If you are travelling Europe on a budget, you will be pleased to know that there are plenty of free things to do in Barcelona. 10% of the city is covered by parks, which are all free to enter, and many free attractions, old and new, can be admired across the city.
Fans of FC Barcelona are known as culés, a Catalan word for ‘asses’. The name derives from Barcelona’s old stadium, which was so small that many fans had to sit on the edge of the stadium to see the game. People walking the streets nearby could see their back sides and named them accordingly.
No trip to Barcelona would be complete without involvement with their world-class football team. The FC Barcelona Club´s home ground is the biggest stadium in Europe and the third largest in the world holding almost 100,000 people.
Stadium tours and entrance to the ground isn’t free, and match tickets can cost in excess of €100, but it is definitely worth a visit to enjoy the souvenir shop, themed cafes and surprise player appearances. We managed to see the players train by popping our lens through a gap in the side gate of the stadium, just be careful of those stewards on segways who will ask you to move on!
Football is a passion for the residents of Barcelona, it is a lifestyle, and residences throughout the city are decorated in flags and banners in support of their idols.
Las Ramblas is a tree-lined haven for shoppers, foodies and admirers of historical buildings, enjoy the chaos.
This 1km walkway is probably the busiest and most touristic street in the city. It is quite the quintessential Barcelona experience. Day and night, people gather at Las Ramblas for their daily needs, prompting the opening of many touristy shops and street kiosks as well as bars, restaurants and clothing outlets.
The Magic Fountain was designed by the engineer Carles Buigas who was a specialist in water sequencing. The Magic Fountain was one of the greatest successes of the 1929 International Exhibition.
One of the best things to see in Barcelona is the series of water fountains known as the Magic Foundain of Montjuïc. The fountain is a popular spot for tourists and is located in the Montjuïc neighborhood. The main fountain is situated underneath the Palau Nacional on the Montjuïc mountain.
The Magic Fountain also became a center piece of the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. Over 3000 workers were assigned to the project as the fountains were being built, and less than a year later, the Magic Fountain was complete.
The first ever fountain show took place on May 19, 1929, the day before the start of the Exposition.
After being badly damaged in the civil world war and eventually restored, music was incorporated with the light and water in the 1980s.
The current shows take place at half-hour intervals every weekend, with extended timings during the summer season.
Fountain performances include music from film, pop songs, well known classical and modern medleys, and the well known hit Barcelona by Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé.
Montjuïc’s Magic Fountain is the chosen site for the Piromusical every year, which is a massive firework display combined with music and lasers. The Piromusical is the closing event for Barcelona’s biggest festival, La Mercè.
The fountain proudly uses recycled water as city-wide initiative to save drinking water.
A whopping 2,600 liters of water is used per second while the fountains are in operation, as well as 3,620 water jets.
Eight main colors are shone onto the water by 4,760 lights. The combinations of light and water can reflect a variation of up to 7,000 million colors!
The capacity of the entire pool is 2,950,000 liters. Booking is not necessary to see the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc, it is completely free and there are no seating or entrance points. The nearest metro station to the Magic Fountain is Espanya on L1 Red Line.
Around 2.5 million people watch the dancing fountains every year, making it one of the top attractions in Barcelona.
The current site of the fountains once held The Four Columns that represented the Catalanism movement. The columns were demolished in 1928 under the orders of the Prime Minister and were re-erected in 2010 a few meters away from the original location.
A large quantity of artifacts were recovered and the building was developed into an exhibition showing how Barcelona was in the 1700s.
The Mercat del Born (Born Market) was Barcelona’s first cast-iron market and is the largest of it’s kind in Europe. After closing the doors in the 1970s, the abandoned building wasn’t reused until the arrival of a new project of building a library. In 2002, the project came to a halt when the remains of 18th century Barcelona were unearthed by construction workers.
The roof is famous for its distinctive gargoyles which are animals of both mythical and domestic nature. Saint Eulalia, whom the church is dedicated to, was said to have walked the streets of the city naked, and her body was covered by a rare Spring snowfall. She was allegedly killed by Romans who rolled a barrel full of knives down a hill with her body inside. Her body is entombed in the cathedral’s crypt.
Also known as The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, the enormous church was constructed from the 13th to 15th century. In the late 19th century, the neo-Gothic façade was added which was common feature of Catalan churches.
Hotel W is also known as the sail hotel because of its shape. It was built as part of the expansion of the Port of Barcelona and is probably the city’s most iconic modern building.
Barcelona has a set of seven beautiful beaches and marinas across a 4.5km stretch. The weather is wonderful in Spring/Summer and swimming in the sea is recommended from the end of May. Tourists mainly gather on the Barceloneta Beach that offers a clear view of Barcelona’s World Trade Center and the famous Hotel W building.
The main marina by Barceloneta Beach is full of bars, restaurants and museums and is also home to Royal Barcelona Maritime Club thus a large gathering of beautiful yachts can be seen.
