There are more than enough attractions, museums, and activities to keep you busy in Barcelona. Here are 13 free things to do in Barcelona.
Barcelona can be expensive but this list will not only ensure you save a few Euros but guarantees you’ll have an amazing time in sunny Barcelona. Here are the top free things to do in Barcelona.
Map of Free Things to do in Barcelona
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1. Go Museum Hopping and Admire Picasso’s Art
Don’t spend 16€ to see the Picasso Museum, wait and go on a Sunday for free!
That’s right! Some of the best museums in Barcelona offer free entry every Sunday from 3pm to 8pm.
Don’t miss the Picasso Museum,to see his early works. If you love your history then the Museum of History of Barcelona is for you – especially if you’re into Roman ruins and want to check out the city’s 4,000 square metres of archaeological digs, as well as medieval landmarks and fascinating insights into Catalonia’s history.
For innovative contemporary exhibitions then check out the CCCB. Then there is the new Born Cultural Centre. Beneath this 19th-century market with a cast-iron structure are the ruins of the 18th-century city before it was destroyed in a siege in 1714.
For medieval and modernist art visit the National Museum of Art of Catalonia on the first Sunday of the month.
2. Ramble down La Rambla
La Rambla is a tree-lined pedestrian mall in central Barcelona. Popular with both tourists and locals, it stretches for 1.2 kilometres (0.75 mi) connecting Plaça de Catalunya in the centre with the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell.
It can be crowded, especially during the height of the tourist season. It’s unashamedly touristy, but ambling along this 1km-long walkway is arguably the quintessential Barcelona experience.
La Rambla is lined with regal, historical building. Make sure you stop and gaze up at the stunning site that is Casa Bruno Cuadros, also known by locals as the Casa dels Paraigües (House of Umbrellas).
In 1882, the architect Josep Vilaseca undertook the refurbishment of the Casa Bruno Cuadros and the umbrella shop on the ground floor from which inspiration was drawn for its decoration.
To avoid the crowds, visit La Rambla early morning.
3. Browse the Mercat de la Boqueria
Mercat de la Boqueria or simply La Boqueria, was the first of Barcelona’s local markets and was officially opened on Saint Joseph’s day, on the 19th of March 1840. However, the history goes back a good few years earlier. On the site where the market is today there were already peddlers selling meat in the thirteenth century.
There are tapas bars, pizza stalls and all manner of produce you can try before you buy.
4. Admire Modernism Architecture
While many of Barcelona’s architectural gems have admission fees to see the interiors, the arguably more impressive facades can be seen for free.
The mind-blowing workmanship of Gaudí’s magnum opus, the cathedral-like La Sagrada Família, for example, or the three stunning examples of Modernisme that sit side-by-side on the Passeig de Gràcia – the Casa Lleó Morera, the Casa Amatller and Gaudí’s Casa Batlló.
If you feel like travelling further afield you can also see most of Parc Güell from the outside. From the main entrance, you can see the two large gingerbread-house-like buildings. Continuing up the stairs on the hill to the left, you can also get a spectacular view over the city as well as get closer to Gaudí’s famous mosaic covered seats.
5. Bathe at the Beach
Barcelona has some wonderful beaches. There are 4.2 kilometres of golden sandy beaches only 10 minutes from the city centre and four main beach areas.
The closest because is Barceloneta beach. The easiest way to get there is is to catch the yellow line metro and get off at the Barceloneta stop. Alternatively, you can walk there which will take you about 20 minutes from the end of La Rambla.
I highly recommend the walk as there are some enchanting views en-route. You’ll see the “Monument a Colom” a memorial to the great explorer Christopher Columbus. A little further along is the Port Vell de Barcelona, a picturesque port with a beautiful view of the sea and marina.
6. Admire Joan Miró’s Public Art
Barcelona’s favourite homegrown artist at Joan Miró has some fantastic sculptures around the city for free viewing. Parc de Joan Miró is home to his epic 22m-tall Woman and Bird sculpture covered in primary coloured glazed tiles and rising dramatically from a sparkling pool.
There’s also a Miró mosaic in the central walkway of La Rambla and another displayed unexpectedly on the outside wall of Terminal 2 at the airport.
If you still want more then for 12€ you can visit Fundació Joan Miró.
