A Backpacker’s Guide to Barcelona
Exploring the vibrant streets of Barcelona, the cosmopolitan capital of Catalonia is a dream come true for backpackers seeking a perfect blend of history, culture, and unforgettable experiences. Nestled along the glistening shores of the Mediterranean Sea, this enchanting city effortlessly captures the hearts of wanderers from around the world. With its iconic architecture, delectable cuisine, vibrant nightlife, and an endless array of sights to behold, Barcelona offers an extraordinary adventure that will leave backpackers in awe.
In this comprehensive backpacker’s guide to Barcelona, we will embark on a journey to uncover the hidden gems, navigate the bustling streets, and soak in the rich tapestry of this captivating city. Whether you are a budget traveler seeking affordable accommodations, a history enthusiast yearning to delve into the city’s past, or a free spirit looking to immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture, Barcelona has something to offer every backpacker.
Disclaimer: Some of the links included on our website may contain affiliate links. We may receive some commission from purchases made via these but it will NOT affect the price you pay. This is to allow this site to stay online and ensure that readers use, what we believe, are the best products possible whilst travelling.
How Long to Stay in Barcelona as a Backpacker
One of the best aspects of Barcelona is that you can visit for either a week plus or just a weekend and you’ll still have a great experience. Barcelona is awash with cool bars, great eateries and nice hang-out spots if you fancy a relaxing (or boozy) weekend away. Conversely, if you wanted to stay in Barcelona longer, there are tons of places you can visit that will keep you occupied throughout.
Unfortunately, if you are on a backpacker’s budget, Barcelona will eat away at your precious savings so realistically anywhere from 2-4 days will give you enough time to enjoy the city. We ended up staying for 5 days in Barcelona and while we had an amazing time, it was pretty costly, so 3 days would have been an ideal amount of time.
Best time to visit Barcelona as a backpacker:
Barcelona was the second stop on our travels which meant we visited in early/mid-October. Luckily, this seemed to be the perfect time to go as it wasn’t as touristy as peak season, but the weather was still sunny and even had a little heat. If you can, we’d definitely recommend going around October but any time between June-October will still allow you to have a good time!
How to get around Barcelona
As we found out quite quickly, due to our attempts to keep our daily expenditure low, Barcelona is a very big city so it takes some time to walk around. For us, it was enjoyable to go for long walks with a coffee to our intended location so we could get a feel of the city and walk through the less touristy places. However, after numerous days of constantly walking, we ended up using the city’s metro more and more. The metro was super easy to use, reasonably priced and stations were very accessible – just make sure you download the Barcelona Metro App!
Things to know before backpacking Barcelona
Plan your visit around the city’s major attractions
Barcelona is home to numerous iconic landmarks and attractions, such as the Sagrada Família, Park Güell, and Casa Batlló. To make the most of your time, plan your visit in advance and consider purchasing tickets online to skip the long queues.
Explore the city on foot or by public transportation
Barcelona is a pedestrian-friendly city with an extensive public transportation system. Save money and immerse yourself in the local ambience by walking or using the metro and buses to get around. Barcelona also offers a bike-sharing program, which is a great way to explore the city’s streets and parks at your own pace.
Sample the local cuisine
Indulge in Barcelona’s culinary delights by trying traditional dishes like paella, tapas, and Catalan specialities. Visit the vibrant food markets, such as La Boqueria, where you can sample fresh produce, seafood, and local delicacies. Don’t forget to pair your meals with a glass of refreshing sangria or vermouth.
Take advantage of free or discounted attractions
Barcelona offers various free or discounted activities and attractions. Visit museums and attractions during designated free-entry times, such as the Picasso Museum on Thursday afternoons. Take advantage of discounts with the Barcelona Card, which offers unlimited public transportation and discounts on popular attractions.
Immerse yourself in local culture
Barcelona is a city bursting with cultural experiences. Attend a flamenco show, watch a live music performance, or explore the local art scene. Take a stroll through vibrant neighbourhoods like El Raval or Gràcia, where you can discover hidden gems, street art, and cosy cafes.
Keep an eye on your belongings
Remember, while exploring Barcelona, keep your belongings secure and be mindful of pickpockets, especially in crowded tourist areas.
