Jun 04 2009

Barcelona on a budget

Times are hard. Almost everyone is being crunched in some way in the current climate and the strengthening Euro makes Spanish goods ever more expensive. Everyone’s tightening their belts.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t unwind and have a whale of a time on holiday in Barcelona. With low cost carriers Easyjet and Ryanair providing cheap access to Barcelona and Girona respectively and the usual host of hotel offers available, getting here has never been cheaper.

Here’s our guide to getting the most out of your Barcelona holiday without spending the earth:

Eating out

Traditional Spanish tapas is the perfect budget meal. The trick is to order the right amount – although portions are smaller than full meals, ordering just two dishes per person plus bread will often be easily enough for everyone. And if not you can always order one or two more, when you’re done. With each tapa only costing €3-5, a meal can be incredibly cost effective.

Check out the Barcelona Update tapas bars guide.

The Menu del Dia. Rumour has it that Franco implemented this lunchtime deal to make sure his people were well fed, cheaply for their day ahead.

Available only at lunchtimes and on weekdays, Menu del Dias are available in all but the top end restaurants and some tapas bars. They consist of two or three courses for anything from €8 (local bars) to €20 (top end places). Choose one from a list of 3 or 4 of each of starter, main and dessert and they throw in the bread and a glass of wine, beer or water for free.

A great value lunchtime treat.

The Les Quinze Nits chain. A loosely co-ordinated group of restaurants across the city that offer good bistro style food at knock down prices.

Centrally there is Les Quinze Nits itself and La Fonda, elsewhere there are many others, including La Rita and Market.

Look out for the very drinkable €4 a litre wine on offer at most.


In general the advice to keep the drinks bill down is go local, avoid tourist. In particular steer clear of the Irish bars in Barri Gotic and the bars and cafés around La Rambla, the bulk of which are tourist oriented and a good 30% more expensive.

Our suggestions for cheap drinks:

Milk happy hour, which runs from 7 – 9pm offers drinks at what the web site describes as “local prices”. That translates to €3.50 for a cocktail, which is – not a bad deal.

Many of the more local bars in Raval have yet to succumb to the tourist curse. Try Candela or the bars around it for better value than the Barri Gotic offers.


Getting around Barcelona and seeing the great things the city has to offer needn’t cost you a fortune. Some of the best things in the city are free:

Park Guell – fabulous Modernista architecture by the master, Gaudi, himself, beautiful parkland and with great views of the city – all for nothing! Get yourself a picnic and get down there – and don’t forget the camera.

Santa Maria del Mar – magnificent gothic church hemmed in by the rising streets of Born. If churches are your thing, you’re in for a treat.

The beach – the best free resource of all, 3km of it, with bathing also gratis. Grab a €5 massage from a passing masseuse to feel like a real star.

Other tips:
– Do see the Sagrada Familia, but don’t pay to go inside – it’s not much more than a building site. If you want to understand more about Gaudi, a walk around La Pedrera will give you a better feel for the same price.
– The Tourist Bus is great, but pricey – check out the T-10 metro ticket below for a better value option.

Getting around

If you’re on a budget forget the tourist bus – convenient it may be, but cheap it definitely isn’t, with a single day’s use costing around €20 per person.

The smart money goes for a T-10 metro and bus ticket. This little card gives you 10 trips on the public transport system for just €7.70. You can even share a ticket, taking 5 trips each or spreading the trips across the family.

The T-10 can be used on the bus, metro or trams and it is valid for use at any time. It covers trips to way out to the edges of the city – you can even use it to get back to Barcelona airport on your way back.

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