3 free fun things to do in Barcelona

The Magic Fountain, Barcelona, Spain

Free, beautiful and reliable – an unusual combination of characteristics!

Barcelona is the favorite city of both Blonde and Brunette and one reason is that, although there’s no shortage of interesting places with high admission fees, there is also a good selection of free (and legal) things to do. The nightly music and light shows at The Magic Fountains top our list of attractions.

On our last visit to Barcelona we stayed in the Sants-Montjuïc District where the fountains are located and went to the show several nights in a row. Even if you’re really tired after a long day of sightseeing you can probably find the energy to stand and watch a beautiful show for 15 minutes.

The fountains were built for Barcelona’s Great Universal Exhibition (love the pompous name) of 1929. But partway through the very accelerated (less than a year) process of building the fountains it was decided that they needed something special. So a self-taught engineer/science fiction aficionado, Carles Buigas, proposed the idea of illuminated fountains. Spain seems to have lost some of the hustle that back in 1929 made it possible for them to complete the project in less than a year with more than 3,000 people working on the project!

Magic Fountain, Barcelona Spain

Fountain color-climax to the music of Andrea Bocelli

Every evening from the end of March through October there are 5 fifteen minute music and light shows. The first one is at 9:00 p.m. and the last at 11:00 but check the schedule before going in case that has changed. The music can be an odd mixture – Sarah Brightman meets Michael Jackson – but somehow it works.

Magic Fountain, Barcelona, Spain

If you’re a real show-off blonde you can have your picture taken in silhouette in front of the fountain and your breasts will look surprisingly large and  perky.

The fountains are easy to reach on the metro. You take L1 or L3 and get off (so to speak) at Espanya .

A daytime attraction where you can stroll around and gawk at people and architecture is Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter. If you have the option, try to do this on a Sunday afternoon. We were fortunate enough to be taken there by the parents of the man from the family Blonde was doing a home exchange with. The older couple really added to our enjoyment of the event. If they were your parents their bickering, his self-important posturing and bad driving and her eye-rolling would drive you to despair but we thought it was all part of the whole “Spanishness” of the experience and got many a giggle out of the whole thing.

Gothic Quarter, Barcelona, Spain

This chap (Truman Capote reincarnated?) was clearly not going to let Cruella De Vil get his doggie!

Aside from the excellent people watching you can also just wander the small streets and get mildly lost. The area was once a Roman village and some stretches of Roman walls still exist.

On Sunday afternoons there are usually groups of people outside of the Barcelona Cathedral in the Gothic Quarter doing the traditional Sardana dance.

Sardana dance being done in Gothic Quarter, Barcelona, Spain

Locals and tourists dancing the Sardana

Supposedly anyone who wants to join in on the Sardana’s circle of dance has to be admitted. We didn’t test that with our rhythmless lack of coordination thus keeping the tradition alive for future generations.

We were told that the dance symbolizes the Catalan people standing (dancing, if you want to be precise) together in the face of life’s difficulties. Maybe that’s true (our research department is on holiday).

Font de la Cascada, Parc de la Ciutadella, Barcelona, Spain

The Font de la Cascada in the Parc de la Ciutadella

Our third favorite freebie is the beautiful Parc de la Ciutadella, specifically the fountain shown above.  This was also built for an exhibition; the 1888 Universal Exhibition. Allegedly the fountain’s design is loosely based on the Trevi Fountain in Rome (although Blonde prefers this one that doesn’t have the crowds).Everyone’s favorite eccentric architect of Barcelona, Antoni Gaudi, was an apprentice who helped with the design of the fountain.

Prior to the Universal Exhibition of 1888 the land of the present day park had a fortress built on it to watch over the people of Barcelona. It was despised because to the Catalans it represented everything they hated about Madrid. Eventually the fortress was made into a political prison and then it was demolished to create a place to build for the Exhibition.

The park houses much more than the fountain. It borders the zoo, Parliament and the Museu d’Art Modern. A Zoological Museum and a Geological Museum are on the property. If you want to have the whole romantic, artistic sort of experience there are also small row boats you can rent in the lake (don’t try to row the boats in the fountain). The park also offers free wi-fi which is a nice touch of modernity. There are also walking and biking paths and, more importantly, a little cafe where you can get a beverage and a gelato.

To get to the park you take the Metro to L1 or C1 and exit at the Arc de Triomf station. We aren’t saying we know anyone who did this but you might want to be sure you get on a train going in the correct direction. Just sayin’.

Font de la Cascada, Barcelona, Spain

A golden chariot pulled by four horses overlooking the fountain – we hope they stop before they go over the ledge!

Barcelona is a magnificent city full of Catalan ‘tude, food, history and beauty. We hope you will save some of your trip money by enjoying these free sights so you have more to spend on tapas, sangria or whatever strikes your fancy!




  1. sandersue says

    I love Barcelona! Great tips here! And thanks for the Boston advice! I’ll be writing soon about my trip.

  2. jankedonna says

    My sister and I visited Barcelona last summer and loved it. We found a lot to do that cost little or no money – walking through the Gothic quarter, the Eixample area, Las Ramblas, and time at the beach. When we went, entrance to Park Guell was still free, but I understand there is now a charge. We were there during the Gracia Street Festival and had a fun time watching the parade on opening night. My sister did a house exchange so our accommodations were free, which freed up money to visit museums and other places with entrance fees. I’m sorry I didn’t get to see the fountains – something for my next visit.

    • says

      We hadn’t managed to get to the fountains the previous year when we were in Barcelona so we made it a priority this time and were glad we did. I also did a home exchange but for a place on the Costa Brava – we just stayed in a hotel in Barcelona. I’d go to Barcelona every year if someone else picked up the tab! Thanks for reading our blog.

    • says

      You probably won’t be surprised to hear that the man was all too happy to have his picture taken. The people I was with thought I shouldn’t ask but I pointed out that you don’t go out dressed like that to avoid attention!

  3. suzannestavert says

    I loved “free and legal” and having perky breasts is alway a plus! LOL! I have so many favorites in Barcelona, but the architecture takes my breath away. I never saw the fountains with the colorful lights. I will plan for that next time!

    • says

      Especially when all you have to do to get perky breasts is raise your arm in front of a fountain! Think what people pay to achieve the same effect! The fountains are really great – hope you get to see them next time!

  4. says

    We are planning a trip to Spain in 2015, primarily to walk the Camino de Santiago, but maybe we’ll make it to Barcelona and now I’m a little bit in the know! Love the photo of the look-a-like man and his dog. Too fuuny.

    • says

      Yes, please don’t blame the dog for his fashion attire and anyway he rocks it! The man should get another tailor who understands what if the proper length for men’s trousers. As for the boobs – maybe it was hydraulic pressure?

  5. Kristin Henning says

    Nice suggestions, and I’ll pass them on to my niece who is visiting soon. As much time as I’ve spent in Barcelona, I’ve never seen the fountains in action.

  6. says

    Alas, have never been to Barcelona, but I hear great things of it and I have some chums (family of 4) that just moved there (though they’re presently on a (mere) 4,000 km bicycle pedal from the Atlantic to the Black Sea!).

    Great freebie tips – hopefully I can see for myself one day.

  7. says

    Oh no! I just realised that I didn’t spot the fountains on our recent trip!

    That’s twice now that we’ve visited and forgotten to catch the fountain show 🙁


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