Barcelona, City guide, Spain, Tips, Travel

What you need to know before visiting Barcelona

Essential city information that everyone should know before traveling to Barcelona.

This guide will include helpful tips and info covering all the things you need to know about Barcelona:

  • Barcelona facts
  • Arriving in Barcelona
  • Getting around Barcelona
  • Barcelona districts
  • Barcelona attractions
  • Catalan language basics
  • Average food & drink costs
  • Things to be aware of
  • Useful websites

What you need to know before visiting Barcelona. A travel guide by Seeking the Spanish Sun blog www.seekingthespanishsun.com

Barcelona city facts 

  • Barcelona is in the Catalonia (Catalunya) autonomous region of Spain
  • The languages spoken are Catalan and Spanish
  • The currency is Euro
  • It’s located in the North East coast of Spain on the Mediterranean Sea
  • The airport is called “El Prat” and receives over 40 million passengers per year
  • There are over 1.6 million residents
  • The coldest month is January (12-18°c) and the hottest August (27-31°c)
  • The port of Barcelona is the biggest cruise port in Europe
  • The works of the famous architect Antoni Gaudi are found throughout the city

Arriving in Barcelona 

By plane 

Barcelona El Prat airport is located South West of the city centre. It’s a large airport with 2 terminal buildings. The majority of flights arrive and depart at the newer T1. EasyJet and a few other low-cost airlines use T2.

The terminals are 4km apart and you must take the free shuttle bus to move between terminals if needed. It runs every 5-10 mins, 24 hours a day but be aware that the journey will be 10-15 mins.

To get to Barcelona city centre you have these options:

  • Airport metro: The Metro L9 stops at both T1 & T2. You will need to change at either Europa Fira or one of the subsequent stations to continue your journey. A single journey from the airport to Zone 1 city centre is €4.50. If you think you’ll be using public transport during your visit see below for more cost effective multi-use tickets.
  • Airport bus: The AeroBus goes straight from the Airport to Placa Catalunya at the top of La Rambla. It’s a very convenient way to get to Barcelona city centre without changing. There are 2 bus stops, one at T1 and one at T2 and they run separately into the city. Follow signs from arrivals to find the bus stop, there are tickets machines and staff selling tickets. Once the bus is full it departs and you might need to wait for the next one. A single journey costs €5.90 and its takes 20 mins. Check the AeroBus schedule for times
  • Airport taxi: There is a taxi rank outside both terminals and the registered cars are black with yellow doors. The journey will be metered to the city centre will cost approximately €25-30. Make sure you have some cash as not all drivers can accept card payment.
  • Airport train: Outside Terminal 2 there is a Renfe train station where you can get the train into Barcelona. Sants, Passeig de Gracia and Clot are all main train stations that are also connected to the metro. A single journey to Sants on the R2 costs €4.20 and takes 30 minutes.

By coach

Alsa run a coach service across Spain. If you’re going to Barcelona with Alsa you will arrive at either the airport Terminal 1 or the bus station at Barcelona Sants or Nord.

By boat

Barcelona is a major cruise port, if you are visiting as part of a cruise it’s very easy to walk or take a taxi into the city centre. There are 7 cruise terminals all located near the World Trade Centre. A cruise port bus will drive along each terminal to the Estatua de Colom (where the Christopher Columbus statue is) at the end of La Rambla.

By car

There are lots of good car rental companies across Spain and you can rent a car quite cheaply. Road conditions are very good quality and the drive is usually very scenic. If you drive into Barcelona be aware that the city centre gets very congested.

*RELATED article –  For more Spanish city break inspiration read The best cities to visit in Spain

Barcelona views

Getting around Barcelona 

Walking

It’s easy to walk around most of Central Barcelona. Just be aware that if you are heading up Monjuic or to Park Guell both are a pretty steep up-hill climbs. Also, if you are going to the beach anything past La Barceloneta will take around 45 mins to walk to.

Metro

A single ticket for the metro within Zone 1 is €2.20 and you can easily buy tickets from the machines. You can also get a Hola BCN! tourist card giving you access for 2, 3, 4 or 5 days. A 2-day card for example costs €15 and will allow you unlimited access to the metro and all other public transport, bus, train and funicular (cable car) plus access to the airport. The metro is a great way to get around the city and out to some of the further away attractions. It runs 24 hours Saturday-Sunday, stops at 2am on Fridays and at midnight on all other days.