7. See Barcelona’s Other Cathedral
In the heart of Barri Gòtic, the magnificent neo-Gothic La Catedral is as impressive outside as it is within. Inside are soaring domed ceilings, pillars and cloister with a courtyard of palms, orange trees and resident white geese.
Entrance is free in the morning and late afternoon.
8. Lose Your Way in the Old City
Get to know Barcelona by strolling around the old Gothic quarter (Barri Gòtic) located next to the popular La Rambla. These cobblestone alleyways are lined with bars and quirky shops and quiet little plaças (squares).
Every corner of this quarter is full of history from the old Jewish quarter, el Call, to the secluded medieval alleyways that define the neighbourhood, you’ll find charming little squares, streets such as Carrer del Bisbe or patios in many buildings that are open to the public. Located here is the historical archive of the city and the Roman Temple of Augustus.
Don’t miss the square Plaça del Rei and Plaça Sant Felip Neri, the latter of which features an emblematic fountain and church. Look out for the scars in the walls from the heavy bombing during the Spanish civil war.
9. Wander through Plaça Reial
Plaça Reial isn’t called ‘Royal Square’ for nothing. It’s architect, Francesc Molina, designed this luxurious square with the aim of praising the monarchy. King Ferdinand VII, who was king at the time, was to be immortalised as a statue depicting him on horseback in the centre of the square. The monument never came to fruition and, in its place, stands the fountain of the Three Graces.
The two street lamps on both sides of the central fountain were designed by the young Antoni Gaudí – his first commissioned work for the city. The are surmounted by a winged helmet and a dragon.
The palm trees provide shade over one of Barcelona’s busiest and most vibrant spots. The porticoes conceal restaurants, bars and some of Barcelona’s most popular nightspots.
10. See Barcelona from Above at Montjuïc Hill
Montjuïc, translated as “Jew Mountain” offers a perfect mix of nature, great views and culture.
Many key events have taken place here giving Montjuïc its personality. The first such event was the 1929 International Exhibition held in Barcelona which fostered the development of the zone. More recently, the 1992 Olympic Games brought about major renewal. Located here at the Olympic Stadium is the Torre Telefónica. Representing the Olympic Flame and was built to transmit television coverage of the Olympics.
Also on Montjuïc, you’ll find the National Museum of Art and the Joan Miró Foundation, as well as the castle and botanical gardens.
After you explore its green landscape, sit on the steps of the National Museum of Art and watch the sun set over the city.
11. Be Enchanted at the Font Màgica
Font Màgica (Magical Fountain) was built in 1929 for the International Exhibition and has been drawing crowds ever since. The fountain has become one of Barcelona’s most popular attractions and is where the “Piromusical” is held, a true balletic spectacle of water and light.
Shows start at 7pm during autumn and winter and from 9pm in spring and summer.
12. Relax in Parc de la Ciutadella
The park is an open-air museum of sculptures lined with modernist buildings such as the Castell dels Tres Dragons (Castle of the Three Dragons), the Hivernacle greenhouse, and the Geological Museum.
Pull up a chair and relax in the shade as you gaze upon the stunning Cascada Monumental fountain.
13. Take Part in Street Festivals
Barcelona plays host to numerous festivals throughout the year. Some of the more popular Barcelona festivals include Festa Major de Gràcia – a week-long community celebration in the streets of one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods. During this festival, each street in the Gràcia area is decorated by residents depicting anything from storybook themes to homemade waterfalls. Various forms of entertainment take place along the streets during the week of August 15th.
If you’re visiting Barcelona at the end of September then you’re in for a treat! The Barcelona La Merce Festival is the city’s largest street party. This five-day celebration is in honour of Mare de Deu de la Merce, the Patron Saint of Barcelona. This festival marks the end of summer, offering a cool welcome to autumn.
You’ll find a whole host of activities taking place around the city for this festival such as a ‘Giants Parade’. This is a great family event where huge giants with effigies of kings, queens and nobles march through the streets. Then there are Castellers, or Human Towers that people build in Plaça de Jaume. Plus, the popular Correfoc – a ‘fire run’ that’s all about fireworks and sparklers.
Heading to Barcelona? Get my free Catalan Travel Phrase guide here.
Where to Stay in Barcelona
Whilst in Barcelona, I stayed at Vrabac Guesthouse just off the Rambla. The room was huge with space for three guests.