How to explore Barcelona for LESS

Artsy, cosmopolitan and effortlessly cool, Barcelona is the best place for a summer getaway with friends, lover or even a lifetime partner. There’s always something going on, whether it’s local music festivals, funky amusement parks or wine and food tastings; the city breathes life and you can feel it everywhere you go.

I’ve always dreamt about coming to Barcelona and when my mom outran me two years ago, I knew I had to plan my trip for as soon as possible. I mean, the pictures she was sending me were simply breathtaking: the food and wine, beaches and sunny and clear skies, all the colorful shops and little cute cafes and bars, I just knew this was the right place for me.

Knowing that we have already planned a sailing trip to Croatia in June, and I had another small trip to Croatia planned with my best friends, plus music festivals and summer activities in Bratislava on top of that, me and my boyfriend knew that our trip to Barcelona must be low budget.

What I love about Barcelona the most is, that it has a perfect mix of everything you want to have in the place you live in. Big city with many places to go and explore, a lot of green spaces and wildlife, cute edgy coffee shops, bars and restaurants, great local food, nightlife, exotic fashion and a most importantly, the beach.

Because I loved it so much I decided to share my adventures with you, like-minded travelers.

Therefore, to find out more about this amazing city and get some help with planning your trip, I introduce you to the best ever guide to Barcelona, written by me.

Where to get tickets?

Just like with every other vacation, I advise you to start looking for flight tickets at least two months in advance. This way you’ll have more time to decide on a specific date and you won’t be forced to buy overpriced tickets. The best site to look at is skyscanner.com because it automatically generates the cheapest tickets for you.

You can also book tickets with Ryanair, as they tend to be the cheapest, but bear in mind that Ryanair doesn’t flight directly to the main Barcelona airport but to Girona, which is located about 50 minutes from central Barcelona. However, you can still get a bus from Girona airport to Barcelona for 14 euro. If you don’t mind spending one hour on the bus, you can easily save a lot of money.

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Me and my boyfriend booked tickets to Girona airport by a mistake because we didn’t double-check the acronym of the airport, but we were lucky because it saved us around 70 euro + our friend came to pick us up at the airport- so free transport to Barcelona. One roundtrip ticket per person cost us 75 euro, and we bought it two months in advance.

Weather

The weather in Barcelona is very hot during summer, starting from May to the end of September, but it can also be nice to explore in spring months or late autumn.In winter there is a small possibility of rain, but otherwise, it’s quite dry.

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Language

The language spoken is both Spanish and Catalan and most of the street signs, in the tube or even in restaurants have both Spanish and Catalan translations. This is because Barcelona is a part of Catalunya, an autonomous community of Spain.Most of the older generation speaks Catalan, but Spanish people can easily understand everything. (Something like Czech and Slovak language) Tourists wouldn’t spot the difference.Most of the people working in customer service(and young people) also speak English, so you shouldn’t have any difficulties with communication.Just don’t pick the oldest man on the street when asking for directions.

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Currency

The currency in Spain is euro- so for British people, everything will seem a bit cheaper than in the UK.For us, who have had euro for a long time it’s easy because we don’t have to exchange any money, however, Barcelona is a bit more expensive than our capital city so be ready for it.

You might want to check out the currency at the time of your trip just in case.

Accommodation

Accommodation will definitely be the most expensive part of your stay in Barcelona.If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on expensive hotels, you should definitely check out Airbnb and booking.com. They have some very nice apartments/rooms for affordable prices.(starting at 20 euro per night per person) In case you want to really save money on accommodation and perhaps spend more money on food and attractions, you can also check out apartments and hotels in some neighboring small cities just next to Barcelona.We stayed in Terrassa at my boyfriend’s friend’s house, which is about 30-40 minute drive to Barcelona’s city center.We couldn’t complain because we had it for free and we had a ride to town every day. Once or twice we took a train, which costs 5 euro per person and took about 1 hour. The train is an affordable and fast transport if you decide to accommodate outside of Barcelona.

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Transport in the city

Barcelona has a tube which makes it super easy to get anywhere you want. It runs every day except during the night(Friday until 2:00 am)

It’s best to buy a T10 ticket, which gives you 10 rides and you can use it whenever you want until the end of the calendar year.Unfortunately, the ticket can’t be returned if you don’t use all of the rides.(But you will anyway) The ticket system is not quite like in London and more people can enter the platform with the same ticket.

The T10 tickets cost 9,95 euro, so 1 ride equals 1 euro.(much cheaper than London)

However, Barcelona also has buses and everything in the center is easy to reach on foot or a bike.We wanted to bring longboards with us, but paying extra luggage for them discouraged us.

Food

Food in Barcelona, just like wherever in Spain is AMAZING. You can look forward trying amazing tapas everywhere you go.(little appetizers like bruschetta with something on top, chorizo, little dough cups stuffed with meat and veg, seafood etc.)  Tapas bars and restaurants also offer a great selection of cocktails like Margarita and Mojito and amazing craft beer.

