Travelling to Barcelona for the first time and wondering how to get around? There are a few things you need to know about transport in the city. The good news is there is a fantastic infrastructure that is very easy to navigate. Public transport in Barcelona is quick, efficient, and covers the city widely. In this guide, we explain everything a tourist needs to know about getting around Barcelona to make your trip a convenient one.
This site contains links to travel services we recommend, from which we may make commission at no extra cost to you.
Getting around with the Hola Barcelona Travel Card
City transport cards make life so much easier. We always get one when we travel to any city where it’s available, assuming the numbers add up and we’re not wasting money.
The Hola Barcelona Travel Card has saved us money and hassle on our trips to Barcelona. It gives unlimited access to the city’s metro, tram and bus services, and you can buy one for either 48, 72, 96 or 120 hours.
This means you don’t need to worry about buying new tickets each day. Trust me, it can be a drag wandering into Plaça de Catalunya Train Station and trying to buy a ticket if you’re not sure where or how, and you don’t speak the language fluently.
If you are in the city for some sightseeing, you ca decide to pay a bit more to get a Barcelona Card instead. In addition to public transport access, it also includes free entry and a range of discounts for many attractions in the city.
Buy one of these cards before you fly to Barcelona – or when you arrive at the airport – and thank us later!
Barcelona’s neighbourhoods: a quick introduction
Barcelona is a huge city that is spread out over many neighbourhoods. Each has a unique character and charm, and its own compelling things to see and do.
Our complete Barcelona neighbourhood guide takes an in-depth look at Barcelona’s ten main central neighbourhoods, and the best places to stay in them. For now, here’s a quick overview of each:
- Gothic Quarter. Historic medieval area in central Barcelona. Filled with romantic plazas and cobbled alleys, and attractions like Barcelona Cathedral.
- Eixample. Sizeable area incorporating many sightseeing highlights, especially La Sagrada Familia and the iconic buildings along Passeig de Gràcia.
- Gràcia. A more chilled-out neighbourhood to the north of central Barcelona, filled with relaxed cafés, parks, squares and tapas bars. Home to Gaudí’s Park Güell.
- El Born. Historic neighbourhood next to the Gothic Quarter with great museums, a vibrant cultural centre, and some of the city’s best cocktail bars.
- El Raval. Culturally diverse neighbourhood with a youthful, creative feel on the other side of the Gothic Quarter, filled with street art and quirky tapas bars.
- Sant Antoni. Foodie mini-district built around a 19th century food market, which has also recently become a hub for coworking spaces and laptop cafés.
- Poble Sec. Lively but offbeat neighbourhood spread about the foot of Montjuïc hill, popular for its great live music scene and proximity to green spaces.
- Barceloneta. Old fishing village that has been transformed into the city’s main beach area, with a busy promenade and some of the city’s best seafood restaurants.
- Poblenou. Up-and-coming seaside neighbourhood in an old industrial area, now attracting young entrepreneurs. Has stunning clean beaches and several night clubs.
- Vila Olimpica. Compact and modern port area purpose-built for 1992 Olympic athletes. A focal point for watersports such as sailing trips and paddle surfing.
Check out the locations of these neighbourhoods on this map we created:
How to get from Barcelona Airport to the city
First things first. When you arrive in Barcelona, you’ll need to take a transfer into the city. Thankfully there are many options, whether you are looking for convenience or to save some pennies, and whatever time of day or night you land.
Barcelona–El Prat Airport has two terminals: T1 and T2. There are several ways to get from Barcelona Airport into the city from either terminal:
- Metro. This is often the quickest way to get from Barcelona Airport to the city by public transport. The L9 metro link (the orange line) will take you into the city, and then you’ll need to connect to another line depending on where you’re going. For example, for Plaça de Catalunya, change onto the red L1 line at Torrassa, and the journey takes about 45 minutes in total. Metro transfers from the airport are included on the Hola Barcelona Travel Card.
- Public bus service. The number 46 bus, run by TMB (the main public transport operator) is another way you can use public transport to travel from T1 or T2 into Barcelona city centre. Like the metro, it’s included on the Hola Barcelona Travel Card, or a single fare is €2.40. The service runs from 4:50am to 11:50pm. It takes about an hour to get to Plaça España, with several stops on the way.
- Aerobus (express bus). This is faster bus option, which connects the airport terminals with both Plaça España and Plaça de Catalunya, and has fewer stops. I used the Aerobus to get back to the airport when I was running late, and it was very welcome to have the comfy seats and air conditioning! It runs every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day. The downside is that it isn’t included on the Hola Barcelona Travel Card, so you’ll need to shell out €5.90 for a ticket.