Hostels and Budget Accommodation in Barcelona
YEAH HOSTEL BARCELONA
Carrer de Girona, 176, 08037 Barcelona, Spain
In Barcelona, we ended up staying at YEAH HOSTEL on Carrer de Girona. Whilst we didn’t realise it at the time, this has to be one of our favourite hostels we stayed in and one of the best hostels in Europe! The hostel put on a 3-course evening meal every night (for just 10€) which allowed us to meet loads of new people. This is the same with the 5€ buffet breakfast!
The hostel also put on a range of tours, such as free walking tours and nightly bar crawls, which is a great way of meeting new people and exploring all aspects of the city.
Whilst you’re not galavanting around the city, YEAH! Hostel also has a really good (and cute) common area with numerous charging ports and great wifi. A nice place to relax after a long day or a good study space if you work remotely.
The only slight downside of this hostel is its location. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad location, just due to the sheer size of Barcelona, it is a 30-minute walk away from La Rambla. However, it is right next to the Verdaguer metro station so it is easily accessible. On the flip side, the location means you are closer to Parc Guell and Cosmo Caixca.
St Christopher’s Inn
Carrer de Bergara, 3, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Situated much more centrally than Yeah Hostel, St Christopher’s is a prime location for seeing Barcelona on foot (the best way to get around) and is only a stone’s throw away from La Rambla. We also know that it has great reviews for cleanliness and the staff are always friendly.
C/ de Còrsega, 373, 08037 Barcelona, Spain
We walked past Generator a few times during our time in Barcelona, it looks pretty swanky from the outside and always had people hanging about!
They have raving reviews online and also offer female-only dorms which you might be on the lookout for if you are a solo traveller in Barcelona!
Things to do in Barcelona on a budget
1. La Rambla
Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
One of the most famous places in Barcelona is La Rambla. This famous strip is a great place to take pictures and browse all the souvenirs that line the street.
Whilst the restaurants along La Rambla aren’t known for their quality food, they are great to grab a few drinks at. The majority do Happy Hour so if you’re partial to a few sangrias, we’d definitely recommend going along and people-watching.
2. La Sagrada Familia
C/ de Mallorca, 401, 08013 Barcelona, Spain
Even more famous than La Rambla is La Sagrada Familia. Whilst we didn’t personally go inside, we instead ate in its shadows and had a walk around to see its beauty.
We did however speak to many people who did go inside and they said it was a must-visit. If you are wanting to go inside we would recommend this Get Your Guide ticket with the fast track option. Word of warning, make sure you book in advance AND be wary of pickpockets.
3. Park Güell
08024 Barcelona, Spain
A stunning place where you can wander through beautiful landscapes and also grab an amazing view of the city below. We spent a good few hours here and most of the time we just sat and enjoyed the scenery.
Word of warning, this place can get incredibly touristy and make sure you bring a bottle of water beforehand as it can get quite hot. The lines can be quite long in the heat so if your budget stretches to it we would recommend getting a skip-the-line ticket or a guided tour around the park, you can purchase tickets here.
4. Playa de Bogatell
One of the main benefits of visiting Barcelona is the fact that you can experience the city’s maze and the beach’s beauty.
On our beach day, we visited Playa de Bogatell; a very pretty beach that had all you needed (apart from shade and sun loungers. Word of warning, be prepared to be constantly hounded by street sellers attempting to sell you “mojito fresh” or ladies trying to give you a message.
Despite this, it was a very nice beach and we’d definitely visit again. Do make sure you bring some water with you!
5. Cosmo Caixa
Carrer d’Isaac Newton, 26, 08022 Barcelona, Spain
We found this absolutely amazing science museum on TikTok and it was probably our most enjoyable activity of the whole trip. It would be a great day out for the whole family. From what we remember, entry was about 6€ and you can buy a ticket on arrival from reception.
Whilst it is mainly a cool science museum, it also had a huge living rainforest connected to it with loads of live animals inside. We visited Cosmo Caixa and Parc Guell in the same day as it is easy to get a taxi between the two.
6. Mercat dels encants de Barcelona
Carrer de los Castillejos, 158, 08013 Barcelona, Spain
It’s a little bit out of the touristy area but a really cool place to visit nonetheless. Firstly, the Mercat is a local market with hundreds of stalls on multiple levels that sell anything from electrical equipment to socks. It has a car boot sale feel to it and is great to wander around.
