7 Tips For Families Visiting Barcelona On A Budget

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Whether you’re a British family looking for a Spanish Holiday or an American couple looking for tips to reduce stress on an inexpensive European vacation, below are some things we did that will help anyone who wants to visit Barcelona on a budget.

What do you do when you live in France, and your kids have 2 weeks off during April for spring break? We decided to tackle one of our bucket list cities and visit Barcelona, Spain. Not only was Barcelona better than I imagined, but I was also surprised at just how diverse, affordable and family-friendly this city was for our budget-conscious crew of five.

1- Find The cheapest way to get to Barcelona

rent a car to Barcelona

 

It’s a no brainer. The most obvious way to save money on your trip to Spain is on transportation. Will it be by plane, train, automobile or some combination of all three?

Since we live in France, just six hours from Barcelona and since we don’t own a car, we thought it would be fun AND INEXPENSIVE to take the train to Barcelona.

WRONG! The train was the most expensive option. 

One round trip train ticket from La Garde France to Barcelona was over 400 euros. There are five of us so that meant that it would cost us over 2,000 euros for our family to get to Barcelona by train (over 2,500 dollars), which was waaaaaaaay out of our budget.

We decided to rent a car for the week which cost us less than 400 euros. That 400 euros covered the cost of the car, the GPS, gas and car insurance.

scenic view on our way to Barcelona

Not only was it more affordable to drive, but we got to take in the scenery on the drive over. There are some amazing buildings and churches between France and Spain.

The kids seemed to really enjoy the road trip too. They sat in the back seat listening to music, watching movies and watching the world go by.

If you decide to drive to Spain or anywhere in Europe, take care to bring a credit card and or lots of cash and change for the toll booths.

On our 6 hour drive, we encountered about 7 toll booths. A few were 2 or 3 euros, but two of the toll booths were almost 16 euros. In total, we paid about 75 Euros in toll booth fees.

Even if you fly to Spain, renting a car is great for short day trips to neighbouring towns and villages. 

You can still find deals for flights, especially during the off-peak season when prices can drop by half.

2- Save Money And Go during the off-season but be prepared for…

raining in Barcelona

There is an old saying, “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.”

If you decide to buy tickets during off-peak season to take advantage of cheaper tickets, you should be prepared because tickets are cheaper for a reason.

One of those reasons tickets are cheaper is that the weather is not always optimal for sightseeing, but that’s ok because there are still plenty of things to see and do when it’s cold and rainy.

For instance, during our trip to Barcelona, it rained 2 of the six days we were there.

Rather than stay indoors and cower, we chose to throw on our rain jackets, buy some umbrellas and visit places that involved being indoors.

We then saved the outdoor activities for the days when the forecast predicted sun.

3-Find Cheap Food

la-boqueria in Barcelona a huge outdoor market

Another way you can economize is on food.

Check out Mercat de Sant Josep La Boqueria, an outdoor covered market (open Monday through Saturday) located right off La Rambla. La Rambla is one of the most popular areas to walk around to shop, eat and take in the sites. Every guidebook will tell you to visit it.

You have to visit the outdoor market St Josep La Boqueria in Barcelona

The St Josep market is literally a cornucopia of things to see, eat and smell.

It had everything from freshly squeezed juice smoothies, fresh produce and wonderful cheeses to meat counters that sold chicken and sheep heads. (The sheep head, I am told, is quite popular.)

Don't be freaked out by food in Barcelona

 

Many restaurant vendors sell the most magnificent foods at the open market, from fried octopus and traditional tapas to nachos and chips.

We ended up eating at the market several times. The kids all loved it because they each found things they wanted to eat.

Blake and I loved it because it was DELICIOUS AND CHEAP.

Food in Barcelona

 

We also bought some fresh fruit and things we can’t find in France like refried beans and hot sauces. The French don’t really like spicy food, and I do.

4-Unexpected Normal Things To Do

How do you tell someone to cut your hair if you can’t communicate?

We did ordinary things at home, but because we were doing them someplace new in a language we did not speak, it added a whole new dimension to an otherwise ordinary situation.

Get A Haircut:

getting a haircut in Barcelona can be challenging if you don't speak the language but a lot of fun

 

It was not only cheap, less than 10 euros, but also an adventure.

Neither of us spoke Spanish, so we were wildly flapping around our arms and mimicking scissors with our hands to tell the barber how short to cut Blake’s hair.

Fun times! Blake ended up with a crew cut and the shortest haircut of his life. I loved it, he not so much.

5- Get Lost And Find Unexpected Fun Things To Do

huge cat sculpture in Barcelona

We also did a lot of random exploring.

There was a huge cat sculpture that was begging to be climbed. Catherine was intrigued by the cats’ two huge. Needless to say, we handled the situation very delicately; no pun intended. 

