Barcelona is a city of stunning art and architecture stretching from the sea to the mountains. This guide covers everything you need to know about backpacking in Barcelona.
Barcelona is a city that really has a bit of everything. Sunshine, sea, hilltop views, beautiful buildings, history, delicious food and wine, a great party scene, it’s all here! Whether you are backpacking in Barcelona on a shoestring budget or you want to treat yourself to some great experiences while you here, this guide covers all the basics to help you plan your trip.
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Barcelona travel: the basics
Currency: Euros (EUR). See exchange rates at xe.com.
Safety: Barcelona is a very safe city to visit. Pickpocketing is the main issue for travellers, and is common in tourist areas. This guide to Barcelona pickpocket safety has some useful tips.
Buy before your trip: the Barcelona Card gives free access to dozens of attractions and unlimited use of public transport
Best time to visit: Barcelona has hot summers and mild winters, so it’s great to visit at any time. Spring (March–May) and autumn (September–November) are still warm, and quieter than peak season. Also see our guide to Barcelona in winter.
Top experiences and attractions in Barcelona
Best tours in Barcelona
Barcelona’s tourist board works with great local operators and guides to bring together the city’s best tours. We’ve tried some out, and we just love the Gothic Quarter walking tour as an introduction to one of the most beautiful parts of the city.
Th architecture of Antoni Gaudí is some of the most imaginative ever created, and a must to see. Make time for a tour of La Sagrada Familia, his masterpiece, while you’re in the city. Here are some more great tours we’ve tried:
Street art cycle tour on sustainable bamboo e-bikes, exploring the city’s incredible array of colourful street art
Camp Nou stadium tour, Europe’s biggest stadium and the home of FC Barcelona, with a brilliant multimedia museum
If you are backpacking on a budget, you might find it useful to read our complete selection of free things to do in Barcelona. Here are some activity ideas in the city that won’t cost you anything:
The Montjuïc Magic Fountain light show is a daily free display of light colour and sound. Check out the schedule.
Hit the beaches. With 4.5 kilometres of sandy coastline, Barcelona has some of Europe’s best city beaches.
Many of Barcelona’s museums and galleries have weekly free entry, such as Museu Picasso on Thursdays after 4pm.
Walk up the city’s hills for spectacular views, such as Montjuïc, Tibidabo and Mirador de Joan Sales.
Best neighbourhoods to stay for backpacking in Barcelona
Barcelona is a huge, sprawling city. There are many neighbourhoods where you can choose to stay, each offering different charms and characteristics. Below we give a quick lowdown on the best for backpackers. Use hostelworld to find budget places to stay, or for self-catered accommodation, check our rundown of the best Vrbo apartments in Barcelona.
The Gothic Quarter is the best neighbourhood for sightseeing. As the heart of the city, famed for its cathedral, plazas, museums, galleries, and quaint cobbled roads.
Gracia is a quieter, more laidback area of the city, rich with art-nouveau architecture and home to the magnificent Park Güell. Accommodation is typically cheaper here.
Raval is an offbeat, multi-cultural neighbourhood in a central location, known for its art and culture centres, quirky bars and places to eat international cuisine.
El Born is great for outgoing travellers. It’s the city’s nucleus of nightlife, packed with lively cocktail bars and restaurants, interspersed with historical buildings and green spaces.
Sant Antoni is an upcoming neighbourhood that has grown rapidly around its food market. A hub for remote working, it is rife with coworking spaces and laptop cafés.
El Poblenou has emerged as Barcelona’s innovation district. A former industrial heartland, it now attracts entrepreneurs and startups in its offbeat seaside location.
Places to visit near Barcelona
Barcelona is not only a spectacular city, but it is also a gateway to exploring a beautiful region of mountains, vineyards and seaside towns. If you want to explore the wider region while backpacking in Barcelona, these are some places we suggest to visit:
The Penedès wine region is where 95% of the world’s cava is produced. Read how you can visit Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, a hillside village known for its family-run wineries.
Sitges is a picturesque seaside location with a gorgeous whitewashed old town just half an hour’s train ride from Barcelona. Read our guide to how to visit Sitges in a day.
If visiting Barcelona in winter, the Pyrenees mountains are not far away. You can take a one-day skiing trip to the Alp 2500 ski resort centre with 144 kilometres of slopes.
Food and drink in Barcelona
If you’re a foodie backpacking in Barcelona you’re in for a treat. The city has a delicious and diverse food scene, and there are many ways to experience it, from al-fresco tapas bars to bustling food markets. Here are some of the local delicacies you must try:
What to eat in Barcelona
Seafood paella – the famous Spanish dish originated in Valencia, but you can find amazing varieties in Barca
Esqueixada – a seafood salad dish similar to ceviche, combining raw cured cod with tomatoes, onions and olives.
Escalivada – one of our tapas favourites, comprising aubergine roasted over coals with peppers and onions.
Fideuà – like paella but replacing rice with noodles, sizzled in a pan with spices, stock, tomato, peppers and seafood.
