As the capital of Catalonia—the wealthiest region of Spain—Barcelona is among the top cultural and economic hubs in Europe. Striking a unique balance between culture, beach, cuisine, history, and nightlife, Barcelona can also be quite pricey—especially in the touristy parts of the city.
In order to keep your Barcelona vacation costs within reason without holding back, I strongly recommend considering the following 5 tips to experience Barcelona on a budget.
1. Choose Airbnb
Hotel prices in Barcelona can be outrageously expensive, especially during high season (May-August). To avoid these steep accommodation prices, it is best to stay in an Airbnb—where you can uncover cheap deals in some of the best parts of the city.
I recommend Airbnbs on the streets adjacent to the Ramblas (the premier shopping street connecting Plaza Catalunya to the waterfront). There, you can expect to pay between $50-80 per night for a fully-equipped studio (or in the $25-40 range for something more basic). This option is most appealing for travelers in groups of 2-3 who wish to pay less than the price of a hostel.
Why stay in a hotel when you can be equally as comfortable in an Airbnb? Or better yet, why stay in a hostel when you can save money and have a more authentic experience with Airbnb?
2. Shop at Mercadona
Though I highly advise that you splurge on Barcelona’s delicious tapas and paella, I also recommend checking out Spain’s premier budget supermarket—Mercadona—to keep costs down while discovering some authentic Spanish foods.
At Mercadona, you can expect to pay in the €5 range for a baguette, package of chorizo, 5 liter tub of water, and decent bottle of wine (or my guilty pleasure, Don Simon sangria). Rather than buying out everywhere as you explore the city, shopping for meals and snacks at Mercadona will ensure a satiated and low-cost day.
3. Try paella along the Barceloneta
The best paella in Barcelona is not served on the touristy Ramblas street or in the Gothic quarter, but rather near the beach— along the Barceloneta.
Have you ever seen perfect competition in action? Along the Barceloneta, there are nearly 10 restaurants with identical menus and competitive deals. If you stroll along this strip of restaurants and show curiosity about their food offerings (even though all menus are exactly the same), a restaurant promoter may offer you a discounted rate or complimentary bottle of wine to accompany your meal. For only €15, you can expect wine, a starter, and the best paella which will leave you wanting to return.
4. Purchase the T-10 Metro Pass
Beginning when you arrive at the airport, do not be fooled into buying a one-way ticket into city. Barcelona is a very spread-out city that cannot be exclusively explored on foot. The T-10 metro pass—which can be purchased at the airport for only €9.95— will offer you 10 rides, with the airport commute comprising 1 of them. In how many major cities can you reach the city center from the airport for only €1?!
There are no separate zones within the city, so each trip on the metro only counts as one ride. When jumping between the Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, and the beach, use the T-10 metro pass to maximize your time!
5. Keep your wallet in your front pocket
Barcelona is widely considered the pickpocketing capital of Europe. I have heard of too many people losing their valuables to pickpocketing in Barcelona. These street thieves are professional pickpocketers, who have a repertoire of techniques to commandeer your money and personal belongings.
I recommend informing yourself on the most recent techniques being used (based on police accounts and Barcelona-based tourist guides). The best advice is to keep your wallet in your front pocket and avoid large crowds on the streets. Keep a watchful eye of your bags and personal belongings on the metro more than you otherwise would.
By adhering to these five tips, you will ensure that your stay in Barcelona is an economical one. I hope you find these tidbits of advice helpful in your quest to enjoy Barcelona on a budget!
To follow my journey through Europe and around the world, feel free to connect with me on Instagram: @Global.Viewpoint!
Happy Travels! -Jon
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