With the euro now in favor of American travelers for the first time in many years, European cities with chic, cosmopolitan flair are an attractive travel option this summer. Barcelona is one of our current favorites, with its world-class architecture, museums, abundance of tapas restaurants, and seaside ambiance. Sure, flights are still seasonally priced — we found round-trip fares of $1,300 for mid-July between New York City and Barcelona — but what you’ll pay on the ground can easily make up for the flight. Here are five ways to explore Barcelona on a budget.
1. Explore the free museums.
Time your visit right and you’ll have the chance to soak up tons of culture gratis. On the first Sunday of the month, plus Thursdays from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., the Museu Picasso waives admission, saving you €14 (or a little over $15). You’ll also find free admission at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya on Saturday afternoons, from 3 p.m. to close, as well as the first Sunday of the month. Yet another Sunday perk: Get in free at Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (commonly referred to as CCCB) from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
2. Dine tapas-style.
Spain is synonymous with tapas, and it would practically be a crime not to do a tapas crawl one night. Just down the street from the Museu Picasso, in the trendy El Born neighborhood, El Xampanyet dates back to the 1920s and is both boisterous and cozy. Specialties include anchovies and Spanish omelettes. Also nearby is the newer family-owned Disset 17 Graus, which offers tapas like a Catalan cheese plate, plus 25 wines by the glass in a contemporary space with Edison bulbs and walls of horizontal wide-plank wood.
3. Sip wine smartly.
Barcelona is 45 minutes from Freixenet’s winery and headquarters in Penedès. Tour the 100-year-old Cava producer (€7 or $7.58) including a short movie, tram ride, and underground caves — capped off by a glass of Cava. At the nearby sister winery Segura Viudas, a birdwatching and vineyard tour runs only €15 euros ($16.25). Back in Barcelona, Freixenet recently opened a wine bar and showroom, Tannic by Freixenet, where you can Spanish Cavas along with selections from its 20 other wineries all around the world, before splurging on a souvenir bottle.
4. Shop on Las Ramblas.
Las Ramblas, the boulevard stretching from the harbor to Plaça Catalunya, is lined with shops selling internationally known designer labels as well as plus brands with European roots (think: Zara and Mango). But no matter where you shop, chances are you can score a deal. Inside Boulevard Rosa, a indoor shopping mall featuring boutiques from independent designers, we particularly love the gourmet deli of Mary’s Market. Here, grab a bottle of Spanish wine, cheese, and a baguette for an impromptu picnic that runs around €20 euros (just over $21). At La Boqueria — a market with 250 food stalls, selling items like nuts, fish, olives and fruits — it’s entirely possible to create a meal on the go.
In lieu of plunking down a lot of cash for a luxury hotel room in Barcelona, there are several low-cost options that are still very chic. Generator is a Europe-wide brand of upmarket hostels, and the Generator Hostel Barcelona boasts private rooms that run around €55 euros per night (just under $60) this summer. Both Room Mate Emma and Room Mate Pau are offering €134 rates ($145 USD) for late July.