- NitBus N17 and N18 (night buses). If you arrive at the airport overnight, there’s still a public bus you can take into the city that accepts the Hola Barcelona Travel Card (or €2.40 for a single ticket). The N17, which stops at T1, and the N18, which stops at both T1 and T2, both run frequently through the night, covering the hours when the number 46 bus is not operating.
- RENFE train. Running approximately between 5am and midnight, the Renfe R2 train service is a quick way to get directly from the airport into the city. It stops at three stations, from where you can change onto the metro system: Barcelona Sants, Passeig de Gràcia, and El Clot. The train, which is included on the Hola Barcelona Travel Card, runs every half hour and takes about 25 minutes to get into the city.
- Barcelona airport taxis. In a hurry? Or maybe just looking for convenience? No problem, you can take an official Barcelona taxi from the airport into the city. Look out for the yellow and black vehicles in the taxi ranks outside either airport terminal. The journey takes about 30 minutes, and should cost around €40.
Looking for flights for your trip to Barcelona? We have flown to the city frequently with Vueling, and we can personally recommend them. The low-cost airline connect Barcelona with cities all over Europe, and we’ve always had a smooth experience.
Getting around Barcelona on foot
Barcelona covers an area of more than 100 square kilometres. But its central area and old historic quarters are actually quite compact.
If you are visiting on a sightseeing weekend, it’s possible to navigate many of the top sights and attractions by foot, as long as you don’t mind plenty of walking. For example, if you are staying downtown, you’ll probably be within 2 kilometres of the Gothic Quarter (home to Barcelona Cathedral), La Sagrada Familia, La Rambla, the beachfront at Barceloneta, Passeig de Gràcia, El Born and Ciutadella Park.
For exploring beyond that – for example to reach attractions like Park Güell or Camp Nou, which are further out – then walking becomes impractical.
Barcelona public transport
Every time we visit Barcelona we’re impressed by how easy it is to get around on public transport. That’s because public transport in Barcelona is modern, efficient, and covers all corners of the city, from the central tourist areas to the quiet suburbs.
The metro, bus, tram and rail services that cover the city provide the quickest and easiest means to get around Barcelona. They operate on an integrate fare system, with consistent costs across all services.
A single ticket is €2.40 for a journey, which is valid for 75 minutes, and once validated you can transfer onto any other service to reach your destination without needing to pay again. You can also buy a T-Casual Card, which gives you ten tickets at a discounted price. Or, of course, the Hola Barcelona Travel Card gives you unlimited access.
Let’s take a quick look at the characteristics of each service.
The Barcelona Metro is one of the best public transport systems in Europe. With nearly 200 stations dotted along 12 lines, covering more than 100 miles, the network is well spread and can take you right to the doorstep of most attractions.
Even better, the metro runs from 5am to midnight (with longer hours at weekends), with impressively short waiting times. Just missed a metro train? You’ll probably only need to wait 3–4 minutes for the next one, or 10 minutes during night services.
Trams in Barcelona
The tram system in Barcelona complements the metro, fitting into the gaps where the subway does not reach. Both systems run on the same timetables with the same fares.
You can buy tickets at vending machines located at the tram stops. When you board a tram, you need to validate your ticket using one of the machines located near the doors. You should see a green light to indicate that the ticket has been correctly validated.
Buses in Barcelona
The bus fleet in Barcelona is reflective of the city’s drive to create a sustainable public transport system. Around the length and breadth of the metropolitan area you will increasingly see electric, hybrid and compressed-gas buses, as the older models are phased out.
There are more than 1,000 buses operating across the city, with services reaching much further out into the suburbs than the metro or tram. Times and frequencies of buses depend on the service.
There’s also an extensive night bus service, called NitBus. Most of its lines run via Plaça de Catalunya, making it easy to connect through the centre to different parts of the city. This service provides the best way to get around Barcelona at night.
Getting around Barcelona by bicycle
Cycling is a cheap and fun way to get around Barcelona, and the city has been putting a great infrastructure in place for it. This is yet another mark of Barcelona’s drive to be a sustainable city.
A network of more than 200 kilometres of cycle lanes stretches from the inner city out into the suburbs. Cycle parking spaces are dotted throughout this network, and there are dozens of bike rental shops you can choose from.
How much does it cost to rent a bike in Barcelona?
Wondering what is the price to rent a bike in Barcelona? It’s cheaper than you might think. The cost to rent a bicycle for 24 hours in Barcelona is typically around €12. But if you only want to use one for a little while, you can rent a bike for as little as €5 for a couple of hours, for example with Green Bikes Barcelona.
Many shops offer a choice of classic bikes or e-bikes. We tried riding e-bikes around Barcelona, and they’re a lot of fun, and easier to ride. They tend to cost a little more, usually about twice as much as a classic bike, so about €25 per 24 hours.
What are the red bikes in Barcelona?
