There are many ways to get around Barcelona – the city offers a comprehensive network of metro lines, trains, buses, trams and even cable cars. There are also plenty of places and sights to explore on foot, as the city centre, the famous La Rambla and the port and beaches are all relatively close to each other. My tip is without a doubt the bikes. But let’s look at all the options pretty much one by one.
How can you travel around Barcelona?
- Public transport : metro, buses, trams, trains
- Tourist bus
- Taxi, including Uber and other services
Although Barcelona is a sprawling city and it might seem like you can’t walk without some sort of proximity device, the opposite is true. At least if we’re talking about the centre and its immediate surroundings. After all, how else can you take in the beauty of this metropolis than by walking nicely on your own two feet, at your own pace?
If you’d like to explore the centre itself on foot, know that it’s not a very large area – from Plaça Catalunya it’s about 15 minutes along La Rambla to the port, and you can walk through the old Gothic quarter of Barri Gòtic, stop by La Boqueria market or visit the nearby Güell Palace, or head in the other direction to Passeig de Gràcia to see more of Gaudí’s buildings like Casa Batlló or La Pedrera. I definitely recommend walking through the narrowest part of the centre to get a good feel for the city and get closer to the locals…
What struck me on my first visit to Barcelona was a kind of traffic discipline, somewhat unusual for other southern cities. If you’ve ever visited Italian or Croatian towns full of winding narrow streets, honking cars and sometimes suicidal motorcyclists, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Barcelona is perfectly calm in this respect, the streets are wide enough, clear enough, there are plenty of sidewalks or paths everywhere – you definitely don’t have to worry about your health. Plus, if you’re in neighbourhoods like the Eixample, where the streets are nicely perpendicular to each other, it’s almost impossible to get lost.
Public transport in Barcelona: metro, train, buses and trams
The cheapest means of transport in Barcelona is – quite unexpectedly – public transport. Thanks to it, you can get around beautifully everywhere within the city and beyond.
But local public transport is not only the cheapest, it’s also the most efficient: the different modes of transport (metro, buses, trains, etc.) often link up nicely, and you’re sure to find a suitable connection wherever you want to go in the city.
If you want to plan your journeys in advance using an app like the home-made IDOS, I’ll have to disappoint you right from the start – there is no such thing and unfortunately even the official apps don’t always search for the most convenient routes and connections. I have found it most useful to search for connections in the city on Google Maps.
Barcelona Metro Map Download
Public transport map of Barcelona (version 2022) – metro, train, buses, trams – click to enlarge and download
Within a sophisticated integrated transport system with several zones, you can travel with the same ticket by metro, bus or even train. And if you buy a T-casual ticket, for example, you can travel really cheaply.
How much do tickets for public transport cost in Barcelona?
There are a variety of tickets available in Barcelona. So that you don’t have to study them all, here are the ones that are most attractive for tourists heading to the city for a few days:
- Single ticket for €2.40 – one transfer. This is the kind of emergency ticket you get either by mistake or on purpose when you have no other option (e.g. another ticket has expired or you’ve used up all the rides on another ticket). Valid only on the metro (except for airport stops), bus or cable car to Montjuïc. Not valid on the train from the airport.
- T-casual ticket with 10 rides for €11.35 – for me the best public transport ticket for tourists who are in town for a few days. Learn more about T-casual
- T-familiar multi-passenger ticket with 8 rides for €10 – if you need more flexibility, as with T-casual, try this one. You can also find more information about it in the article above.
- T-group ticket with 70 rides for €79.45 – this is similar to the T-familiar, but for large groups, where all members can share one ticket
- T-dia day ticket for €10.50 – if you need to travel around the centre really a lot and don’t want to deal with any rides, buy a day ticket with unlimited rides. But I haven’t met anyone yet who finds it worthwhile 🙂
- T-usual monthly ticket for €40 – a ticket for those who plan to be in the city for a longer period of time (e.g. for work or school) and need unlimited transport. This one offers 30 days from the time of first designation, and you’ll need ID or other proof of identity to purchase it.
- Tourist cards such as the Barcelona Card for €48 or the Hola Bacelona €13.5 – these are not traditional tickets but public transport fares are included, see separate article for more details
What about when I travel with children?
If you’re travelling to Barcelona with children, you won’t save much on fares. Unless your child is under 4 years old – then they travel for free on public transport. In this case, as a parent, you will need to show your child’s ID or passport where the child is registered. If your child is over 4 years old, you must get him or her a normal ticket. In Barcelona, they simply do not distinguish between child and adult fares for tourists.
