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Best Ways to Get Around Barcelona: The Ultimate Guide (2024)

an example of cheap public transport at a metro station as one of the best ways to get around Barcelona, Spain
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Getting to a new city is the first part of the vacation battle – the next trick is to find your way around it! And nowhere is that truer than Barcelona, with its sprawling neighborhoods that can quickly exhaust you if you don’t find out how to get from A to B ASAP.

Fortunately, I live in Spain and so I’ve been able to spend a bunch of time in Barcelona exploring every nook and cranny of the city. And this has meant that I’m definitely well placed to let you know the best ways to get around Barcelona.

Stick with me and you’ll be navigating Barcelona like a local in no time. Whether you’re an art lover, foodie, history buff, or all of the above, Barcelona is about to become your playground. 

Key takeaways:

Barcelona’s metro and bus system is excellent – and if you want unlimited travel on all public transportation while you’re here (including free travel to and from the airport by metro), the Hola Barcelona travel card is a great choice.

To get to and from the airport, going by taxi is the easiest but most expensive option. Another still very convenient (and much cheaper) option is the Aerobús, which runs every 5-10 minutes and stops at several key locations in the city.

If you want a hassle-free way to see all the sights, especially if you’re only in Barcelona for a few days, you should definitely consider the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus. It’s incredibly popular here, for good reason.

Finally, don’t bother renting a car in Barcelona – you don’t need it and it’s more trouble than it’s worth.

Best ways to get around Barcelona

Metro

The metro is the backbone of Barcelona’s public transportation system. It’s fast, reliable, and covers most of the city. 

There are 12 metro lines operated by Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB) that run from 5 am to midnight on weekdays and until 2 am on weekends. 

an example of cheap public transport at a metro station as one of the best ways to get around Barcelona, Spain

You can buy single tickets or multi-journey cards like the T-casual ticket. Alternatively, if you’re planning on using public transportation frequently during your stay, you can also opt for a Hola Barcelona Travel Card

This card offers unlimited travel on all public transportation for 2, 3, 4, or 5 consecutive days, among other great benefits – including free travel to and from the airport by metro.

Find out more about the Hola Barcelona Travel Card here.

Bus

Public bus network

Barcelona’s bus network is extensive and covers areas that are not served by the metro. There are over 100 bus lines operated by TMB, and the buses run from 5 am to midnight. 

The tickets mentioned above for the metro also work on the bus. While the metro lets you obviously avoid traffic on the roads, the bus is a great option if you want to see the city’s sights from above ground.

Airport bus

One extra bus service you should keep in mind is the Aerobús. It runs between the airport and the city every 5-10 minutes and stops at several key locations in the city, including Plaça de Catalunya, Gran Via-Urgell, and Plaça d’Espanya. 

The journey takes approximately 35 minutes and costs €5.90 for a one-way ticket or €10.20 for a round-trip ticket.

It’s a particularly good choice for those who are traveling with a lot of luggage or who don’t want to deal with the hassle of public transportation.

Aerobus airport shuttle buses parked at their terminal in Plaza

You can get your tickets for the Aerobus in advance here to get you on your way as soon as you land.

Sightseeing bus

If you plan to be in Barcelona for a few days and want to see all the main sights as easily as possible, consider jumping on the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus.

It goes along two different routes (either of which you can take at any time), ensuring that you’re taken essentially everywhere you’ll want to see as a visitor here. You’ll stop at the following:

East RouteWest Route
Plaça de CatalunyaPlaça Catalunya
Port VellArc de Triomf
Museu d’Història de Catalunya (MUHBA)El Born – Parc de la Ciutadella- Zoo
La BarcelonetaPasseig Colom
Port OlímpicWorld Trade Center
Poble Nou – ZooJardines de Miramar
Teatre Nacional – AuditoriFundació Joan Miró
Glories – Torre AgbarAnella Olímpica
Sagrada FamiliaMNAC (Museo Nacional de Catalunya)
Recinte Modernista de Sant PauPoble Espanyol
Park GüellCaixa Fòrum-Pavelló Mies Van Der Rohe
TibidaboPlaça d’Espanya
La Pedrera (Casa Milà)Estació de Sants
Casa BatllóSpotify Camp Nou (F.C. Barcelona)
Plaça CatalunyaPlaça Pius XII-Palau Reial – Pavellons Guell-Monestir de Pedralbes
L’Illa Diagonal
Avinguda Diagonal
La Pedrera (Casa Milà)
Casa Batlló
Plaça Catalunya

It’s a hassle-free way to quickly and easily get to all the highlights, especially as you’re getting your bearings in a new city.