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You should definitely try local Paella and Sangria (drink). They have it in pretty much every restaurant and sometimes they also sell it in the street. Street markets are another great way to find tasty food from locals. They are also much cheaper than restaurants if you wish to grab a quick lunch or snack.

Because I am obsessed with seafood, I was eating paella all the time, but it’s worth to try street hot dogs and burritos and also some typical Spanish ham and salami.

Barcelona also has its own craft cerveza (beer) called Moritz. They sell it in every grocery store and off-licence and it’s very good.(Not that I am into beers) If you want to stick to the beers you know, what’s a better place to drink Corona and Desperados at than Spain? Maybe only Mexico.

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Fried calamari- food I’d die for.

Attractions and must-see places:

Barceloneta beach

It’s very crowded because a lot of residents, as well as tourists, go there every day, but it’s definitely something you have to check out at least once. The beach is 4.2km long and you can walk, skate or borrow a scooter to drive along on the promenade. There is a lot of local people selling beautiful boho beach towels, sangrias, mojitos and other alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.( but they are overpriced so you should definitely try to bargain.) The beach bars and restaurants along the promenade are a bit pricey, but if you want to take a break from tanning and swimming and have a nice lunch at the beach, you can do that here. Otherwise, if you walk a bit further from the beach to the city, you’ll find the same food much cheaper.

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If you want to check out a different beach, I advise you to go to Girona as it has a lot of beautiful and peaceful places to explore. We went to Costa Brava and we really enjoyed it.

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Park Guel

One of the most colorful, highest and most visited places in Barcelona.It’s a public park, composed of gardens, houses and architectonic elements and it’s located on a Carmel Hill, on the northern side of Barcelona.It’s a bit of a hike I must say because you have to walk a lot of stairs and streets to get there, but it’s definitely worth it. Started by Gaudi himself, and finished by Catalan artist Eusebi Guell, this park is an amazing example of Gaudi’s work. Most of the sculptures are made from mosaic; little pieces of colorful glass and china assembled together. The face of Gaudi’s park is a multicolored mosaic salamander called “El Drac”(dragon).

You can buy tickets in the office when you get there, but because the park has limited number of entries at a time, it’s always safer to buy them in advance. When you walk all the way to the top of the park, you can sit on the ground and enjoy the stunning view while sipping on a cold beer and watching the sunset.(I advise you to put some in your backpack before leaving the city)

The best place to buy tickets: http://www.parkguell.cat/en/buy-tickets/  the price for this without a guided tour is 7 euro.

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Sagrada Familia

It’s the most iconic and most visited monument in Barcelona. The basilica is an enormous Roman Catholic Church designed by Antonio Gaudí.Gaudí devoted his last years to the project, and at the time of his death at age 73 in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete. Therefore, architects are still working on this masterpiece, to preserve Gaudi’s lifetime work and his memory. The estimated date of completion is 2028.

Again, you can buy tickets in the ticket office in Sagrada Familia, but as they are usually sold out for that day, or you have to stand in a long queue in the heat, it’s better to get them online.

The best place to get them at is: http://www.sagradafamilia.org/en/tickets/

It’s also great to get the extra ticket so you can explore the two facades, Nativity and Passion. You can take a lift and then stairs almost all the way up to see the amazing views. One of the facades is facing the sea, while the other one is facing the city and you have to choose in advance which one you want to visit.The third facade Glory is yet to be completed.

An interesting fact is, that there is no construction funding for Sagrada Familia and the only source of funding for Gaudi’s project are the money from tickets bought by its visitors.

The ticket for Sagrada Familia with audio guide and visit to towers is 29 euro.(It’s worth it)

Price for a ticket without towers is 22 euro with the audio guide or 14 euro without the audio guide.

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Park de La Ciutadella

There’s a lot of nice, green parks and places in Barcelona where you can see quite a lot of wildlife like for example different colorful parrots and butterflies, but also just walk through or chill with the company of a cold drink.

One of the most famous ones is Park de La Ciutadella. It’s been created in the 19th century and it was one of the only green spaces at the time. It consists of a small lake offering a romantic attraction in form of boats which you can borrow for an hour, a lot of palms and green spaces to walk through and a huge fountain.

 

The park is free

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City centre

Because shops like Zara, Bershka and Pull and Bear are all Spanish brands, you can only guess how many of them there are in Barcelona. I also feel like everything they sell there totally matches the Spanish mood. It finally all makes sense to me! haha.

Barcelona has some great designer shops as well, but ain’t nobody got money for that. I focused on finding little local shops where they sell authentic jewelry and clothes.I found one especially nice one, where I bought a cute bracelet. I also went to check out the Spanish version of &Other Stories.(I just love this store) I bought myself an overpriced ring which broke after one party back home in Bratislava.(so never buying jewelry there again/or anything actually until I’m not employed full-time)

Wherever we went in the center, it was amazing. The architecture- either made by Gaudi or Gaudi inspired, little cafes and bars, squares, little narrow streets and the people are just lovely. Barcelona is definitely a great place to get lost in, as it makes you find the true gems, like local shops and pubs.

