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Many of Barcelona’s winding old backstreets and picturesque plazas are inaccessible to vehicle traffic, making them perfect for exploring on foot.
What better way to get some exercise and learn about Barcelona’s history, art and culture than on a free walking tour? After all, less money spent on a tour means more money for tapas later. Here’s Culture Trip’s round-up of the best free walking tours in Barcelona.
Barcelona has been through some momentous architectural changes over the years, and nowhere is this more evident than in the historic Gothic Quarter, right at the heart of the city. Free Walking Tours BCN offers a fun and informative walking tour of the district, taking in some important historical sights. From the old Jewish quarter to the majestic Gothic cathedral, you’ll learn everything you ever wanted to know about the history of Barcelona and Catalonia and what makes them distinct from other parts of Spain. The tour leaves from Plaça Catalunya every day at 10am, 11am and 3pm, and lasts around 2.5 hours.
Starting just off Via Laietana in the very centre of town, Sandeman’s New Europe free tour of Barcelona takes you on a whistle-stop tour of the city’s history. From Barcelona’s legendary founding (was Hercules really responsible?) and the Spanish Civil War to the birth of the modern independence movement and the 1992 Olympic Games, this guide will give you the historical context to the modern city we know and love today. The 2.5-hour tour runs five times a day and starts by the exit of Jaume I Metro station. The route is wheelchair-accessible.
Runner Bean Tours offers two free tours, so there’s something for everyone here. One tour has you covered for the history of the Gothic Quarter, while the second, the Runner Bean free Gaudí tour, gives you the lowdown on one of Barcelona’s most famous architects. You’ll find out what defined the movement known as Catalan Modernism and how Antoni Gaudí became one of its most important members. The guide will also take you past some of his most important buildings, including the world-famous Sagrada Família. The tour departs every day from the water fountain at Plaça Reial at 11am and 4.30pm during the summer and at 11am during the winter. The 2.5-hour journey includes a couple of trips on the Metro to reduce walking, so be sure to bring some change.
There are two routes to choose from with Feel Free Tours: the Old Town Tour of Barcelona and the Gaudí Modernism Walking Route. As well as showcasing the masterpieces of Antoni Gaudí, the Modernism route will take you past some other, often overlooked but exceptional work by fellow Modernist designers. It will also delve into the urban planning ideals of the 1856 Cerdà expansion plan that advocated (at the time) revolutionary ideas around hygiene and mobility, and eventually led to the building of the Eixample district – a must for anyone interested in the history of urban planning. Tours run every day of the week pretty much all year round, and last around 2.5 hours. Groups of no more than 15 people depart from in front of the Hard Rock Café in Plaça Catalunya.
Travel Bar tours start and end at their own bar, just off Las Ramblas, near Liceu station. Grab a beer, cocktail or sangria and get to know your fellow group members before or after the tour. The two-hour free walking tour is another great general walk of Barcelona’s most impressive sights, with everything from historic architecture to street art to keep you engaged along the way. Tours are held daily and start at 11am, 1pm and 3pm, but despite their frequency, booking is essential.
Barcelona is home to a thriving street-art scene, so the free walking tours from Barcelona Street Style are a must for fans of urban art. With two options on offer, covering either the El Born neighbourhood and the Gothic Quarter or the colourful district of El Raval, these tours showcase the best of the city’s contemporary city murals. Led by guides who are very knowledgeable about techniques and styles, as well as artists currently active on the local scene, these tours are a fabulous way to learn more about an art form that most of us see every day but may know little about. The El Born and Gothic quarter tour departs at 2pm each day, while the El Raval tour heads out at 10am and 4.45pm. Advance booking is a must.
The Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) was one of the most dramatic conflicts in the history of Barcelona, and one that still has resonance today. The Be Locals Tours Civil War Free Walking Tour takes you back in time to relive the dark days of the conflict and show you places and monuments still visibly scarred by the fighting. The guides illustrate the historical significance through old photographs and stories of how normal people lived during the war, which makes this an essential tour for anyone interested in this important period. The walk departs every Friday at 11am from Plaça Catalunya; booking online is highly recommended.
Fancy yourself as a tour guide? Well, the Ruta del Moderisme might just be for you. This self-guided tour winds through the city, and takes in more than 100 examples of Barcelona’s acclaimed take on Art Nouveau. The tour will introduce you to the works of Gaudí, Domènech i Montaner and Puig i Cadafalch, the architects who made Barcelona the world capital of Modernism. Points of interest on the route are marked by round red paving stones on the pavement. To keep this tour completely free, you can follow the route and read the descriptions of the buildings on the dedicated website. Alternatively, if you don’t mind spending a bit of money, the accompanying guidebook is €12 and gets you discounted entry to many of the sights along the way. You can buy the guidebook from the Güell Pavilions or the L’Institut Municipal del Paisatge Urbà.
This article is an updated version of a story created by Tara Jessop.