We’ve put together a handy guide to Barcelona if you’re planning a city break on a budget. If you can’t decide between a city break or a beach holiday, then there’s no need to compromise – head to Barcelona instead! The breathtaking city boasts plenty of brilliant beaches, seriously spectacular landmarks and a foodie scene that’s unlike any other – seriously, spend an evening sampling tapas and you’ll see what we mean.
Then there the sights from the fascinating Park Guell to the jaw-dropping Sagrada Familia, as well as the Gothic quarter where you’ll find plenty of breathtaking architecture and some of the city’s best nightlife.
The best part about Barcelona is that you don’t need to break the bank to make the most of the city – there are some easy tricks for making your budget stretch that little bit further.
Cheap flights to Barcelona
Booking a bargain flight is not the problem, as budget contenders easyJet, Ryanair, Monarch and others all offer great deals to Barcelona.
For the best prices, book at least three months ahead – and check that the airline flies into the main Barcelona airport (memorably called El Prat), otherwise you may find yourself an hour’s train ride away at Girona or Reus.
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Where to stay in Barcelona: luxury, independent or budget?
The main challenge with Barcelona – if you are not buying a package deal – is finding the right accommodation at the right price, especially as hotels can get booked out if there is a big conference. There are four main types of places to stay:
1. Hostals: which are not like youth hostels, but can be more like basic hotels, many with en suite rooms. Tripadvisor has a good list and reviews here.
2. Hotels: again there is a huge range from budget to all-out luxury. Try the reviews on Tripadvisor.
3. Apartment hotels: essentially, a basic hotel suite with a small kitchen/living area, which can really cut the cost of a stay if you cook your own evening meals or want to test out fresh foods from the city’s markets. These flats are offered by many of the big hotel chains as well as specialists, and can start from around £80 a night, sleeping four. Try searching Booking.com for “apartments in Barcelona”.
4. Private flat or room: Peer-to-peer websites such as airbnb are hugely popular, letting you rent privately-owned spaces through the safety-net of a big company. Places can be as cheap as £15 for a private room in a shared apartment, to £30 a night upwards for your very own flat. Like apartment hotels, they can really save money if you cook some meals, and if equipped with washing machines, dishwashers etc, can be a great solution for families.
Best things to see in Barcelona during the day
Lose yourself in the city centre’s winding medieval streets, dotted with Roman remains, Moorish palaces and shady squares bordered by cafes and orange trees. The main city centre street, the Rambla, is a useful guide – at the top end is the main Placa Catalunya, the lower end leads you out to the harbour.
But do go off to explore either side – to the west there’s a maze of ancient streets, the MACBAmodern art museum and cool Raval area; to the east is the twist of main shopping streets, the old cathedral, fanstastical musical palace and, eventually, the city park, dotted surreally with ping tables, a zoo and crumbling palm houses.
Best time to go
Visiting Barcelona is good any time of year – it is usually hot from May until October, and generally sunny and mild in winter. The sea is warmest in August and September – but August can be steamy and humid, which is why many shops and restaurants close down as owners head to the beaches or mountians. Book early for Valentine weekends, or when a big event is on.