As you can see from the text above, if you are only heading to Barcelona as a tourist for a few days, realistically the T-casual ticket mentioned above or one of the tourist cards will be the most worthwhile.
Where to buy public transport tickets?
- The surest choice for buying tickets in Barcelona are the vending machines, where you have the widest choice. You’ll find these at every metro, train or major bus station. The advantage, of course, is that they are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can pay for your ticket at a ticket machine with your card or cash.
- You can buy tickets immediately on arrival at the airport. However, there is only one large ticket machine and you will find it outside the entrance to the train platform in Terminal B.
- If you need a single ticket, you can buy it from the driver, e.g. when boarding the bus.
- Physical tickets can also be purchased at newsagents, TMB Information Centres and Barcelona Turisme offices.
- You can also buy tickets for public transport in Barrcelona online – there is a mobile phone app (Android and iOS) or you can head to the TMB website to purchase tickets. I’m deliberately listing this as a last resort, though, because even if you buy tickets online, you’ll still need to pick them up in person. That is, you have to go to a place where tickets are sold, punch in or give a code, and only then will you get your ticket. That’s not very practical, is it? I look forward to when fully digital tickets are available…
Metro in Barcelona
The metro will be the number one means of transport when you visit Barcelona. Its dense network will get you exactly where you need to go. The local metro is also well connected to other means of transport. Just make sure you don’t get lost in the tangle of different coloured lines – there are 12 in total and they are operated by two different transport companies!
You’ll find the metro stations marked on the map above. In order to use the metro, you have to go through a turnstile at the entrance where you insert your ticket, otherwise it won’t even let you in. I definitely don’t recommend trying to go through the turnstile with multiple people at one marking – you’ll often run into inspectors on the way out of the metro and you won’t avoid a fine.
Metro, the cheapest transport around Barcelona
If you’re not sure about something, we recommend looking for information at the relevant station, or for a metro worker in a coloured vest. They can be found at major transfer hubs (e.g. the airport commuter train station) and are always happy to give advice. You can usually speak to them in English. Definitely talk to them, if only because they’ll give you a free map of Barcelona’s public transport. These are also freely available in the larger metro stations (you can find all the relevant maps here on my website too).
The turnstile in the Barcelona metro
The metro doesn’t run late at night, so you’ll need to look for buses or wave to one of the many passing taxis.
Metro operating hours
- Monday to Thursday: 5am to midnight
- Friday and the day before a public holiday: 5am to 2am
- Saturday: all day from 5 a.m.
- Sunday: from midnight to midnight, i.e. all day
- Public holidays (1 January, 24 June, 24 September and others): from 5 a.m. to midnight
- 24 December: from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.
For more about the metro in Barcelona, see separate article.
Want discounts? Buy tourist cards
If you know you’ll be using transport to get around Barcelona for a few days and you’re also interested in the sights, it’s worth buying one of the so-called tourist cards. The cards not only provide free transport around the city, but also give discounts at more than 70 museums, shops and restaurants. More about tourist cards can be found in a separate article.
Buses in Barcelona
The main bus hub is Plaça Catalunya, which is surrounded on all sides by the boarding points of the various lines that radiate out across Barcelona.
During the day, buses run very frequently, while at night there are several circuitous lines that, while they can get you to most places, often take a long time (the buses go around a long loop). Moreover, the tangle of lines can be quite confusing for tourists.
At night, I therefore recommend taking a taxi, which is definitely not as expensive as you would expect and will get you to your destination quickly and without any problems. If you take three or four, the fare per person will be about the same as a bus. Taxi drivers usually don’t speak much English, but if you have a glossary of basic Spanish words, getting along shouldn’t be a problem. You can also often just say the name of the street and the drivers will find their way around without any further guesswork.
Generally if you stay somewhere in and around the centre you won’t use the buses much as everything is perfectly accessible by metro. For tourists, buses make more sense especially at night, when a direct bus can be a faster option to get to your hotel than a metro with several transfers…
Trams in Barcelona
Barcelona also has two separate tram routes, on which 6 lines operate, designated T1-T6. Their routes are again marked on the map above. You’ll use the trams more sporadically, if at all, to get around the city – again, it depends on where you’re staying and where you need to get to.
