When I tell people I'm flirting with 30, they tell me I look like I'm in college and I have the energy of a pre-adolescent. Well, that's good because did you know there are 195 countries in this world? My goal is to travel to as many countries as my age. My current count? 14. Yikes. Better get jetsettin'! Read More

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Barcelona Budget Travel Guide

November 2, 2016.happynfull.6 Likes.8 Comments
Barcelona Budget Travel Guide: Tips and Recommendations Before Your Visit

We took the OUIBUS from Angouleme, France down to Barcelona, Spain for 19 Euros each. It allowed for a quick stopover in Bourdeaux, where we enjoyed a beer at a patio cafe, stretched our legs, and hopped onto the rest of our journey. 

Barcelona Budget Travel Guide - Things to Do on a Budget

Barcelona's Las Ramblas District - humming and buzzing with activity

To date, Barcelona is my most favorite city I have visited along our journey. It’s a coastal city with a very laid back vibe. I still cannot get over the fact that most people start eating lunch around 3pm and have dinner close to 9:30pm. Given that Chris and I lag everywhere we go, we were pleasantly surprised that we were never rushed nor late to anything… in fact, at 1pm we were early to lunch, beating the rush!

Barcelona Budget Travel Guide: Tips and Recommendations Before Your Visit

Beautiful art and displays can be found roaming the streets of Barcelona

The people of this Catalonian region are really friendly. We met a few Americans who have decided to move to Barcelona after visiting once. After my week here, I can see the allure and why they decided to do so. For a budget-conscious, frugal foodie like me… Barcelona has it all!

Read on to learn tips on getting around, the language, and of course the guide on budget things to do and eat!

Barcelona Public Transit Tips – Avoid Our Mistake

Arriving at 6am in Barcelona, I didn’t really know what to expect. We didn’t do any pre-planning beforehand (oops), so we bought the 5-day unlimited metro pass (Hola BCN!) for  €32. It made sense as we had 7 days to explore this city. We pulled out our smart phone and purchased the ticket on the web for 10% off, and printed the tickets from the machine by entering in our emailed voucher number.

I thought we were getting a good deal. We outsmarted the system and were saving 10% after all. What we quickly realized after day 2 though is that Barcelona is a much smaller city compared to many metropolitan areas. We opted to walk at ground level several times as the weather was beautiful and there was much more to see than the underground subway. We barely needed to use our ticket more than twice a day, so it would have been much cheaper buying their T-10 Ride Ticket deal.

A single ticket costs  €2.15. However, the T-10 ride ticket deal  €9.95 and allows you to have up to 10 rides, which turns out to be less than 1 Euro a ride! The nice thing about this is you can share the ticket in your group, passing it to each as one makes it through the gates. We would have saved ourselves half of what we paid for using this option. Be sure to check out TBN to learn more about their current rates and zones.

Rent Bikes in Barcelona

There are also tons of bikes around Barcelona ready to be rented if this is more your pace!

Barcelona’s Official Language Isn’t Spanish?

Perhaps one of the biggest culture shocks for me was learning that the majority of locals in Barcelona don’t want to speak Spanish (though they could and will for tourists). Barcelona’s first official language (not dialect) is Catalan and you’ll hear it throughout public announcements, see it on all of the street signs, and hear the foreign language from the locals. I’ve observed Catalans are very proud of their heritage, and it can be seen throughout the city with their flags. For a first time listener, Catalan sounded like a blend between French and Spanish.

Barcelona Budget Travel Guide: Tips and Recommendations Before Your VisitSome phrases to learn:

Thank you is pronounced Gràcies (GRAH-syuhs) OR Mercès (muhr-SEHS)
Please is pronounced Si us plau (see oos PLOW)
How are you is pronounced Com estàs? (kohm uhs-TAHS?)
Fine, thank you is pronounced Molt bé, gràcies. (mohl behh, GRAH-syuhs)
Good morning is pronounced Bon dia. (BOHN DEE-uh)

Barcelona’s Food is Jaw Dropping

My second culture shock was how delicious, fresh, and affordable all of the food was. I’m not sure if it’s because I had just come from France where produce and restaurants came with a hefty pricetag, but my jaw was literally dropping in every restaurant we turned in. I had my hands on each cheek, my mouth open, and asking Chris, “Is this real?!”

One block down from our Airbnb, we stumbled upon a cute cafe called 5 2 Cafe that had fresh, long sandwiches and lattes for €2.60. We loved it so much that we went back several days, usually for breakfast. The sandwich portions were so reasonable, Chris and I would split one. Our favorite was the Spanish omelette which has scrambled eggs and mashed potatoes with tomato, on bread. It’s pretty carb heavy but we have a lot of walking to do so shhh!

