Visiting Barcelona doesn’t need to be expensive. There are many ways you can discover the Catalan capital without digging into your pockets at all! Whether it’s a free tour, fountain light show, museum event or beach time, many activities in this magical city won’t cost you anything. We’ve put together some of the best free things to do in Barcelona to help you make the most of your time here on a budget.
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Free things to do in Barcelona
1. Take a free walking tour
Free walking tours are always high on our list when we visit a city, as they are a great way to learn about a new place and find ideas for how to spend the rest of your time. In Barcelona, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to free tours!
Free Walking Tours Barcelona runs a free tour of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter twice every day, at 11am and 3pm, beginning at Plaça Catalunya. It includes classic sights and locations such as Las Ramblas, Barcelona Cathedral and Plaza del Rei, narrated with stories about the city’s legends and traditions.
On alternating days these guys also run free tours of Gaudí architecture and the quirky Raval neighbourhood.
You should be aware that free walking tours like this work on a tips basis, so while they are provided for free with no obligation, you may want to give a tip at the end.
For a walking tour experience that is completely free, you can try a self-guided Barcelona walking tour on GPS My City. You simply download the app to your mobile device, and you will get a tour map along with photos and descriptions of each landmark along the way. It works offline too, so you don’t need to use any mobile data.
2. Visit Parc de Montjuïc
Nestled on the seaside hill that overlooks Barcelona from its west side, Parc de Montjuïc is one of the city’s most beautiful green spaces. You can also enjoy a stunning view from its 173-metre-high setting, higher than any structure in the city’s skyline.
Historically, the hill of Montjuïc was an important defensive position for the city, with fortresses constructed here since the 17th century. Today it is a sprawling urban park covering more than 350 hectares.
We love to just walk among its pathways and enjoy the green surroundings, the impressive buildings in the park and, of course, the views. It’s also a lovely running spot in the mornings if you’re looking for some mindful exercise.
You can visit Parc de Montjuïc by foot, which keeps it free, but we won’t lie… the hill is a bit of a climb! So maybe allow a little more time than Google Maps says. Otherwise, you can opt to fork out to take the cable car instead, which has the added bonus of more spectacular views. You can reach the cable car by riding to the top of the Montjuic Funicular, which is included on the Hola Barcelona Card.
On our first visit we took the cable car up and walked back down, which was a happy middle ground.
For more on Barcelona transport, read our guide to getting around Barcelona.
3. Witness the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc light show
After dark is a mesmerising time to visit Montjuïc, as you can see the daily free Magic Fountain light show. The majestic fountain that stands in front of Palau Nacional is the focal point of an epic display of light, colour and sound.
This show is a real highlight of the city, and well worth making the trip up that hill in the evening. Definitely one of the most impressive free things to do in Barcelona, and a must to include in your Barcelona itinerary!
Times vary around the year according to daylight hours. To find the right time for your trip, check out the Magic Fountain show time schedule.
4. See Barcelona’s Olympic Stadium
It’s hard to believe that three decades have passed since the world’s eyes were focused on Barcelona for the 1992 Olympic Games! But the legacy of this special sporting event is still clear to see in the city today.
The facilities used to host the games are all located in and around Parc de Montjuïc. The centrepiece is Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys, first built in 1927 when the city was preparing a bid to host the 1936 Olympic Games (which it lost to Berlin).
The limelight finally arrived in 1992, with the games taking place inside a freshly remodelled 60,000-seater stadium. Sporting and music events are still sometimes held in it today, but when it’s vacant you can enter the grounds and explore for free.
Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys is open to the public from 10am–8pm in summer and 10am–6pm in winter.
5. See funerary art at Barcelona’s cemeteries
While still exploring Montjuïc, we should mention that the hill is also home to one of Barcelona’s largest and most poignant cemeteries. Filling some 56 hectares, the cemetery is more than just a resting place; it’s also an art installation in tribute to the dead. Set among sloping gardens that face out to the sea, it is a peaceful place to take a walk and observe its fascinating features.
