Barcelona’s international airport (BCN) is El Prat, located in El Prat de Llobregat (tel. 90-240-47-04; www.aena.es), 12km (7 1/2 miles) southwest of the city center. It has two passenger terminals connected by shuttle buses. The newer, flashier terminal is T1, which serves the majority of international carriers, including Air Canada, Air Europa, Air France, Alitalia, American Airlines, British Air, Delta Airlines, El Al, Emirates, Iberia, KLM, Lufthansa, Qatar, Scandinavian Airlines, Swiss International, TAP Portugal, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines, and low-cost carrier Vueling. Most other international carriers—most notably discount airlines Ryanair and easyJet—operate from T2 (formerly terminals A, B, and C).
Most U.S. travelers to Barcelona fly to Madrid and change planes there, although there are seasonal direct flights to Barcelona on various carriers from New York, Washington-Dulles, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. Less expensive routes are sometimes available on Lufthansa, British Air, and Air France with changes elsewhere in Europe. Bargain hunters willing to do the research and put up with some inconvenience can often find the cheapest overall airfare by flying to Ireland or the United Kingdom and taking easyJet, Ryanair, or Vueling from there to Barcelona. Iberia (tel. 800/772-4642; www.iberia.com) offers daily shuttle flights between Barcelona and Madrid—every half hour at weekday peak hours. Often cheaper than Iberia, Air Europa (tel. 90-240-15-01; www.air-europa.com) also shuttles between Madrid and Barcelona.
A train runs between the airport and Barcelona’s Estació Central de Barcelona-Sants every 15 to 30 minutes daily from 5:40am to 11:10pm (from Sants) or 11:40pm (to Sants). The 20-minute trip costs 4.20€. At the airport's T2, cross over to the railway station using the long pedestrian bridge, then look for the RENFE train called R2. (If you arrive at Terminal 1, take the free airport shuttle bus to T2B.) There is a small café at the airport train station where you can wait for the next train over food and drink.
You can take the Metro from Sants to anywhere in Barcelona. If your hotel is near Plaça d’Espanya or Plaça de Catalunya, it might be worth the slight extra expense to take an Aerobús (tel. 93-415-60-20; www.aerobusbcn.com). It runs every 5 minutes between 6:10am and 1am from the airport, and until 12:30am from Plaça de Catalunya. The fare is 5.90€ single trip, 10€ round-trip. A taxi from the airport costs about 30€.
Barcelona has two major railway stations. Most national and international trains arrive at Estació Central de Barcelona-Sants, Plaça de Països Catalanes (Metro: Sants-Estació), including the high-speed AVE trains from Madrid and the high-speed Trenhotel from Paris. Some slower trains from northern Spain and just over the French border arrive at Estació de França, Avenida Marqués de L’Argentera (Metro: Barceloneta, L3). For general RENFE (Spanish Railways) information, log on to www.renfe.com or call tel. 90-232-03-20. It's best to purchase tickets, especially on high-speed trains, in advance. There are two train options between Barcelona and Madrid—[“]express trains” that take 8 1/2 to 9 1/2 hours and cost 41€ to 45€ and the high-speed AVE trains that take 2 3/4 to 3 1/4 hours and cost 107€ to 212€.
Bus travel to Barcelona is possible, but it’s pretty slow and less comfortable than the train. Barcelona’s Estació del Nord, Carrer d'Alí Bei, 80 (Metro: Arc de Triomf) serves Alsa (tel. 90-242-22-42; www.alsa.es) buses to and from southern France and Italy. Alsa also operates 27 buses per day to and from Madrid (trip time: 7 1/2–8 1/2 hr.). A one-way ticket from Madrid costs 33€ to 40€. Linebús (tel. 90-233-55-33; www.linebus.com) has six trips a week from Paris. Eurolines Viagens, Carrer Viriato (tel. 93-490-40-00; www.eurolines.es), operates seven buses a week from Frankfurt and another five per week from Marseille.
From France (the usual European road approach to Barcelona), the major access route is at the eastern end of the Pyrenees. You have a choice of the express highway (E-15) or the more scenic coastal road. If you take the coastal road in July and August, you will often encounter bumper-to-bumper traffic. You can also approach Barcelona via Toulouse. Cross the border at Puigcerdà (where there are frontier stations), near the Principality of Andorra. From there, take the N-152 to Barcelona.
From Madrid, take the N-2 to Zaragoza, and then the A-2 to El Vendrell, followed by the A-7 freeway to Barcelona. From the Costa Blanca or Costa del Sol, follow the E-15 north from Valencia along the eastern Mediterranean coast.
Trasmediterránea, Muelle de Sant Bertran s/n (tel. 90-245-46-45; www.trasmediterranea.es), operates daily trips to and from the Balearic Islands of Mallorca (trip time: 8 hr.) and Menorca (8 hr.). In summer, it’s essential to reserve as far in advance as possible.
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.