Ever thought of studying in Spain? Barcelona is one of the top locations chosen by many as their dream location. But why? From the stunning architecture and dreamy parks to the vibrant nightlife and tasty cuisine, Barcelona has it all. And, there is plenty to do that won’t even cost you a penny.
Your CELTA course in Barcelona will be rigorous and you will need to spend a lot of time in our school with us or studying at home. However, we always recommend taking some time out to enjoy the city and disconnect.
So, here is our list of top 10 free things to do in Barcelona while taking your CELTA course. Leave us a comment at the bottom of this post if you think we’ve forgotten something!
- 1. Enjoy the views from up high
- 2. See the city on foot with a free walking tour
- 3. Get some culture at a public museum
- 4. Marvel at the facades of world-famous buildings
- 5. Soak up the sun on the beach or cool off in the sea
- 6. Get a feel for local life by browsing the markets
- 7. Find tranquillity in a Barcelona cemetery
- 8. Brush up on your language skills by doing a language exchange
- 9. Join in the fun at Barcelona’s unique festivals
- 10. Pic-nic with a backdrop of golden chariots
1. Enjoy the views from up high
Barcelona is surrounded by hills from most angles, all of which offer stunning views you won’t want to forget. Choose from the following:
- Montjuic Castle: The walk up to the castle is winding and it’s easy to get lost so be sure to take water with you or stop at Caseta del Migdia for a drink in the secret cafe beside it. If you are lucky, you might even be able to catch a free concert there in the summer. Once at the castle, take a walk around it for the full view of the city and the port as well. There are often events happening here too including the popular Sala Montjuic open air cinema.
- Parc Guell: The park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 and consists of two main areas: The Forest Zone (free) and the Monumental Zone (paid for and which includes sculptures, fountains, the serpentine bench in the Plaza de la Natura, and Gaudí’s famous mosaic lizard). The Forest Zone offers nice viewpoints overlooking the city and is ideal at sunset. Don’t be surprised if there is an impromptu concert from buskers either.
- The Bunkers del Carmel: This hilltop site, covered with the concrete remains of Spanish Civil War anti-aircraft gun emplacements, is a short (around 30 minutes from the nearest metro station) but steep climb. The opening hours have been reduced to Summer: 9:00 to 19:30 and Winter: 9:00 to 17:30 so unfortunately a sunset view is not possible. However, the view from up here, in our opinion, is one of the best, so don’t miss this one!
- MNAC front terrace: The terrace in front of Catalonia’s National Art Museum offers a view down towards Plaza España and the rest of the city. Combine this with the Magic Fountain show (also free) for a perfect evening plan in Barcelona. Note: access to the front terrace of the MNAC is free but access to the roof terrace has a €2 entrance fee.
2. See the city on foot with a free walking tour
Much of Barcelona consists of narrow streets and hidden gems which are simply not easy to find or access unless you are on foot. Luckily, there are free walking tours which you can join which will also explain the history and charm of some of Barcelona’s most unique or discrete corners. Here are a couple to choose from:
Gaudí Free Walking Tour: Discover the life of the genius architect Gaudí and his Casa Batlló, La Sagrada Familia, and La Pedrera.
Gothic Quarter Free Walking Tour: Explore the history, traditions and architecture of this enchanting neighbourhood.
We recommend joining a walking tour when you first arrive in Barcelona or on the first weekend of your CELTA course as this will help you find your feet in the city.
3. Get some culture at a public museum
Barcelona is full of museums, some of which are public. Many of the public museums offer free entrance on the first Sunday of each month and every Sunday afternoon (times vary). So, there should be plenty of opportunities to learn more about the culture, history and art which makes Barcelona so special. Here are some of our favourites:
Opened in December 2014, this museum is relatively new on the Barcelona museum landscape. The modern building holds fascinating collections as well as pop up exhibitions. Free every Sunday from 15:00 and the first Sunday of the month.
This is Barcelona’s museum of contemporary art, located in the Raval neighbourhood. Every Saturday from 16.00 you can visit the exhibitions, rediscover the Collection, and take part in activities, guided tours, concerts and performances…all for free.
