Last Updated on 25th February 2020 by Sophie Nadeau
Between endless plates of tapas, all the art nouveau architecture, and an abundance of hidden gems you’ve never heard of before (but totally should have done), there’s no shortage of epic experiences to be had when exploring Barcelona, especially if you plan to see the city by foot. Here’s your ultimate free and self-guided Barcelona walking tour to help you get the most out of a visit to the capital city of Catalonia.
Free Barcelona Walking Tour: Practical Advice, Tricks, and Tips
The walk is best attempted on a sunny day when the streets are warm, a summer vibe is in the air, and the city looks its best. You’ll want to bring along a camera to snap some of the best of Barcelona, and so here are some of my very best travel camera recommendations!
Although the majority of the tour is on level roads (with a few cobbled hilled lanes thrown in), I highly recommend shoes that are comfortable to walk in like these ones. Otherwise, it’s worth noting that Barcelona can become incredibly hot (especially during the summer months) and so you’ll want to bring a reusable water bottle like this one with you.
As you might expect with a major European city, there are plenty of places to eat, hydrate, and caffeinate en route. And from budget eats to vegetarian fare to speciality coffee shops, you should know that Barcelona has plenty to offer! So put on your comfiest clothing and enjoy this free Barcelona walking tour…
Walking Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Distance Covered: 7.9 km
This self-guided walking tour of Barcelona begins in the beautiful pedestrian square of Plaça Reial. Situated in the Gothic Quarter of the city (and the place where I recommend booking a place to stay if you want to be close to all of the best attractions and foodie spots), the plaza boasts a number of nightclubs, bars, and hotels.
Take a moment to orient yourself and load up your map before venturing out into the city. Otherwise, be sure to enjoy the stunning palm trees which litter the square (whose name translates into Royal place) and the King Ferdinand VII statue in the very centre of the square.
Start your day the right way (or, at the very least, your time exploring Barcelona on foot) by fuelling up with a breakfast formula, or tasty ice cream depending on the time of the day. While a little bit more touristic than some of the other cafés in the city, there’s no denying the deliciousness of the coffee and patisseries on offer at ARTiSA Barcelona.
This café and confectionery shop offers indoor and outdoor seating, making it a suitable base to enjoy a quick bite come rain or shine. Well-reviewed across many sites, the café was opened in late 2009 and offers a variety of authentic Catalan produce at good prices.
Palau Güell (Guëll Palace)
Situated on Carrer Nou de la Rambla, this former mansion house was created by Antoni Gaudi at the behest of a wealthy businessman, Eusebi Güell, who wished to have an abode in the El Raval district of Barcelona. Created in the late 19th-century, this house boasts all of the architectural features which are so quintessentially Gaudi; natural forms inspire carved brick and beautiful balconies. Today, you can visit the Palace for a small fee. Find more details here.
Mercat de la Boqueria
For the freshest, most authentic, and best local eats in town, be sure to head to the covered marketplace that is Mercat de la Boqueria. Fully known as Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, this thriving foodie spot has stalls ranging from beer stands to fish vendors to fresh vegetable sellers.
There has been a market of sorts on site since at least the 13th-century when the food court was mentioned as stalls selling meat close to the city gate. During the 19th-century, the market was officially recognised, leading to the thriving Mercat de la Boqueria you can enjoy today.
Plaça de Catalunya
Offering a fantastic glimpse of much of the different architectural styles that Barcelona has to offer; this is where the 19th-century buildings of the Eixample district meet the historic architecture of the old town district of the city, Plaça de Catalunya is one of the largest public squares in the city.
Take a moment to pause, sit on one of the many benches on the plaza, and watch the world go by. Otherwise, be sure to check out the beautiful architecture of the theatre, cafés, and restaurants which surround the public space. There are also sculptures dotted across the Plaza which represent several different styles.
Hands down, one of the best bookshops in Barcelona is that of the Altaïr Bookshop. After all, this book vendor is filled with shelves stacked from floor to ceiling, all dedicated to travel. Organised by region, there’s a huge section on Spain, and an even larger section on Catalonia, and on Barcelona.
It’s worth noting that while most of the books, tomes, and travel memoirs for sale were Spanish language, there were still plenty of works available to purchase in English and French. I personally even managed to pick up a book on secret Barcelona on my visit (even though my suitcase was already overstuffed!)
