Last updated on July 6, 2016
Culture vultures rejoice! With 27 museums and attractions included FREE on the Barcelona Card – and big discounts on dozens more – you’ll save money and time as you experience the heart of Catalonia!
About the author: Barcelona art and culture junky Nicole Janeway writes for City Pass Project, where she helps travellers maximise their experience through ticket bundles like the Barcelona Card.
The Barcelona Card can be purchased for a duration of three, four, or five days for a cost of between 45€ and 60€. After buying the Barcelona Card online and having it mailed to your home or picking it up at a Barcelona Tourisme office, you’ll receive an introductory guide and an Hola BCN! card that will grant FREE access to Barcelona’s entire public transit system.
The Barcelona Card itself offers free access to 23 museums and 4 other attractions, as well as numerous discounts on food, hotels, and shopping.
While a traveler could aim to visit between four to six attractions a day, even the most laid-back visitor can save with the purchase of the card. Take a look at the sample itinerary below to see the other benefits like hassle-free public transit and the ability to skip the line at a number of the most popular attractions.
Day 1 ~ Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya
Day 2 ~ Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona and Centre de Cultura Contemporania
Day 3 ~ Fundació Joan Miró and MUHBA Plaça del Rei
Day 4 ~ Museu del Disseny and Museu de Cultures del Món
Cost Without Barcelona Card
Cost of entrance: 57€ + Cost of transit: 19.9€ = Total: 76.9€
Cost With Barcelona Card
Cost of BCN Card: 55€ + Cost of transit: free! = Total: 55€ (Savings: 21.9€)
Once you get started, just doing a couple museums isn’t going to cut it. Read on for a comparison of the Barcelona Card to similar city passes.
The Nitty Gritty
Is the Barcelona Card really worth it?
It’s reasonable to assume that the Barcelona Card will save you money it if you’re planning to hit at least 1-2 of the included attractions each day. That’s a super laid back pace. A more ambitious a traveler could visit upwards of five attractions a day and wrack up huge savings using the card.
Individually, entrance costs range from 3.5€ to 12€, with an average of about 7€. As a student or senior, you would expect to pay a bit less for individual tickets, as most museums offer a discount to these groups. The Barcelona Card also has a discount for children ages 4-12. Accounting for benefits provided by the included Hola BCN! transit card, museum entrance for this age group is effectively free!
Cost of Barcelona Card
|Three Days||Four Days||Five Days|
Alternatives to the Barcelona Card
The Barcelona Card’s only major competition is the Art Passport, which provides a very different experience. This 30€ purchase will get you in free to the city’s top six art museums (CCCB, Fundació Tàpies, Fundació Miró, MACBA, MNAC, and Museu Picasso) for a full year. That’s a pretty great deal if you’re planning a repeat visit within the year or if you’re lucky enough to live in Barcelona.
But for the typical traveler, the Art Passport doesn’t hold a candle to the Barcelona Card. The reason? All but one of the Art Passport museums are included in the Barcelona Card! For only 15€ extra, the three day Barcelona Card includes 22 additional attractions and free access to Barcelona’s excellent public transit system, which is essential in order to visit many of the included sites.
You can also purchase the Hola BCN! transit card on its own. In comparison, you can pick up a T-10 card at any metro or train station, which will run you 9.95€ and is good for ten trips. It’s worth noting that a trip includes transfer between bus, metro, and train, so you can get quite far on a single journey.
Cost of the Hola BCN! card
|Three Days||Four Days||Five Days|
|Breakeven with airport transit||4 trips per day||4 trips per day||5 trips per day|
|Breakeven without airport transit||7 trips per day||7 trips per day||6 trips per day|
Given the very walkable nature of Barcelona’s streets, you’re very unlikely to breakeven on the Hola BCN! card. You’re almost certainly better off buying airport transit and T-10 cards as needed.
Experiencing Barcelona with the Barcelona Card
My friend and I set out to see as much as we could in our four days with the Barcelona Card. In order to maximize museum-visiting potential, we organized them by geographical location. This also allowed us to soak in the unique atmosphere of each of the six neighborhoods we visited. In just four days, we were able to see 18 attractions and save 160€ on the purchase of our city passes.