Secondly, the open area building is absolutely beautiful, with the roof basically a gigantic mirror that allows you to look back on yourself.
If you have time, we’d definitely recommend visiting as this will allow you to experience a bit of true Catalan culture.
7. Cathedral of Barcelona
Pla de la Seu, s/n, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
We visited the Cathedral de Barcelona on our free walking tour (organised by Yeah Hostel) and it was amazing. Our guide informed us all about the incredible history behind it (when it was built and its prestige in society) which was fascinating the learn.
If you don’t do a walking tour, do make sure you visit the Cathedral and you’ll be equally as fascinated as us.
8. Turo de la Rovira
Whilst we, unfortunately, didn’t have time to visit here, we only heard (and saw) nothing but good things about this place. It has unrestricted views over much of the city and is very popular to visit at both sunrise and sunset for beautiful pictures. We really regret not going! It’s definitely a bit of a hike up so be prepared.
9. Camp Nou
C. d’Arístides Maillol, 12, 08028 Barcelona, Spain
In a similar breath to the Santiago Bernabeu, we, unfortunately, weren’t able to visit Camp Nou as Barcelona weren’t playing BUT it would be incredible to have watched them play. If like us, you weren’t able to actually watch them, you can still go on a tour of the stadium which is very popular. You can book here using our link.
Still struggling for things to do in Barcelona? Why not check out this guide on the 45 Bucket List Experiences in Spain You Won’t Forget!
Where to eat & drink in Barcelona (on a backpacker budget!)
Carrer de Roger de Llúria, 124, 08037 Barcelona, Spain
This cute little restaurant/bar/cafe was just a 5-minute walk from our hostel and after stumbling across it one day, we came back every single day after because we loved it so much!
Our go-to was a jug of Sangria and some olives (which were addictive) and we’d sit there, use the free WiFi to just chill and people-watch. Easily our favourite place that we went to and would 100% recommend it.
C/ de Provença, 271, 08008 Barcelona, Spain
We came here on our first evening, as we’d heard it was really good local paella, and it definitely lived up to expectations. We were both so hungry so we ended up getting our own paella but you can easily share one between two (especially as the price is a bit steep). The Sangria here was also really good and if we were travelling on a budget, we’d have definitely got some dessert too!
3. Dr Stravinsky
Carrer dels Mirallers, 5, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
Really cool cocktail bar, definitely one to check out.
This was a really cool and classy cocktail bar that you absolutely must check out if you’re into your cocktails or looking for a nice place to drink.
Located in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona, Dr Stravinsky is an extremely relaxing bar that has a crazy cool interior. The bar staff are all of the highest quality (so much so that people can’t apply for a job, they have to be invited) and the drinks are great.
4. Bar Paradiso
Carrer de Rera Palau, 4, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
As you can tell, we really like our cocktails so we also visited Bar Paradiso, also just off the Gothic Quarter. The difference with Bar Paradiso is that it’s a speakeasy so it was very cool to queue and enter.
Inside it’s very dark and you’re not allowed to take pictures whatsoever. This adds to the atmosphere of the place where people can relax and enjoy themselves more.
If you’ve never been to a speakeasy before and are in Barcelona, it is absolutely worth going out of your way, even if it is just for one cocktail.
Pg. de Gràcia, 58, 08007 Barcelona, Spain
Unbeknown to us, Txapela turned out to be more of an upmarket tapas restaurant that focused on quality rather than quantity, which also meant the price was also higher.
However, the quality of the food was amazing and we would definitely recommend the empanadas. The other cool thing about this place is its location on a street corner and the outside seating was on a hill which made for an interesting setting.
6. Sushi Master
Carrer de Girona, 183, 08037 Barcelona, Spain
Whilst admittedly not your traditional Spanish restaurant, we’re both sushi lovers so we had to visit this place just across the street from our hostel.
We found the food there amazing and the price was very reasonable, especially for the quality of food we got. If you are a big fan of sushi and happen to be in the vicinity, definitely give this place a go!
