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Explore Barcelona: Insider tips for the Catalan city by the sea

If you have never visited Barcelona , you're missing out. This city, on Spain's beatiful west coast,  is known worldwide for its 5km shopping stretch, starting from the top of Las Ramblas across Plaça Catalunya and Passeig de Gracia to Avinguda Diagonal. Here you will find international brands, such as Chanel, Armani, Cartier, Miro, Mont Blanc, Zara and also smaller boutique shops. In the evenings you can unwind by the harbor and dig into a traditional paella in one of the many restaurants

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Barcelona city trip: which Gaudí sights should I not miss?

Fantastic architecture abounds in European cities, but it was Antoni Gaudí who elevated Catalan architecture to worldwide fame. Here is a short list of his works that are now  Barcelona's landmarks:

Sagrada Família:

  • The Sagrada Família is one of the most iconic sights of Barcelona. The Roman Catholic basilica was Antoni Gaudi's last building, into which he put all his artistic energy. The construction of the church, which began in 1882, is still not finished, but is set to be completed in 2026 on the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death. However, it is clear that the Sagrada Família, once completed, will be more impressive and extraordinary than any Christian church built to date.

Park Güell and the Barri Gotic:

  • Park Güell was designed by Gaudi between 1900 and 1914 and covers more than 17 hectares. The park is also referred to as Gaudí's homage to nature, as the entire park adapts perfectly to its surroundings and thanks to it's construction, the formerly barren mountain now houses a variety of plants. The park also houses a museum of Gaudí-designed furniture and drawings. In 1984, Park Güell, along with several other buildings and major works by Gaudí, were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. But it's also worth taking a walk just outside the park as it's in the middle of Barcelona's oldest neighborhood, the Barri Gotic (the Gothic quarter). The narrow streets are perfect for a long walk where you can admire all the old buildings, such as the Santa Maria del Mar, one of the most famous gothic churches of Catalonia. Only a few meters away you will find the gigantic La Catedral on the Pla de la Seu, from which you have a breathtaking view.

Casa Milà:

  • With the Casa Milà, which was built for the Milà family between 1906 and 1910, Gaudí created a pioneering work. The unique thing about this house is that was built without load-bearing walls and corners. Casa Milá, also known as "La Pedrera" (the quarry) for its façade, is the last residential building built by the famous architect before he turned his focus completely to the Sagrada Família.

Casa Batlló:

  • A little further away, you will find one of Gaudí's most striking buildings and one of the architectural gems of Barcelona: the Casa Batlló. Budget travelers may want to skip taking a peek at the interior, as the entrance fee is more than 22 euros. But even from the outside, the house is breathtakingly beautiful and definitely worth a visit. Since 1962, the Casa Batlló has been a listed building and it is included amongst the Gaudí works with UNESCO World Heritage Site protection. An absolute must-see on your trip to Barcelona!

Barcelona on a Budget: 11 Free Things To Do in Barcelona

TravelPirates asked one of our favorite travel bloggers, Olivia Diamond from TravelWithLiv, for some insight into one of the world's most popular destinations, Barcelona. Olivia provided us with some useful budget travel tips on how to enjoy the country's excitement and beauty without lightening your wallet.

Don’t be fooled - traveling to Barcelona on a budget is completely doable. You can purchase your tickets on the budget-friendly, no-frills Icelandic airline, WOW, and then pick free or low-cost things to do once you are there. Barcelona is an amazing city, so don’t miss out just because you think it will be too expensive. Here is a list of my favorite things to do in Barcelona for free:

1. Free Museum Days in Barcelona

There are a handful of museums that are free on Saturday or Sunday afternoons, so don't miss these! Some museums have free admission one day a month and a free weekly admission day, while others have one or the other. Here are some of my favorite museums that have free admission days:

  • Museu Picasso - Admission is free every Sunday after 3pm and on the first Sunday of every month. Regular admission is 14 €. 
  • Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC) - Admission is free every Saturday after 3pm and on the first Sunday of every month. Regular admission is 12 €.
  • Museu Nacional d'Historia de Barcelona (MUHBA) - Admission is free every Sunday from 3pm and the first Sunday of the month all day. Regular admission is 7 €.
  • Palau Güell - Admission is free the first Sunday of every month. Regular admission is 12 €.
  • Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) - Admission is free every Sunday after 3pm. Regular admission is 8 €.
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2. Modernisme walk in Barcelona

Barcelona is full of amazing architecture from all periods, but Modernist buildings are incredibly prevalent throughout the city. You can check out this website for ideas on where to begin your walk: Ruta del Modernisme. It’s a chance for you to explore the city leisurely and admire all of the beautiful buildings along the way.

3. Discover Barceloneta Beach

Take a stroll along the beach or spend the day lounging about. The scenery is beautiful considering that the beach is next to a huge city! Check out the picture below to convince yourself.

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4. Visit Parc de la Ciutadella in Barcelona

This is one of my favorite places to walk around. I also love to picnic here. You can grab something to eat along the way, either at Mercat de Santa Caterina or Demasié and find a bench or a nice sunny place on the grass.

  • Mercat de Santa Caterina is located off of Via Laietana
  • Demasié is located on Carrer de la Princesa, 28 on the way to Ciutadella. 

5. Hike up to Parc del Guinardo

I mention this park in so many other posts, but it's my absolute favorite. The best part is that it's free and you get the same (if not better, in my opinion) view as you would at Parc Guell. Climb up to the Bunkers del Carmel with a bottle of wine and some snacks and watch the sunset along the Mediterranean.

6. Visit Barcelona's Montjuic

While there are plenty of museums to visit here for a fee (or for free on those days indicated above), there are also plenty of things to do for free! Check out the many gardens that are spread out up here, visit the unique architecture at the Olympic Stadium, take in the view of the Mediterranean from above, or visit the Montjuic Castle. There are so many things to do here without even stepping foot inside of a museum.

7. Go Inside Santa Maria del Mar

This 14th century Gothic masterpiece is free to enter and is quite an unbelievable sight. The high stone ceilings and stained glass windows are breathtaking (see picutre below).

8. Escape the heat in the Barcelona Cathedral (Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia)

This is another wonderful example of Gothic architecture. The interior is as incredible as the exterior façade. During some of the yearly festivals, you will find many (free) festivities happening here, like Castells at the Festa Catalana.

9. Plan your Barcelona city trip around a festival!

Barcelona has amazing festivals: Dia de los Reyes Magos (January), Dia de Sant Jordi (February), Feria de Abril (April), Sant Joan (June), Festa Major de Gràcia (August). There are many more festivals throughout the year.

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10. Stroll along Barcelona's famous promenade Las Ramblas

Yes, this is touristy and incredibly packed during the summer, but it's still beautiful and definitely worth seeing for those Barcelona first-timers. You can start at the entrance near Plaça Catalunya and meander down to the Colón Statue.

11. While rambling on Las Ramblas, Stop in La Boqueria and take a look at all of the stalls

La Boqueria is incredibly famous (meaning incredibly touristy), but if you are already strolling Les Rambles, there's no reason not to check it out. Don't miss some of the other markets that are less touristy and more authentic: Mercat de Santa Caterina (Born), Mercat de la Llibertat (Gràcia), or Mercat de L'Albaceria (Gràcia).

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