Local meats and cheeses – the best way to enjoy Catalan wines is with a delicious charcuterie board of local produce.
Crema Catalana – a vanilla custard dessert dish, similar to creme brûlée but infused with citrus and cinnamon.
What to drink in Barcelona
Cava – the sparkling wine is available in abundance in Barcelona from the nearby Penedès region, and often cheap.
Vermouth – fortified wine that is Italian in origin, but has become wildly popular in Barcelona.
Sangria – the fusion of red wine of fruits comes in all shapes and sizes in bars and markets across the city.
Horchata – a delicious, creamy non-alcoholic beverage with sweet and nutty flavours, best enjoyed in the sunshine.
Festivals, celebrations and other dates for your calendar
There’s always an event happening somewhere in Barcelona. It’s a city that likes a party! The calendar is filled with many festivals and celebrations that can make your trip extra special if you time it right. These are some Barcelona festivals to consider:
Sant Jordi Festival, 23 April – a celebration of love and books, with stalls and stages filling the streets and plazas.
Epiphany, 5–6 January – an epic and colourful street parade that marks the end of the festive season.
Barcelona Pride, last weekend in June – a major celebration of LGBT rights and diversity, with parades and parties.
Carnival, February/March – week-long street parties, music and costumed parades. The best party is in Sitges!
Festes de la Mercè, end of September – five days of fire runs, fireworks and dancing to honour the city’s patron saint.
Cruilla Festival, July – a three-day summer city park festival of music, comedy, art and gastronomy.
Getting around Barcelona
Barcelona has an excellent public transport system and so it’s easy to get around when it’s too far to walk. Exploring by foot is fun, but it’s a huge city and sometimes you’ll need to use the metro, trams and buses. Thankfully, this system covers the entire city!
As above, the Barcelona Card gives you unlimited access to the city’s public transport system alongside entry and discounts at a range of attractions. If you’re only looking for the transport part, the Hola Barcelona Travel Card is a cheaper alternative.
What about cycling? It’s a fantastic, cheaper way to explore the city. With over 200 kilometres of dedicated cycle lanes, lots of hire shops and plenty of places to park your bike, the city is well set up for it. Check out this Barcelona bike rental guide for more.
Where to work remotely in Barcelona
If you need a place to get some work done while backpacking in Barcelona, the city is ready to accommodate you! It’s one of our favourite cities for remote working, with a vibrant network of coworking spaces and cafés. Our guide to taking a workation in Barcelona gives in-depth practical advice on working remotely in the city. These are some of the top spots to take your laptop:
Aticco Med – with flexible passes, set on the seafront with a terrace and pool in the innovative district of Poblenou.
Coco Coffice – laidback café-meets-coworking-space with desks available for €3.50 an hour in Sant Antoni.
El Fornet – look out for these cafés all over the city where you can grab a coffee and a pastry and plug in for a while.
Cahoot Coworking – inspiring modern space set in a repurposed industrial warehouse, with day passes available.
La Vaca Coworking – bright and comfy space in offbeat Poblesec district, with one of the cheapest day rates
Whatever time of year you visit Barcelona, you need to be prepared for warm weather! Even in February there will be some t-shirt days. So pack plenty of light, summery clothes (lots of them if you’re travelling in April–September!).
It does get colder in the evenings in winter, and on rare occasions you might even see some snow. So, if you’re visiting out of season, balance out the t-shirts and shorts/skirts with some layers and warm clothes – jumpers, jackets, long sleeves.
Summer gets very hot. Don’t forget all the essentials like hats, sunglasses and sun protection. Each month there are a handful of rainy days, so bring an umbrella too, and check out our guide to what to do in Barcelona on a rainy day for activity ideas.
Money and costs in Barcelona
In general, Barcelona is quite an expensive city, on a par with other touristy Western European cities like Rome, Munich or Dublin (but cheaper than Paris or London). Budget Your Trip gives a very useful overview of Barcelona costs for different travel styles.
But while it’s not exactly a cheap city, there are plenty of ways to save money when backpacking in Barcelona. Staying in hostels, eating at offbeat food markets and taking walking tours can give you a fulfilling city experience without spending highly.
Budget: hostel dorm rooms from €15
Mid-range: basic hotel rooms from €60
Luxury: fancy hotels from €100
Budget: food markets or lunch “menu of the day” from €5 for a meal
Before backpacking in Barcelona, you can gain an insight into the city’s identity and culture by reading some books. And, as one of Europe’s most romantic cities, a lot has been written about it! Here are some books about Barcelona to consider reading:
Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones, an epic novel of war and love set in 14th century Barcelona.
Barcelona by Robert Hughes, a weighty history of the city from Roman times through to the 1992 Olympic Games.
Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell, recounting his time in the Barcelona region during the Spanish Civil War.
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, the first of a page-turning four-part series of mystery and romance.
Homage to Barcelona by Colm Tóibín, a cultural and artistic history of Barcelona told like a personable story.
Origin by Dan Brown, the fifth in his Robert Langdon series, with locations including Monsterrat Abbey and Casa Milà.