Grab a 24- or 48-hour ticket for the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus here.

Tram

Barcelona has six tram lines operated by Tramvia Metropolità de Barcelona. The trams run from 5 am to midnight on weekdays and until 2 am on weekends. 

The tram is a particularly great option if you want to explore the city’s coastal areas. Plus, you can use the same tickets as you use for the metro and the bus, so it’s basically no hassle at all.

Bike rental

If you prefer to have more flexibility with your biking, you can rent a bike from one of the many bike rental shops in the city. You can choose from a variety of bikes, including mountain bikes, road bikes, and electric bikes. 

Many of the rental shops also offer guided bike tours, which are a great way to see the city and learn about its history and culture. My favorite bike tour of Barcelona is here – it’s a half-day tour and covers tons of the city’s highlights, with some super interesting facts about the sights you’ll find on the way.

Walking

Barcelona is a city that’s meant to be explored on foot. With its narrow streets and hidden alleys, it is easy to get lost in the city’s charm. 

Not to mention, of course, that walking is a great way to discover the city’s many parks, plazas, and museums.

Just don’t forget to bring a comfortable pair of shoes and plenty of water, as the city can get hot and crowded during peak tourist season.

Taxis

Taxis are readily available throughout the city, and can be hailed on the street or found at designated taxi stands. They are usually black and yellow, and have a green light on the roof when they are available. 

Taxis in Barcelona are metered, and the fare is calculated based on distance and time. The minimum fare is €2.55, and the average cost of a taxi ride in the city is between €7 and €15.

It’s important to note that taxis in Barcelona are regulated by the city government, and there are strict rules in place to ensure that passengers are not overcharged. If you have any issues with a taxi driver, you can file a complaint with the city’s taxi regulator.

Spanish Taxi in movement behind steel and concrete arch

MyTaxi

MyTaxi is a ride-hailing app that allows you to book a taxi in Barcelona using your smartphone. It works in much the same way as Uber, but with licensed taxi drivers rather than private drivers. 

With MyTaxi, you can track your driver’s location in real-time, and pay for your ride using the app. The app also allows you to rate your driver and provide feedback on your experience.

One of the benefits of using MyTaxi is that you can be sure that you are getting a licensed taxi driver who has been vetted by the city government. This can provide peace of mind for passengers who are concerned about safety and security.

Uber

Uber is available in Barcelona, although it’s important to note that the company has faced legal challenges in the city, and its operations have been restricted by the city government. As a result, Uber isn’t as widely available in Barcelona as it is in other parts of the world.

If you do choose to use Uber in Barcelona, it’s important to be aware of the legal issues surrounding the service. You should also be prepared for the possibility of encountering protests or demonstrations by taxi drivers who are opposed to Uber’s presence in the city.

Happy woman walking down street in Spain

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Cabify

Cabify is easily the main alternative to Uber in Barcelona. In fact, the company was actually founded in the city and is now much more widely used by locals than Uber.

It works in much the same way, so simply download the app, add a payment method and you’ll be on your way.

Biking sharing

Barcelona is a city that’s perfect for biking. With its bike lanes seemingly increasing by the day, it’s easy to get around on a bike – as long as you’re ok with the occasional hill. 

Plus, it’s a great way to see the city and explore its hidden gems!

And one of the best ways to get around Barcelona is by bike-sharing. The city’s bike-sharing program, Bicing, has over 6,000 bikes and 420 stations throughout the city. 

bike rental in Barcelona
Source: David Duran (CC-BY-NC  2.0)

You can purchase a yearly membership or a short-term pass, which allows you to rent a bike for up to two hours at a time.

