For me, the appeal of moving to Barcelona was the opportunity to mix all the best things about travel and discovery with all the best aspects of anchoring in one place. That’s to say, the sense of being on a continuous journey of learning, seeing and experiencing new things, combined with a comforting sense of belonging and making meaningful connections with people and surroundings.
Several years ago I went backpacking, packing eight countries, many interesting and exhilerating experiences, and countless acquaintances into five unforgettable months. But if, like mine, your travel experience involves constant moving from A to B, it doesn’t allow sufficient time to really get to know a place, to connect with it, nor to form truly meaningful or lasting friendships. It can also be very financially draining! Making roots in a place both allows both the possibility to earn an income and also to bond with your surroundings.
I have been living in Barcelona for two years and while I’m not rich in a financial sense, I do feel so rich in other ways; rich in experiences, surroundings and friendships. But for me these are the things that add true value to life. Of course, money is important and it’s definitely very easy to spend money in Barcelona. You can easily go crazy with all the parties and festivals, shopping trips, excursions and eating out. But it’s also relatively easy to keep costs down without feeling you are missing out on all there is on offer in this buzzing city. In fact, it has been said to be one of the most affordable places to live. Whether you are coming to Barcelona for the long haul or just a fleeting visit, here are some handy tips on how to enjoy Barcelona on a budget.
One of the things I love most about Barcelona is that it is such a nice and easy city to get around on foot. There is so much for the eyes to take in that, in fact, your feet are not only the cheapest, but the best mode of transport. This way you can meander at your own leisurely pace, taking in the fantastic architecture, quirky street art and graffiti to be found dotted about in narrow streets and corners of this eclectic city.
The next best and cheapest transport option has to be bike. Barcelona’s Bicing system is a fantastically economical and healthy option, and with plenty of Bicing stations located all over the city it’s super easy to use. What’s more, there are cycle lanes covering most of the city. If using your own bike, just be sure you lock it up well as there is a fair risk of it being stolen, including the seat as I learned the hard way!
For trips outside of Barcelona, an option well worth considering is BlaBla Car. Simply go on to the website, put in your destination of choice and find a car owner and/or co-travellers making the same journey. This mode of transport can work out considerably cheaper than the same journey by train or bus. It’s also a way to meet and exchange conversation with different people. Far more sociable and engaging than your typical bus journey. It’s a very trusted system also, and you can even find photos and ratings of drivers on the website to ensure you feel more comfortable and confident.
Food and drink
It’s not difficult to eat out in Barcelona cheaply without compromising on quality. So long as you avoid the extremely touristy traps such as on and around La Rambla. Sharing some tapas with friends certainly doesn’t have to be pricey, and there is also the Ruta de Tapas with certain bars (helpfully pinpointed on the Ruta de Tapas map) offering a beer (or other drink option) and one tapas dish at a budget price of 2.50 euros.
Another budget food option is pintxos. That is, basically tapas on bread! In Barcelona there is an abundance of bars offering a wide and varied selection of pintxos. In some bars, such as are to be found on possibly the most popular pintxo stretches, Calle Blai in the Poble Sec neighbourhood, every pintxos is 1 euro. And as you can pick and choose for yourself, you can have full control over how much or little you spend!
When out and about with friends enjoying the Barcelona sun, whether it be at the beach or the park, a fantastic and enjoyable budget option is to take a picnic. The supermarkets and bakeries have plenty to offer. You could always get your friends to all chip in and take along a contribution to add to the mix.
Free museums and galleries
If culture is your thing, it’s always good to know you can get into all the main and galleries for free every first Sunday of the month. Just be sure to check for opening hours, as these can sometimes be reduced on Sundays.
The city that hosts Primavera Sound and Sonar festivals actually offers a whole host of other, I would argue equally if not more fun, festivities and festivals that don’t make a dent on your purse strings. There is Sant Joan, a celebration of the longest day and commencement of summer with parties to be found all across the city, with many people converging on/around the beach for music and fireworks. Then there are the festa mayores, celebrated in every barrio (neighbourhood) on a different week during summer, with activities, bands and dj’s and general partying from day to night. The biggest, most impressive and extravagant of these is the festa Mayor of Gracia. Really not to be missed, if only to marvel at the fantastic decorations! There is also La Merce festival towards the end of the summer, with free music and events on offer all over the city. In short, during the summer, you can enjoy partying in Barcelona in the outdoors most weeks, without paying for nightclub or mainstream festival entrance fees.
If you are having thoughts of travelling or moving abroad, I can’t recommend Barcelona highly enough!