It’s easy to fall in love with Barcelona, from the mesmerizing views of the Mediterranean Sea to the inventive and surreal architecture that Gaudi created throughout the city. As a favorite of many travelers and the second largest city in Spain, it is not surprising to learn that Barcelona ranks as one of the most expensive cities in the world and the most expensive in the Iberian Peninsula. However, with the right planning even the tightest budgets can afford an unforgettable trip to this captivating coastal destination.
As a shameless foodie, the first things I fantasize about when planning a trip are the restaurants. Eating out can add up, but tips from locals can help you find great food at a reasonable price while giving you a more authentic experience to boot. Before my first trip to Barcelona, a Spanish friend of mine recommended a lively and colorful Vietnamese restaurant called Bun Bo Vietnam. Starting off with a spicy coconut soup will begin your tab at less than 3 €, followed by your choice of a variety of rice, noodle or curry dishes all under 10€.
If you are looking for a more traditional Spanish experience, check out Can Paixano. This dive bar is a favorite of locals and tourists, where the crowds of hungry patrons spill out onto the street. Order cava, a Spanish sparkling wine that this bar offers at an unbeatable price, and a few tapas or bocadillos from the menu posted on the wall.
For those seeking a cheap and fun place to stay, any of the city’s hundreds of hostels would make great option and an excellent way to meet fellow travelers. The new 360 Hostel stood out to me as clean and attractive with a good location and friendly staff. The hostel has four different dorm types, as well as a spacious kitchen and gameroom located in the basement. As I paid just 11€ per night for the mixed dorm, I found the hostel offered great value for its price. However, as is the case with most hostels, you sacrifice privacy along with novelties such as free towels, shampoo and conditioner, etc.
In a city chock-full of tourist attractions, it can be difficult to determine which activities are worth what you pay both in money and time. For a free to-do in Barcelona, go for a walk by the waterfront to soak up beautiful views of the beach and a harbor filled with sailboats, yachts and even cruise ships. This is a great place to relax, enjoy street performers and take pictures – but avoid eating at any of the overpriced restaurants in this area. Continue your on-foot tour of the city by walking up La Rambla. This historic pedestrian street is lined with shops and cafes, where you might be tempted give your feet a break by sitting down for a glass of sangria. Stepping into the Boqueria market, located right off La Rambla, is a must. What originally began as simply a meat market now houses a variety of produce, seafood, meat, cheese and even chocolate stands. Each vendor takes care to create brilliant, colorful displays of their farm fresh goods and other treats, letting the foods truly pop in the dimly lit market.
If possible, plan your Barcelona trip to include the first Sunday of the month when museums are free. The impressive Picasso museum, which displays an incredible exhibit of his earliest works, additionally offers free entry every Sunday after 3 p.m. For a museum that is worth its price, check out one of Gaudi’s houses. The Casa Batllo is 21.50€ for adults, but it is well worth it for the interactive tour of this dreamlike architectural masterpiece.