Barcelona Budget Things to Do and Eat

All of this, salami sandwich, 2 desserts, 2 coffees with milk, for less than 5 USD.

Throughout Las Ramblas, there are restaurants after restaurants boasting Menu Del Dias (3 course meals) for less than 10 Euros. We sat at a nice white cloth table with views of a plaza courtyard, and had the longest lunch of our life. I received a glass of red wine, a basket of bread, a green vegetable soup, a mediterranean Hake fish plate with a salad, and a dessert for €10.95 total (included tax). After tipping 10%, my 3-course meal came to roughly €12. One might say I was VERY happy and full.

Barcelona Cheap Eats

Les Quinzes Restaurant has Menu del Dia for Less than €11.

Close to our Airbnb was this amazing restaurant called Tickets Bar. Unfortunately, we didn’t make reservations in time but a really great review can be found here!

Barcelona’s Most Amazing Food Market: St Joseph La Boqueria

Barcelona Budget Travel Guide: Tips and Recommendations Before Your Visit

OK I have been to Seattle’s Pike Place Market, Vancouver’s Granville Island Market, and several other food markets all throughout North America and Europe. They don’t come close to Barcelona’s St. Joseph La Boqueria on Las Ramblas. The minute you walk in, you see rows and rows of beautiful, colorful fresh produce and a variety of unique offerings such as fruit candy, tapas and pintxos, fresh juices and coconuts, and seafood displays of live marine life.

Bring cash and a full appetite. I’ve been told that renowned chefs will have pop up stands where you can order their specials. Without further ado, I’ll let the photos do the talking.

Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic)

Barcelona Budget Travel Guide: Tips and Recommendations Before Your Visit

Barcelona neighorhoods

Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter creates a very beautiful ambiance both at night and during the day. I was impressed with how clean and litter free the streets and alleys were. Given the tall buildings, the cobbled narrow stone roads, and the windy turns of alleys at every corner, there is a very medieval feel. It really reminds me of Amsterdam’s Red Light District, without sex and weed. I will say though that were solicited a handful of times, for weed, not sex.

In this area, there’s a lot of hipster, trendy restaurants, bars, cafes, and shops. We decided to join an international meet up group and realized this area is where a lot of expats will hang out. They have claimed bars such as Margarita Blues and Polaroid Bar. Chris was shocked at how cheap his beer was, giving me a ‘You’ve been warned’ look as he gaped at his pint.

My favorite discoveries in this area include: Federal Cafe for free unlimited wifi and coffee. Grand Beirut Restaurant for 10 Euro hookah and traditional Middle Eastern desserts.

Barcelona’s Gràcia District:

This is a lesser known area, but very cosmopolitan and trendy. It was merged into Barcelona’s city plans later, so you’ll notice the architecture is different from really tall city blocks and squares you see everywhere else. We enjoyed walking down this area as it was quite possibly the most picturesque.

Barcelona Budget Travel Guide: Tips and Recommendations Before Your Visit

Honey on honey on honey – wanted to buy and ship back loads from this store

My favorite discoveries in this area include: Macchina for Italian version of Chipotle, select fresh ingredients and they will make a pasta for under 8 Euros. Biopassio, a well curated natural foods and spices shop, has everything from tea to honey.

Barcelona’s Modernist Architect Antonio Gaudi

Gaudi is all over this city. He had a very fascinating history and if time permits, I recommend you check out Sandeman’s Walking Tour to walk through some of his pieces and learn more about the history of Barcelona. I’ve learned that all of Gaudi’s attractions are very busy, and the best way to save hours of waiting in line, is to book tickets online and select a reservation time.

Barcelona Budget Travel Guide: Tips and Recommendations Before Your Visit

Barceona Sandeman’s Walking Tour – our group. Can you spot Chris and I?

While you have to pay to see most of them, head over to Eixample neighborhood and you can see the exterior for free. If you are to pay for anyone, I highly recommend La Sagrada Familia. It’s a must see as you will never see anything like the interior again. There are tons of Cathedrals throughout Europe but this one has the most interesting and colorful pieces of work. The 15 Euros includes a museum at the exit so be sure you go underground before you exit the premises.

Barcelona Budget Travel Guide: Tips and Recommendations Before Your Visit

La Sagrada Familia under consturction – target completion date is in 2026.


