Cheap family holidays: Barcelona on a budget


BarcelonaThere’s a famous saying about Barcelona that ends with the words “…even when your pockets are empty, Barcelona is still good” – welcome news for those who want to visit without blowing their budget.

We look at 10 great ways to keep costs low if you’re looking for cheap family holidays in Spain’s beautiful second city…


Spaniards tend to go on holiday in July and August, and as a result, many hotels in Barcelona offer cheaper rooms or deals to offset the lack of business trade. However, what the city lacks in local buzz it does make up for in tourists, so be prepared for an increase in crowds and queues.


Barcelona is a city made for walking with its beautiful architecture and long boulevards. However, if you want to use the Metro, then a T-10 Metro ticket gives you 10 journeys for £7.70. A normal single journey ticket costs £1.60 so it’s an £8.30 saving.

The Barcelona Card also offers free unlimited public transportation – as well as savings on museum entry, attractions and shopping. Pick up a two-day card for £24 at tourist offices – although savvy visitors save 10% by buying online at the Barcelona Tourist Website – a bonus when you’re aiming for cheap family holidays.

Food and drink

Breakfasts at hotels are generally not included in room rates, and tend to be expensive and unimaginative – head to a nearby bar instead for a cheaper, and usually much tastier, coffee and traditional Magdalena, a small sweet sponge cake.

Pick up picnic provisions at La Boqueria, the open-air food market on Las Ramblas, selling everything from fruit and bread to Iberico ham and sweets. Avoid the stalls at the front of the market though, as their pricing is double the price of those further in.

If you are eating out, fill up at lunchtime. Most restaurants offer a Menú del Dia, a cut-price midday menu, often based around dishes of seasonal ingredients – usually comprising a choice of starters, main courses and a dessert, with bread and a drink for a bargain price of around £8.

Don’t overtip. Unlike the UK, 5% is considered a generous tip. Barcelonians tend to tip little in restaurants and rarely tip cab drivers. If you want to leave a gratuity then €2 is a typical token, no matter what kind of restaurant or bill size.

Out and about

Make money stretch further while you succeed in exploring Barcelona on a budget by visiting the city’s museums on Sunday afternoons, when entry to most is free. Some, such as the MACBA modern art museum, also open from 8pm to midnight on Thursday and Friday, at a reduced cost of £3.

Entry to Sagrada Familia costs £11 – but in truth the most interesting views are those from outside. Save your money and visit Parc Güell instead for your Gaudi fix, with free entry and mosaic magic throughout, including walkways and dragons, as well as hilltop views of Barcelona and Gaudi’s former home, now a museum.

Night on the town

Las Ramblas is one of the world’s great boulevards, with a great promenade atmosphere, as well as magic shows, jugglers and entertainment. However, stop for sangria at terrace cafes and you’ll pay double anywhere else in the city – around £8 for a glass, versus a £6.50 pitcher in a small local bar.