There are so many free things to do in Barcelona, it really is the perfect place to see Spain on a budget. The list could go on and on if you include all the festivals in Barcelona and sports like beach volleyball. However, for this article, let’s focus on free things to do in Barcelona that you can enjoy no matter what time of year you visit the Catalan capital.
The public museums in Barcelona are free on the first Sunday of each month. This includes the Picasso Museum, the Maritime Museum, the famous art museum MNAC, and many others.
It is worth checking their individual websites for details and opening hours, especially for the Picasso museum. It being extremely popular, during the pandemic they started pre-selling even the free tickets online, so if you just showed up on the day, there is no way of getting in.
The botanical garden on Mont Juic is also free on Sunday afternoons.
The magic fountain is a light-music-water show near Placa Espana that usually takes place several times a week, except during a few weeks in the winter, when the fountain shuts down for cleaning. The show always draws a crowd, so it makes sense to get there early to find the best spot. If it is windy, the best spot is upwind from the fountain!
From Placa Espana walk towards the MNAC museum on the hill of Mont Juic, you cannot miss the fountain with the dancing water. The showtimes change depending on the time of year, so make sure to do a quick google search before heading out.
One of the best free things to do in Barcelona is to go to one of the city’s beaches. They are easily accessible, from the Barceloneta beaches up to Llevant and clean. The city council invests a lot in maintenance and upkeep and it really shows. Where else do you get free wifi on a beach, so close to a buzzing city, lifeguards, and bathrooms?
Several restaurants and beach bars (called Chiringuitos) invite you to dine and drink with a view of the Mediterranean Sea. For the athletically inclined there are all kinds of water sports on offer, SUP, sailing, windsurfing, swimming.
When the waves come, in the winter, surfers come out even early in the morning to ride them. A stroll along the wide boardwalk lined with palm trees makes for a pleasant walk any time of year. Nowadays, you can even continue your walk past the W hotel in Barceloneta, as the new marina features a pier you can walk, run and even skate on.
Numerous kinesthetic parks (outdoor gyms) and skate parks are spread out along the boardwalk. And between Somorrostro beach and Nova Icaria beach, you will find Port Olimpic, a port lined with restaurants open to anyone.
Parc de la Ciutadella
Don’t miss out on this gem! It is one of the highlights of the self-guided Barcelona walking tour and a must-see place in Barcelona. Locals hang out in this park for picnics, slacklining, or many other artistic hobbies. The main gate opens towards Arc de Triumf and the side gates on Passeig Picasso, the largest near the station Estacion de Francia with a view of the Columbus statue.
Inside the park, you will find the Barcelona Zoo, a lake with boats for rent, a gazebo, and the fountain Cascada del Parc de la Ciutadella. On the way to the gate behind this fountain, you will also see ping pong tables where you can easily ask anyone if you want to join for a round of table tennis.
Bunkers at Carmel
The bunkers are one the favorite places to go for Erasmus students in Barcelona, as they are free to visit and offer great views of the city. They are a little out of the way, but public transport in Barcelona is fabulous. The closest bus stop is Gran Vista – Pl Mitja Lluna, from there you walk around 8min. Guinardo on the yellow line (L4) is the nearest subway station but from there it’s still a 30min walk.
Every Sunday after 3 pm the Monastery of Pedralbes opens its gates for free. You will find it in the posh neighborhood of Sarria, where many of the Barca football players live.
Founded in 1327 the Poor Clare community lived in the monastery for most of these 700 years. The church and all the other rooms you can visit surround the cloister in the center of the structure. It is considered to be the world’s largest gothic cloister. Currently, it features a medieval herb garden.
With some of the rooms, such as the kitchen and the storeroom, partly furnished you will get a good idea of what daily life was like for the community who lived here.
On Saturdays, (except bank holidays and in August) people with Asperger’s Syndrome offer guided tours of the monastery. Spending an hour with them learning about the Pedralbes Monastery will help them fight the stigma in today’s society.
One of the absolute must-see attractions of Barcelona is the art nouveau architecture. The city is particularly famous for the work of Antoni Gaudi, but many other architects of the turn of the last century have also left their mark.
Some of Gaudi’s buildings are open to visitors, such as the cathedral Sagrada Familia, the private homes Casa Batllo, Casa Mila, Palau Güell, and of course the famous Park Güell with the mosaic salamander. Even if you need to pay to see the inside, the facades are just as impressive!
Casa Batllo and Casa Mila (also called La Pedrera) are both located on Passeig de Gracia. Also within walking distance from there, you can visit Palau Güell in Raval, just off of La Rambla. You can even experience this palace for free on the first Sunday of the month from inside!
Sagrada Familia is absolutely worth a picture. It’s a bit out of the way, so if instead of walking you decide to take public transport check out this post on How To Get Around In Barcelona.
Visiting the modernist facades in Barcelona should be added to any Spain bucket list.
BruumRuum is an outdoor light installation at the Design Museum in Glories. The light changes depending on the environmental noise level. It’s not a see-this-and-die sort of attraction, more of a when-you’re-in-the-area kind of thing.
But the reason it made the list is because it is one of the many examples of what an environmentally conscious and smart city Barcelona is. Free wifi on the beach was mentioned above, it actually covers large parts of the city. There are sensors all over town, for light, for noise, for the weight of trash bins, for how dry the ground is in the parks.
There is an app for everything from outdoor festivals to art exhibitions and the tech sector in the city is still booming. New start-ups develop more and more exciting technology, making the world a better place.
La Boqueria Market
La Boqueria is free to enter but you may get tempted to spend some money on the fresh food offered here. Located on La Rambla, not far from Placa Catalunya it makes for a good lunch stop for travelers on a budget. Try some of the fresh fruit, local specialties like jamon (ham) or take some of today’s catch home for a seafood dinner.
Merchants make a real effort with the presentation, so you’ll find many good insta-worthy spots. The earlier you arrive, the better chances you have to beat the tourist crowds at la Boqueria.
Hike in Collserola Park / see Tibidabo
Tibidabo is a church on a hill on the northwest rim of Barcelona. The black Madonna has attracted pilgrims for centuries and the surrounding amusement park draws visitors year-round. But you can also reach Tibidabo by hiking!
The Collserola Park offers surprisingly varied natural habitats and countless winding trails. Apart from hiking to Tibidabo, you can try many other routes.
At the main entrance (train stop: Baixador de Vallvidrera) you will find an information center with a map and suggested loop trails.
It makes for a fantastic half day or day out. Some of the trails are also open to mountain bikers! Pack a lunch and take in the sounds of nature at one of the picnic tables in the park, with the metropolis of Barcelona just on the other side of the hill!
Plus, Tibidabo is one of the best day trips from Barcelona.
Botanical Gardens on Montjuic
So many attractions await on Barcelona’s inner-city mountain Montjuic. The Botanical Garden is just one of many. But when you are in the area, why not stop by and learn about the flora of the Mediterranean?
Admission is not free every day, but on the following days*
- All day the first Sunday of the month
- Every Sunday after 3pm, and
- All day on February 12, February 13, May 18 and September 24
*data from the website of Botanical Gardens on Nov 4, 2021 – subject to change
Hopefully, you have found a few free things to do in Barcelona above that interest you. Beyond the art & architecture, nature and gardens, many museums and viewpoints, make sure to take some time to just explore. Walk around the different neighborhoods of Barcelona, look around, and take it all in. It’s a magical city.