One of the most famous of the Gaudi buildings in Barcelona is that of Casa Battló, an organic-inspired architectural house complete with the broken-tile look that is so synonymous with Gaudi. Constructed at the behest of Lluís Sala Sánchez, the house is often considered to be one of Gaudi’s greatest works of art.
Known locally as the House of Bones (Casa dels ossos) thanks to its unusual form and shape, it’s worth noting that you can even go inside if you pay the entry fee. However, you should know before you go that even the ‘skip-the-line’ pre-paid entrance ticket means plenty of waiting time in order to visit and so you should head to the house earlier in the day and mid-week if possible so as to avoid the worst of the queues. Purchase your Casa Battló ticket here in advance.
Beautiful and ornate, Palau Macaya is one of Barcelona’s best-kept secrets. Situated alongside the green space which lies beside Passeig de Sant Joan. While you can sit and check on directions on the many benches which line the park (which also happens to offer a fantastic view of the Sagrada Familia), the courtyard of Palau Macaya is also free to visit during opening times and is one of the best photo spots in Barcelona.
Plaça de la Sagrada Familia
The best view of Gaudi’s beautiful ecclesiastical masterpiece (which is famously still unfinished) is not directly beneath the church itself, but instead from the small green park a little walk away. Lined with benches and plenty of trees, this quiet and secluded spot feels miles away from the hustle and bustle of the immediate area surrounding the Gaudi building.
La Sagrada Familia
Next, carry on this self-guided Barcelona walking tour right towards the cathedral. This is one of the easiest steps of the self-guided tour as its hard to miss the nature-inspired towers of the Sagrada Familia presiding over the rest of the buildings in the area.
Designed by Antoni Gaudi in the 19th-century, the cathedral is perhaps so famous thanks to the fact that it’s still under construction (and has been this way for over a century). The church was only consecrated in 2010 and today you can visit for a fee. However, you should know before visiting that this is one of the most popular buildings in Barcelona, meaning you should book your tickets well before you go. Purchase your Sagrada Familia tickets here in advance.
Arc de Triomf
Yes, you read that correctly! Barcelona, too, has a Triumphal Arch, just like the famous one in Paris, that of Montpellier, and of course, the Arcul de Triumf in Bucharest. Also known as the Arco de Triunfo de Barcelona in Spanish, this arch was constructed in 1888 to act as the main entranceway to the World’s Fair.
Today, you can wander underneath the archway of the Barcelona Arc de Triomf, all the while admiring the stunning stonework. Otherwise, be sure to sit down and rest for a moment or two beneath the palm trees swaying in the breeze and admire the architecture of this Barcelona district.
Parc de la Ciutadella
Best seen on a warm and sunny day when you can stroll around the park, enjoy a picnic in the shade, or rent a boat on the lake for the most romantic of Barcelona experiences, Parc de la Ciutadella is a must-see while in the city and is the perfect place to relax, away from the hustle and bustle of the busy rest of the city.
Created in the 19th-century, once upon a time, this was the only green space that Barcelona had to offer. Some of the main highlights of this sprawling parkland include the chance to glimpse the Palau del Parlament de Catalunya and the stunning chapel of Església de la Ciutadella.
Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar (Basilica of Saint Mary of the Sea)
Completely free to visit (though donations are, of course, always appreciated!), the Barcelona Basilica can be found in the Ribera district of Barcelona. One of the best examples of the Catalan Gothic architectural style, the ecclesiastical building dates all the way back to the 13th-century and a time when much of Barcelona’s main income came through sea trade.
Museu Picasso de Barcelona (Picasso Museum of Barcelona)
For those who wish to marvel at a little bit of artwork during their time in Barcelona, a visit to the Picasso museum close to the Gothic quarter is an absolute must. For a closer look at the famous artist in Barcelona, be sure to book this Picasso Walking Tour & Picasso Museum of Barcelona.
Catedral de Barcelona (Barcelona Cathedral)
Last but not least, the last stop on this free Barcelona walking tour is the Cathedral of the city, i.e. the ecclesiastical building which grants Barcelona its city status. Situated in the maze and passageways of tiny streets which snake their way through the Gothic district of the city, the Cathedral is much less frequented than the Sagrada Familia but is nevertheless still worth a visit.