Montjuïc Cemetery has been open since the 19th century. It is the burial ground of many notable figures from the city’s past, such as artists Santiago Rusiñol and Joan Miró, pianist Isaac Albéniz and Catalan president Francesc Macià. Ornate mausoleums in the cemetery are the work of some of the city’s top sculptors and architects, commissioned by high-society families.
A little closer to downtown Barcelona, Poblenou Cemetery is another art-filled burial place that you can enter and explore for free. Even older than Montjuïc Cemetery, its current form was rebuilt in 1819 after being destroyed during the Napoleonic Wars.
You will encounter huge tombs here decorated with sculptures and artworks. Some are the resting places of local icons such as the composer Josep Anselm Clavé and the poet Serafí Pitarra.
6. Explore Museu Picasso on Thursdays after 4pm
Pablo Picasso might be the most prominent name associated with Barcelona. The legendary artist spent his formative years living and learning in the city, and developed a close affinity with the place. So much so that towards the end of his life, he bequeathed hundreds of his original early works to Barcelona.
Many of these works are on display today at Museu Picasso. The museum tells the story of his time in the city, and you can also see some of his most famous early masterpieces, such as ‘The First Communion’ and ‘Science and Charity’.
The good news for budget travellers is that you can explore Museu Picasso free of charge every Thursday from 4pm to 7pm and all day on the first Sunday of every month.
7. Peruse Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya on Saturdays after 4pm
Many more of Barcelona’s top museums have free days. Another is Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (the National Art Museum of Catalonia), which displays some of the most stunning visual art created in the region since the 19th century. A highlight is that it features one of the world’s best Romanesque mural collections.
Entry to the museum is free after 3pm on Saturdays and on the first Sunday of every month. It often fills to capacity, so book your ticket in advance online to make sure you don’t miss out on a spot.
8. Visit Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona on Sundays after 3pm
Set in a reimagined 200-year-old building, Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) is one of the city’s most foremost creative spaces. Its vast original courtyard is surrounded by a mixture of original and modern structures, including a giant wall of glass and steel, and inside you will find more than 4,500 square metres of gallery space.
CCCB is a place where art thrives in many forms. Talented creators gather here to discuss and develop visual art, film, music, literature and philosophical ideas, with many of the outputs on display to the public. There might be no better place to see the creative soul of Barcelona in action.
Every Sunday you can visit the centre with free admission from 3pm to 8pm. Like the National Art Museum, it is highly recommended to book your ticket online in advance.
9. Discover Museu Marítim on Sundays after 3pm
Thanks to its strategic port position and prominence, Barcelona has a long and rich maritime heritage. Much of this can be discovered at Museu Marítim, Barcelona’s Maritime Museum, which is set inside the 13th-century Barcelona Royal Shipyard.
The museum recounts centuries of maritime history, from the beginnings of navigation in the city through to the present day. Its displays include magnificent ship replicas, tales of prominent Spanish seafarers, weapons of war, and an array of fascinating navigation instruments.
You can visit the museum for free every Sunday after 3pm. These free museum sessions are also one of the best things to do in Barcelona when it rains.
10. See the city view from Mirador de Joan Sales
Backed by hills and mountains, Barcelona’s outer suburbs are dotted with various miradors where you can capture spectacular city views. One of the most impressive is Mirador de Joan Sales, which is perched directly above Park Güell, the famous work of Antoni Gaudí.
From this point you can look down upon the entire breadth of Barcelona’s gridded streetscape reaching out to the sea. Don’t forget to turn around as well and catch a glimpse of the hills and mountains behind!
Mirador de Joan Sales is straightforward to reach by foot, with a clearly marked path leading up to it alongside Park Güell. If you take the metro to Vallcarca, you can reach it via the paths to the north side of the park.
Up for a little bit of a hill climb? Just behind Mirador de Joan Sales you will see a hill that rises even higher. If you take walk up that (it’s quite steep!) then you will reach Mirador de la Farma, where you will be rewarded with a yet more spectacular city view.
11. Get lost in Parc de la Ciutadella
One of the most fulfilling free things to do in Barcelona is to discover the many parks and gardens woven among the city’s landscape. Perhaps the most enchanting among these is Parc de la Ciutadella, which is just a ten-minute walk away from the Gothic Quarter.
