Barcelona, on the northeastern coast of Spain, is a vibrant, architecturally stunning, open-minded, and wild-hearted city caught between mountains and sea. Although prices have gone up since the introduction of the euro, with a bit of ingenuity, it’s easy to get by on just a few euros a day. Here’s how!
Before hopping on the plane, check out these websites. First, go to www.sleepinspain.com; it allows you to search for and book lodging throughout Spain. An excellent site for information on Barcelona’s nightlife is www.iagora.com/itravel/cities/Spain/barcelona. It includes unbiased, quirky reviews by real people on restaurants, bars, and clubs.
After landing, take the cercanias (suburban) train from the airport into the center of town (Plaza Catalunya) for 1.10e ($3). If you’re famished from traveling, stop in one of the Maoz Falafel stands, located on calle Ferran and the Ramblas. These are self-serve falafel stands where you can pile on all the curry garbanzos, fresh veggies, and yummy garlic mayonnaise you want. A falafel, fries, and beverage run about 5e ($7). Or try a delicious, hot sandwich at Conesa, at the corner of Plaza Sant Jaume. But be ready to wait in line--this place is REALLY popular! For something lighter, grab some super-cheap fresh fruit or veggies from the Boqueria, Barcelona’s largest market just off the Ramblas on Carrer de la Boqueria. Be sure to buy from the stands in the back, as those in the front charge double!
If you’re looking for a more elaborate, sit-down dining experience, Menu del dia options are offered in almost any bar or restaurant throughout the city. These menus serve two courses, drink, bread, and dessert for a fixed price. The best menus del dia are at Iposa on calle Carme and El Passatore in Plaza del Palau. If you crave the sweet stuff, hit up Gelateria Italiana on calle Cucurulla. A double-scoop cone of the sweetest and creamiest gelato in town is 1.50e ($3). Once you’re fueled up, take to the streets and see what the city has to offer!
There are loads of great sights to see in Barcelona. Here are the best of the cheap! First, visit La Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudi’s modern religious masterpiece. It costs nothing to admire this magnificently unique cathedral-in-progress from outside; however, if you would like to enter, it will cost you 8e ($10). Interact with the past at the hands-on History of Catalunya museum, a great deal at 3e ($5). For FREE, high-quality seasonal art exhibitions, there are several choices: Caixaforum, La Pedrera, and Villa del Arte at Museum Diocesa. Arrive early to Caixaforum, the most popular of all, to avoid the long lines! When it’s siesta (chill-out) time, go to Parc Guell or Parc de la Ciutadella. Relax on a tiled banco (bench) in Parc Guell and admire the view of the sea or lie down in the grass in Parc de la Ciutadella and jam to the many bongo players, always banging away at the park on Sundays. You can also buy Arab tea and a pancake from one of the roaming vendors. Last, but not least, Barcelona has its own labyrinth. On Wednesday and Sunday, entrance is free; otherwise, cost is 1.65e ($3).
Time to eat again! Barcelona has several cheap but quality dinner choices. Basque tapas (hors d’oevres) places, where a tapa will cost you 1 or 2e each ($4), are sprinkled throughout the city. You will be able to recognize them by the words "Euskal" or "Euskadi" written over the entrance and a long counter filled with hors d’ouevres stuck with toothpicks. Prices may seem hefty, but if you go with a group, you can fill up for 8e ($11), including a refreshing glass of traditional Basque cider. Note: save your toothpicks! That’s how you settle up your bill when finished. There are also an infinite number of traditional Spanish tapas places. Some of the most popular dishes to sample are patatas bravas (potatoes with spicy sauce and garlic mayonnaise), tortilla (omelet), chipirones (fried baby squid), and escalivada (roasted eggplant, red pepper, and onion). Picoteo on calle Gran de Gracia and Taller de Tapas on calle Argenteria in the Born serve exquisite tapas at cheap prices, too!
Next up is la marcha (nightlife). Early on, around 9pm, La Xampanet on calle Reina Cristina is a real treat. Elbow your way through the crowd for the most divine bottle of cava (champagne) in the world and a steal at 3e ($5) per bottle! If you’re intrigued in flamenco, Soniquet at 5 Milans is a must. Drinks are cheap, and someone is always happy to teach you some flamenco palmas (clapping) or tacones (stomping). If hip-hop and jazz are more your thing, Jamboree in Plaza Reial is the place. On Monday nights, Jamboree hosts a jazz, funk, hip-hop, soul jam session for 3e ($5). For the romantic and whimsical, the Adas de la Fada Bar (Fairies of the Forest Bar) on Paseo de Banco at the bottom of the Ramblas is an adult’s never-never land. Enjoy a house wine or clara (beer and gingerale) at one of the miniature tables aside a tiny enchanted forest waterfall. Fans of Nina Simone, The Cure, and anything in between will rock out at Alfa on Gran de Gracia. And finally, Hook, at 35 Ample will pull you in from the street with its drippy candles viewed from the window, walls covered in antique Hollywood headshots, and music by Portishead and Louis Prima seeping out from under the front door.
If you’re looking to dance late into the morning, march on over to La Fira on calle Aribau. Modeled after a funhouse, La Fira’s entrance is lined with wacky mirrors. Arrive early, 11pm, to avoid a cover charge of 8e ($10). Your delicate ears will hear only the best in bad pop from around the world there! Salsa fans will rave about Luz de Luna on calle Comerc, again, entrance is free if you arrive early. There, try a scrumptious caiparovska (a mojito with vodka). For the serious house crowd watching their wallets, try Sidecar in Plaza Reial. Entrance is only 5e ($7) and includes a drink. Finally, Danzatoria on Tibidabo is perfect when the weather is warm with its trendy lounge chair garden and entrance if free, although drinks can be a tad pricey.
While you might be worn out by the action in Barcelona, your wallet certainly won’t be by taking the preceding suggestions.
Sagrada Familia: Pl. de Sagrada Familia, metro to Sagrada Familia
History of Catalunya Museum: Pl. Pau Vila 3, metro to Barceloneta
Caixaforum: Marques de las comillas 6-8, metro to Pl. Espanya
La Pedrera: Paseo de Gracia 261-265, metro to Diagonal
Parc Guell: Olot 7, metro to Vallcarca
Parc de la Ciutadella: Paseo Picasso 1, metro to Arc de Triomf
Labyrinth: Paseo Castanyers 1, metro to Montbau