Every first Sunday of the month the vast majority of museums in Barcelona are free of charge, and every other Sunday they’re usually free after 3pm. This means you can admire the work of Picasso or get up close and personal with the cutting edge exhibitions of the CCCB for free. Be sure to get there early as queues form quickly and the gates usually shut half an hour before closing.
While access to the inside of many of the city’s Modernist landmarks requires paying a fee, you can enjoy the exteriors of these great buildings without spending a dime. Wander up Passeig de Gracià and admire the famous ‘Dragon House’, Casa Batlló, as well as the more sombre La Pedrera. Then cut down to Via Laietana and take a tour of the Palau de la Música with its colorful patterned columns and façade.
Heard that you now need to pay to get in to the Park Guëll? Well, that’s only in part true. While you will need to buy tickets to access the main spaces, you can wander around large parts of the park entirely for free. Enter via the entrance on the south-west side of the park and check out the Turó de les Tres Creus – ‘the hill of three crosses’ – then wander down and walk around the famous market area with its mosaic benches (you can’t access the benches but can easily admire them from afar). Finish off with a stroll through the lavender and rosemary bushes up to the top where you can enjoy views of the whole city.
Barely a weekend goes by in Barcelona that there is not a celebration or festivity taking part somewhere in the city. All you need to do is check the local council’s website (or our handy What’s On guide) to find out what’s going on this week. Most celebrations will involve free activities such as processions of the giants – ‘los gegants’ – traditional dances and folklore such as the fire run ‘correfoc’, and of course plenty of live music and dancing.
There are a number of beautiful outdoor gardens which can be enjoyed for free on the slopes of Barcelona’s Montjuïc hill and are generally much less crowded than the central Parc de la Ciutadella. The Gardens of the Grec Theatre has a stunning amphitheatre carved into the hillside, while the Laribal gardens are accessed via the Escaleras del Generalife, an enchanting stone staircase bordered by a trickling waterfall. For something a little different, head over to the Mossèn Costa i Llobera garden for an impressive collection of cacti and succulent plants.
While you’ll need to pay and queue to access the inside of Antoni Gaudí’s world-famous basilica, the Sagrada Família, there’s nothing stopping you taking the full tour of its three splendid façades entirely for free. Only the nativity façade was constructed during Gaudí’s lifetime, while the others have all been constructed from plans. To really get the most out of your experience be sure to have an encyclopaedia page up on your phone so that you can manage your very own guided tour and point out the various quirks and oddities of the design.
We’re not just talking about having a casual splash around in the water here. The local council have funded the creation of purpose-built swimming lanes in the open waters of the sea, meaning you can get serious about your swimming with all the comfort and security of a swimming pool. The lanes are clearly indicated so that you don’t have to worry about jet-skis and power-boats. There’s also lots of information about the local flora and fauna so you know who and what you’ll be brushing shoulders with.
Many of Barcelona’s most precious landmarks and sights are out in the open for everyone to enjoy, from the neo-gothic Cathedral to the Montjuïc castle. In some cases though, you just need to know where to look in order to truly appreciate the cultural heritage and history of the city. A little bit of online research will deliver a wealth of information on some of the more overlooked sights of the Gothic Quarter, including its many architectural secrets – from mysterious letter boxes laden with symbolism, to cursed skulls. Plan ahead and discover a side to the Gothic Quarter you’ve never seen before.
Not confined to the walls of a museum, the lively street-art scene that gives much of Barcelona its gritty urban character is out in the open for all to enjoy. While you can never be sure where the next masterpiece will pop up, you can be sure to find something to admire in certain areas: the Three Chimneys Park off Parallel always features lively murals, while the backstreets of the Raval around the MACBA are often adorned with the odd character here and there, and the Miró-inspired mural on the corner of the Carrer de Sant Pau and Carrer de Riereta is practically part of the furniture.
Ever noticed how so many of the older apartments in the city are small? It’s not just a question of money which kept private living areas to a minimum – life in Barcelona has always been something that takes place outdoors, in the streets and squares that give the city its charm. Take a seat on one of the many public seating areas and watch the world go by: you’ll soon be joined by neighbors old and young.