Barcelona Public Transport
It’s not a large city, Barcelona. It would be perfect for getting around on a bike, were it not built on a hill that runs into the sea. Cycling up that hill in summer time is not a great idea. Nothing in the historical centre is more than a twenty minute walk away (thirty if you are Spanish). Barceloneta beach is more or less walkable. And after a few cocktails, nothing is really that far on foot.
So when and to where would one use Barcelona’s excellent public transport system?
First of all, you will need to decide what ticket best suits your needs. Generally speaking, all the various public transport services use the same ticket, which is very useful. Tickets are purchased at ticket machines found at underground stations.
There are a variety of unlimited travel cards ranging from 2 to 5 days, and €15 to €35. Very useful for the short-term visitor who is planning to really get around the city. It is debatable how useful this type of ticket really is for the average visitor, however, given that most sights are near the centre. More info can be found here:
A single ticket costs €2.20 and can be used on buses, trams, the metro and the Ferrocarril. Not an economical option, but if the only time you’re going to leave the centre is to visit the Sagrada Familia, the best option.
A T-10 ticket will give you ten journeys and is the most common type of ticket sold in Barcelona. It costs €10.20 and will cover the journeys an average tourist will make during a trip to Barcelona. Recommended.
There are also jumbo tickets, such as the T-50/30 card, which gives you fifty journeys to be used within thirty days, or the T-mes card, which gives unlimited journeys for a month. The cost is €43.50 and €54 respectively, and surely overkill. Also, be careful: these tickets are just made of soft card and the ticket barrier will reject them if they get scrunched up. €54 for a piece of soft card!
The backbone of Barcelona’s mass transit system, and in most respects the only means of public transport a visitor should really need. Ideal for getting to a variety of sights and tourists attractions not found in the historical centre.
The main metro hub for the city centre is Placa Catalunya. Here, the red, green and yellow lines and intersect. It also has connections for the Renfe (national rail service) and the Ferrocarril train line.
The Green line can take you north to the charming and lively barrio of Gracia, or beyond it to Park Guell. The other direction will take you to Placa Espanya, and the gateway to Monjuic, and beyond that the Camp Nou, the largest stadium in Europe.
The Yellow line services some of the beaches farther north along Barcelona’s coast, which are more tranquil than the ones around the centre and definitely beyond walking distance. This includes Port Olympic, a base for many bars and restaurants. Beyond that, you have Parc del Forum, where festivals and concerts are held. Going the other way, the Yellow line will take you to near the Sagrada Familia.
The Red and Blue lines run horizontally, west to east, through the city, and do not touch on so many sights and attractions. From Placa Catalunya, the Purple line takes you straight to the Sagrada Familia.
Buses are slower and less direct than the Metro, and best used for short hops and navigating the lower hills of the city, where the Metro is more sparse. Given that most Metro lines generally head to the centre, if you want to head from one outer region to another, it can suck to have to go into the centre in order to do so. Buses are especially useful for going up Avinguda Diagonal, or getting to obscure addresses. They are, of course, more complicated to use, without a nice simple Metro map showing you their routes.
Generally speaking, however, the average tourist will have little use for taking a bus. The one exception is the V15 bus which runs down to the end of Barceloneta and takes you further down the beach.
Taxis are frequent and plentiful and usually reasonably priced. They are mainly just a tool of convenience, but in groups of four they start to make financial sense. Great when you’re in a hurry, and great for those hard-to-reach places, such as Monjuic, some beaches, and certain hotels and night clubs located away from the main tourist zones. Expect to pay around €12-15 for an average journey (on the metre).
Taxistas have seldom been known to take the circuitous route in order to dupe tourists and are generally trustworthy. They run all night and can be a good alternative for when you can’t even point your eyes in the same direction, let alone walk in one.
The Ferrocarrils de Catalunya
This is a specialist trainline separate from the Metro whose purpose for being separate is not really clear. It uses the same ticket and takes you to similar places as the Metro. Perhaps it’s an engineering issue.
It runs from Placa Catalunya northwards up into the hills and outwards into the commuter towns, bypassing most interesting sights. It’s mainly a commuter train. It can, however, take you up to near Mount Tibidabo and El Peu de Funicular.
The tram is most useful for taking you between Parc Ciutadella, the Torre Glories (the dildo building), and Parc del Forum. When stumbling out of some festival at the latter venue at 6am, it’s often the best way to get back to the centre. The bonus is that you don’t really need a ticket to use it (although of course you should).
You only want to take a real train if you’re going out of the city. For a short stay in Barcelona, this is not really necessary. But there are some lovely and beautiful beaches outside the city, to both the north and south. To the south there is the famous gay-friendly beach town of Sitges, well worth a visit, and beyond that the endless beach of Casteldefells (also where Messi and Suarez live and they are famous for welcoming visitors at their door). Going north you have several beaches away from the hectic city worth a visit, and the entire Costa Brava. This is a different holiday destination in its own right.
You’ll need a separate ticket to visit these places. Beware of using your T-10 – it may get you through the gates, but it may not open them at your destination. In this type of situation, just speak English, act confused and, so long as you have at least some ticket to begin with, they will only make you buy the correct ticket (no fine).