Day 1: Montjuïc
A broad hill to the southwest of the city center, Montjuïc deserves a spot on any tourist’s itinerary. Not only is the forested site full of prominent sport facilities from the 1992 Olympics, it also boasts gorgeous parks and museums that hold some of the most impressive art in the city. Visitors can also enjoy the Epcot-esque Poble Espanyol and the magic fountains at night. There’s even a shopping center situated in a renovated bullfighting ring.
After purchasing the Barcelona Card online and picking it up at the Barcelona Turisme office on the southeast corner of Plaza Catalunya, I took L3 metro to Plaza Espanya. A few blocks later, I was wondering how to enter the beautiful CaixaForum building (pro tip: down the stairs) where I had planned to meet up with my intrepid museum-going partner, Emerson.
This museum is housed in Fábrica Casaramona, a former textile mill in the modernist style. As it displays only a few rotating exhibits, starting at the small private gallery was a good way to ease ourselves into the whirlwind museum tour. One potential downside for the international visitor: the descriptions are all in Catalan and Spanish.
After a wander through the different exhibition halls, we headed to the undulating rooftop to take some pictures with the imposingly gorgeous MNAC in the background.
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya
The Palau Nacional was the most impressive site we visited during our four days with the card. After climbing the striking entrance lined with fountains, we found ourselves in a gorgeous lobby that put me in mind of tropical paradise. The museum’s collection is organized into four sections: Romanesque and Gothic/Renaissance on the first floor and two modern collections on the second level.
I found the upstairs collection to be the most impressive – at least, the part of it I saw. This museum is so vast that it’s quite challenging to take everything in during a single visit. I am an implacable plaque reader, so we progressed quite slowly as I read all about the history of the Modernisme and Noucentisme movements through the 19th and 20th centuries.
On our way toward the door, Emerson and I discovered there was a whole other modern section we didn’t have the stamina to visit. Luckily, MNAC tickets are valid for a second entrance during the month of the original visit. (The MNAC is also one of the public museums open free every Sunday after 3pm and all day on the first Sunday of the month.)
You can’t go wrong by enjoying the stunning view from Restaurant Òleum in the former throne room of Palau National or heading to the outdoor cafe for more reasonably priced sandwiches with a priceless vista.
Feeling refreshed, Emerson and I continued around the top of the hill toward the Ethnologic Museum. The hexagonal shaped gallery is situated on a winding street around the corner from MNAC.
Now I am out of good things to say about this strange site. Museu Etnològic is characterized by an almost complete lack of organization and semi-satirical descriptions. For example, at one window the museum has posted: “Through this glass we can look at Barcelona…” Really Museu Etnològic? Attempting to coopt the entire city of Barcelona for your museum is a bold move, particularly given the only thing you can see through the “glass” in question is a palm tree.
Fundació Joan Miró
After having made it in and out of the last museum rather quickly, we continued to the collection of Catalan surrealist Joan Miró. While his work doesn’t reach out and grab me, my enjoyment was enhanced considerably by the excellent descriptions that accompanied each room and a large portion of the paintings and sculptures.
In need of a quick break, we scouted out the museum cafe but ended up exploring a nearby park, Jardins de Laribal, where we watched fellow travelers splash about in the fountain.
Museu Olímpic i de l’Esport
For the final museum of the day, we’d slotted the Olympic Museum. It’s right next to the funny looking Torre Calatrava, which handled telecommunications during the games, and Estadi Olímpic. The stadium was originally built to house an anti-fascist alternative Olympics in 1936, plans that were scrapped with the outbreak of the Spanish civil war.
After extensive renovations, the stadium proudly hosted the 1992 Summer Olympics. In addition to the Olympic history lesson, we enjoyed the museum’s collection of sport memorabilia and interactive activities like a reflex and jump test.
Ending the Day
Confession time. Though we planned to visit the Jardi Botanic, neither my friend nor I were feeling up to it. Having spent a good bit of time walking around, we opted to skip the gardens and conserve our energy for the remaining days of the Barcelona Card.
That said, it would be well worth it to eat dinner in the area and stay for the magic fountains. This is a do as I say, not as I do kind of situation.
