So, you’ve planned (or are planning) your holiday to Barcelona. The flight is booked, the hotel is booked, you’ve done your research on where to go and what to see… but now your mind has turned to thinking about how to get around, and two words keep rearing their ugly head: public transport.
And no one actually likes public transport, do they? Convenient? Sure. Better for the environment? Absolutely. But enjoyable? Not a chance. Trains and buses might conjure up thoughts of claustrophobia, sweaty armpits, ‘manspreading’ and delays, but we’re here to tell you that everything’s okay as far as Barcelona transport goes.
Barcelona’s underground metro system is quick, reliable and air-conditioned – so, essentially the opposite of London’s. But before you hop on a train, bus, or tram, know this: The T10 is the ticket to buy if you want to get around the city. A ticket with 10 journeys on it, the 10€ (ish) T10 card covers all forms of public transport, can be shared between multiple people, and works out cheaper than buying individually. Handy.
Another option is the ‘Hola BCN!’ card, which will grant you unlimited access for a set period of time – a two-day pass, for example, will set you back just 15€.
Above all else, the Barcelona metro is quick, with trains running roughly every five minutes. With 8 lines and over 150 stations, the metro is also pretty comprehensive – there aren’t many corners of the city that aren’t within easy reach of a station. Oh, and if you’re a night owl you’ll no doubt be delighted to hear that the metro runs all night on Saturday nights.
A scenic alternative to the underground, the bus is the perfect way to, y’know, see the city as you travel through it. A route through L’Eixample alone would take you right past landmarks like the Sagrada Familia and Casa Batlló. Catching the bus also makes sense if you’re planning a day out at the playa – several lines stop at points along the beachfront, allowing you to take in the full spectrum of Barcelona’s beaches.
While we would never recommend getting the bus anywhere near rush hour (7am – 9.30am and 5pm – 8.30pm), you may find it to be quicker and more efficient than the metro during off-peak hours when the roads are quieter. And while Barcelona is a 24-hour city, the bus is also realistically your only option at night every night of the week bar Saturday. Look for yellow buses, rather than red, running every 20-30 minutes, all night long (all night.)
But getting the bus in a foreign city can be daunting, which is why it makes sense to dip your toe in the water with a hop-on-hop-off bus tour. Three different guided tour routes will take you around the city on the city’s official Barcelona Bus Turístic, providing an easy way to get your bearings before branching out on your own.
Less ubiquitous than buses or trains, Barcelona’s trams are found in just two parts of the city. Tram lines only run in the south-west, heading towards L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, and the north, towards Badalona. You might not end up using trams much, but the latter of those two networks is particularly useful if you’re visiting Parc Del Forum for saltwater swimming, watersports, classical music concerts and – in May – the city’s Primavera Sound Festival.
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If you want to get to know the city a little more intimately, why not swap four wheels for two? Barcelona is a cyclist-friendly city with over 200km of bike lanes and plenty of places from which to borrow a bike. Look for one of countless Bicing terminals dotted across the city. If you want variety from your bicycles, then seek out Barcelona Biking for urban, highway or mountain bikes, available to hire on hourly and daily rates. Born Bike is a rather helpful blend of guided tour and bike hire, with two-hour tours costing around 6€.
If you fancy something a little different, go completely green with the help of an electric scooter! JetScoot and Yes Rent two options, both offering scooter hire by the hour.
With Montjuïc, the Collserola National Park and Tibidabo mountain, Barcelona isn’t short of hilly hotspots from which to enjoy some cracking views of the city, and all of them require cable cars or funiculars to reach their respective summits. Few things let you know you’re on holiday quite like novelty transportation.
But, for all this talk of cheap public transport, we’ve overlooked the cheapest of them all: Barcelona is a supremely walkable city, and whole areas like El Raval, Ciutat Vella, El Poble-Sec, the Jewish Quarter and the historic Barri Gotic district can only really be explored by foot if you want to find all the riches contained within. Besides, you can’t do a bar crawl on a bus, can you?
As far as essentials go, there are only two – seeing as quite a few areas of Barcelona get rather hilly, comfy shoes – ideally running shoes – are a must. The other is water. Because Barcelona can be hot. Shocker, right?
If you don’t trust yourself to make it around the city on your own, find a walking tour and let a guide take care of the navigation. They can be hit and miss, but if you do your homework and book online beforehand, you should be fine.