How To Get Around Barcelona
Barcelona is a city on many people's travel bucket list. Once you dig into everything the city has to offer, you see that its reputation as a world-class destination has merit. Home to the iconic Sagrada Familia, works by Gaudi and Picasso, and culinary marvels, the millions of annual visitors never go home disappointed.
One of the largest cities on the Mediterranean, Barcelona has obviously always been a coastal city. So it might surprise you to learn that Barcelona only has beaches since hosting the 1992 Olympics. They were made specifically for this purpose. Its ideal location on the Med also makes it a haven for cruise ships - it has the busiest cruise port in Europe.
Getting to Barcelona is relatively easy. The international airport welcomes flights from over 50 countries and almost 50 million people a year. Add that to the well-connected train network, and getting to Barcelona is a breeze. Once you make it to Barcelona, the art, architecture, and history will easily keep you entertained for days, but how do you get around this beautiful city?
Barcelona has transport options that rival most major cities. From Metro to trains to buses, the Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB) maintains an extensive network to help locals and tourists get from A to B. Some favor the Metro for its speed and access, while others prefer to tour on foot or by bus for more flexibility and eye candy. However you choose to navigate the city streets, before you embark on your journey, take a load off and store your suitcases at a Bounce luggage storage in Barcelona. Otherwise, these items can be cumbersome, and this way, your trip will be fun and worry-free.
How to get around Barcelona by train
Every major European city has a central train station, and Barcelona is no exception. When navigating Barcelona by train, you'll probably either pass through or board from Barcelona Sants Station. This station is a hub for travelers within Barcelona, the rest of Spain, and even other European destinations. Also called Sants Estación by locals, Barcelona Sants is a large, bustling place that receives over 30 million passengers annually. While this can be intimidating, armed with a little information, you'll have no trouble using the train to help you explore Barcelona.
Assuming you arrive by air, the Barcelona airport station will get you to Barcelona Sants in about 15 minutes for a reasonable price. One-way train tickets will cost under five euros each. Once at Barcelona Sants, the city is your oyster. Trains to other cities, local buses, and city metro lines all leave from here.
Perhaps the most common way to get around Barcelona is the Metro. If you're relying on public transportation to get to your hotel, attractions, and restaurants, the Metro can be your best friend. Lines L3 and L5 link to and from Barcelona Sants and provide access to the remaining ten Barcelona metro lines for easy access to even the far reaches of the city.
Most tourists tend to stay in and tour Barcelona's city center with attractions like the Gothic Quarter, Las Ramblas, and the stunning city beaches. The Metro is the ideal way to get from the train station to the center of town. It's cheap, quick, and air-conditioned. Use the Metro Line 1 from Barcelona Sants to Catalunya Metro station, and you'll be in the heart of the action near Placa Catalunya. This is Barcelona's large, main square, and from here, it's easy to meander on foot to the Gothic Quarter, Barcelona Cathedral, and Las Ramblas.
Sometimes, it's hard to figure out zones and fares when it comes to metro tickets. The Barcelona Metro aims to make this as easy as possible. Any train journey in the entire city center of Barcelona from any of the Metro stations is considered zone 1. A one-zone ticket will do as long as you are not venturing to the suburbs. To purchase your tickets, use one of the many ticket machines in the Metro stations. Luckily, the machines have the option to change languages. Just remember, the individual Metro tickets are valid for a single one-way trip only.
If you plan to use the Barcelona Metro system a lot, consider a T-Casual Card valid on the Metro and bus. You get ten trips for a fixed cost which is significantly cheaper than buying ten individual tickets. This card is also available from the ticket machines at metro stations. To save even more, the Hola Barcelona Travel Pass offers unlimited public transportation options, including to and from the airport, for a specified period. Purchase one in increments anywhere from 48 to 120 consecutive hours.
How to get around Barcelona by bus
While many tourists favor traveling by Metro, the bus is another great way to explore Barcelona. Instead of being stuck underground, you get to see more of the city and tourist attractions this way. Bus stops are dotted around the city, and especially the center.