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La Rambla

It’s 1.2 kilometers long, tree lined street with shops and markets connecting Placa de la Catalunya and the port. It’s usually crowded with tourists, but it offers an amazing opportunity to walk through the city and do some souvenir shopping. I bought some super cute cactuses and beautiful mosaic fridge magnets for us and my family. Everything in Barcelona just seems more colorful, live and funky and I totally love this vibe!

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La Boqueria Mercat

La Boqueria Mercat is a famous market full of fresh fruit, smoothies, fish and local food such as chorizo, seafood, hams and much more.The place is huge and it bursts with millions of colors and amazing smells.Just because of the cheap smoothies(one for 1 euro) we had to go back three times.

Between the little stalls, there are also quick restaurants with tapas and local food, so you can also stay there for a midday snack.We couldn’t find a free space so we only grabbed some pick and mix seafood in a cup but it was delicious anyway.

The opening hours vary every day so you should check it out before on Google  or http://www.boqueria.info/index.php?lang=en

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Tapas bars

Tapas are served everywhere in Barcelona but mostly in pubs to accompany the beer or in special tapas bars. One of the famous streets with bars selling tapas is San Antoni. The street is always full of people, sitting both outside and inside the bars and enjoying beers, cocktails and amazing food.

The best thing is, that you can do bar-hoping, so go from one bar to another and try different tapas in each of them.If you can’t find any seating in the bar you want, you can always pay for the food in advance and eat it on the street.And if you get the well-known feeling, that enough is never enough, eat on, because most of the tapas are cheap and start at a price of 1 euro.This was an amazing experience and even though we spent quite a lot of money on it because we wanted to try everything, it was definitely worth it and I would do it all again.

If you want to know exact names of the best tapas bars in Barcelona, you can find them at: timeout.com/barcelona

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Neighborhood festivals

These run from the beginning of august until the end of august, but every time in a different area of Barcelona.If it wasn’t for our Spanish friend, we wouldn’t even know about it!And for me, they were one of the best parts of my visit to Barcelona.

During the day we walked through colorful little streets, each of them being decorated by locals in a different theme. For most of the decorations, they used recyclable plastic that would otherwise go to waste.I think it looked totally smashing!The streets were filled with kids, great music and cocktails and it was nice to get a bit of rest from the sun.

During the night we danced to authentic Spanish songs played by local bands, we drank beers sitting on the hot pavement and ate local food. Yeah, it was definitely one of the things that made Barcelona so authentic and memorable for us.

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Cable Car

The cable car which connects the port and Montjuïc is also a great way to spend a sunny afternoon and get an amazing view of the Barcelona city and the sea.Unfortunately, we haven’t had time to try this attraction, but at least we have a reason to come back.

Round trip on Cable car costs 16.50 euro

Font Magica and Palau Nacional

Font Magica is the biggest fountain in Barcelona, built in 1929. Pretty old huh? It operates on recycled water to save the drinking water in the city.During the night, it’s lit with different colorful lights and sometimes it even serves as a background for ballet and music concerts.It’s also a site to watch fireworks from, during the Barcelona’s famous festival La Merce.

Palau Nacional lays just above the fountain and is a home to National Art Museum of Catalunya. We didn’t go inside, but there is a pretty nice view from up there. You can have a coffee or a beer with the view, walk through the green areas and buy some cheap souvenirs sold by the locals.

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Parties

Parties in Barcelona are almost everywhere. In the expensive beach clubs alongside the Barcelonetta beach, in the neighborhoods or in other, authentic clubs.Because I hate club music, we went to a drum and bass party located a bit further from the city center. I can’t remember the name of the club now, but google or timeout is a good way to find any club and type of music you’re looking for. If you’re more into heels and dresses, check out the clubs located near the beach. Also good for drunk skinny dipping or morning refresh.

Very useful site to check out is http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com

The whole trip with tickets, food, parties, one night stay in Airbnb in Barcelona, travel and souvenirs+ gas cost each of us around 400 euro. However, even though our accommodation was free, we wanted to have fun and were spending quite a lot on food, drinks and souvenirs.With Airbnb for 4-5 nights, it could cost you the same price if you don’t mind cooking your own food from time to time.

My fav:

All of the things I mentioned were simply amazing.Barcelona is, therefore, my number one on the list of the most beautiful and interesting European cities. I’ll always be happy to come back and explore it all again!

We were very lucky for having a local friend who took us to all the amazing places and showed us things we wouldn’t normally have a chance to see. For example, a secret bar and garden (on top of an off-license and souvenir shop) where they do yahitos (mojito with Jagermeister)

I genuinely love summer, because you can sit down on the warm pavement outside and enjoy simple moments with friends, but doing all this in Barcelona is even better.So don’t be scared just to wander around at night, even if you don’t know where you’re going. You pretty sure will find something cool going on in this city.

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