Compared to other major European cities such as London and Paris, Barcelona is surprisingly affordable. Especially when you consider how popular the city is. Fortunately, there are tons of free things to do in Barcelona that make it relatively easy to stick to your budget.
With beaches, parks, and plazas to explore, you can lose days simply wandering around the city and getting to know the different neighborhoods. But it’s good to know tips and tricks like how to visit a museum for free. This guide to things to do in Barcelona for free has you covered.
Free Things to do in Barcelona
Let’s jump in with all the free stuff to do in Barcelona. This list covers ideas for all seasons and there’s something to suit all types of travelers.
We’ve also included some of the best cheap things to do in Barcelona.
1. Admire the surreal architecture
Barcelona is awash with incredible architecture, many of which were drawn up by none other than Antoni Gaudí.
As the emblem of the city, you’ll likely want to visit La Sagrada Família. While absolutely worthy of a trip inside, it’s not necessarily vital to enter the church. Depicting the life of Jesus Christ, the exterior is a treat in itself. If you invest in an audio guide, such as the City Guide of Barcelona app, this will help you understand the significance of the building.
Furthermore, you can score lovely views from two plazas bordering the masterpiece: the Plaça de Gaudí and the Plaça de la Sagrada Família.
Other buildings that you can appreciate from the street for free include Casa Batlló, Casa Milà, Palau Güell, Casa Lleó Morera, and Casa Amatller. In fact, the whole of Passeig de Grácia deserves a stroll.
Even just wandering the neighborhoods without a specific plan and seeing which buildings you stumble upon constitutes one of the coolest free things to do in Barcelona.
2. Visit a museum for free
While the museums in Barcelona are generally not free, many have select days where admission is waived – at least for a couple of hours. However, this is where you’ll need to be prepared to do a little research and forward planning based on your specific interests.
To get you started, here are the schedules for some of the main museums:
- Barcelona History Museum (MUHBA) – free entry all day on the first Sunday of the month, free on other Sundays from 3 pm – 8 pm.
- National Art Museum of Catalonia (MNAC) – free all Saturdays from 3 pm onwards, and the first Sundays of each month. You need to reserve free tickets online.
- Barcelona Design Museum – free all Sunday afternoons from 3 pm – 8 pm and all day on the first Sunday of each month.
- Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (CCCB) – free every Sunday after 3 pm but again you need to reserve tickets ahead of your visit.
- Picasso Museum – free on Thursdays after 4 pm and the first Sunday of the month. Again, reservations are required for free tickets.
- Maritime Museum (MMB) – free every Sunday after 3 pm.
In terms of pre-booking free tickets, you should aim to secure these around 4/5 days before the date you intend to visit.
Even if your dates don’t make it possible to get a free entry, most museums offer concessions to those under 25 and those over 65. In addition, some places have really economical prices anyway so visiting a museum is still one of the top cheap things to do in Barcelona!
3. Wander along La Rambla
Spanning around half a mile, La Rambla connects Plaça de Catalunya with the Monument a Colom. It’s one of the most famous parts of Barcelona, with historic buildings flanking the street including posh mansions and opulent theaters.
Providing you don’t fall into an impulse shopping spree in the shops, wandering along La Rambla is one of the classic things to do in Barcelona for free. You can visit at any time of day but it’s most pleasant in the morning. The avenue fills up around midday with street vendors, performers, and tourists. It only takes around 20 minutes to walk from one end to the other, but you might want to take your time for photos and pottering down the smaller streets.
Just bear in mind that pickpockets are particularly active on La Rambla, so pay close attention to your belongings.
4. Watch the boats from Rambla de Mar
Where La Rambla ends, Rambla de Mar begins!
This is a pedestrian walkway constructed in 1994 by Albert Viaplana and Helio Piñón. Suspended over the sea, its creation is representative of Barcelona’s connection to the Mediterranean Sea. From a practical point of view, the wavy design is so that boats can get in and out of the harbor.
As well as being the setting for Barcelona Aquarium and a dozen or so restaurants and ice cream joints, Rambla de Mar is a great spot to clear your head.
You can visit Rambla de Mar at any time of day. However, this is one of the most atmospheric and free things in Barcelona to experience early in the morning or in the evening.
5. Sunbathe in Ciutadella Park
In keeping with the other beautiful cities in Spain, Barcelona is teeming with gorgeous green spaces.
Ciutadella Park (Parc de la Ciutadella) is by far one of the prettiest places to wander or spend a lazy afternoon in the sun. Laid out in the late 19th century, this was the only public park in the city until a few decades later.
Make a beeline to the northeast corner and you’ll see a stunning fountain that gives the Trevi Fountain a run for its money. Designed by Josep Fontserè, the centerpiece below the monumental arch is a statue showing the birth of Venus in her clam. Mythological creatures surround the goddess and it’s a lovely spot for photography and cooling down.
Elsewhere, the park is littered with statues, manicured gardens, and water features. Barcelona Zoo occupies the southern segment but there’s a fee to enter.
Arc de Triomf is the closest metro station and is where you can also see the archway.
