Mar 19, 2015

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How to do Barcelona on a budget

Few cities can match Barcelona for its spread of attractions appealing to every kind of holidaymaker.

At its heart is a picturesque medieval quarter crowned by a towering gothic cathedral, while adjacent neighbourhoods boast buildings by many of the world’s finest contemporary architects, and, of course, Gaudí.

Barcelona on a budget

There is a wealth of museums, the best-loved football stadium in the world, and – a big bonus – the beach.

And you can experience all of this on a budget, writes Barcelona insider, Sally Davies.

Where to stay on a budget

Market hotel

The Market Hotel is a great budget option for those who don’t want to compromise on style

Out of the tourist centre, but in the increasingly trendy neighbourhood of Sant Antoni, the Market Hotel is a great budget option for those who don’t want to compromise on style.

Small, smart bedrooms are decorated in black, white and red, and there are appreciated touches such as a bowl of apples at reception and free mineral water. There is also a reasonably priced restaurant downstairs.

Recently renovated, the Praktik Garden has a plant-filled entrance and lobby made extra colourful by floor-to-ceiling books around the reception desk, and an astroturfed patio area on the first floor.

Next to this is a funky lounge area where you can help yourself to Nespresso coffee. The rooms on this floor are more elaborate but more expensive – go for one of the simple rooms upstairs, which are very cheap in low season.

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Where to eat on a budget

Les Quinze Nits

Les Quinze Nits has a large terrace from where you can watch the life in the square

Les Quinze Nits (Plaça Reial 6, Barri Gòtic; 0034 93 317 30 75; average €25 a head) is one of a chain of budget restaurants, though you’d never know, given the unique visual character of each.

This one sits in the Plaça Reial, and has a large terrace under the arcades from which you can watch the life in the square. The food is a mix of Catalan and international dishes, and is a great price considering the elegant setting.

It’s a shame to be on the Med and not try some seafood, but it can get very expensive. La Paradeta (Carrer Comercial 7; 0034 93 268 19 39; average €20 a head) strips dining down to its essentials, with formica tables and a system whereby you collect your food from a hatch when it’s ready.

The fish and shellfish, however, is as fresh and superb quality as you’ll find anywhere. You choose it yourself from a large, chipped ice-covered stall at the entrance.

What to see on a budget

The tourist office issues three- to five-day ‘Barcelona Cards’ (from €45) for transport and sightseeing, but they tend not to work out as value for money unless you have a punishing schedule of travelling and museum-going planned (and bear in mind that most places in Barcelona are within walking distance).

Better is the Articket (€30), valid for a year and which allows entry to six of the best of the city’s art museums, including the Museu Picasso, the MACBA, the MNAC and the Fundació Miró.

Casa Batlló

A lot of Gaudí’s buildings are wildly expensive to get into, with long queues, but a stroll up the Passeig de Gràcia will take you past the façades of two of the finest: the colourfully tiled, dragon shaped Casa Batlló (no.43) and his maritime-themed apartment block La Pedrera (Carrer de Provença 261-265, corner with Passeig de Gràcia).

You’ll also see plenty of other masterpieces of Modernisme architecture – just next to the Casa Batlló is the geometrically designed Casa Amatller, and on the southern corner of the same block, the frothy Casa Lleó i Morera.

Look out too for the Modernista wrought-iron lampposts and tiled benches dotted along the boulevard.

In common with all city-run museums in Barcelona, the Museu Picasso (Carrer de Montcada 15-23; 0034 93 256 30 00; free 3-8pm Sunday, otherwise €11) is free from 3pm to 8pm on Sunday afternoons. (Many museums are also free on one extra day a month, check individual websites for details.)

It’s housed in a set of beautifully-preserved merchant’s mansions from the 15th century, and contains hundreds of pieces of interest to Picasso fans (though few of his better-known paintings, since it celebrates his years in Barcelona as a recent art graduate). The museum also has some of the best temporary exhibitions in town.

How to get around on a budget

The simplest way to get into town from the airport is on the Aerobus, with a journey time of around 35 minutes from the airport to Plaça Catalunya, and costing €10.20 return.

Barcelona is very easy to get around, and distances are – in most cases – walkable. A T-10 (available in metro stations) costs €9.95 and allows 10 journeys on bus, metro or local train (combinations are allowed), and can be shared with more than one person.

My insider tips

Barcelona tourist bus

Credit: Marc Soler – Gaudi monuments/Alamy

If you can, avoid visiting the city in high season, particularly Easter week and July/August, when hotel prices skyrocket and many restaurants are closed.

An increasing number of sights now offer online ticketing, which is generally 10-15% cheaper than buying tickets on the door. And, if you intend to take a trip on a tourist bus, do this first, since they will give you a book of discount vouchers for various attractions.

Most restaurants in Spain offer a fixed-price menu at lunchtime (usually around €12, including one drink), so it’s a good idea to make this your main meal of the day.

Do you have any insider tips on how to see Barcelona on a budget? Leave a comment below to let us know.

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