Built in 1877 and covering some 31 hectares, Parc de la Ciutadella is Barcelona’s largest park. The Parliament of Catalonia building stands proudly within the park’s grounds. It also features other attractions such as Barcelona Zoo, the Zoological Museum and the Museu de Geologia.
The park is full of beautiful decorative features, such as its lake, majestic cascading fountain and cultivated gardens. Look out for the Castle of the Three Dragons at the north-west entrance as well.
If you are looking for a place to take a restorative long walk or stop for a midday picnic, Parc de la Ciutadella fits the bill perfectly.
Barcelona’s climate is great for visiting all year round, with mild winters, so walking around the parks is something you can do any time. See our guide to visiting Barcelona in winter to plan an out-of-season trip.
12. Hit the beach at Playa de Barceloneta
Love the beach? Barcelona will not disappoint you. With 4.5 kilometres of sandy Mediterranean coastline along the city-front, this is one of the top beach cities in the world.
Playa de Barceloneta is the central hotspot along this stretch of beach, right in the heart of the city. As the city’s most popular beach, it’s always lively, packed with locals and tourists enjoying the sunshine or playing beach games.
The promenade that trails along the beach is lovely for a leisurely walk to take in these scenes. Maybe grab some tapas and a beer from one of the sea-facing restaurants and enjoy the view. Or perhaps you’d like to try some kitesurfing or windsurfing – the choice is yours.
Barceloneta is also within walking distance of the Gothic Quarter and El Born, so it might just be the best area to stay in Barcelona for a combination of beaches and sightseeing.
Looking for a quieter beach? You don’t need to go far. Here are some less crowded beaches in Barcelona, just a stroll up the coastline from Barceloneta, and all free to visit of course:
- Nova Icària
13. Explore El Born’s Centre de Cultura i Memoria
Built inside a repurposed old market building, the Centre de Cultura i Memoria in Barcelona’s lively El Born district is hub dedicated to the city’s heritage. Best of all, it’s completely free to visit.
In the foundations of the building you can see excavated ruins dating back to Roman times, with display boards explaining their history. Exploring further, a permanent exhibition Barcelona 1700 tells the story of day-to-day life in the city during the 18th century. There is also a temporary exhibition space with frequently refreshed displays.
It’s rare that such a cultural treasure can be accessed for free, so make the most of it!
14. Join the crowds in Mercat de la Boqueria
Local food markets in Barcelona have a special atmosphere that you will not find anywhere else. The busiest and most chaotic is Mercat de la Boqueria, situated just a few footsteps away from Las Ramblas.
A marketplace has been active here since the 13th century, and the iron structure that contains it today is more than a century old.
Even if you don’t buy any food here, it’s still an experience to wander in among the midday crowds and get lost among the stalls. Look out for enormous hanging hams, fish fresh from the Med (you can find it by the smell), Catalan meats and cheeses, multicoloured fruit and veg, and all sorts of snacks and delicacies.
15. See amazing street art at Nau Bostik
There is no better example of Barcelona’s creative soul than the street art that is emblazoned upon walls and buildings all across the city. Street art has played an underlying role in the city’s evolution over the past century, and it’s so present on the streets that Barcelona is almost an open-air art museum.
It won’t cost you a dime to peruse the streets of Barcelona in search of street art. To find a lot of it in one place, and some of the very best, you can head to the outer suburb of La Sagrera and find Nau Bostik.
This cultural and creative space has made breathtaking use of an old glue factory site, transforming it into a storm of vintage markets, performance spaces, street food, and – most rewardingly – some of the brashest and most beautiful street art in the city. The entire site is daubed in colourful murals that will give the art-loving traveller endless joy.
Map of free things to do in Barcelona
The map below shows the locations of the free things to do in Barcelona featured in this article:
Thinking of heading to Barcelona for a remote working getaway? Read our guide to taking the perfect workation in Barcelona.
Have you done any more free things in Barcelona that we haven’t mentioned here? Go ahead and share them in the comments below.
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