Just keep in mind though that this isn’t going to be an option if you’re only here for a few days, unfortunately, as it’s geared towards residents. If you are just here visiting and want to get on two-wheels, heading to a bike rental store is going to be more your speed.

How to get from Barcelona airport to the city?

One of the most popular ways to get from Barcelona airport to the city is by taking the Aerobus. This shuttle service runs every 5-10 minutes and stops at several key locations in the city, including Plaça de Catalunya, Gran Via-Urgell, and Plaça d’Espanya. 

The journey takes approximately 35 minutes and costs €5.90 for a one-way ticket or €10.20 for a round-trip ticket.

The Aerobus is a convenient option for travelers who want to get to their destination quickly and easily. It’s also a great choice for those who are traveling with a lot of luggage or who don’t want to deal with the hassle of public transportation.

You can get your tickets for the Aerobus in advance here to get you on your way as soon as you land.

aerobus in Barcelona
Source: Mike Acler (CC BY 2.0)

However, there are also train options to get from El Prat Airport, the main airport serving Barcelona which is located approximately 12 km southwest of the city center. 

You can also, of course, take a taxi or rent a car if you really want to, but it’s not necessary so perhaps save your money (unless you’re a group, which may make a taxi more affordable).

Getting around Barcelona by car

If you decide to rent a car to get around Barcelona, keep in mind that driving in the city can be quite challenging, especially during rush hour. However, renting a car can give you the freedom to explore the city and its surrounding areas at your own pace.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

Traffic congestion

Barcelona has an extensive network of roads, but the city center can be quite congested, and parking can be difficult to find. If you do decide to drive, be aware that traffic can be heavy during peak hours, and drivers won’t hesitate to tell you off if they think you’ve made a mistake. 

Also, it’s a good idea to have Google Maps or some other GPS handy, as the streets can be confusing to navigate.

Parking

Parking in Barcelona can be a challenge, especially in the city center. Street parking is available, but it can be difficult to find a spot, and parking regulations can be confusing. 

There are also several public parking garages throughout the city, but they can be expensive. 

If you do decide to park on the street, make sure to read the signs carefully and pay attention to any parking restrictions.

Renting a car

If you decide to rent a car in Barcelona, there are several rental companies to choose from. 

Most major international car rental companies have offices in the city, and there are also several local companies that offer competitive rates. 

FAQs

What is the best way to get around Barcelona as a tourist?

For tourists, Barcelona is best explored on foot or by public transport. Notably, for tourists, the best way to get around Barcelona is by using the fast, efficient and affordable metro system. It also runs into the night, making it convenient for exploring the city no matter what time it is.

The metro system in Barcelona is well-connected, and is easy to navigate. With nine metro lines that connect all the major tourist attractions, it’s easy for tourists to get around the city.

FYI: Don’t forget that you can use the metro for free as much as you want by grabbing the Hola Barcelona Travel Card – including to get to and from the airport!

Just make sure you keep an eye on your belongings, especially when the metro approaches stops in touristy areas. Carriages can get pretty packed during peak hours and the city’s pickpocketing problem can raise its annoying head in a busy metro without you realizing it until later.

Another great way to get around Barcelona is by using the public bus system. The bus system is extensive, and it covers all the major tourist attractions in the city. The buses are air-conditioned, and they run from early in the morning until late at night. 

A great aspect of this is that the same tickets work on the bus and the metro, so you don’t have to mess around with figuring out different ticketing systems.

If you want to explore the city at your own pace, you can rent a bicycle. Barcelona has a bike-sharing system called Bicing, which allows you to rent a bike for a small fee. 

You can also rent a bike from one of the many bike rental shops in the city. Cycling is a great way to explore the city, and it allows you to see the sights from a different perspective. 

However, be aware that the streets of Barcelona can be busy and chaotic, so it’s a good idea to ensure that you’re comfortable cycling in traffic before renting a bike..

Man with his back turned in the Barcelona metro i

How to travel around Barcelona cheaply?