Marbella Beach can be found on the coast of the city and is the unofficial ‘nudist beach’.
Frank Gehry’s Peix marks the end of the Barceloneta Beach and the start of Icària Beach which is a lot quieter than its neighbor.
All Barcelona beaches have been awarded the EU blue flag of excellence for the quality of water and services.
There were no beaches in Barcelona until 1992, when city officials decided to change the local industries that once occupied the space. The industries were moved and the area was turned into a leisure zone when Barcelona hosted the Olympic Games.
Barceloneta Beach was once ranked number one in National Geographic’s list of the ‘Top ten city beaches in the world’. A lot of investment was made in the beautification of the area which is incredibly clean and features a lot of unique design. The coastal part of the city is particularly beautiful at night where you can enjoy a spectacular Barcelona sunset. Catch the right moment to witness the glistening waters beneath fiery clouds.
Relax and bask beneath the beautiful palm trees throughout the city’s beaches and parks.
The Casa Batlló is referred to locally as the House of Bones due to its, skeletal and organic quality.
The neighborhood of Gracia is one of the most popular in Barcelona, and rightly so. Along the route, examples of Gaudi’s work can be found such as the Casa Batlló and Casa Milà buildings, as well as an array of luxurious shops.
On the roof of the Casa Milà building, there are unique chimneys and ventilation structures true to Gaudi’s style and his vivid imagination.
It is said that Gaudi only included elevators on the 2nd floor of his buildings, including the Casa Milà, because he wanted the people who lived inside to get to know one another.
The narrow and winding streets offer a maze of bars, restaurants and architecture, both old and new. Don’t forget to look up as you wander the area!
The name of the Gothic Quarter derived from the Roman village that once stood in the territory. Some remnants of the area’s Roman past still remain. Locally known as Barri Gòtic, it is one of the oldest districts in the city and home to a new culture of street art and hip bars.
Enjoy resting wandering feet in peaceful squares (plaças) and reward yourself with a taste of the unique nightlife celebrated by locals and visitors from all over the world.
The World Fair served as an opportunity for Barcelona to revamp its citadel and turn it into a central park for citizens and visitors. Architect Josep Vilaseca built the features of the park, including the Arc which he built in Neo-Mudéjar style. The stone sculptures on the front facade of the Arc reads ‘Barcelona rep les nacions‘ (Catalan for “Barcelona welcomes the nations”).
The main legacy of Barcelona’s 1888 World Fair is the Ciutadella Park and it’s mighty entrance, the Arc de Triomf.
The Passeig de Sant Joan starts at the Arc de Triomf and leads right through the park offering visitors a beautiful tree-lined space to stroll and enjoy the surrounding sights.
Ciutadella Park was once the city’s only green space, and it is currently home to modern sculptures and monuments.
Parc de la Ciutadella also offers a wonderful avenue of unique plane trees on the outer edge of the park towards the beaches.
We got to see Brazil, Honduras, Sweden and Barcelona at the Beach Soccer Worldwide tournament as they battled barefoot in the sand for the prize trophy over the course of a weekend.
We were very fortunate to be around for the Barcelona Beach Soccer Tournament which was free to attend.
The half time entertainment included acrobats and dancers from all over the world. Barcelona is a major host city to many events and there will most likely be something going on if you’re in town.
Barcelona has a lot of free events including concerts, markets and film screenings.
The Sagrada Família is the city’s most well-known Roman church which also has a fascinating story behind it. Construction of the church commenced in 1882 with Gaudí heading up the architectural design. He implemented his distinct engineering style, combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau designs.
If you haven’t heard of Antoni Gaudí, he is a famous Spanish Catalan architect and a known practitioner of Catalan Modernism. Gaudí’s style is distinctly unique and most of his works can be seen in Barcelona, including his magnum opus, the Sagrada Família.
This was Gaudí’s last ever project and he died a quarter the way through, aged 73 in 1926. Completion slowly progressed over the years, through the Spanish Civil War and World War II, and a continuous struggle to find funding. Intermittent progress was made in the 1950s right up until 2010 with great challenges.
It was recently announced that the anticipated completion date will be 2026, 100 years since Gaudí’s death.
The towers are decorated with words such as “Hosanna“, “Excelsis“, and “Sanctus” and the three entrances symbolize the three virtues: Faith, Hope and Love.
Gaudí constructed a full model of what the church will look like after completion and current day architects are using this as a guide. The Church will have three grand façades: the Nativity façade to the East, the Passion façade to the West, and the Glory façade to the South, only one is currently completed.
You won’t see a building like this anywhere else in the world, take take to admire the creativity from the outside, there is an entrance fee if you wish to see the interior design.
We have derived this list from personal experience after spending four days in the city. We came up with as many free things to do in Barcelona as we could, and we are certain we missed a lot more.
We’d love to evolve this list and we invite you to leave your suggestions in the comments below.
We hope you enjoy the beautiful city of Barcelona, let us know what you enjoyed the most.