By Vicky Anscombe on 26 April 2016

City breaks don’t get much better than a trip to Barcelona. It’s one of Spain’s most enchanting seaside cities; a mix of great food, wonderful architecture, fabulous places to enjoy a beer in the evening and world-class shopping.

However, there’s more to this much-loved city than its fabled streets. Make sure that you visit the city’s beaches; old and young come together to enjoy the sun, the sand and the friendly, inclusive atmosphere.

May is the best time to visit Barcelona. The weather’s warm, but the heat’s not overpowering. July and August are the peak tourist season, and the city is flooded with thousands of people. This is why going earlier in the year is advisable - the weather’s better, hotels are cheaper and there are less people jostling for space in the city. Here’s how you can make the most of your trip to Barcelona, without breaking the bank.

Check out the local flea markets

Come to Encants for a shopping experience unlike any other. This bizarre market, which is open on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, is a big hit with locals. You’ll find everything and anything in the stalls, ranging from clothes and bric-a-brac to china, pottery, vinyl and obscure gadgets. Once you’ve spent a few euros on your new purchases, head to the top floor for a well-deserved rest, some street food and a coffee.

Encants Market

Take in the architecture

Barcelona’s world-renowned architecture is a real-crowd pleaser - thousands of tourists flock to the city every year to see its buildings, some of which are thousands of years old. Old, spooky stone corridors and towering temple columns are yours to explore - it’s no surprise that the city’s inspired so many artists. Dali, Picasso and Miro are just three creatives who have found inspiration in Barcelona’s beauty. Which five buildings should be on your list?

La Sagrada Família: This unfinished Catholic church looks like an intriguing Disney creation. Gaudi’s devotion to his religion - and his God - was unquestionable, and the church aims to showcase his love for his faith

Església de Santa Maria del Mar: A Gothic work of art, Barcelona’s finest church is known for its gorgeous stained glass windows and peaceful atmosphere. If you are seeking spiritual guidance, head here; church staff always strive to be ‘an open house for everyone and at the service of all those who need us’

Torre Agbar: Is it a crystal finger? Is it a cucumber? Neither - well, maybe both. Jean Nouvel’s 38-storey skyscraper is a sight to behold at night, when 4,500 illuminated glass panels constantly change their colours. Make sure you’re a fair distance away if you’d like to enjoy the full effect

Palau de la Música Catalana: This impressive concert hall showcases ‘Modernist’ décor at its very best. Take the tour, even if you’ve done your homework before your trip - and try and see a concert there, if you can stretch to it. The acoustics are fabulous

Hospital de la Santa Creu i de Sant Pau: This stylish building has a dual purpose - it’s not only an artistic wonder, as it also functions beautifully as a centre of medical excellence. Their gardens are especially lovely for visitors, and patients on the mend

La Sagranda Familia

Find free museums

If you’re careful and plan your visit well, you can enjoy Barcelona’s culture for free. Here are the places to look out for:

  • The Catalonia National Museum of Art (MNAC): Free entry on Saturdays from 3pm
  • The Picasso Museum: Free entry on the first Sunday of the month
  • CCCB (Centre of Contemporary Culture in Barcelona): Free entry on the first Wednesday of the month (and free for kids under 16)

Picasso stamp

Enjoy some complimentary tapas

Who said there’s no such thing as a free meal? Alright - maybe there’s a small price to pay, but if you’re planning on enjoying a beer anyway, make sure you get free tapas with it. There are fewer bars offering free tapas than in southern Spain, but they still exist.

Ambiente del Sur at C/ Viladomat, 85 offers a great selection, which will soak up the booze. The other great thing about a few pieces of tapas is it will give you the stamina to party for longer - never go out in Barca on an empty stomach!

Tapas in Barcelona

Go clubbing for free

Plenty of clubs in Barcelona offer similar policy to the city’s museums - on certain nights, you can take advantage of free entry. Of course, it all depends on getting into the club by a certain time and making sure you’re dressed appropriately, but that’s par for the course in plenty of cities.

Shôko and Catwalk are known for their free nights - check out their Facebook pages for more details. Often, just becoming a ‘fan’ on Facebook will guarantee free entry.

Clubbing in Barcelona

See Barcelona’s street art

The street art scene explodes in May, when hundreds of street artists take over the Raval district to show off their talents. The artists aren’t fussy when it comes to their canvas - any flat surface works for them, and nothing’s off limits. Look out for stickers, stencils, graffiti and flyers, along with murals and pavement drawings. If you’d like to find out more about the city’s art scene, join the Barcelona Street Style Tour - it’s free! It’s always a good idea to make a donation at the end, though.

Here’s a top tip for you - go on Sunday, when all of the shop shutters are closed. You’ll see much more of the art, and you won’t have any shoppers to contend with!

Street art in Barcelona

Like art, but love sports more? Barcelona’s a great city for adrenaline-seekers. If you’d like to hit the beach and try some banana boating with your friends, you can have fun with confidence. Columbus Direct's travel insurance has been protecting adventurous holidaymakers since 1988; we’re the helping hand you can depend on when you’re abroad.

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