Barcelona has an excellent public transportation system that is both affordable and efficient. The metro is the most popular option, but the same tickets also work on buses and trams. And if you’re really looking to get around Barcelona cheaply, the city is also very walkable!

As I mentioned before, the Hola BCN! travel card is also a great choice if you’re looking to save money while seeing as much of the city as possible. In particular, it offers unlimited travel on all public transportation for 2, 3, 4, or 5 consecutive days, among other great benefits.

Regarding the option of walking, many of the main attractions are within walking distance of each other. Walking allows you to explore the city at your own pace and is a great way to discover hidden gems that you might miss on public transportation.

If you prefer to bike, there are a ton of great bike rental stores around. Barcelona also has a bike-sharing service called Bicing, but unfortunately it’s not available for tourists.

Are taxis expensive in Barcelona?

Compared to other European cities, taxis in Barcelona are fairly affordable. However, if you’re used to taking public transport or walking, you may find their cost to be higher than expected. For example, a taxi from Barcelona airport to the city center typically costs between €30 to €35. 

From Terminal 1 (T1) expect to pay about €30 while Terminal 2 (T2) is about €35. For groups larger than four, ask one of the taxi stand attendants to call a van taxi (€4.30 supplement). 

Passengers should note that taxi fares in Barcelona are higher on weekends, holidays, and after midnight.

Taxis in Barcelona charge a minimum fare of €2.15, which includes the initial pick-up fee. After that, the fare increases based on the distance traveled and time spent in the taxi. 

There are two different taxi rates per km that apply depending on the day and time of the ride. The rate per km from Monday to Friday, 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM, is €1.23, while the rate per km from Monday to Friday, 8:00 PM to 8:00 AM, and all day on weekends and holidays, is €1.42.

Whether or not this is good value for you will largely depend on how many of you there are traveling together. If you’re alone or a couple and you’re traveling on a budget, you may want to consider taking public transportation or walking to save money.

Can I use Uber in Barcelona?

On whether you can use Uber to get around the city, the answer is yes and no. While Uber does work in Barcelona, it isn’t as fully operational as you may be used to in other cities largely due to legal issues the company has had in Spain.

Notably, taxi drivers in Spain have been known to protest against Uber, so it’s important to be aware of this before you decide to use the service.

If you do decide to use Uber in Barcelona, you may find that the service isn’t as reliable as it is in other cities. While you can use the app to request a ride, you may have to wait longer for a driver to arrive. 

Additionally, there may be areas of the city where Uber is not available, so it’s important to have a backup plan in case you can’t get a ride.

For all these reasons, most people use Cabify instead, which works in basically the same way as Uber but tends to have more availability.

uber app driver

Is Barcelona a walkable city?

Yes, Barcelona is a very walkable city, making it a great place to explore on foot. With many of the city’s top attractions located in one area, walking is an excellent way to see the sights and experience the unique atmosphere of the city.

One of the best things about walking in Barcelona is the opportunity to discover hidden gems that you might miss if you were traveling by car or public transport. Exploring the narrow streets and alleyways of the Gothic Quarter or the trendy neighborhood of El Raval can lead you to some of the city’s most charming cafes, shops, and bars.

Of course, there are some areas of the city that are less walkable than others. For example, the Olympic Village and the Montjuïc area are spread out and require more time to explore. However, even these areas can be easily reached by public transport or by bike.

But, in general, Barcelona is a very walkable city, and it’s easy to get around on foot. Whether you’re strolling along the beachfront, exploring the winding streets of the Gothic Quarter, or wandering through the bustling markets of La Boqueria, walking is a great way to experience the unique charm of this vibrant and exciting city.

Here are some tips for making the most of your walking adventures in Barcelona:

  • Wear comfortable shoes: With so much to see and do, you’ll want to make sure your feet are up to the challenge. Comfortable shoes are a must, especially if you plan on doing a lot of walking.
  • Stay hydrated: Barcelona can get hot, especially in the summer months. Be sure to carry a water bottle with you and take breaks to rest and rehydrate.
  • Use a map: While getting lost can be part of the fun, it’s always a good idea to have a map handy, especially if you’re exploring a new area of the city. Assuming you’re traveling with a smartphone, just download the map of Barcelona in Google Maps before leaving your wifi so you won’t have to use any data to get around.

