Few cities in the world are as important to modern art as Barcelona. With a basilica designed by a modern artist and the world’s best Pablo Picasso museum, this is an essential destination for anyone interested in the history of art. And with Roman ruins and a medieval city center, there are many more reasons to visit the most beautiful city in Europe.
Although Barcelona is a popular destination, traveling there does not have to be expensive. Here are 5 easy ways to travel well in Barcelona while on a budget.
#1. Get there for less
Because Barcelona is such a popular destination, there is a wide range of flights to choose from. Rather than going with your usual favorite airline, take the time to compare the alternatives. Also, book around 3 months in advance to secure the cheapest tickets.
Barcelona is well served by budget airlines, such as Ryan Air and EasyJet. If you go on flight comparison websites, such as Kayak or Skyscanner, you can compare the services offered by different airlines. Let’s look at flights from JFK to Barcelona El Prat and make some comparisons.
Using Kayak’s data for a weekday in February 2021, you could fly from NYC to Barcelona via Lisbon (11 hours 30 minutes) with TAP Air Portugal for as little as $112 or take a direct (7 hours 45 minutes) flight with Level for $126. Skyscanner offers the same TAP Air Portugal flight via Lisbon for $107 and a direct (7 hours 45 minutes) flight with Iberia for $118.
A huge factor in flights to Barcelona is the time of year. During key public holidays, such as the summer months or Easter, the air tickets cost much more due to high demand. In August, the cheapest flight is a direct 7 hours 16 minutes flight with Norwegian for $238. Note that there are also different prices for different times of the day or different days of the week. The key point is that you must shop around for the best prices.
If you don’t take the time to shop around and fly blind, you could quite easily pay $468 for a British Airways direct flight on the same day that is only 10 minutes faster than the flight with Iberia. If you have plenty of time at hand, you may as well take the Air Portugal flight. But with only an $11 price difference, why not fly with Iberia and get there quicker?
#2. Take advantage of free tours
Once you’ve landed in Europe’s most beautiful city, you’ll want to do some sightseeing. The best way to explore Barcelona and get your bearings is by joining a free walking tour.
Free Walking Tours Barcelona will happily guide you around one of Europe’s best-preserved historical centers. You’ll explore streets laid out by Roman town planners over 2,000 years ago that are now lined by breathtaking Medieval buildings.
A local expert guide will entertain and educate you with anecdotes about famous artists who have lived in the city, such as Gaudí, Picasso, Dalí, and Miró. You’ll learn about powerful kings and queens. Discover the history of explorers, conquerors, and great warriors from Barcelona’s past.
It costs nothing to admire Barcelona’s architectural treasures from outside, but it’s much easier to understand what you’re seeing with an expert on hand to point out and explain the details. On your free walking tour, you’ll discover the surviving Roman ruins, explore the Gothic neighborhood, discover about the Spanish Civil War, and learn the most interesting local legends.
You’ll also gain valuable information about the best places to drink, eat, and enjoy live music in this vibrant city of culture. When you visit a new city, it’s not only about what you can see. It’s also about the hidden gems and aspects of culture that only a local can help you to see and understand. In France, you’d have to pay for Paris walking tours that teach you as much as these free walking tours of Barcelona. So, don’t look this gift horse in the mouth!
#3. Eat for less
There’s an old tradition in Barcelona called the menú del día. Many restaurants and cafés around the city offer a set 3-course meal and drink during weekday lunchtime (usually 1:30 pm – 4 pm), and also sometimes during the weekend, for less than €15.
The menú del día is not always a 3-course meal with drinks, but it is always a set menu that costs much less than the individual items would be if chosen from the regular menu.
For example, La Polpa is a well-presented restaurant in the Eixample district of Barcelona where it is said you can eat the menú del día off fine china with linen napkins for only €10.30. And in the Teresa Carles Restaurant in El Raval near the Ramblas, you can enjoy a vegetarian menú del día for around €13. Drinks are not included, but you do get 3-courses.
The menú del día is often not advertised by restaurants, so you must be courageous and ask. You’ll save a lot of money in many of Barcelona’s restaurants if you remember to ask for the menú del día rather than choosing the more expensive menu items they advertise to tourists.
Some restaurants also offer a menú del noche in the evening, but it will invariably cost between €3 and €8 more than the menú del día. However, it’s still worth asking about these because, again, they often work out much cheaper than the highlighted tourist choices.
Interestingly, the menú del día came into existence as a law to promote tourism in 1965. It is no longer a legal obligation for restaurants to offer a set menu at a discounted price, but the tradition has continued due to its popularity among local Barcelonans.
#4. Pay less (or nothing) for museum entry
As the capital of Catalonia, Barcelona boasts many modern art museums and some spectacular architecture. One way to save on entry fees to many of these attractions is to purchase a Barcelona Pass. This inclusive ticket provides entry into over 30 of Barcelona’s main attractions plus public transport around the city for 2, 3, or 5 days depending upon the chosen option. A basic 2-day ticket currently costs €99.99.
But if you’re really smart, you’ll plan your visit to include the first Sunday of the month. On the evening of the first Sunday in every month, many museums in Barcelona offer free admission.
#5. Get out and about
Many tour companies based in Barcelona offer tours of nearby attractions where they provide transport, entrance tickets to the attraction, and an English-speaking local guide. This often works out cheaper, or not much more, than taking public transport and paying the entrance fees yourself.
For example, the Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey is an attraction 30 miles northwest of Barcelona where you can learn about the importance of spirituality in the everyday life of Spanish people. This monastery is not only a popular destination for pilgrimages but also probably the largest religious building you will ever see in your life. It’s huge!
The abbey was founded in the 11th century and rebuilt in its present form between 1811 and 1968. It sits on a mountain that is considered important to the people of Catalonia. Many young people from Barcelona hike here at least once to climb the mountain and watch the sunrise.
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