Barcelona is not just about Rioja and Tapas and late nights discovering a culture that loves a good time. It’s also about Cava and Paella and dancing to traditional and not so traditional music. Contributing writer Krista Masella takes us on a tour of the more affordable attractions that make Barcelona even more special than it already appears to be.
By Krista Masella
Barcelona is a city brimming with cultural significance, an intersection of the New and Old World, and a place many desire to explore. Fortunately, if your pockets aren’t also brimming with Euros, there is still magic to be found and plenty of free reasons to adventure.
Take in a Uniquely Catalonian Sight You Can’t See Anywhere Else
Castell is a Catalan word-meaning castle, and at a Castellers Performance opposing groups create human castles up to nine stories high for a child to climb to the top and salute the public. No nets, no safety belts, these thrilling displays of Catalan culture occur in public squares throughout the summer months accompanied only by music and large crowds. The Catalan people have continued this tradition since the 1700s and it lives on today after being designated by UNESCO as among the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Visit the Magic Fountain Lightshow
At the base of Montjuic, in front of the MNAC Museum lives the Magic Fountain. At night this immense structure comes to life forming more than seven billion combinations of synchronized light and water shooting through the air with a backdrop of music from Spanish classics, to children’s favorites and even 80s hits. Shows are free and vary in times throughout the year, but generally happen Thursday – Sunday at half-hour intervals beginning at 21:00.
Get Lost in the Narrow Medieval Streets of the Barri Gotic
Barcelona’s Barri Gotic or Gothic Quarter is the oldest part of the city, where the maze of cobbled streets closed to traffic allow you to take in remnants of the Roman Empire and other notable medieval landmarks. During weekly free hours, enter the Barcelona Cathedral that began construction in the 1200s to view picturesque stained glass windows, sculptures of gargoyles and other mythical animals, and to visit the resident geese that memorialize the martyred Saint Eulalia.
#InstagramGold , Snap a Shot Under the Arc De Triomf
The Arc De Triomf is a monumental structure built to welcome the 1888 Universal Exposition held at the Parc de la Ciutadella. Inscribed on the frieze is the phrase Barcelona Welcomes the Nations in Catalan, and the ornate arc built in the Neo Mudejar style makes the perfect backdrop for your next story. Plus, when you’re done stroll through the lush park for a moment of green, or to enjoy an afternoon picnic.
See a Picasso!
Pablo Picasso is regarded as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, and you can see a collection of his works for free! The Picasso Museum is open to everyone on Sundays from 15:00 and all day the first Sunday of each month.
Take a Dip in the Balearic Sea
Barcelona is home to many beaches, the most popular being Barceloneta where you’ll be lucky to find a spot to lay your towel and the vibe reads like a frat party or Disneyland on the sand. If you want a quieter retreat with comparable amenities, take the yellow L4 train to Ciutadella Vila Olympica and a short walk will lead you to Nova Icaria Beach. After taking a dip or sufficient sunbathing, let the kids check out the games area that includes ping-pong, basketball, volleyball and more, while you stop at a xiringuito (read beach bar!).
Plan Your Trip Around Barcelona’s La Merce Festival
Now this one’s a real treat, so listen up! The La Merce Festival is a free five-day celebration at the end of September to mark the changing of seasons. The streets come alive day and night with activities that include live music, the Gigantes (Giants) Parade, Castellers, the Correfoc or fire run, and the audiovisual spectacular projected on the façade of Gaudi’s Casa Batllo, the Awakening of the Dragon. The festival is an unparalleled adventure with twists at every turn that will keep you on the edge of your seat and begging for more. Where else can you run alongside enormous sparkler breathing dragons, or commune with an entire city to watch the walls of one of its famous buildings ignite with the story of the symbols that inspired the work of Antoni Gaudi himself? It is indeed a one of a kind experience not to be missed, oh, and did I mention it’s free?