FAQs for Backpacking Barcelona
Generally yes, compared to a lot of capital cities in Europe, we found that Barcelona felt really safe. That being said, petty theft is VERY common! Like so common that we met multiple people just in our hostel that had lost phones, bags and passports. Be sure to keep your belongings close to you at all times and don’t fall for any tourist scams.
Barcelona is more on the expensive end of the scale when looking at backpacker destinations in Europe but there are a few ways to keep the costs down. The main one is to not visit in high season as its a popular holiday destination and the prices for accommodation and tours skyrocket in summer.
Barcelona is one of the few places I would say it doesn’t matter which luggage type you choose. While there are cobbled areas where having a wheeled suitcase isn’t practical, mostly you will have no problems.
Roughly €50-€100 per day. This will depend on what season you visit and you accommodation type though as it is not uncommon to see hostel dorms for €100+ a night in high season!
In conclusion, backpacking Barcelona is an exhilarating experience that combines the thrill of exploration with the richness of culture. The city’s architectural wonders, vibrant streets, and lively atmosphere make it a must-visit destination for backpackers.
From the captivating works of Gaudí to the bustling markets and the electrifying nightlife, Barcelona offers a tapestry of experiences that cater to every adventurer’s desires. So, grab your backpack, embrace the spirit of adventure, and immerse yourself in the beauty and charm of this remarkable city.
Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a food lover, or a nightlife seeker, backpacking Barcelona promises memories that will last a lifetime.
If you are backpacking Barcelona or other areas in Europe soon, do check out some of our other guides:
- Tips for visiting Europe on a budget
- Backpacking Europe: two month itinerary
- European Landmarks you need to visit
- The Top Hostels in Europe
Disclaimer: Some of the links included on our website may contain affiliate links. We may receive some commission from purchases made via these but it will NOT affect the price you pay. This is to allow this site to stay online and ensure that readers use, what we believe, is the best products possible whilst travelling.
Barcelona looks beautiful, I will definitely visit after reading your blog
Great to hear Taylor. Can’t wait to hear what you think of Barcelona.
We are heading to Barcelona in April and this post was timely to help us plan. It is a good thing we discovered tapas for dinner so we don’t have to wait for the late dinner hour! We are definitely looking forward to seeing the inside of Sagrada Familia.
Thats amazing; you’ll love Barcelona! We’re awful at getting hungry early as well. Let us know how beautiful the inside is Linda.
This is perfect as I’m heading to Barcelona in a couple of months! Definitely going to pay Paradiso a visit. Thank you!
You will honestly not regret visiting at all, it’s very cool in there! Glad we’ve been able to help Christy.
I’ve been meaning to plan another trip to Barcelona so this post is great timing. There are quite a few things on my list that I missed out on last time.
Definitely visit again and so glad we’ve helped! Bar Paradiso was a massive favourite of ours.
Thank you for this guide! Barcelona is pretty high up on my bf’s list of places he’d like to visit (all the paella!!). The Yeah Hostel sounds awesomeeee (especially those meals!)! I’d love to check out Cosmo Caixa as well!
Yes, Cosmo Caixa is an absolute must visit! You really won’t regret visiting Barcelona at all.. Bar Paradiso is also a must visit if you like cocktails.
Love Barcelona!! You definitely covered all the top sites! I didn’t even know about that science musuem but it looks cool. And the food. Yum I miss tapas!
Cosmo Caixa was easily our favourite place. Thank you and we totally agree; tapas, olives and sangria were amazing here.
Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon every day. It will always be useful to read through articles from other writers and practice something from other sites.
Thanks Vicente. That’s great advice and we’re definitely doing as much as we can.
I don’t really know much about Cambodia but it looks like a place I’d like to visit. The bat caves experience would be amazing, and I’d like to give that bamboo train a go. I remember seeing that episode of Travels With My Father now you mention it. Love the hotel you stayed it, seems like the perfect getaway
Cambodia was a really beautiful place and you definitely should visit if you ever get the chance. The bamboo train was a very fun experience also.
Barcelona looks like such an awesome city! I really want to visit to see Park Güell and La Sagrada Familia. I also wouldn’t mind eating some (or all) of that food. Yum! Thanks for sharing all the best things to do when I get the chance to travel here.
Park Guell is an absolute must Brittany! Our pleasure, so glad we’ve been able to help.