What’s the cheapest way to travel in Barcelona?

If you want to explore Barcelona on a budget, there are several cheap transportation options available. Here are some of the cheapest ways to travel around the city:

Metro

Barcelona has an extensive metro system that covers most of the city. It’s the cheapest and fastest way to get around. 

While there are single tickets, you can save money by purchasing a T-casual card, which gives you 10 journeys for a lower per-trip price.

metro train in Barcelona
Source; Hellebardius  (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

If you’re just here for a few days and think you’ll be using public transport quite a bit, you should also take another look at the Hola Barcelona Travel Card. I mentioned it a bit earlier – it’s the one that gives you free use of all public transport, including free metro rides to and from the airport.

The metro runs from 5 am until midnight on weekdays and until 2 am on weekends.

Bus

Barcelona also has an extensive bus network that covers the entire city and uses the same ticketing system as the metro, meaning it’s equally as good value. It can, however, be slower, especially during peak traffic times.

Walking

Walking is definitely the cheapest way to get around Barcelona. It’s also a great way to explore the city and discover things that you might not see otherwise. 

Fortunately, Barcelona is a very walkable city, and many of the main attractions are within walking distance of each other. Plus, walking is good exercise and a great way to burn off all the delicious food you’ll be eating!

Do you need a car in Barcelona as a tourist?

No, you don’t need a car in Barcelona as a tourist. In fact, having a car can be more of a hindrance here, given parking difficulties. Instead, Barcelona has an excellent public transportation system that includes buses, trains, and a metro system that covers the entire city. 

The metro is the most convenient and efficient way to get around, but the bus system is great too, although can be slightly slower thanks to traffic.

If you do decide to rent a car, keep in mind that parking in Barcelona can be challenging and expensive. Many areas of the city are pedestrian-only, and it can be tricky to navigate the narrow streets and one-way systems.

Additionally, traffic can be heavy, especially during peak tourist season.

For anyone looking to travel outside the city, there are plenty of car rental options available for those days. However, for the most part, a car is unnecessary and can be more of a hassle than a convenience.

Where to buy Barcelona public transport tickets

When it comes to getting around Barcelona, public transport is the way to go. But how do you buy tickets? Don’t worry, it’s easy and convenient. Here are your options:

  • Ticket machines: You can buy tickets at any metro or train station from the vending machines. They accept both cash and credit cards. The machines have instructions in several languages, including English, so you won’t have any trouble using them.
  • Tobacco shops and newsstands: You can also buy tickets at some tobacco shops and newsstands. Look for a sign that says “Venta de billetes de transporte” (sale of transport tickets). These shops usually have a limited selection of tickets, but they’re convenient if you’re in a hurry.
  • Online: You can buy tickets online from the official website of the public transport company in Barcelona, TMB. You can choose to receive the tickets by email or pick them up at a vending machine.

But if you decide to just buy a normal ticket, once you’ve bought it, you’re good to go. Remember to validate your ticket before boarding the bus or train. 

You’ll see a machine at the entrance where you need to insert your ticket to stamp it with the date and time. And if you have a multi-trip ticket, don’t stress as you only need to validate it once per trip.

2 Comments

  1. Would you recommend the Hop On Hop Off Bus option? We have found this very helpful and enjoyable in cities in the United States as a way to get your bearings in a new city and an easy way to get to all of the popular sites without having to figure it our ourselves.

    1. Hi Barbara – the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus is a great choice in Barcelona for all the reasons you mentioned. I’d especially recommend it if you plan to be here for only a few days (noting that the tickets are for 24 or 48 hours) as it’s a really straightforward way to make sure you see all the highlights with minimal stress.

      Keep in mind that, in Barcelona, this bus actually takes two routes (you can see which sites each route covers here), either of which you’re free to use at any time while the ticket is valid. But I just mention it as I know some people like to do one route on day 1 and then the other one on day 2, assuming you have enough time in your vacation plan.

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