Barcelona, home to FC Barcelona and capital of the autonomous community of Catalonia, is a traveler's paradise for all the right reasons. Officially the second most populous city in Spain, Barcelona is perhaps best known for showcasing the now renowned works of Antoni Gaudi and Lluís Domènech i Montaner. Apart from the many, many UNESCO World Heritage sites that dot the Barcelona landscape, there are tons of other things that'll delight tourists, including beautiful beaches, mild climate and most importantly a robust public transport system.
Now, you might be wondering just why did public transport system rank so high up in the list of things Barcelona has got going for it. The answer is pretty straightforward. When traveling to a new, likely foreign destination on a budget, having access to a well-planned public transport system is a godsend. You won't have to worry about spending extravagantly on travel within the city and you can also take advantage of the sightseeing tours available to better explore the city. On a more human level, there's something uniquely charming about exploring a city like a true local, hopping on buses and figuring out which train station would be closest to your destination. Sold on public transport? Here's everything you need to know about the Barcelona public transport system.
Understanding The Barcelona Public Transportation System
Like we mentioned, Barcelona has an enviable public transport system and this tight network features many options for you to travel around the city. Most popular amongst these are the subway, trains, buses, and trams. In addition, there are local trains, sightseeing trains, night buses, cable cars, funicular railways and many other means of transport. While there are many companies operating these modes of transport, most of them are part of the Autoritat del Transport Metropolita, commonly referred to as ATM. The Metropolitan Transport Authority handles everything from figuring out new routes to zeroing in on a centralised fare system.
If you're visiting Barcelona for the first time, getting the hang of the complex transport network can be challenging. From purchasing multiple tickets during the day to opting only for select rides if you have picked a regular day pass, there are many things to consider with an individual ticket buying approach. Enter, the Hola BCN Pass. This handy pass grants you access to all of Barcelona's public transport options, including trams, buses, metro, FGC city network, trains and more! Here's all you need to know about using the Hola BCN Pass.
Going From The Barcelona-El Prat Airport To The City Center
Landing at the Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport? Here are some easy ways you can reach the city centre from the airport:
The fastest way to reach Barcelona city centre from the airport would be the Aerobus. Featuring two separate lines that connect T1 and T2 with Placa Catalunya, the buses stop at Sepulveda-Urgell and Placa d'Espanya.
The Barcelona underground metro network connects to both the airport terminals via line L9 Sud. The metro stops inside the building at terminal 1 and outside the building at terminal 2.
The train station is located in terminal 2 and trains run from the airport to the city centre every thirty minutes. You can get off at Barcelona Sants, Passeig de Garcia or Clot, as all three stations are serviced by the underground metro network.
If you're in a hurry to leave the airport, opting for a taxi would be your best option. Taxi stops are located in front of both terminals 1 and 2.
Barcelona Public Transportation
Here are the different modes of public transportation in Barcelona, with easy hacks and tips to make the best of it. Read on and travel like a local.
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Established in 1924, the Barcelona Metro features a dense and well-connected network of 12 lines and over 160 stations. Operated by two companies, Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya (FCG) and Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB), the metro is one of the most popular means of transport in the city. The most obvious reason for that is that the metro runs independent of road traffic, followed by the relatively pocket-friendly cost. Here's a brief breakdown of the metro lines currently active and their first and last stop:
- L1: Hospital de Bellvitge to Fondo
- L2: Paral.lel to Badalona Pompeu Fabra
- L3: Zona Universitaria to Trinitat Nova
- L4: Trinitat Nova to La Pau
- L5: Cornelia Centre to Vall d'Hebron
- L6: Plaça Catalunya to Sarrià
- L7: Plaça Catalunya to Avenida Tibidabo
- L8: Placa Espanya to Molí Nou-Ciutat Cooperativa
- L9: Aeroport T1 to Zona Universitaria and La Sagrera to Can Zam
- L10: La Sagrera to Gorg
- L11: Trinitat Nova to Can Cuias
- L12: Sarria to Reina Elisenda
Monday to Friday: 5:00 AM to 12 AM
Fridays and Evenings before a public holiday: 5:00 AM to 2:00 AM
Saturday Night: No Interruptions
Sunday Night: Until Midnight
Often described as the backbone of Barcelona's local transport system, the TMB buses have a massive 230 lines currently running. These red and white buses can get you to any corner of the city and the best part is that they don't cost a bomb! Another great thing about the TMB bus system is that since 2007, all the buses in the fleet are wheelchair accessible.
