Free Things to do in Barcelona

Street art in the Gothic Quarter - Black and White Painting of Salvador Dali with a Long Moustache

If you’re planning to visit Barcelona on a budget, then don’t worry – I’ve got you covered!  While some of the top Barcelona attractions can be expensive, there are still plenty of free things to do in Barcelona to help you save money.  Whether you’re backpacking in Barcelona or simply want a cheap city break you’ll still be able to get the best of Barcelona for free!

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The Best Free Things to Do in Barcelona

There are my top recommendations for the best free activities in Barcelona that you can enjoy at any time of year.

Admire Gaudí’s Architecture

Gaudí’ is Barcelona’s most famous architect, and his bizarre and beautiful creations are all over the city.  From lampposts in Plaça Reial, to the colourful, curvy homes of La Pedrera and Casa Batlló, the modernist architect’s work is everywhere you look.

The good news is you can see a lot of Gaudí’s work from the outside for free, although it is often worth paying for tickets to go inside – in particular with the Sagrada Familia.

La Sagrada Familia is Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece, a huge cathedral that is incredible from the outside as you can just walk around and admire the details in the façades.  However, if you do have some cash to spend, it is truly mind-blowing from the inside!  If you do choose to go inside, make sure you book your tickets online in advance to beat the queues.

Park Güell is on the hill above Barcelona, and was originally designed to be a housing complex surrounded by beautiful gardens and sculptures.  Although there is a charge to see the most famous areas like the lizard and mosaic terrace, the majority of the park is free for the public including spectacular views of the city below.

Ramble Down La Rambla

La Rambla is an institution in Barcelona.  The leafy avenue runs from Plaça Catalunya to Port Vell, and is filled with tourists, locals, market stalls and street performers.  Keep a tight hold of your belongings here as it is notorious for pickpockets, but walking down La Rambla is a must-do for all visitors to this famous city.

La Rambla is more enjoyable in the morning before the crowds get too hectic, and don’t try to rush here, it’s impossible.  Instead, take a leisurely stroll down La Rambla in the morning, pop into La Boqueria Market for some breakfast, then carry on exploring.  You can also take detours off La Rambla to see Plaça Reial or the lovely Gothic church of Santa Maria del Pi.

The Magic Fountain Show

One of the most popular things to do in Barcelona, the Magic Fountain of Montjuic is famous for its spectacular light and music shows, as the fountain water dances in time to the songs.  Unfortunately, the shows have been put on hold due to COVID so I hope they will relaunch again soon!  Check the official website here to see updated information about timings.

Explore the Markets in Barcelona

There are several different food markets in Barcelona where you can go to buy fresh, local produce and snacks.  Most have a tapas bar or two inside the market which use the produce to rustle up tasty dishes to eat while you people-watch.  Most markets are closed on Sundays.

La Boqueria Market on La Rambla is the most famous in Barcelona, although it is also the most touristy.  Head there early in the morning to beat the crowds and stroll around enjoying the sights and smells.  Make sure you wander further than the first couple of aisles to get cheaper prices.

Other markets to explore include Santa Caterina opposite the Cathedral, Sant Antoni on the other side of the Raval, and Marcat de la Libertat in Gracia. The Mercat dels Encants flea market is perfect for hunting bargains and is full of second hand and new items, furniture, pictures, books as well as places to eat.

Visit the Free Museums in Barcelona (on Sundays)

Many of Barcelona’s museums offer free entrance after 3pm every Sunday, or all day on the first Sunday of the month. There may be long queues (especially in peak season), but if you are prepared to wait you can get free tickets to some of the most popular museums in Barcelona.

Barcelona museums with free entry on Sunday after 3pm include the Picasso Museum, the Hospital of Sant Pau, the Museum of Catalan History, the Barcelona History Museum and the MNAC National Museum of Catalan Art, among others.

Other Awesome Free Things to do in Barcelona

Take a Free Walking Tour in Barcelona

There are several companies offering free walking tours in Barcelona, and these are a great introduction to the city and its history.  Most focus on the Gothic Quarter, but you can also find special Gaudi tours too.  Of course, tipping the guide is highly recommended, so although it is technically free you could expect to tip around €5-€10 per person for a 3-hour tour.

Check out the Street Art

Another one of the awesome free things to do in Barcelona is spotting the amazing street art all over the city.  Hot spots include the maze of streets in the Gothic Quarter, old industrial areas in Poble Nou, pretty much everywhere in Gracia and the Three Chimneys Park in Poble Sec, although you will find art dotted around other areas too.  Just wander around and keep your eyes peeled!

