City breaks can sometimes work out to be more expensive than a week’s beach holiday, but if you follow these tips you can enjoy a wonderful city break in the cosmopolitan city of Barcelona without breaking the bank!
It helps if you’re flexible on travel dates as it’s cheaper to fly on some days than others. Always shop around, and don’t discount going direct to an airline’s website; they often have excellent deals that you won’t find on comparison sites. You can get a return flight from London or Birmingham to Barcelona, including a 15kg luggage allowance each way, for under £100.
As with booking flights, always do your research when booking a hotel. Once you’ve found a hotel you like, compare the price on various different sites to get the best deal. Adding or including meals in your stay can bump the price up considerably; it’s better just to book the room and save yourself some money. There are lots of great 3* hotels in Barcelona for around £60 per night, and they are even cheaper if you visit out-of-season.
Barcelona airport have shuttle buses (bright turquoise buses with ‘Aerobús’ written down the side in a bubbly font) which will take you into the city centre. Especially on the way back, check which terminal you need as there are 2 different shuttle buses; the Aerobús A1 for terminal 1, and the Aerobús A2 for terminal 2.
During the daytime they run every 5-10 minutes and cost €5.90 each way. The two main stops in the city centre are Plaça d’Espanya and Plaça de Catalunya, although there are several other stops in between too.
Depending on how long you’re going for and how much public transport you intend to use, the Hola BCN! travel card can save you lots of money. It gives a single person unlimited travel on the bus, metro, tram and railway for 2, 3, 4, or 5 consecutive days. The travel card can be purchased online, and then collected at one of the metro automatic ticket vending machines- just make sure you have your booking confirmation number (or even better, a printout of the order confirmation in case you have any problems and need to speak to a member of staff).
If you won’t be using too much public transport, the T10 travel pass will be ideal. You get 10 trips in Zone 1 (the city centre) for just €9.95, and it can even be shared with the other people that you’re travelling with! Purchase from a ticket vending machine.
Food and Drink
If you go to the right places, you can get a white coffee (un café con leche) for €1.30, an espresso for €1.20, or a small beer (una caña) for €1.80. Most cafés/restaurants do a coffee & croissant for around €2.20, a generous sized tapa for €2, and a Serrano ham and cheese baguette for around €4.
There are lots of mini-supermarkets where you can get cheap bottled water and fruit, and you could even buy ingredients to make your own sandwiches and salads to take out with you during the day. You can save a lot of money by doing this instead of eating out three times a day.
Barcelona has so many different things to do and see, from art and architecture to high-end retail therapy. But if you’re on a budget, fear not! Sandemans free walking tours are unmissable, and a great way of finding your bearings in this huge city. Book your place in advance via their website then just meet them at the pre-arranged starting point for the tour.
You’ll be split into smallish groups, and can expect to be out and about for around 3 hours. The tour is informative and fun, and well-worth a tip at the end (a good rule of thumb is €5.00 per person in your party).
Nature isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Barcelona, but if you want to get out of the city for a few hours, head to the Magic Fountain (also known as “Font de Montjuïc”), just a few minutes walk from Plaça d’Espanya. Behind the fountain are some breath-taking gardens, and these then lead to the Olympic stadium, which is also free to look around. If you want to see the Magic Fountain’s music and light show, it’s normally on from 8pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but do check first as times vary with the seasons.
For beach-lovers, head to Barceloneta. It’s not the prettiest beach in Spain, but there are an abundance of good-looking palm trees and several attractive promenades to make up for it. Las Ramblas can also be accessed from here, just opposite Mirador de Colom.
There are many horror stories about Barcelona being the ‘pick-pocket capital of the world’, but in reality it’s not like that at all. As in any big city, just use your common sense and keep an eye on your belongings, and don’t let other people’s negative experiences but you off visiting this wonderful city!