If you’re travelling To Barcelona from the United Kingdom or America it’s likely you’ll arrive by air. But flying is not the only option from within Europe. Since the advent of Spain’s high speed train, the AVE, Barcelona now has direct high speed rail links with Paris, Madrid, and the south of Spain. In fact the AVE has largely replaced the once frequent air shuttle between Barcelona and Madrid.
Barcelona is well served by the airport at El Prat, just 12 kilometres from Barcelona city centre. Capacity was dramatically increased with the opening of a new terminal in 2009, making it the fifth largest air terminal in the world.
Today the old terminal buildings are used primarily by low cost operators attracted by low landing fees, including EasyJet and Ryanair. Ryanair now uses Barcelona Airport as a hub to connect with many other European cities but still uses both Girona-Costa Brava Airport, and to a lesser extent Reus. Both these airports require a bus to transport you the final 100 kilometres into Barcelona.
To check your flight options check Kayak.com. The site compares different airlines, including the budget operators, to help you find your best option.
On landing at Barcelona Airport there are a number of options for getting into the city.
The bus is a convenient and low cost way to get into the city. There are a number of options though; the Aerobus runs every 12 minutes from both terminals direct into Barcelona and costs around €6 for a single ticket. Much cheaper is the regular TMB service, although it is not as frequent and lacks the dedicated luggage space as the Aerobus. And between 10 pm and 5 am you’ll have to use the night buses that run every 20 minutes from both terminals.
The railway station is right next to Terminal 2, but if you are flying into Terminal 1 you need to bear in mind the train is 4 kilometres away. To get there you can take the free shuttle bus to Terminal 2, which runs every 6 or 7 minutes throughout the day and takes around quarter of an hour. Every 30 minutes the bus also stops next to the station to coincide with the arrival of the train.
Taxis are readily available, but you may have to queue for some time, but check to see if there is another taxi rank with a shorter queue. There is a supplement and the minimum fee is €20. However, the cost will be more like €30 from Terminal 1 or €25 from Terminal 2.
The final two options are minibus shuttle and private transfer. You need to arrange either of these prior to travel. To really arrive in style check out the chauffeured limo service offered by AirportAndGo.
Until fairly recently the rail connection into Catalonia from France was fairly limited. That all changed with the opening of the high speed train, which stops at Figueres, Girona and Barcelona. Travelling at speeds of up to 300 kph, the AVE connects Barcelona with Madrid in as little as 2½ hours. And Paris is less than seven hours away.
Using the AVE requires pre-booking and is more similar to flying than taking the regular train. Airport style security checks are in place and so expect your baggage to be x-rayed prior to boarding. The big advantage over flying is that you travel direct from city centre to city centre. From Sants Station you can easily get a taxi to your hotel, or use the metro.
Although flights are cheap enough for most people to be able to fly to Barcelona, anyone who prefers to avoid flying may wish to travel by bus instead. Although options are fairly limited and it takes an entire day to get there, this remains an options for some.
There are a number of coach operators, including National Express.
By road you can reach Barcelona from France via the AP7 toll road. The city can also be reached from the south of Spain by the AP7 via Alicante and Valencia, while the city is reached from Madrid via Zaragoza and Lleida. The toll roads are pretty good but traffic can get heavy out of the city on Friday evenings and then back into the city on Sundays. Avoid these times if you can.
But while it is straightforward to drive to Barcelona, it is easier use public transport within the city. The metro, trams and buses are all relatively cheap and offer a much easier way of getting around without the cost or hassle of parking.
While just a decade ago Barcelona had no cruise industry to speak of, today some of the biggest cruise ships in the world dock in the cruise port. It is estimated that cruises bring in excess of €2 million revenue per day to Barcelona.
The cruise terminal is located at the bottom of Raval and a short distance from the Ramblas. Many people either start or end their cruises with a few days in Barcelona and need to travel from the cruise port to their hotel. The best option is to take a taxi.