As for dinner, I recommend a visit to Poble Espanyol where you can experience architecture and cuisine from across Spain’s many diverse regions. Entrance to the open-air museum is usually 12€, but it drops to 7€ after 8pm and costs less if you pay online.
To return to Plaza Catalunya, just take the 55 or 150 bus, or you can hop back on the red line (L1) metro.
Reflections: This was an awesome first day with the Barcelona Card. We were able to experience some of the most important museums in Barcelona, and the fact they are set amidst lovely parks is an impressive plus.
Savings thanks to the Barcelona Card: 37.1€
Day 2: El Fòrum to Eixample to El Gótico
Today’s route promised seaside views, busy commercial streets, and sightseeing in the oldest (and most crowded) part of Barcelona. Not to mention visiting six museums. Venga, vamonos!
I started the day at the tram accessible Museum of Natural Sciences. Apart from snapping some fun pictures outside the building, which looks a lot like a stapler, I didn’t enjoy the visit. The temporary exhibits on totems (photography of some natural sites happen to look like faces) and nutrition was not particularly illuminating. I’d take a pass here and save your time for the other science museum, CosmoCaixa.
How to look like a tourist in Europe: wear a dress, and take pictures in front of shiny walls in this pose. Sometimes I just can’t help myself.
Museu del Disseny
Next, I hopped back on the tram (T4) for the quick ride to the design museum where Emerson and I planned to meet. I’d really talked this one up, as I’ve visited the building several times to work from the lovely cafe and the multi-story library overlooking a decorative pond out back.
Thankfully, the museum itself did not disappoint. Each floor offered a comprehensive look at a different element of design. I particularly loved the top level, graphic design, and the bottom level, which was basically a meta exhibit about design museum curation.
Throughout, the museum does a great job of communicating its mission statement, explaining how they select the objects on display. There are also beautifully crafted interactive panels featuring videos and games. My only critique is the lack of directional arrows – it’s a bit confusing to find your way around in here!
Fundació Antoni Tàpies
To get to the center of Barcelona, we crossed the street and took the red line (L1) to Plaza Catalunya. From there, it was a rather crowded stroll up Passeig de Gracia to reach the museum dedicated to abstract artist Antoni Tàpies.
I enjoyed the Tàpies museum a lot more than I thought I would. My museuming partner connected strongly with the small Tàpies collection on the top floor. Rather than feeling sparse, the museum feels highly curated and has an excellent downstairs space for temporary exhibitions. I’d say it’s worth a visit if you’re at all interested in abstract art.
In terms of getting a bite to eat, this itinerary was a bit tricky, because it put us in the most expensive, touristy part of Barcelona during lunchtime. If you’re not careful about which restaurant you pick, you can end up paying 4€ for a bottle of water and getting hit with a massive service charge for your meal.
Luckily, there’s Konig, where, for the cost of that water bottle, you can select one of two dozen hamburgers or get a lox bagel the size of your face.
This crowded space dedicated to modernist furnishings was the biggest let down of the day. Largely composed of furniture that could have belonged to your great aunt Ethel, the collection displays the uglier side of the Catalan modernisme movement – decorative and overwrought.
However, the special exhibit on esteemed impressionist Ramon Casas completely blew me away. It might be worth looking into this museum’s temporary exhibits and planning your visit accordingly.
Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona
Continuing down La Rambla into El Gótico, we found our way along winding streets to the MACBA. This museum features rotating exhibits in a large, modern space that distinctly reminded me of every other contemporary art museum I’ve ever seen. We opted to take the free tour that runs Saturdays at 4pm.
Though the guided visit helped with museum fatigue, it did nothing to detract from my antipathy toward the main exhibit. That said, the MACBA is worth a browse given its central location and ever changing exhibitions. When you go, definitely set aside time to people watch at the de facto skatepark out back and take a look through the excellent gift shop.
Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona
Around the corner from MACBA, the CCCB is similar in terms of hosting rotating exhibits, but with a gentler vibe. Moreover, it’s an important cultural institution with abundant events like workshops, documentary screenings, and a very popular spoken word poetry night.