Chocolate museum in Barcelona museu de la xocol

One spontaneous and inexpensive thing we ended up doing was visiting a chocolate museum called “Museu de la xocalato.”

It was totally unplanned. We were walking around near the Picasso museum and just happened upon it by accident.

It was a rather smallish museum, but it was cheap. Less than 6 euros per ticket but instead of a ticket you got a chocolate bar as your entrance ticket that you get to eat in the museum. That’s what Catherine is holding in the photo above.

Stop by the museum of chocolate in barcelona

There was tons of information on how chocolate was discovered and hundreds of chocolate statues, but there was a cool chocolate bar that served melted chocolate in a cup that we ate by dunking croissants into.    It was to die for.

6- Bring Foot Powered Scooters

bring a scooter if you plan on doing a lot of walking in Barcelona.

I read that Barcelona was a place where you walk a lot.

Having three kids, who have travelled a lot, I knew that one of their biggest complaints and most stressful things for me was going places where there was a lot of walking.

I decided to bring a scooter this time. Not only did we cover more ground, but the kids really enjoyed having scooters to get around in some beautiful places. I am definitely going to bring them for our next excursion.

I made sure to get a big enough scooter that Catherine and I could share because when she got tired, I just scooted along with her.

Everyplace with wide-open spaces suddenly became a new place to explore on scooters rather than more walking in the hot heat. 

bring a scooter to Barcelona

7- See some of Gaudi’s Greatest Works.

Gaudi building n Barcelona

 

Gaudi was a Spanish architect born in Catalonia whose work was inspired by religion and nature. His works are more like art than architecture.

We went to see CASA BATLLO, this smallest of Gaudi’s famous works, which has a dragon and sword on the roof and an impressive front-facing façade. You can take a tour of the house, which we did, and I highly recommend you get the audio tour and get your tickets online since the line to get in can get really long.

Another one of Gaudi’s work is the Sagrada Familia Church. It is possibly one of the most unique and fascinating churches I have ever laid eyes on.  This gothic beauty looks like it could have been made with sand and melted wax to me. Pictures don’t do it justice.

Sagrada Website

There are other Gaudi works, but I’ll let you research that yourself.

Barcelona: A great budget-friendly place

If you want to visit Europe on a budget or with kids, I highly recommend Barcelona. It literally has something for everyone on every budget. We plan on going again because one week was just not enough.

Question: Have you been to Barcelona? What did you think of it? If not, is it on your bucket list of places to go?

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  1. Barcelona is my favorite city in the world, but you are right, it is definitely not the cheapest destination.

    Great advice on how to make savings.

  2. If I go to Barcelona and I will want to visit Nou Camp and watch Leo Messi in action. Any tip on that?

    1. So sorry, i actually dont have any tips on that. I am not a football fan and i would probably give you miss information.

  3. Fantastic article Annie with lots of good pics. I have lived in Barcelona for many years and do not get tired of the place!

  4. Cute article! I didn’t know it’s cheaper to drive than to take the train. We took the train and it was an experience in itself. I LOVE that market on La Ramda. Nothing else around the world I’ve been to compares to that market. It’s odd but we did find one little place to eat off the beaten path where the guy spoke French so we were able to communicate. The scooters are a genius idea!!

    You are living the life!!! xoxox
    Happy Birthday and Mothers’ Day!

    ~Jenny

    1. Hi Jenny, the train tickets were more expensive than the car rental mainly because of the per cost ticket. With a car, the cost was spread over five people. It would have been cheaper to take the train if it was just one person.
      Also, we went during a french peak time. Meaning, all kids are out of school which might have accounted for the higher ticket prices. But in general, the trains are pretty expensive in France and parts of Europe. A lot of times it is cheaper to fly than it is to take the train in Europe. Crazy isn’t it?

  5. Hey Annie

    I’ve not been to Spain at all which is unusual for someone from the UK to say because I’m sure it’s one of the most popular destinations for us Brits!

    My wife took a group of school kids to Barcelona a few years ago and fell in love with the place. She’s an Art Teacher so the Gaudi stuff was of great interest.

    The only thing she mentioned to me was the pick pockets as they seemed to be around every corner. Did you find that?

    1. Tim, that is crazy that you have never been to Spain. You better get your butt over there because you are going to love it. I fell in love with their food big time and can,t wait to go back.

  6. The more I see about Barcelona, the more interested I am in going there! Next time we’re in Europe methinks.

    And OUCH on the 16 euro toll both. OMG!

    1. I hope you get to spend more than a couple weeks in Barcelona Talon. I canT say enough good things about it. I can’t wait to go back and hope we can spend more than a week next time. :)

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