During the first year that I lived in Barcelona I lived off only €800 per month, and that had to cover all of my living expenses, phone bills, transport costs and fiestas. But honestly, I never for a moment felt that I was missing out on anything.
I got to know Barcelona so damn well that I knew exactly where I could save a euro here, ten euros there; you’d be amazed how cheap Barcelona can be when you know where to go.
So, mi amigo, I would like to share with you my insider top tips on how to save money whilst traveling in Barcelona. Venga! Ole!
1. Go big at lunchtime with a bargain menu del dia
Yes, the legendary Spanish lunch menu! Unlike many parts of the world, lunch is the big event in Spain, not dinner. Keep an eye out for the little restaurants and cafes that offer set lunch menus for rock bottom prices. You can get three courses, bread and wine for around €12 – €15, which is vastly cheaper than what you’ll pay for an evening meal.
Fuel up at with a big meal at lunchtime and simply bar hop with tapas treats to keep you going through the evening. Venga ya!
2. Skip the hostel and get your own apartment
The trend of renting apartments as holiday accommodation is taking off in a massive way across Spain and the rest of Europe, and the reason is simple: it’s cheap. Now, I’m not saying you can’t find a cheaper hostel or hotel on a nightly basis, but the real benefit of having your own apartment is that you will have your very own little Spanish kitchen. Save a fortune by preparing your own meals, pop out to La Boqueria market and pick up a few local ingredients and treat yourself to freshly baked pastries for breakfast. This is especially economical when traveling with friends in bigger groups.
Check out Airbnb.com for reliable and quality holiday apartments in Barcelona.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself to a lavish meal out at a restaurant, but it does mean that you won’t be forced to find a cafe/restaurant for every meal. Buenisimo!
3. Be hedonistic and save loads with street beers and vino
Barcelona’s drinking culture is refreshingly relaxed and open. The police don’t exactly “love” seeing people drinking in the streets or at the beach, but as long as you’re sensible, they’ll leave you to it. Make the most of this hedonistic outlook by going to a corner store or supermarket and buying a few cans of Estrella Damm beer (€1 each) or a bottle of vino (€3-€10), and finding a spot at the beach to enjoy the Mediterranean climate.
4. Save money on public transport with the EPIC T10 ticket
Forget taxis in BCN. The metro and train systems are incredibly reliable and super cheap!
The T10 ticket costs around €8 and allows you to take ten rides on the metro or on the bus. I used to see tourists faffing around at the airport paying silly money to get into the city. Trust me, buy a T10, it’ll get you into the city centre and you’ll still have nine rides left to use over the rest of your trip.
Insider tip: Don’t freak out when you find one of the locals slipping in behind you as you use your ticket to pass through the turnstiles. It’s a fairly common occurrence and it’s only them who will get in trouble if the staff notice it happening. And take extra care of your possessions, especially on the yellow metro line, this is where the pickpockets make most of their money.
5. Don’t blow your load on expensive day trips
With the beautiful white sands and crystal clear waters of the Costa Brava only a few miles away, day trips away from the city are a common element of most visitors to Barcelona – and yes, I absolutely do recommend exploring the areas around the city.
As I’ve already said, I think the Spanish train system is outstanding, both in terms of quality and value for money. But like all train companies, tickets can fluctuate dramatically depending on when and where you are planning to travel. I have played around with a few comparison sites but I really like the simplicity of GoEuro‘s travel search tool, which I use to find cheap train tickets in and around Spain. And of course, try to book your tickets in advance if possible.
6. Avoid eating and drinking on Las ‘Rip off’ Ramblas
Las Ramblas is a long street full of nothing but tourist traps and petty thieves. You’ll see flocks of tourists sitting down at unauthentic tapas restaurants and paying stupid money for jugs of beer and sangria (sangria is not a Catalan tradition by the way). Yes you’ll want to experience it, but don’t even contemplate eating or drinking on it or anywhere near it for that matter – you’ll be totally ripped off. Instead, head into the windy little streets of El Gotico and El Born, and look for tiny little cafes and restaurants advertising bargain Menu Del Dias! Check out my favourite Barcelona restaurants here!
7. Cheap Eats & Drinks at Cervecería 100 Montaditos
As a self-proclaimed food snob, it’s hard for me to recommend eating and drinking at Cervecería 100 Montaditos. They have huge menu of some 100 little sandwiches (hence the name), filled with Spanish classics such as tortilla, chorizo, jamón and cheese. The quality is pretty low, but at only €1 a pop, they’re a super quick and cheap fix for any meal.
They also offer huge jars of Spanish beers and sangria for only €1, which makes it hugely popular with the younger generations of Catalans and university students. If you’re really, really on a tight budget then this is perfect.
There are quite a few outlets in Barcelona and they are opening more all the time, but I would recommend visiting the following locations:
- Cervecería 100 Montaditos, C/ ARIBAU 242, 08006
- Cervecería 100 Montaditos, PLAZA DE URQUINAONA Nº1 BAJO, 08010
- Cervecería 100 Montaditos, Rambla Cataluña 11, Barcelona, 08007
- Cervecería 100 Montaditos, Rambla del Raval 41, Barcelona, 08001
For my personal recommendations on Barcelona’s best (still very affordable) “non touristy” tapas restaurants, check out my dedicated post!
8. See the museums and sites when they are free or discounted
Like most European cities, Barcelona’s famous museums and art galleries are free to see on certain days/nights of the week. Always check out the websites to find out which nights are free, and don’t forget your student card if you have one as there are almost always student discounts. I would totally recommend seeing Gaudi’s La Padrera (the views from the room terrace are amazing!), Park Güell and the mighty Sagrada Familia (which I could see from my bedroom window!).
If you are a serious culture vulture and are going to BCN with the intention of cramming in as many sites as possible, consider investing in a Barcelona Card which will gain you free entry to the majority of the best attractions. The card also entitles you to skip the lines and get straight to the action, saving you time as well as money.
The card will cost you between €30 and €60, depending on how many days you want it for, which I think, when you consider how much you could potentially save, is a totally worth while investment.
9. Go clubbing early and skip paying the entry fee
Most of the big nightclubs in Barcelona charge a door fee of at least €15 per person, which is not too bad when you consider it normally includes your first drink. But if you get there early enough then you won’t have to pay a penny to enter. Aim to arrive by about 11.30pm (which is still very early in Spanish party terms) for the biggest savings!
10. Bargain for your Barcelona souvenirs
I remember scoping out the souvenir shops one day because I wanted to buy my nephew an official Barcelona FC shirt. In one of the stores I noticed none of the shirts had prices on them. “How much for this?” I asked the moustached-assistant.
“€60,” he said. I put it down and walked towards the door, it was way out of my budget.
I had literally walked fifty metres down the street when I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was the man from the shop. “Let me show you our other shirts for better price,” he begged. There were some for €40, some for €30, but I really didn’t want to spend that much.
“I’m sorry, I can’t afford any of these.”
“How much you want to pay?” he said as his moustache twitched with frustration.
“I’ve got €20,” I winced.
“OK, €25 and it’s yours.”
So the moral of the story, don’t pay the first price you are quoted, and don’t be afraid to haggle!
Check out this other post to get my inside guide to the VERY BEST things to see and do in Barcelona!