Getting by on the Cheap in Barcelona

I lost my job exactly one week before a scheduled trip to Barcelona so it was imperative that I spend as little as possible on that vacation. Of course, another option would have been to cancel the trip, but I don’t like to do things I know I’ll regret.

The good news is that Spain is pretty affordable and the Euro exchange rate for Americans traveling to Europe is the best it has been in years. The better news is that there is a lot of fun to be had in Barcelona for free.

Eating and Drinking

La Boqueria Market

If you’re strapped for cash and spending a few days in Barcelona, the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria has got you covered. At the market, you can get fresh ingredients to take elsewhere, like the park or you can sit at one of the counters and have a delicious and reasonably priced meal. For 3-4 Euro, you can get a good sandwich or a to-go cone of jamon serrano and fresh juice. The market is also a bustling attraction where you can actually spend a good bit of time getting lost in the aisles. If you’re staying somewhere with a kitchen, this is also a great place to pick up fresh meat or fish for cooking.

If you’re a budget conscious drinker, you’re in luck. It’s cheaper to get beer or wine than water in some places in Barcelona. One of my favorite spots was Bar Sincopa, which is rumored to be owned by musician, Manu Chao. Aside from being an absolutely charming spot to hang out, you can have a beer for 2 Euro or less or their cocktail specials for about double that.

Musical decor at Bar Sincopa.

Sightseeing

Between museums and other attractions, European travel can get pricey. But luckily, Barcelona is like an open museum and a from your hotel to a nearby coffee shop can be a unique and beautiful experience thanks to Gaudi’s architecture. No better place to check out his distinctive style than Parc Guell. A small central area of the park requires tickets but if you’re looking to avoid the entrance fee, you can still enjoy large swaths of the park for free. Just remember to put on your walking shoes. The size of the park cannot be overstated.

Street performers at Parc Guell.

If sports are your thing and your timing is right, you might be able to spend a whole afternoon enjoying a soccer game. Though you can probably get affordable tickets to the game either online or from the stadium directly, it’s cheaper to watch the game at a local bar. And given that Camp Nou does not sell alcohol (don’t be fooled by the few beers you see – they’re non-alcoholic), it might also be more fun. If you’re going anywhere near Camp Nou, remember that fans will be drinking before the game so the closer you get to the stadium the more packed it’ll be.

The Gothic Quarter is one of the most interesting areas of Barcelona where you can spend an afternoon (or a day!) wandering the narrow streets and checking out the boutiques and eateries. While you enjoy the Gothic churches and plazas, you can pick up unique souvenirs or stop for a glass of wine. The area is adjacent to another popular tourist walking spot, La Rambla.

Splurging

Yes, saving money is important, and there is much to enjoy in Barcelona without spending a dime, but there are always attraction not to be missed.  In Barcelona, that’s the Sagrada Familia. Even if you have to skip a meal to pay the entrance fee (which is 15€ for adults), do not skip this. You won’t regret it. But don’t take my word for it…

Light streaming through the colorful windows of the Sagrada Familia.