Trains in Barcelona
Trains are part of the integrated transport system in Barcelona. But as a tourist, you’ll use these minimally to get around the city. In fact, many people will only come into contact with them when travelling from the airport, when I recommend taking a comfortable commuter train. Or you can take the train on your way to Cosmocaixa or Tibidabo, because directly from downtown to Pl. Catalunya, there is the L7 train line which is great for these trips.
But trains are a great option when travelling outside the city, for example if you want to visit one of the seaside resorts – you’ll often find nicer and less crowded beaches than those in Barcelona.
Do you have enough time? Take the train to the sea!
Dozens of trains run directly from central Barcelona every day, heading north to the popular beach resorts on the Costa Brava: in about an hour you can be in Calella, Malgrat de Mar, Blanes or Lloret de Mar. More about travelling by train to the sea
If you’re planning to travel exclusively by train, check out the ticket prices. These are set similarly to other forms of public transport, based on the number of zones you will be travelling through. Oh, and be warned – the zone layout is slightly different for trains, as they are run by a different company – you’ll find this mentioned in the article on zones that I also have here somewhere.
Train operating hours (FGC – Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya)
- Monday to Thursday: 5:45 – 0:05
- Friday to Saturday: 5:50 h – 2:15
- Sunday: 5:50 – 0:02
Tourist bus (Bus Turístic)
A very clever and popular transport tool in Barcelona for tourists is the so-called Bus Turístic (see detailed description and comparison in the article), or open-top tourist bus. You can hop on it at any of the many points around the city and let the wind blow you around (which, by the way, is a very refreshing experience in otherwise sun-warmed, sultry Barcelona), listen to commentary on the sights in several world languages, and watch all the action pretty much from above.
Photos of the tourist bus in Barcelona
A day ticket on Bus Turistic will set you back €30, a two-day ticket €40. The advantage is that you can get off at any monument and, once you’ve seen it, just get on the next bus and merrily move on. The tourist buses run on three circuits and offer over 40 stops at all of Barcelona’s major sights and sites.
All three circuits start at Plaça Catalunya, from which the buses depart. The circuits intersect at several stops, so you can interchange routes within the same ticket.
Is bus turistic ticket in Barcelona worth it?
A Bus Turistic ticket is worth it if you’re going to Barcelona for a long weekend, for example, or if you have little time to explore the city. The bus will take you from monument to monument and save you a lot of time. Tickets can be purchased online at a 10% discount compared to buying on the spot.
Barcelona tourist bus map
Map of all tourist bus routes with individual stops – click to enlarge
The Blue Route, which takes around two hours to complete, takes you to most of Gaudí’s works – Casa Milà (La Pedrera), Casa Batlló, Parc Güell and the Sagrada Familia – and offers the most sights in Barcelona. In addition, you can get to Tibidabo Hill, where you can take the blue tram (tramvia blau) up to admire the beauty of the city from above. You can also get off at the former Royal Palace (Palau Reial), which abounds in green parkland and where you can find the Decorative Arts Museum and the Ceramics Museum. However, if you’ve already visited the so-called Gaudí Gardens (Parc Güell) a few stops earlier, you’ll know that the palace probably won’t leave the same deep impression on you. Next, the blue circuit will take you to the stunning FC Barcelona football stadium.
From the blue circuit, you can continue smoothly to the red circuit. This will show you the main train station and other rather modern buildings and take you to another beautiful monument whose charm will take your breath away. On the hill of Montjuic is the vast Palau Montjuic, which overlooks the entire city and whose lush gardens will make you feel like you’re in paradise. The romantic setting is somewhat disturbed by the escalators, which are purely for practical purposes. Montjuic Hill is also home to the Olympic Stadium and a huge botanical garden, where you’ll find flora from every part of the world. You can walk through the garden or view it from above by cable car. The Red Line also takes you to the harbour and the marine aquarium.
At the aquarium, you can also change to the green line, which is the shortest and includes the fewest sights and only operates in summer. It’s worth getting off at Ciutadella Park, for example, to walk around the zoo or hang out in the park on the boats.
A night tour of the city is a real treat, with a tourist bus taking you to several beautifully lit monuments and ending your tour at the romantic illuminated fountain at Montjuic Palace, which is a feast for the eyes. This romantic sight is not to be missed, but don’t forget your sweater as the open roof of the bus can be quite chilly at night even during the warm summer. However, there is no day ticket for the night tourist bus – a separate ticket is required. The night bus operates only in summer and runs three times a week. For more information about the night bus, visit the Bus Turistíc website.