4. Marvel at the facades of world-famous buildings
As many will know, when walking around Barcelona, you must look up (while being careful of course)! Barcelona is full of art nouveau buildings and architectural masterpieces that are completely free to see from the street. A couple of the most famous ones, designed by Antoní Gaudi, are:
Casa Milà: This is also known as La Pedrera “the stone quarry”) in reference to its unconventional appearance. It was the last private residence designed by architect Antoni Gaudí and was built between 1906 and 1912.
Casa Batlló: This is considered one of his masterpieces. It is a remodel of a previously built house, redesigned in 1904 by Gaudí refurbished several times after that.
There are also many other buildings, designed by the likes of Doménech i Montaner or Puig i Cadafalch to name but a few. We recommend visiting the Quadrat d’or (Golden Quarter) so you can visit as many as possible as they are within a few minutes walk from each other. Oxford TEFL is just a two minute walk from Passeig de Grácia where many of these buildings are located. So, you can even step out in your lunch break during your CELTA course to visit these masterpieces.
And let’s not forget the famous Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s famous unfinished church, just a 10 minute walk from the Quadrat d’or and Oxford TEFL. Walk the circumference of the church for a full view of the intricacies of the design or walk up from Calle Marina for a view from a distance. Viewing from the street is free, entrance inside is paid-for. However, it may be possible to enter for free if you meet certain criteria. Find out if you qualify for a free or discounted ticket here.
5. Soak up the sun on the beach or cool off in the sea
After a long day seeing the sights in the city, a break is most likely needed. Barcelona beaches are within walking distance of the city centre. For more space and nicer sand, we recommend getting the bus, metro or local train for a few minutes to beaches a little further up the coast. Our top beaches within a 45 minute ride from Plaza Catalunya (the most central spot in Barcelona) are:
Ocata beach: Just a few minutes by train north from Barcelona city, you will be able to enjoy a wide beach with clean sand, a peaceful promenade and good music from uncrowded chiringuito bars.
Casteldefells beach: A short train ride south from Barcelona city, this beach is ideal for those who want plenty of space and the option to go kitesurfing or have a swim without bumping into others.
Mar Bella beach: Just a short metro ride away, this beach is close to the Poblenou neighbourhood. At the end of your relaxing day at the beach, simply walk up the Rambla Poblenou to find a wide choice of bars, cafes and local shops.
6. Get a feel for local life by browsing the markets
If you’ve heard of Barcelona, you will most likely have heard of La Boqueria market. But did you know that fresh food markets are a common occurrence across the city? And did you know that it’s very common to buy, sell or exchange second hand goods instead of throwing them away? Even if you are not planning to buy anything, strolling around the markets can provide some interesting insights into local life and some entertaining encounters as well. Our top picks are:
La Boqueria market: Claiming to be ‘the best market in the world’, visiting this market in the heart of Barcelona is a no-brainer if you love food. Find out what Catalonia’s home-grown products are, marvel at the display of fish and seafood, people watch as they go about their day-to-day, or pick up some Spanish by listening to the market traders. It’s all happening here in this market. You cannot miss it! The market opens Monday to Saturday: 8:00 – 20:30.
Encants market: This is one of the oldest running flea markets in Europe. Originating in the 13th century, it includes around 500 vendors. We recommend heading straight to the ground floor where the antiques, furniture, books and almost anything you can ever think of are sold. The market opens on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 9:00 to 20:00.
Flea Market Barcelona: Flea Market Barcelona is an association which organises second hand, vintage and sustainable product markets and events. The most emblematic monthly market is called El Flea, located in the Raval neighbourhood where people buy, sell or exchange second hand products. The market takes place once a month at the weekend between 10.00 – 20:00.
7. Find tranquillity in a Barcelona cemetery
OK, a cemetery wouldn’t usually be at the top of your list when visiting a new city, but, in our opinion, Barcelona cemeteries are well worth a visit. Cemeteries in Spain may look different to those found in your home country and you will always discover stunning architecture and well-needed resting spots inside. Escape the noise of the city and find tranquillity for an hour or so – it’s almost impossible to find such peace anywhere else in the city. Our favourite cemeteries are:
Originally built in 1775 to stop the unhygienic burials in the city centre, the current cemetery was rebuilt in 1819 after being destroyed in the war against the French. Here, you can discover beautiful 19th-century neoclassical architecture, the grave of El Santet, with thousands of notes from devotees asking him for favours, and the famous sculpture El Petó de la Mort (“The Kiss of Death”).
