Frugal Tourism in Barcelona
Want to see Barcelona but not spend a fortune? To give you some ideas, here are a few things I did:
- where to stay. I booked a fairly inexpensive room through airbnb. If you couchsurf, try that (age is no limitation: three women I know who couchsurf range in age from 61 to 69), being a member of Women Welcome Women Worldwide is a fantastic resource;
- phone camera/camera camera – bring an additional charger/battery (not that I’ve ever had a problem, of course);
- packed lunch (cheese, fruit, almonds, some juice were what I had on hand most days), water or juice;
- moist hand wipes;
- subway and city maps or the corresponding apps on your mobile device; and
- obviously, comfy shoes.
To foil pickpockets, my phone was tucked away in an interior pocket of my jacket, cash was stashed in a belt (a real belt with a zippered opening; bills folded in thirds fit nicely inside).
This mini-itinerary can be re-arranged according to your fatigue level as well as other sites you want to see. The architecture alone is worth a visit without the sometimes steep entrance fees, except for Guell Park. By the time you hike yourself up there, you’ll want to just spend the euros and enjoy what’s inside.
At the tip of Barcelona’s most famous street, Ramblas, head to the waterfront:
Christopher Columbus pointing the way to the New World:
The Gothic Quarter
Walk away from the waterfront and up Ramblas. Even in the off-season there are things going on and a lot of people milling about (I never had a problem with pickpockets, but you have to be careful).
A few blocks up, turn right at Carrer Ferran (on the opposite side of the street from the Liceu Opera House). Wander along the narrow alleys and into the Gothic Quarter.
Chances are you’ll get lost, which gives you more time to take photos, such as the Plaça del Rei, a medieval public square:
(IF IT’S SUNDAY): You may stumble across the traditional Sardana dance in the square in front of the Cathedral:
If you’re into watching slow, intricate dance patterns, you will enjoy seeing groups of people participating in this century-old (at least) cultural tradition. It is really slow – wringing your hands in frustration slow (for me). Probably more stimulating to learn the dance than watch it.
Lord have mercy these Catalans love gorgeously funky architecture.
For some of the most stunning examples, head over to the metro stop Jaume (yellow line) and get off at Passeig de Gràcia exit).
On the street of the same name, within a few blocks of each other, you’ll find:
Casa Mila (La Pedrera) – Architect: Antoní Gaudí
If you want to cough up the entrance fee for Casa Mila, you’ll see, amongst so many other things, Gaudí’s whimsically bizarre chimneys and a curlicue wrought iron gates:
If not, the exterior alone is a gorgeous, camera-worthy building.
Mila and Batlló are close to each other so can be visited on the same day (with sufficient quantities of euros and queuing-in-line patience).
Walk south along Passeig de Gràcia until you get to Carrer Aragó. In this next block is some of my favourite architecture in the city, at times overlooked by the imposing and popular Casa Mila.
Casa Batlló, Casa Amatller
On Passeig de Gràcia, 39, you’ll find the Perfume Museum (closed Sundays).
This may not be for everyone, but I enjoyed my visit to the small perfume museum (tucked away at the back of the store). Very reasonably priced. It’s an intriguing stroll back in time from ancient Rome to the present.
Time to take the metro again. Try to get back to the Green line entrance of Passeig de Gràcia at Carrer Aragó. (Passeig de Gràcia has several subways lines converging here and it’s a long walk underground between stations. Besides, the architectural eye-candy is above-ground.)
Get off at Lesseps, and even though you may read that it is the nearest subway stop to the Park, “nearest” is, at best, relative.
Walk, walk some more, turn a couple of corners, climb up steeply inclined streets (there are signs posted along the way), pass a dozen souvenir stores, and you’ll finally make it:
Find a spot to have your packed lunch. Relax and enjoy Catalan architecture – quirky, whimsical, unique.