Taxis in Barcelona, Uber, Bolt and more
While the reputation of taxi drivers in the Czech Republic is in tatters, in Barcelona you don’t have to be afraid to use their services. The reason is that all taxis have the same tariffs mandated by city ordinance, so it doesn’t matter who you ride with. Plus, all the cars look the same – they’re black and yellow. So you don’t have to worry at all about hitching a ride on any available vehicle on the street. If you do think something is strange, have the taxi driver print out a receipt before you pay – it’s all spelled out.
If you want to be sure of the car and know how much you’ll pay up front, I definitely recommend downloading one of the apps and ordering through them. Cabify or MyTaxi, for example, operate in the city. Uber had to pull out of the city after a few years due to regulations and their app will be useless here.
Official taxi prices in Barcelona for 2022
- Rate per 1 km (08:00 – 20:00): €1.18
- Rate per 1 km (20:00 – 08:00): €1.41
- Waiting time: €22.60/hour
- Minimum rate: €2.25 (from airport €20)
You can also calculate the approximate price for a taxi on the web.
Alternative carriers such as Uber or Bolt
In addition to the classic taxi services in the city, you can also use alternative carriers. However, due to various regulations imposed by the city, these are not exactly a bed of roses in Barcelona. Uber, for example, used to operate here, then left, then came back, and now it exists again in some form, offering transportation… I haven’t personally tried it since I got back, so I don’t know. Bolt only offers shared scooters in the city.
Transport companies like Cabify or Free Now (formerly as MyTaxi) have a fairly good name in Barcelona. Although unknown here, these companies are quite strong and popular in Spanish and German speaking countries. Both have their own apps to download, so if you’d like to book a taxi from the comfort of your mobile app and know the price in advance, I definitely recommend trying one or the other.
If you’re looking for classic car sharing (i.e. you rent a car directly from people or companies), try GetAround. For longer domestic trips (e.g. if you want to go from Barcelona to Madrid or elsewhere), I can recommend Blablacar, which is well known here.
Barcelona by bike
My tip and recommendation for exploring Barcelona is to travel by bike! If you don’t have a downright bad relationship with bikes, definitely give it a try, you won’t regret it. Thanks to the bike you won’t depend on anyone or anything and you can get almost everywhere – in the centre for sure, and if you have a bit of physical strength you can also go to Parc Güell or Montjuic.
Barcelona is generally a very bike-oriented city, which can be seen in the many cycle paths, which total over 150km. In the city centre there are cycle lanes everywhere (even on all the main avenues there are cycle lanes) and even if you are riding on the pavement, people are used to cyclists and tolerate them.
In fact, while walking around Barcelona, you’ll soon notice the red and white bicycle stands where young and old, in suits and sweatpants, are riding around. Unfortunately, this urban bikesharing is forbidden to tourists. However, if you want to enjoy Barcelona from the saddle of a bike, don’t drop your mind – there are several rental stations operating in the city.
What’s worth experiencing is a bike ride along the beaches. It’s especially worth it in the morning, when you can meet lots of joggers, people on skates or families with children. The advantage of such a trip is that you can stop anywhere, lock your bike (beware, the seats get stolen a lot!) and go for a swim, a meal or a drink at one of the beach restaurants.
And now to what you are probably most interested in – the prices. These are relatively reasonable. Of course, you can rent a bike for a much shorter period of time, but if you really want to enjoy Barcelona, you can’t really get around in a day. Check the prices at each rental shop and, above all, check out the bike before you rent it. In my experience, the quality of the bikes on offer varies widely within a similar price range – from old, unsightly clunkers to multi-speed cruisers. From personal experience, I recommend a rental shop called My Beautiful Parking, where you can see that the owners actually live the bikes. You can find a list of other rental companies on the Barcelona Bicycle Association website.
Getting around Barcelona by car
Exploring Barcelona by car is probably the least appealing option. The traffic in the city is very dense, plus you have to worry about where to park, how much it will cost, etc. I don’t recommend this option. It’s best to leave your car in one of the parking lots and hop on public transport.
When travelling in your own car, the driver must of course carry a valid driving licence. In the city, the maximum speed limit is 50 km/h. When travelling by car, please be aware of possible traffic jams, which are a daily occurrence here. Parking in a secure car park costs about €2 per hour. I have more about parking in a separate article.