6. Bask on the beaches of Barceloneta
Blessed with gorgeous sandy beaches, basking under the sun is easily one of the top things to do in Barcelona for free in the summer!
Barceloneta, the old fishing quarter, is the key beach zone in Barcelona for residents. Consisting of a string of beaches, the principal option is Barceloneta Beach. This one overlaps with Sant Sebastià, Sant Miquel, and Somorrostro beaches.
These beaches have good amenities including seasonal lifeguards, bathrooms, and playgrounds for children. Loungers are available to rent but you can save some euros by laying out your towel on the sand.
In case you get peckish, paella joints and seafood eateries line the seaside promenade. After all, food is an essential part of your trip to Barcelona! You can also explore the neighborhood streets, plazas, and parks.
Besides the beaches of Barceloneta, you can head a little further up the coast to those of La Plata. It’s possible to swim and surf in Barcelona during summer, while they’re still pleasant for a walk and a sunny picnic during the winter months. In fact, Barcelona is one of the warmest places in Spain in winter.
7. Check out the views from Turó de la Rovira
Parc Güell is known for its epic panoramas of Barcelona. Plus, of course, the mosaic structures and sculptures by Gaudí. But an alternative (and less busy) option for free views is Turó de la Rovira at the neighboring Parc del Guinardó.
Turó de la Rovira is a hill that played an important role during the Spanish Civil War. This site contained bunkers that were used for anti-aircraft weaponry and later as shantytown lodging following the Second World War. The team at MUHBA has restored the bunkers and added a small museum alongside them.
However, it’s the lookout that draws the crowds, offering a sweeping view across the city toward the Mediterranean Sea. Although wonderful during the day too, this is one of the best free things to do in Barcelona at sunrise or sunset.
It’s a bit of a walk from the city center, so you’ll want to take a bus. Numbers 22 and 24 depart from Plaça de Catalunya or you can take the metro to Alfons X and walk from there.
Note that it’s a short but extremely steep walk to the viewpoint.
8. Born Centre Cultural
Located near Ciutadella Park, Born Centre Cultural is one of the most interesting places to visit in Barcelona for free for history buffs.
This is the archaeological site of an old market building that was constructed over the medieval city. Many of the original buildings were destroyed following the siege of Barcelona in 1713-1714.
You can pop your head into the main hall for free. There are a couple of signs to help you make sense of the site.
However, if you want to learn more about the history relating to the excavation and the siege, you can book a tour on the spot. Licensed guides are generally available near the entrance and they charge a couple of euros per person.
9. Plaza hopping in Barcelona
As with all the beautiful Spanish cities, Barcelona is a patchwork of plazas. Exploring these plazas is one of the best free things to do in Barcelona on a warm, sunny day.
Plaça de Catalunya is the one you’ll likely pass through several times. This huge plaza basically marks the city center and is surrounded by department stores and fast food chains. It’s full of plants, trees, and flowers with steps where you can rest your feet.
In contrast, Plaça Reial is smaller with palm trees supplying more of a Mediterranean vibe. This is where you can track down Gaudí’s first commissioned work for Barcelona – lampposts with dragon-headed serpents!
Plaça de l’Ictineo is a seaside option where you can enjoy a sea breeze while the octagonal plaza off Rambla del Raval contains a giant cat sculpture.
Note that when plaza hopping, you might just have to stay hydrated with the occasional al fresco glass of sangria or cerveza.
10. Surf the food markets
Eating is a necessity while in Barcelona! Even if you’ve booked self-catered accommodation, you’ll still need to buy food and there’s no better place to stock up on ingredients than at the markets.
The flagship Mercat de la Boqueria is one of the coolest places to visit in Barcelona for free. Located just off La Rambla, it’s open from 8 am – 8.30 pm, Monday through Saturday. Items on sale include fruits, vegetables, seafood, cheeses, meats, and nuts. If you want to try your hand at making Catalan dishes, this is a great starting point.
While Mercat de la Boqueria is worthy of a visit for the variety and experience, you’ll find slightly better prices at the Barceloneta, Santa Caterina, and Llibertat markets. But if you pass any other markets on your travels around the city, be sure to stop.
Even if you do end up picking up some gifts to take home, browsing markets still counts as one of your cheap things to do in Barcelona.
11. Explore Montjuïc Hill
Rounding off with one of the free things to do in Barcelona that will fill at least half a day, Montjuïc is a hill south of the city center.
Rising to 178 meters, Montjuïc provides 360-degree viewpoints for free and without the need for public transport. At the top, you’ll find a 17th-century castle, botanical gardens, and several museums, devoted to art, archaeology, ethnology, and sports.
All of these attractions carry a fee, but you can choose to visit the hill purely for the walk and the views.
Furthermore, Montjuïc Castle has free entry every Sunday after 3 pm and all day on the first Sunday of the month. It’s pretty cheap anyway, plus – you know that these museums have free admission days as well.
As Montjuïc was used as grounds for the 1992 Olympic Games, you can have a peek into the stadium. Overall, Montjuïc is one of the best places to visit in Barcelona for free as a family, couple, or on your own.