights from the Tibidabo amusement park are great, but walk a bit further to the top of the Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for a truly spectacular view. There’s many ways to get there, but the nicest is an hour-long hike through Collserola Park from the Baixador de Vallvidrera train station, arriving to Tibidabo from behind.
5. Get a tan at the beach
Although it’s not the most beautiful beach, Barceloneta is just minutes from the city center and extremely popular with locals and tourists. Barcelona has seven beaches with nearly three miles of coastline, adding to the city’s appeal. Besides lying on the beach, many people enjoy swimming, stand up paddle boarding, roller blading, and taking long walks on the boardwalk.
6. Spend an afternoon at Van Van Market
Van Van Market brings together some of the best food trucks in Barcelona and organizes free concerts and activities for children. Each event is held in a different location and although entrance to the market is free, it’s difficult not to splurge on the delicious food and drinks.
7. Picnic at Bunkers del Carmel
Bunkers del Carmel sits high atop Turó de la Rovira and has one of the best panoramic views of the city. The bunkers were once an anti-aircraft battery used during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. It’s a great spot to bring a picnic and watch the sunset.
8. Kick back in Ciutadella Park
Ciutadella Park is the city’s most central park and a meeting point for acro-yogis, slackliners and drummers. In the summer, it can be hard to find a spot in the shade since locals and tourists flock to this oasis for a tanning session, picnic or walk.
9. Go on a self-guided architecture tour
Barcelona is renowned for it’s Catalan modernisme architecture and quirky buildings. Some of the most famous are Casa Batlló, Casa Millà, Sagrada Família and Palau de la Música Catalana, all of which can be seen for free from the street. Lesser known gems include Hospital de Sant Pau, Casa de les Punxes and Casa Vicens, the later of which is currently covered for restorations and will reopen in Fall 2017.
10. Wander the lesser known cathedrals
La Sagrada Família may get all the attention, but Barcelona has many other stunning cathedrals as well. Take a look inside the gothic style Catedral de Barcelona or Basílica de Santa Maria del Mar. Shoulders and legs up to the knee must be covered in order to enter any of the cathedrals and no visitors are allowed in during mass.
11. Watch the Magic Fountain display
In the evenings, the Magic Fountain turns on for a beautiful water and light show timed to an assortment of music like hits from the 80s, movie soundtracks and Spanish classical music. The best view is where the National Museum of Catalan Art up on the hill is in the background. Shows run on Friday and Saturday nights throughout the year and Thursday to Sunday from June to August.
12. Join a free walking tour
Runner Beans’ Free Walking Tours Barcelona offers a Gaudí architecture route and also a tour of the Gothic Quarter, that touches upon history, culture and historical figures, while visiting the main tourist hot spots and lesser known sites. For a self guided tour, check out the itineraries on Barcelona Eat Local, which blends sightseeing with culinary hotspots.