Free Things to do in Barceloneta: Hit the Beach

The beaches at Barceloneta are the most convenient as they are closest to the city and easily walkable, but they can be overcrowded in the summer. Instead of taking the easy option and stopping there, hire a bike or walk along the beachfront to Bogatell or Mar Bella beaches near Poblenou where the locals come to enjoy the sunshine and sand.

You could also venture to Badalona a few metro stops away for even quieter beaches without a tourist in sight.  The further away you are from the city, the quieter and cleaner the beaches get!

Explore Barcelona’s Neighbourhoods

Each of Barcelona’s neighbourhoods has its own character and charm, having developed independently over time and gradually been swallowed up by the growing city.  Most tourists visiting Barcelona will spend time in the Gothic Quarter, which is filled with narrow streets bursting with history and cute little shops, restaurants and bars.

One of my favourite areas of Barcelona is Gracia, which is much less touristy and no less charming.  There are several squares where you can sit and grab a drink or a bite to eat, and it feels much less crowded here.  El Raval and Poble Sec are close to La Rambla but have more edge to them, as well as cheaper places to stay and eat.

Take a Walk in the Park

As well as Gaudi’s famous park, Barcelona also has Ciudadela Park, which used to be the site of a huge citadel which now gives the park its name.  There’s a lovely lake where you can hire a boat or just wander and take a rest in the shade.

There are often live musical performances in the park, either officially organised ones or ad hoc from the many street performers who practice tightrope walking, juggling or playing their instruments.

Soak Up the Views

Barcelona is known as the city between the mountains and the sea, and its hilly terrain provides some incredible views.  One of my top free things to do in Barcelona is to climb up somewhere and just enjoy the view!  Montjuic has lovely views of the port and of the city from the other side of the mountain.

The bar & roof terrace of the Museum of the History of Catalunya has great views of Barceloneta and Port Vell, which you can pop in to admire for free or buy a drink there for a more leisurely stay. The bunkers at Carmel are popular for romantic dates, head up to Collserola or Tibidabo mountain to see it all!

Hiking in Barcelona

Speaking of Collerserola Natural Park, there are also some fabulous hikes in Barcelona and the surrounding area to enjoy.  You may not want to hike in the summer, but cooler temperatures in the shoulder and off-seasons make hiking a fabulous free activity in Barcelona.

Some hikes require a trip on the metro or cercania train to get to the hiking trail, but with just over 1 euro for a journey, I’m still including it here as one of the cheap things to do in Barcelona that might as well be free!

Learn Catalan for Free

If you plan on having an extended stay in Barcelona, the Catalan government offers 45 hours of free Catalan classes for beginners, as well as basic Catalan up to A2 level for free.  Check out the government website for details.

Watch a Free Movie on the Beach

In July, Cinema Lliure set up a free cinema on Barceloneta beach a couple of nights a week. Films are shown in their original version with Spanish or Catalan subtitles, so check which films are showing before you go down there – you want to be able to understand what’s going on!

Show up early to get the best spots, and bring a blanket, beer and snacks to munch while you watch.

Free Concerts in Barcelona

During the summer months, green spaces in Barcelona play host to musical groups offering free live performances across the city.  Jazz and classical music are the key genres, keep an eye on the Barcelona Town Hall website for details of the timetable, from June to August.

Enjoy a Local Fiesta

Another one of my favourite free things to do in Barcelona is party!  Each neighbourhood in the city celebrates its own Festa Major, or street festival, at different times of the year. The most popular is the Festa Major de Gràcia in August, when residents decorate their streets with different themes and have live music concerts, free dance classes and more.

Other major festivals include La Merced in September, Las Festes de Santa Eulàlia and the Light Festival in February, and San Joan in June when everyone heads to the beach for fireworks.

Watch Sardana Dancing

The Sardana is a traditional Catalan dance that was banned during the Franco dictatorship, along with the Catalan language.  Despite the ban, Catalans continued to dance in defiance, and now the Sardana is a symbol of Catalan culture and pride.

During the summer in the early evening you can catch a performance in the square in front of the cathedral on Saturdays, or in Plaça Jaume 1 on Sundays, when groups of locals young and old form circles and dance to the sound of a live band.

Watch a Human Tower

Castellers are teams of people of all ages who come together to create human towers, and are one of the most awe-inspiring free things to do in Barcelona.  Castellers usually perform at every festival in Barcelona, and regularly at various events throughout the year.

At major festivals, teams from different areas of Barcelona and Catalunya compete to create the highest and most complex towers, while at other times you may find one group practising in front of the Cathedral.  Check the Castellers de Catalunya website for details of upcoming performances.

This is just a small sample of the best free things in Barcelona that you can enjoy, so what are you waiting for?  Get out there and enjoy free Barcelona!

Barcelona Travel Tips