Other museums in the area: MUHBA El Call, MUHBA Via Sepulcral Romana, Museu Egipci, Fundació Sunol (25% off), Casa Mila (La Pedrera) (20% off), Sant Pau Recinte Modernista (20% off), Basilica de Santa Maria del Pi (20% off), Casa de la Seda (20% off), Casa Amatller (20% off), Casa Batllo (-3€).
Reflections: Battling the crowds of La Rambla and Passeig de Gracia was no fun. What’s the deal with shopping tourists anyway? I went to bed feeling a bit jaded, but looking forward to getting out of the city for Day 3.
Day 2 savings with Barcelona Card: 51€
Running total: 88.5€
Day 3: Sarrià – Sant Gervasi
So far, my museum going friend, Emerson, and I had seen 11 sites across four neighborhoods. In the last two days with the card, we aimed to explore the outlying neighborhood at the foot of Collserola Park and the museum-rich Born barrio.
The residential area set along Collserola ridge includes some of the last neighborhoods to be included into Barcelona proper. As such, Sarrià – Sant Gervasi has a lovely, out of the way feel.
Monestir de Pedralbes
To reach the Monastery, we took L6 from Plaza Catalunya and took a peaceful stroll down Carrer del Bisbe Català.
We arrived at the beautiful church just in time for choir practice. The site is a functioning nunnery, home to a community from the Order of Saint Clare. Some of the monastery’s rooms, the most famous being the Chapel of Sant Miguel, were opened to the public in 1983.
All this I learned from the guidebook, as I didn’t see much of the Monastery during my visit. In the coatroom, a nun approached me about helping her with a photography project. I never went to catholic school, but I do know that when a nun asks you to do something, you do it.
I spent my time at the Monestir following Sister Isaura around as she posed me in various doorways and talked constantly in rapid fire Spanish. It was a very participatory visit.
To get to our next site, we continued our tour via public transportation. Allegedly the 60 bus runs every 10 minutes, but it felt like we were waiting for several years. It would have been much easier to take a taxi or simply walk. That said, the bus ride offered some gorgeous views of this lux part of town, and it dropped us right in front of the science museum.
CosmoCaixa was overwhelming in the best way possible. More than one visit is needed to experience the multitude of awesomeness – fortunately tickets are only 4€. Inside this massive building, we enjoyed exhibits about human history, physics, biology, and the Amazon rainforest.
Though the museum is great for children, as evidenced by the considerable number of them running around, the level of description is suited to grownups as well.
Given the beautiful weather and natural surroundings, Emerson and I planned a picnic. We walked around Sarrià – Sant Gervasi until we found the perfect spot – Jardines de la Tamarita. Amidst the picturesque gardens separated by tree lined paths and shady staircases, we saw a father and son playing football, hikers resting after a morning in the mountains, and a pair of older Catalan women sharing sandwiches and fuet.
Torre de Collserola
We considered taking a taxi up to the communications tower, but opted yet again to try public transit. After a short ride on the 196 bus, we joined the cue for the funicular to Tibidabo.
Our elation at finding where we needed to go was short-lived, as we soon discovered that the funicular, part of the Tibidabo theme park, was not included on our Hola BCN! cards.
It was fun to ride the shaky tram up the mountainside, but not necessarily 7.30€ worth of fun.
From where the funicular dropped us off at the theme park, it was a short downhill stroll to the tower. Thus began the most bizarre experience of the entire Barcelona Card. The staff were like surly summer employees at an abandoned theme park who have slowly lost the ability to communicate with the outside world.
After a security checkpoint, we waited in a deserted lobby for an attendant to lead us to the elevator. The ascent began a few stories below ground, so initially it was like arising through a soviet nuclear bunker. Then the view kicked in.
Upon arriving at the tenth floor observation deck, we enjoyed the campy, 90s era plaques and a lovely view of Tibidabo mountain, Barcelona, and the sea. It probably won’t surprise you given the attitude of the staff that we were the only ones on the observation deck for most of the time we were up there.
But although the tower was a bit of a hike, I’d say it was worth it for the vista and unique experience. The website is very well designed and deserves a look as well.