To identify which bus you're supposed to take, take a look at the bus lines that are scheduled to stop at the bus stop you're waiting at. Figure out which line goes to your destination and wait for the bus to come to the stop. TMB buses display their line numbers on top of the front panel making it pretty easy to spot. You can opt for buses if you have a lot of time in hand and wish to explore the city peacefully. Buses in the TMB fleet operate at different times, depending on the route. A notice board with timetables of the buses that stop there is available at all bus stops. Generally, buses ply between 5:00 am to 22:00 pm.
NitBus (Night Buses)
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Since the Barcelona metro and bus services don't operate throughout the night, there's a great alternative you can rely on. Barcelona features a robust network of night buses that will get you back to your accommodation no matter the time. All the night bus lines, except N0, stop at Placa Catalunya and change there. The N0 is a special line that allows you to circle around the city centre and change to any other night bus. If you wish to go to the airport, take a bus on the N17 line. The NitBus lines are operated by AMB, a private operator, which is why the Hola BCN ticket and Barcelona Card are not accepted. There are no officially defined operating hours of the Barcelona NitBus and the actual starting and ending time depends on the route. Generally, most buses in the night routes run from 22:00 to 05:00.
Featuring two networks spread over almost 30 km of track and 6 lines, the Barcelona tram is a great way to travel to and from the outskirts of the city centre to the nearby towns. Ideal for a day trip to some of the unexplored yet wonderfully charming towns that dot the Barcelona outskirts, the tram is an old school mode of transportation that brings with an undeniable charm. The present two tram systems, Trambaix which runs through the western part of the city and Trambesos, which connects to the eastern part of the city. Each of these systems has three individual routes each and the systems are scheduled to be interconnected via the Avinguda Diagonal in the next phase of construction. You can expect a tram to arrive at a particular station around four times in an hour. Each tram stop features a ticketing machine where you can buy your ticket for £2.20. Do remember to validate your ticket upon boarding the tram.
Monday to Thursday: 5 AM to 12 AM
Friday: 5 AM to 2 AM
Saturday & Sunday: Continuous Operations
Suburban Railway (Rodalies)
If you're planning a 1-2 day escape from Barcelona and venture to some of the city's equally fabulous neighbours, opting for the suburban railways network might be your best option. Known as the Rodalies de Catalunya or Rodalies, the railway system houses a total of 17 lines, serving a whopping total of 203 stations. Rodalies is the official rail network of Spain and operated by Renfe Operadora. Tickets for these trains are available at all Rodalies station and the cost depends on the starting point and destination. With over 1000 trains running daily over a well-connected network, there's really no place in Spain you can't get to via a Rodalies train.
If you prefer a slightly more convenient mode of transport, there are upwards of 11,000 taxis available in Barcelona. Easily identifiable by their black and yellow colour, these taxis will take you to wherever you want to go as long as they have a green light on their roof! There are around 260 taxi ranks in the city where you can easily hail a taxi. There's a standardised fare system set for the taxi network in Barcelona, making it easy for tourists to get around. The fares are divided into four categories, namely T1, T2, T3, and T4. The T1 fare is valid on weekdays between 20:00 to 08:00 while fare T2 is valid from 08:00 to 20:00, again on weekdays. The T3 fare applies for trips taken outside the urban area and the T4 fare is valid only for trips outside Barcelona. Taxis are also available for wheelchair users and people with reduced mobility.
Best way to get around Barcelona
There's really no objective response to what the best way to get around Barcelona is. It all depends on what your expectations are from the experience among other important things like time and budget. For instance, if you're short on time and need to get around the city quickly, the subway would be your best bet. The underground subway network avoids the city traffic and gets you to your destination in no time. But, you really won't get to explore the city if you opt only for the subway since the track and stations are all underground. On the other hand, buses and trams allow for a more laid-back travel experience. You can discover the sights and sounds of Barcelona at your own pace aboard a bus or a tram. Both these modes of transport traverse the entire city and offer you the perfect opportunity to truly explore everything Barcelona has to offer.