This monumental complex covering an area towards the back of Montjuïc Hill and overlooking the sea is remarkable. The Catalan bourgeoisie not only hired the best Art Nouveau architects to build their mansions in the city but also to design their last resting places here. Therefore, it is designed in a Catalan modernist and Art Nouveau style, along with some glimpses of Neo-Gothic and new-Egyptian influences. You can even book a free guided tour.
8. Brush up on your language skills by doing a language exchange
As a city which is full of people from all over the world, it’s no surprise that language exchanges are one of the most popular ways to learn Spanish and meet other expats or locals. Most of these are free but you may be encouraged to purchase a drink at the venue. Our favourites are:
Happy Friday Noche de Intercambio (our very own language exchange): These monthly events should be on your to-do list while taking your Cambridge CELTA course in Barcelona with us. Each month has a different theme and activity to get you chatting. Don’t worry if you don’t know any other languages, there are plenty of English speakers at these events!
Language Exchange Barcelona: This website can match you to a language exchange partner completely for free. Filter the type of exchange you are looking for, read profiles, make contact, and even get some tips on how best to do a language exchange.
9. Join in the fun at Barcelona’s unique festivals
Spain is world-famous for its local and national festivals and Barcelona definitely stands out from many other cities as hosting some of the best. There are plenty of public holidays throughout the year and usually around these times there is some kind of party or celebration which is taken to the streets and free for all. Two of the most spectacular street festivals are:
Fiesta Mayor de Gràcia: Head to the Gracia neighbourhood in mid-August and you will be astonished to find that every street, corner and plaza has been transformed into a colourful wonderland accompanied by beating drums, light shows and a buzzing atmosphere. Expect the party to go on well into the early hours of the morning. This one is definitely not to be missed!
La Mercé: This festival lasts for around 5 days towards the end of September and is held in honour of Mare de Deu de la Mercè, the Patron Saint of Barcelona.The first Mercé festival took place in 1902, as a way to bid goodbye to the summer and welcome in the cooler months of autumn. Expect concerts, parades, fire runs (Correfoc, the fire breathing dragon), Castellers (human towers), Gigantes (Giants Parade) and lots of people!
10. Pic-nic with a backdrop of golden chariots
Barcelona’s Parc Ciutadella is a must-visit if you are looking for some greenery and a nice spot to soak up some sun or get some shade. Here, you can relax, walk, pic-nic and even row a boat. In our opinion, the ‘star of the show’ is the huge waterfall near the entrance coming down from the Arc de Triomf. Here are our top spots inside the park:
This monumental waterfall is the park’s icon and is adorned with sculptures of Venus at birth, gryphons, and golden chariots which overlook a pond (which is popular with the many birds trying to cool off).
Júlia, the Life-Sized Concrete Mammoth Statue
Júlia has stood amongst the trees and bushes for more than a hundred years. In 1915 the Sultan of Morocco gave an elephant called Júlia to Barcelona Zoo which was a big hit with the locals of Barcelona. After her death in the 1960s, people started calling the mammoth statue Júlia in her memory.
Stroll around the circumference of the lake where you will find ducks and other birds as well as see couples, friends and families taking the rowing boats out for a spin. Even in cooler months, the lake can still fill up.
So, there you have our top 10 free things to do in Barcelona while taking your CELTA course. As you see, there is plenty to do without breaking the bank. Why not take a CELTA coursemate with you?
Would you like to join a CELTA course in Spain? Barcelona could be just the place you are looking for.
If you would like to study in Spain and you are interested in becoming a qualified English teacher, you could consider our Cambridge CELTA course in Barcelona.
Non-EU citizen and planning to stay in Spain longer term? You can still join us! Find out about our package to study, live and work in Barcelona as an English as a foreign language teacher.
Still not sure if Barcelona is the right city for you? Watch this video to find out what one of our graduates, James, thinks about life as an English teacher in Barcelona.