Bus tickets are the same as Metro tickets, and you can purchase them at a variety of locations. Riders can buy a city bus ticket from the machines at Metro stations, on some of the more popular buses, and at some bus stops. To venture in and out of the city center, there is a bus stop a three-minute walk from Placa Catalunya called La Rambla-Pl Catalunya that is your gateway to everything Barcelona has to offer. Bus schedules are generally posted at the major stops, and on weekends, depending on the route, buses run every 20-30 minutes.
Barcelona is known for its nightlife, and if you want to stay out late, the night bus is a hassle-free option. Night busses run from about 10pm to 6am, depending on the line. These city buses are identified by an 'N' in front of the route number, and although they are more limited in routes, they cover the central Barcelona area well. If you need activities to keep you out past your bedtime, check out unmissable things to do in Barcelona at night.
How to get around Barcelona by car
When you can't be bothered with public transport, a car can be an excellent way to get around Barcelona. Unless you arrive by car, you'll need a rental car. Regardless of how and where you land in Barcelona, car rental locations are abundant.
For the most selection and lowest prices, the airport is the place to get a rental. Renting here will save you navigating the airport public transportation with everyone else who just arrived on your flight. It's a quick way to get out of the airport and on to your Barcelona adventure. For those arriving by train, a large selection of companies offer vehicle rental and return to Barcelona Sants Station. Additionally, you can pick up a car in central Barcelona, too.
Aside from the expense of rental, insurance, and gas, another downside to getting around Barcelona by car is the parking situation. As with many major cities, it can be difficult and pricey. Planning ahead might save you the headache of endlessly circling for parking. Since parking lots can fill up as the day progresses, it's best to arrive as early as possible to get a coveted spot. As they say, the early bird gets the parking spot.
Drivers should also be aware that central Barcelona has a low emissions zone that prohibits older vehicles from accessing the city center during peak times. With a rental, your vehicle should be new and exempt from these restrictions, but if you are traveling in your own older car, this might limit your access.
A good choice if you're tired after a day of sightseeing and sick of public transport is to flag down a taxi driver for a quick, effortless ride back to your hotel. While it's the priciest way to get around, taxis are frequent in the central core, and you probably won't wait longer than a minute or two for someone to stop. Sometimes you can't beat door-to-door service.
Navigating Barcelona on foot
Although the transportation system in Barcelona is vast and affordable, the cheapest way to get around Barcelona is on foot. Walking allows you to stop in wherever and whenever you like, and you don't waste any time waiting for trains or busses. That's a win-win. Just strolling La Rambla is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon and something that has to be done on foot. Do some window shopping while you're there, and if it's retail therapy you're after, visit everything you need to know about shopping in Barcelona for expert tips.
Walking in Barcelona is probably the best way to experience the city. Considered quite walkable, Barcelona has the wide pedestrian boulevard of La Rambla as well as the Gothic Quarter's narrow winding streets. No matter what the surface, in Barcelona, you need good walking shoes.
While you may want to split it up, you can see most of the main Barcelona sights on foot in one day. Plaça Catalunya, Sagrada Familia, the Gothic Quarter, and Parc Ciutadella are easily attainable in one day. Of course, that depends on how much time you spend at each location. And, just think of all the eye-catching architecture and local flavor you'll see along the way. If you prefer not to wander, the city is full of both self-guided and local guided walking tours.
Due to its many tourist attractions, it's easy to forget that Barcelona is a coastal city with some picturesque Mediterranean beaches. If the weather is favorable, head to the beach for a refreshing walk. The city itself hosts 2.5 miles of sandy beach. You won't even be able to tell that the sand is imported from abroad and requires topping up every so often.
Travelers expect a major European city to have a decent public transport network, and Barcelona is no exception. Fares are generally reasonable, and tickets are easily purchased at many locations throughout the city. Although the system is not officially open 24 hours, if you combine Metro times, bus times, and night busses, locals and visitors can get around Barcelona at all hours.
With a little planning, Barcelona is an easy city to tour when you combine public transportation and walking. Some sights are best experienced on foot, while Metro and buses help you save time. The options to get around Barcelona are seemingly endless, with something for every style and budget. You can splurge on a taxi or rental car or rely on your own two feet to carry you around.
No matter how you do it, make sure you get out and explore everything this ancient city has to offer. You won't remember the annoyance of parking, the bus wait times, or crowded platforms. You'll just remember all the wonderful sights you've seen and the fun you had along the way.