For a mode of transport that allows for sightseeing and also saves time, you can opt to travel via train. The Barcelona train network is very intricate and will get you to all of the city's major landmarks. Again, there's no official best way to travel in Barcelona. You have tons of options to choose from and depending on your objectives, you can make your pick.
Barcelona Transport Passes
Given the intricate transport network that Barcelona is home to, you can bet there are many variations of transport passes available for your perusal. Here's a brief look at some of the most popular ones (and why we think the Hola BCN trumps them all) :
- Single Ticket: This one isn't really a pass but given that it's a one-way ticket that is accepted at all transport systems, it deserves a spot on this list. Costing only €2.15, this ticket is valid for a one-day journey without any transfers and is accepted at the subway, trams, suburban trains or any of the various buses plying throughout the city. You can get your one-way single ticket in any ticket office or from any of the vending machines located outside the subway stations. Alternatively, you can also purchase the ticket from bus drivers.
- Barcelona Card: Amongst the most popular choice for tourists is the famed Barcelona Card. Apart from unlimited access to the city's public transport options, the card offers its holder numerous discounts on entrance fees of Barcelona's many epic landmarks. There are also many landmarks and museums you enter for free if you hold a Barcelona Card. Attractions, where you can enter free of cost, including the Monastery of Pedralbes, Torre de Collserola, Musea Blau, Botanical Gardens and many others! Discounted entry attractions include the iconic Sagrada Familia, La Pedrera and more! The Barcelona Card is available in three variants, 3-Day, 4-Day and 5-Day.
- T–10: The T–10 travel card grants tourists a 10-journey ticket and allows for up to three transfers as well. The card is available in 6 variants, divided into 6 zones with each zone having a different validity time. Here's a breakdown of all the variants:
- Zone 1 travel card costs €10.20 and is valid for 1:15 hours
- Zone 1 travel card costs €10.20 and is valid for 1:15 hours
- Zone 2 travel card costs €20.10 and is valid for 1:30 hours
- Zone 3 travel card costs €27.40 and is valid for 1:45 hours
- Zone 4 travel card costs €35.25 and is valid for 2:00 hours
- Zone 5 travel card costs €40.50 and is valid for 2:15 hours
- Zone 6 travel card costs €43.05 and is valid for 2:30 hours
The great thing about the T-10 travel card is that it allows up to 10 people to use a single card to access four types of transport options! This card is also perfect for tourists who are planning on staying in the city for extended periods of time.
- Hola BCN: We have saved the best for the last and you'll see why! The Hola BCN travel card offers unlimited access to Barcelona's public transport, including the metro between the city centre and the airport and vice versa. The latter is a definite highlight since none of the above passes offers airport connectivity. If you're wondering which means of transportation are covered under the Hola BCN pass, here's the lowdown; buses run by TMB, trams, FGC network, metro lines, and RENFE suburban trains. Explore the enchanting city of Barcelona at your own leisurely pace with this convenient travel pass that allows you to discover Barcelona like a true local. Depending on the duration of your stay, you can opt for a 2 Day, 3 Day, 4 Day or a 5 Day pass! The unlimited access remains the same for all these day passes and you can use the pass as many times in a day as you wish!
Tips & Hacks
- The T-10 allows you to change transport in a single trip as many times as you wish, as long as you reach your destination within 75 minutes. For instance, you can take a bus to the city centre for a journey of 15 minutes and then take a 20-minute metro to the beach. Both these trips will be counted as one ride and not two. Take advantage of the T-10 pass by planning your travels to fit the 75 minutes time frame.
- Given that there are so many transport options to choose from, your final selection depends on your personal expectations and goals. Want the scenic route to your destination? Opt for the bus. Need to get to a place ASAP? The trusty metro will get you there!
- Planning is essential to the success of any trip. When you have a fair idea of how each of your days is supposed to pan out, you can actively work towards figuring out just how to get there. Route maps and other information for Barcelona's transport system is available online. Once you know where you are headed for the day, use this information to figure out the most optimum way of getting there.
- If you have a bit of time in your hands and a desire to truly explore Barcelona in all its glory, we would recommend the Hola BCN travel card. There's really no better way to explore the city than this! If you're not the kind to plan your trip in advance, this pass is especially great since you can change plans on the fly and take the appropriate transport without paying extra!