We’re big fans of nipping off for a city break on the continent as often as our bank balance will allow. Especially when we know it’ll let us shun our woolly boots in favour of flip-flops for a few more precious days. Having recently written a blog post on which destinations are hot in October, my already constant yearning to chase sunnier climes reached an all-time high. Which is how I ended up a booking a last-minute Barcelona break – all in the name of further research on autumnal hotspots, naturally. Here are the tips and tricks I picked up on how to make the most of a Barcelona getaway without splashing the cash.
When to go
Barceloneta Beach © nito
Autumn is a great time for a Barcelona holiday. While in the height of summer temperatures reach a sweltering 30°C, October boasts far more bearable highs of 25°C and even November can push the mercury up to 20°C. You’ll experience similar temperatures in April and May. As well as the pleasant weather, by travelling in the shoulder season you’ll find much smaller crowds at the major tourist attractions. Best of all, holiday rates will be considerably lower, sometimes by as much as half that of July and August. You can save further on flights and hotel rates by travelling mid-week rather than the weekend.
Getting from the airport to the city
It’s tempting once you’ve landed to jump straight in the nearest taxi. And if you’re in a group of about four or more, this may indeed work out quite cost-effective at around €35. Smaller groups or solo travellers can save some cash by taking advantage of Barcelona’s excellent public transport options. The Aerobús departs from outside both terminals every five minutes and takes half an hour to reach the city centre. A return ticket will set you back just €10.20. Cheaper still is the train at just €3.15 per journey (look out for the RENFE signs in Terminal 2 to find the station) or the number 46 or 17 local buses at a cheap-as-chips €1.40 each way.
Where to stay
Rambla del Poblenou © Oh-Barcelona.com
There are plenty of hotels in Barcelona to choose from and it’s undeniably convenient to stay in the heart of the city but this convenience tends to come at an inflated price. Consider staying a little further out; you can generally expect lower room rates and excellent public transport links to the centre. We stayed in the charming Poblenou district, about a 35-minute walk or a 10-minute metro ride from both the Sagrada Familia and the Gothic Quarter. Just round the corner from the hotel we found Rambla del Poblenou, a bustling street packed with shops and tapas bars stretching from the mountains to the seashore. Another option is the Grácia district, a cosmopolitan area brimming with cafés, restaurants and one of Barcelona’s first arts cinemas.
Exploring certain parts of Barcelona like the winding streets of the Gothic Quarter can only really by done on foot. You’ll find though that the city’s attractions are spread far and wide; it would take an hour to walk from the old town to Gaudí’s Park Güell. At this point you’ll want to give your tootsies a break and hop on the metro. Barcelona boasts an extensive and efficient metro system, and best of all, it’s a really cheap way of getting around. We’d recommend purchasing a T-10 card, worth 10 metro journeys and costing just €9.80. Or in other words, a mere 98 cents per journey. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, London Underground.
Park Güell © r.nagy
Of course you might wish to explore the wider Catalonia region and take in attractions like the imposing monastery atop the mountain of Montserrat or the Roman baths in the harbour city of Badalona. In that case you may want to pick up some car hire in Barcelona to give you the freedom to explore the area.
Seeing the sights
Many tourists flock to Barcelona to gaze upon Antoni Gaudí’s architectural creations. Unfortunately, if you wish to glimpse inside the Sagrada Familia or Casa Battlò, to name a few, it doesn’t come cheap. Yet there are some savings to be made; purchasing a Barcelona Card will gain you discounts on entry prices as well as free travel on public transport. If you’re planning on visiting the spectacular be-jewelled and be-tiled Park Güell, don’t hang around; as of October there’s a charge to enter the main terrace and there are talks of charging just to enter the park, much to the locals’ evident fury.
There are of course plenty of things to see and do in Barcelona that won’t cost a penny. We stumbled across an excellent free walking tour of the Gothic Quarter offered by Sandemanns New Europe, departing from metro stop Jaume 1. Walking down sophisticated Passeig de Gràcia is great for people-watching as well as Gaudí house-gazing. If you’re game for a little bit of a climb, you’ll enjoying walking up towards the Fine Arts Museum and exploring Montjuic Park beyond. And if holiday=total relaxation for you, lay down your towel on one of the city’s many beaches and let the sun’s rays do their work.
Food and drink
La Boqueria food market © Ingrid Prats
Another subject we love to harp on about – it’s vital to eat a good breakfast when you’ve a hard day’s sightseeing ahead of you, but you can avoid splashing out on a hotel breakfast by picking up a pastry or two from a bakery on your way to the metro station. A hearty and great-value lunch can be had in the form of a sandwich crammed full of delicious Serrano ham, or you can pick up no end of tasty treats at food markets. La Boqueria just off La Rambla is as much a tourist attraction as it is a working market and while it’s definitely worth a visit, you’ll find authentic goodies at lower prices at the Sant Antoni market in the Eixample district.
The Barceloneta district is said to offer the finest tapas in the city, and that’s something we can vouch for. Don’t be tempted to settle for the restaurants on the main street, Passeig de Joan de Borbó. Branch out into the tightly packed streets behind it, where you’ll find gems like Bar Los Pescadores and La Bombeta. We were also big fans of Sigarra in Poblenou, where tapas was served Yo! Sushi-style on a conveyor belt and very attractively priced at just €2 or €3 per dish.
Do you have any money-saving tips for a holiday in Barcelona? Let us know in the comment box below!