Barcelona Budget Travel Guide: Tips and Recommendations Before Your Visit

Interiors of La Sagrada Familia – the ceiling is beautiful and well lit

Be sure to head over to Ceverzeria Catalon after La Sagrada Familia. It’s an authentic tapas bar and the food displayed will make you excited. If it’s a busy time, you’ll notice there are a lot of people standing in the lobby area. Be sure to push to the front and put your name on the list to be seated. However, if you’re a 1 or 2 person party, I would highly recommend standing behind people seated at the bar as this is first come first serve. It’s really helpful to be able to point to what you want, as they do not have picture menus, and sometimes you may not know what you’re getting.

Barcelona’s Park Güell

Barcelona Budget Travel Guide: Tips and Recommendations Before Your Visit

Photocredit: Shotofglass

It cost 7 Euros to see the inside of Park Güell featuring Antonio Gaudi’s artwork, and having just dropped 15 Euros on La Sagrada Familia, we opted out. However, walking to Park Güell is still very worthwhile as the free views from the top are panoramic.

Budget Things to Do in Barcelona

On top of Park Guell – the hike is definitely worth the views!

Park Güell is situated at the top of a hill, and Barcelona has been kind enough to install escalators for the happy and full people like me. As we walked to the top, we found this viewpoint with a cross at the top, and many people  climb onto this rock to enjoy the views of the entire city and watch the sunset. It’s definitely worth the effort and sweat!

Barcelona You Have Stolen My Heart

I hope I get to visit Barcelona again soon, but you can bet I’ll be back in 2026 when the La Sagrada Familia is finally complete! It’s amazing they have been building this monstrosity for over a century. I have absolutely loved and enjoyed every moment in Barcelona, so much so, that Chris and I extended our trip! Who knows, I might even be one of those American Expats you meet in the Polaroid Bar one day.

If you’re still uninspired and need more ideas, check out this list of  cool things to do in Barcelona!

Love you, Barcelona!

Barcelona Budget Travel Guide: Tips and Recommendations Before Your Visit

Have you been to Barcelona? What do you love about it or wish you could see?

Categories: Europe, Travel Guides
Tags: #spain

Comments (8)

  • Starr . November 2, 2016 . Reply

    I loooooove this guide mostly because FOOD!!! I can’t believe it’s so cheap! When my boyfriend went, he and his friends weren’t impressed with the food and I thought they were totally crazy. They must’ve gone to the one bad tapas place in all of Spain. ><

    Definitely going to check out these spots!

    • (Author) happynfull . November 2, 2016 . Reply

      Omg take me with you if you go!!! 🙂 it’s amazing. They also have the second most Michelin star restaurants but this is a budget blog so sorry, won’t be reporting any of that haha

  • Julie . November 7, 2016 . Reply

    FYI, you can also use that T-10 on the bus and it costs no extra as long as you use it within an hour. So if you take the metro to one spot but need the bus to continue on to your destination, just swipe away. You still have to swipe it, but you’ll see on the back (it counts down your rides) that it doesn’t count it against you. Only works in one direction so you can’t go back on the metro to go to your original destination. Hope that makes sense!!! And make sure to pay the 7 euros and go into Parc Guell next time. It’s most definitely worth it. They only started to charge visitors a few years ago. Glad you enjoyed the city!!! We lived there for almost 5 years and miss it all the time!!!

    • (Author) happynfull . November 7, 2016 . Reply

      Wow thanks so much for that tip Julie! I had no idea — we just walked everywhere because it ended up being so beautiful. I know, the Park looks gorgeous just a bummer they charged. Oh well, another reason to visit Barcelona in the future!! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and so glad you were able to live there… I seriously want to move there after this trip and visiting 13 other countries!

  • Krista . December 31, 2016 . Reply

    Such a great guide, and such great tips! I can’t wait to visit here someday! I will definitely be keeping this post in mind and referring back to it when the time comes!

  • Amy . January 1, 2017 . Reply

    Thanks so much for this! I’ve been reading different blogs to prep for my 2-week trip to Barcelona next week, and your article has tips I haven’t found anywhere else. So excited to explore!

  • Shahara Tiatia . January 8, 2017 . Reply

    Hey there,
    I’ll b traveling to Barcelona in April and would love to ask you where you stayed. Do you remember who your airbnb host was? I’d love to know more.

    Thank you,

  • Therie . May 7, 2017 . Reply

    Saving this as reference for future plans! I’ll definitely be going to Barcelona for the food and for some killer Gothic architecture! Thanks!

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