Ending the Day
On our way back down the mountain, we hit a lucky break and caught bus 111 to the public transit funicular at Vallvidrera Superior. Rather than get on directly, we walked around the small town for a bit, enjoying the examples modernisme architecture. We didn’t stay long as neither bar we came across featured the outdoor seating we were craving on this beautiful day.
Our quest for a beer continued at Vallvidrera Inferior, which was even sleepier than its mountaintop counterpart. After riding the ferrocarril (S1 or S2) to Plaza Catalunya, I ended up at a terrace in el Born, which was a good way to scout out the next day’s itinerary.
Other museums in the area: Casa Museu Gaudi (-1€)
Reflections: If Day 2’s packed itinerary made me feel like I needed a vacation from my vacation, Day 3’s itinerary was perfect. I also imagine it would have been fun to make the hour’s hike through Parc Collserola to get from the Monestir to the tower. From there, we could have finished the day at CosmoCaixa with dinner and an evening stroll down Avenida Tibidabo.
Day 3 savings with Barcelona Card: 23€
Running total: 111.50€
Day 4: El Gótico to El Born
After having done 14 of the 27 activities included in the Barcelona Card, we had unfortunately come to our last day. Rather than rush from museum to museum, we opted to enjoy our last few selections at a leisurely pace.
Plus, the stylish yet laid back barrio which extends between El Gótico and Ciutat Vella is my favorite centrally located neighborhood. It wouldn’t do justice to see Born’s narrow streets, interesting shops, and important landmarks at a run.
MUHBA Plaça del Rei
Emerson and I met at the impressive and expansive MUHBA Plaça del Rei in the Gothic district to pick up a bit about the history of the city. Actually, this would have been a great first day activity, as the introductory video provides an excellent overview of the city’s formation.
The most interesting part showed a timeline of when each of Barcelona’s distinctive neighborhoods was incorporated into the city proper.
Barcelona is flush with roman artefacts, and here we saw quite a few. I was most impressed with the lower floor’s exhibit showcasing the archaeological site upon which Plaça del Rei was built. Armed with the free audioguide, we learned some fascinating things about the circa 2nd c. A.D. commercial area.
Museu Frederic Marès
Next, we walked toward the Barcelona Cathedral. It seems there’s always something happening in the expansive square out front, and this Sunday morning was no exception. After watching a large group dancing the Sardana for a bit, we continued to the left of the Cathedral where the Fredric Marès museum is located.
This charming site feels quite secluded from the crowds outside. The museum is built around a courtyard with a gorgeous fountain and a cafe with colorful seats. Inside the former palace of the Inquisition, we discovered a classical museum layout on the first two floors.
The content however, was perhaps not so classic. In fact, it was overwhelming. Amidst the repeated religious iconography, it would have been a good idea to go for the 1€ audioguide in order to get a sense of the importance of these strange artifacts.
The upper floors diverge completely from anything I’ve ever seen in a museum before. The stacks upon stacks of objects felt almost like a hyperbolic critique of museum curation itself. Don’t get me wrong – Fredric Marès was a certainly an obsessive hoarder, but the museum dedicated to his treasure makes for an entertaining visit. Moreover, the staff was incredibly helpful and the location is an oasis at the heart of the city.
Museu Culturas de Mon
Next we headed toward el Born and the world cultures museum, which focuses on artifacts from people-groups across Africa, Asia, and America. I was impressed by the excellent descriptions and beautiful museum building, but my favorite part was the interactive room. As I investigated a tablet featuring cuisine from different cultures, Emerson watched folk tales illustrated with digital shadow puppets. A good time all around.
As Museu de Mon is across the street from Museu Picasso (not included on the card, sadly), we thought about taking advantage of free entrance on Sunday after 3pm. The staff kindly let us know it would be an hour’s wait minimum. Solid pass. In addition to the lack of appeal in queuing, it’s better to pick a time when the exhibit will be less crowded.
We were a bit worried about finding a place to eat, as many places in Barcelona are closed on Sundays. Fortunately, we happened across a great sandwich place called Catalina Café. For 5€, we enjoyed the sandwich of the day on the terrace amidst locals. In a word: perfecto.
