You can walk most places in Barcelona's old city, or through the main districts of interest in L'Eixample. But it's a good idea to use public transport to a starting point and then set off on foot to explore.
By Public Transit
Barcelona's public transit system includes extensive and interlinked networks of buses, subway trains, trams, and “rodalies” (local commuter rail). For a full overview, check the website of Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (www.tmb.cat). This site, available in Catalan, Spanish, and English, has a very useful tool that recommends ways to get from one place to another using any combination of public transit and walking. Individual tickets on subway and buses within the central city cost 2€.
Barcelona’s Metro system consists of six main lines; it crisscrosses the city more frequently and with greater efficiency than the bus network. Service operates Sunday to Thursday from 5am to midnight, and Friday and Saturday from 5am to 2am. Each Metro station entrance is marked with a red diamond. The major station for all subway lines is Plaça de Catalunya.
About 190 bus lines traverse the city and, not surprisingly, you don’t want to ride them at rush hour. Most buses run daily from 5:30am to 10pm; some night buses go along the principal arteries from 11pm to 4am. You can buy your ticket when boarding. Red buses cut through the city center during the day; yellow ones operate at night.
By Barcelona Bus Turistic
The most established of the sightseeing buses, the double-decker Barcelona Bus Turistic makes a circuit on three routes that can deliver you to almost every major tourist attraction in the city. The bus includes running commentary (through headsets) in 10 languages, and a choice of outdoor seating with great views and indoor seating with heat or air conditioning. It also claims free Wi-Fi on board, but it never worked on any buses where we tried it. The circuits on the red route (old city, Montjuïc, and the waterfront) and the blue route (L'Eixample and Gràcia) each take about 2 hours. The green route, which shuttles along the neighborhoods and beaches east of Port Olimpic, takes 40 minutes. You can get on and off all day, but be forewarned that you can wait as much as a half-hour to get onto a crowded bus during high season. It's useful if you don't want to use regular public transportation, but it's quite a bit less efficient. One day on the bus, however, will get you a booklet of discounts good on many attractions including La Pedrera and La Sagrada Familia. The cost is 26€ for 1 day, 34€ for 2 days (15€ and 19€ for ages 4–12).
By TaxiEach yellow-and-black taxi bears the letters sp (Servicio Público) on its front and rear. A lit green light on the roof and a libre sign in the window indicate the taxi is free to pick up passengers. Make sure that the meter is at zero when you enter. The basic rate begins at 2€. Each additional kilometer costs 1€. Supplements might apply—1€ for a large suitcase placed in the trunk, for instance. Rides to the airport carry a supplement of 3.10€. For a taxi, contact Ràdio Taxi (tel. 93-303-30-33; www.radiotaxi033.com).
By Funicular & Rail Links
It takes some planning to visit the mountains of Tibidabo or Montjuïc. To visit Tibidabo by public transport, you'll have to take the Funicular de Tibidabo. The fare is 7.70€, or 4.10€ if you're also purchasing admission to the Tibidabo amusement park. The funicular operates every 15 to 20 minutes. From mid-April to September service is daily 10am to 8pm. In the off season it usually operates only Saturday and Sunday 10am to 6pm. To get to the funicular, take Metro Line 7 to Avinguda Tibidabo. Exit onto Plaça Kennedy and take either the 1901 tram called Tramvía Blau (Blue Streetcar) or Bus 196 to the funicular. The bus is the usual 2€ fare. Tickets on the Tramvía Blau are 4€.
Driving and trying to park in congested Barcelona is not worth the hassle. Use public transportation and save car rentals for excursions and moving on. Avis and Hertz have offices at the airport and downtown. Avis, Carrer Corçega 293–295 (tel. 90-211-02-75; www.avis.es), is open Monday to Friday 8am to 9pm, Saturday 8am to 8pm, and Sunday 8am to 1pm. Hertz, Carrer de Viriat, 45 (tel. 93-419-61-56; www.hertz.es), is located adjacent to the Estació Barcelona-Sants rail station and keeps the same hours. It is usually cheaper and easier to arrange your car rental before leaving home. Given the consolidation in the rental car industry, prices vary little among companies, so stick with whichever one dovetails with your frequent-flyer program.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.