You can walk most places in Barcelona’s old city, or through the main points 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, 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 2.20€; 10-ride tickets, available in machines in any metro station, cut the per-ride cost in half.
You’ll save a bundle by visiting an automatic machine in any metro station on your first day and buying a 10-trip card for Zone 1 (essentially anywhere in the center); that will lower the per-ride price to just over a euro. It’s good for transfers for 90 minutes, from the time you first validate it on a bus or in a metro station turnstile. Most—but not all—metro stations have disabled access via elevators to/from the street level, and many buses “kneel” to allow a wheelchair to roll through a middle door.
The six lines of Barcelona’s Metro system crisscross the city more frequently and with greater speed than the bus network. Service operates Sunday to Thursday from 5am to midnight, Friday 5am to 2am, and a full 24 hours on Saturday. Each Metro station entrance is marked with an “M” in a red diamond. The major station for all 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 6am to 10pm; some night buses go along the principal arteries from 10pm to 6am. You can buy your ticket when boarding or buy a multiple ticket in a machine in any metro stop. Red buses cut through the city center during the day; yellow ones operate at night. A recent streamlining of the bus system has tried to make routes clearer by re-naming east-west routes with an H (for “horizontal”), north-south routes V (“vertical”), and D for diagonal. Tickets, good for 90 minutes, are interchangeable between the metro and the bus system.
By Barcelona Bus Turistic
The most established of the sightseeing buses, the double-decker Barcelona Bus Turistic travels 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 or indoor seating with heat or air-conditioning. It also claims free on-board Wi-Fi (it never worked on any buses where we tried it). 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: You can wait as much as a half-hour to get onto a crowded bus in high season. These buses are useful if you don’t want to use regular public transportation, but they’re much less efficient. Our advice: Take these buses for a good overview on your first day in the city (one day on the bus will also snag you a booklet of discounts good on many attractions, including La Pedrera and La Sagrada Familia). Buy tickets online in advance to save time. The cost is 30€ for 1 day (25€ seniors, 16€ ages 4–12), 40€ for 2 days (35€ seniors, 21€ ages 4–12), ages under 4 free.
Each 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, and you can flag them down on the street, or find one at a taxi stand. The basic fare begins at 2.15€, with each additional kilometer costing 1.13€. Supplements might apply—1€ for a large suitcase placed in the trunk, for instance. Rides to the airport carry a supplement of 3.10€, and rates are higher between 8pm and 8am and on some holidays. For a taxi, contact Ràdio Taxi (www.radiotaxi033.com; tel. 93-303-30-33). The phone app service MyTaxi (https://es.mytaxi.com) also works in Barcelona, as does Uber, although its antagonistic relationship with the local taxistas has been tense, resulting in the occasional taxi strike.
By Funicular & Rail Links
It takes some planning to visit the mountains of Tibidabo or Montjuïc. To visit Tibidabo by public transport, 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; the rest of the year 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 Bus 196 (the usual 2.20€ fare) to the funicular. The 1901 Tramvía Blau (Blue Streetcar; 4€) is currently shut down for repairs, but once it’s back, that’s another way to reach the funicular from Plaça Kennedy.
Getting to Montjuïc by funicular is a simple ride from the Paral.lel Metro station; it’s considered part of the Metro network, so the ride up the hill comes at no extra cost. Once you’re on the mountain, you can ride Telefèric de Montjuïc to the castle on top (adults 12.70€ round-trip, 9.20€ for ages 4–12).
No matter how attached you are to your car back home, don’t drive around congested Barcelona. Parking is expensive (especially in hotels), public transit is more efficient, and generally it’s not worth the hassle. Save car rentals for excursions. Both Avis and Hertz have offices at the airport; Avis is also at Carrer Corçega 293–295 (www.avis.es; tel. 90-211-02-75) and Hertz at Carrer de Viriat, 45 (www.hertz.es; tel. 93-419-61-56), adjacent to the Estació Barcelona-Sants rail station. Both are open Monday to Friday 8am to 9pm, Saturday 8am to 8pm, and Sunday 8am to 1pm. Tip: It is usually cheaper and easier to arrange your car rental before leaving home. Prices vary little among companies, so stick with whichever one dovetails with your frequent-flyer program.
Ready to Go
The Hola BCN! card provides unlimited travel on all trains, Metro, buses, and trams for 15€ (2 days), 22€ (3 days), 28.5€ (4 days), and 35€ (5 days). To figure out whether this will save you money, consider how many public transit trips per day you expect to take. (We usually find it’s between 2 and 4.) The TMB (Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona) gives you a 10% discount for online purchases. One advantage: The Hola Card covers the airport, which local transit cards for Zone One do not.
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.