Museu de la Xocolata
The afternoon’s finale was Museu Xocolat. I was expecting a bit of a tourist trap, but was pleasantly surprised by this lively, quirky, and crowded museum. At the door they give you a small chocolate bar as your ticket, which is just enough chocolate to get you through the exhibit without feeling the need to gorge yourself at the gift shop afterward.
The museum focuses on the history of chocolate, which is actually relevant because apparently Barcelona was first entry point of chocolate into Europe. It also boasts some mind blowing chocolate sculptures.
It was a pretty sweet ending to the trip. Afterward, Emerson and I parted ways, but not before enjoying some talented buskers on our walk back through el Born.
Other museums in the area: MUHBA El Call, MUHBA Via Sepulcral Romana, Museu de la Música, Museu Egipci de Barcelona, Museu d’Historia de Catalunya (30% off), Casa de la Seda (20% off), Museu d’Idees i Invents de Barcelona (20% off), Museu Europeu d’Art Modern (20% off), Palau de la Musica Catalana (20%), Gaudi Exhibition Center (20% off), Fundació Vila Casas (2€), Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar (-1€).
Reflections: My good feelings about el Born were validated by our exploration of the neighborhood’s museums. I also loved the two large museums we saw in El Gótico. In particular, MUHBA provided significant depth to my understanding of Barcelona’s founding and early history.
Day 4 savings with Barcelona Card: 23.2€
Many of Barcelona’s barrios are like open air museums in and of themselves. From Montjuïc’s olympic constructions to Eixample’s modernist landmarks, breaking up the itinerary of the Barcelona Card by neighborhood allowed me to get a feel for the vibe of each. Having crisscrossed six neighborhoods to visit 18 sites in 4 days, I can vouch for the usefulness of the Barcelona Card in providing a uniquely wonderful experience.
Make it Happen
Where to Stay in Barcelona for Museums & Sightseeing
You’re coming to Barcelona to enjoy the museums, so why not extend your favorite part of the trip to the place you hang your hat at night?
Barcelona hotels for art lovers…
Five stars: A stay at the El Palace Hotel will put you among guests such as Salvador Dalí and his wife Gala. The famed surrealist once had a horse brought to his suite so he could make a study for a painting. No horsing around – after a rest at here, you’ll be ready to spend the day at MNAC, where you can check out a number of Dali’s works.
Four stars: Let’s explode the notion of hotel art, shall we? The halls of H10 Art Gallery contain anything but. Here you’ll find an exquisite collection of Spanish modern art, a welcome continuation to an afternoon visiting the Miró and Tàpies Foundations.
Two stars: For the budget traveler, there’s Urbany Hostel Barcelona with its day-glo murals, graffiti, and brightly painted walls. After the party bus and the free breakfast, hit the streets to see Barcelona’s graffiti park at Jardins de les Tres Xemeneies.
Barcelona hotels for the history lover…
Five stars: The ancient fortifications and medieval arches of Mercer Hotel lie in the shadow of Barcelona’s Cathedra. You don’t even have to leave the property to have a museum-like experience – be sure to visit the hotel library, where Roman frescos dating to 1 A.D. were uncovered during the building’s renovation.
Four stars: Relax at Hotel Primero Primavera, a family run business with the slogan “Barcelona como en casa”. As if your house was situated a few moments’ journey from a gorgeous 14th century Monastery.
Three stars: Hotel Granvia is replete with the old world charm that dominates the Eixample barrio. Barcelona Card holders will enjoy discounted entry to nearby modernisme masterpieces such as Casas Milà, Batlló, and Amatller.
Barcelona hotels for the nature lover…
Five stars: Situated in at the foot of Tibidabo mountain, Gran Hotel La Florida offers guests a tranquility in an environment combines luxury and nature, such as their beautiful indoor/outdoor pool. A massage at the hotel spa will feel that much better after hiking to Torre de Collserola.
Four stars: After checking into Sansi Pedralbes Hotel, be sure to visit the nearby Parc de Cervantes, which features 245 varieties of roses, a flower very important in Catalan customs such as Sant Jordi Day.
Three stars: Silken St. Gervasi Hotel is a stone’s throw from Park Güell, the Gaudí crafted landmark featuring public gardens and a much-photographed monumental zone.