Around Barcelona, you will probably notice rows of red bicycles parked in many different stations around the city. These are Barcelona’s Bicing city bikes. This service was launched in 2007, with a fleet of electric bikes added in 2016. It is now used by tens of thousands of people.
The bad news for tourists and visitors to Barcelona is that Bicing city bikes are for residents of the city only. If you live in Barcelona, you can subscribe to Bicing for €50 per year, which enables you to pick up any of the bikes and ride them for 30 minutes, with a small fee thereafter.
Check out this guide to Bicing city bikes if you want to know more.
Taxis in Barcelona
We are still yet to use a taxi in Barcelona, as there’s almost always a quicker and cheaper option to get from A to B. But if you’re in urgent need, or just feeling a bit lazy, the city’s official taxis offer a convenient option. They operate in the city 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Official taxis in Barcelona are very easy to recognise. They are black and yellow with a taxi sign on the roof, which will show a green light if it’s free. Inside, a meter will show the rate, supplements and the total fee, as well as the driver’s identity card on the window.
If you’re going to take a taxi in Barcelona, we highly recommend using one of these official vehicles. They are efficient, the costs are transparent and you can avoid any risk of being scammed.
How much do taxis cost in Barcelona?
Taxi prices in Barcelona are simple and transparent. From 8am to 8pm, you will pay €1.21 per kilometre, and from 8pm to 8am it’s €1.45 per kilometre. A supplement of €3.10 is applied at nighttime on notable days of the year, such as Christmas, New Year and on 23–24 June during the San Joan Festival.
Barcelona sightseeing transport: unique and fun options!
Alternative methods of transport in Barcelona bring a fun addition to the city experience, enabling you to witness views of the cityscape from the sky or sea. Let’s take a closer look.
Montjuïc by funicular and cable car
The hilltops that straddle Barcelona are a little trickier to navigate by public transport, and strenuous to tackle by foot.
Montjuïc, the hill on the west side of the city, is one such example. It is home to an impressive castle, the old 1992 Olympics facilities, a nightly light show and a famous cemetery. But you can’t reach the summit by bus, metro or tram.
If you don’t fancy the climb, you can reach the summit of Montjuïc by a fun and scenic combination of a funicular and cable car ride. The Montjuïc Funicular (included on the Hola Barcelona Travel Card) runs from Paral·lel, which is on metro lines L2 and L3, up to Parc de Montjuïc. And from there, you can reach the summit directly on the Telefèric de Montjuïc cable car, enjoying sweeping views on the way up.
The Tibidabo famous blue tram and funicular
At nearly three times the elevation of Montjuïc, the hill of Tibidabo provides an even more spectacular view of Barcelona from more than half a kilometre above sea level. Not only this, but one of the world’s oldest amusement parks is right at the summit! Built in the 19th century, you can still ride its ferris wheels and rollercoasters.
The journey up to Tibidabo involves taking one of the most iconic modes of transport in the city: ‘Tramvia Blau’, the blue tram. You can reach the tram by taking the L7 metro line to Avenida Tibidabo.
Tramvia Blau takes you half-way up the mountain, where you will need to transfer onto Cuca de Llum, the new funicular service. The standard fare for the funicular is €12, or it is free with a Tibidabo Amusement Park ticket.
The hop-on hop-off tourist bus
You bus has two different routes, which will give you a whistle-stop tour of the city’s top attractions, with insightful narration on the way by audioguide. Tickets are available for either 24 or 48 hours, giving access to both bus routes for the duration of that time.
Golondrina boat rides
This isn’t a way of getting around Barcelona as such, but we wanted to include an option for seeing Barcelona’s seafront from the water.
Golondrinas are motorised tourist boats that have been running cruises on the Barcelona seafront since the 19th century. It’s a classic way to see the Mediterranean seascape and city views from the water.
Golondrina boat tours are great value at €8 if you have a spare hour to fill in your itinerary.
How to get around the wider Barcelona region
With the city surrounded by beautiful Catalonian hillside, mountains, wine regions, and quaint seaside villages and towns, there is much to explore outside Barcelona. Thankfully, the region is easy to navigate by rail without needing to hire a car.
Rodalies de Catalunya (regional rail service)
The quickest and most sustainable way to reach many of the points of interest in the wider Barcelona region is to use the Rodalies de Catalunya regional rail system, operated by Renfe.
Zone 1 of the Rodalies de Catalunya (the city centre) is included on a Hola Barcelona Travel Card. For anything outside that, you will need to buy a separate ticket. Check out the Rodalies de Catalunya website to look up fares.
You need to buy tickets at the station and then validate them before boarding the train, so it’s best to arrive a bit early to allow some time for that in your schedule.
Have you spent time getting around Barcelona? Let us know any additional tips in the comments below.
Looking for activity ideas for your trip? See our suggested itinerary for 3 days in Barcelona.