Bus

The public bus network is very extensive and I think quite confusing (unless you are a local and already familiar with the routes). If the metro is not your thing and you want to take a bus check out the website below to get all the details. Or take the tourist bus, which allows you to hop-on-hop-off at tourist spots. The Barcelona Bus Turistic cost €30 for 1 day adult ticket.

Bike

There are a number of companies that rent bikes in Barcelona. Great if you feel like taking a bike ride down by the beach or through one of the amazing city parks. Its costs from €10 a day to hire a bike and some companies even run guided groups bike tours.

Taxi

There are taxi’s all over the city, either flag one down or head to a taxi rank. The main cluster of official ranks are at Plaça de Catalunya. All taxi’s are black with yellow doors. They are registered and metered, check for a photo license displayed just inside the window if in doubt.

Driving

I would not recommend driving yourself in Barcelona. It’s a very busy and congested city but a road trip along the beaches of Costa Brava or up to nearby Girona or Figures would be nice.

*RELATED article – For the perfect city itinerary read A weekend in Barcelona

Barcelona streets

Barcelona districts 

Barcelona is divided into districts, the main districts you will likely visit as a tourist are:

  • Ciutat Vella Eixample
  • Sants Monjuïc
  • Gracia
  • Sant Marti
  • Nou Barris
  • Sant Andreu

Barcelona attractions 

The must see sights in Barcelona are:

  • Sagrada Familia
  • Park Güell
  • Montjuïc
  • Font Magica
  • La Rambla
  • La Boqueria Market
  • Arc de Triomf
  • Barceloneta beach
  • Ciutadella Park
  • Palau de la Musica
  • Camp Nou Barcelona FC stadium
  • Port Vell

There are lots of awesome sights and activities in Barcelona. Check out this list of Top things to do in Barcelona for more inspiration.

Barcelona beach

Catalan language basics 

Spanish is spoken in Barcelona but you will find locals speaking Catalan.

Here is a few helpful words and phrases in Catalan – English.

Hola – Hello
Bon dia – Good morning
Grácies – Thank you
Si us plau – Please
De res – You’re welcome
Si – Yes
No – No
¿Que tal? – How are you?
Bé gràcies – I’m fine thanks
Disculpi – Excuse me
¿Parla Anglès? – Do you speak English?
No entenc – I don’t understand
Ho sento – I’m sorry
Adeu – Bye

Average food & drink costs 

Barcelona is a little more expensive than other parts of Spain. Try to steer clear of any of the typical tourist areas to avoid very steep prices. Prices will vary from place to place but this is a rough guide to give you an idea of the approximate costs:

  • Small bottle of water = €1
  • Coffee with milk = €2
  • Fresh juice = €2-4
  • Breakfast menu (croissant, coffee and juice) = €5
  • Ice cream = €4
  • Beer = €4
  • Glass of wine = €4-6
  • Cocktail = €8
  • Pinchos = €2
  • Tapas = €5-10
  • 3 course menu of the day “menu del dia” (usually including a drink) = €12-16

*RELATED article – Read all about Spanish seafood & Spanish tapas

Barcelona pinchos

Things to be aware of 

  • The tourist attractions can get very busy
  • Pre-book tickets for any attractions you want to visit and check if a time-slot has been allocated
  • There is lots to see and do so plan your time wisely and don’t be afraid to jump in a taxi or use the metro
  • Barcelona is a city with less than 50% Spanish nationals living there, so might not provide a traditional Spanish experience
  • Beware of pick pockets in busy areas and keep your valuables safe
  • If you go into a pinchos bar where food is out on the counter, its usually self-service and you save the little wooden sticks, to pay for what you ate at the end
  • There is lots of nightlife and late-night bars and clubs but no-one goes in them until after 1am
  • Touts will try to get you into their bar/restaurants, confirm any special offers or special advertised prices before you order

Useful websites

Barcelona Airport

Barcelona Metro and Bus

Barcelona tourist info

Here are some great guidebooks, I would recommend taking one with you on your trip to Barcelona…

Other Seeking the Spanish Sun guides you might enjoy reading…

Exploring the city of Girona

Common misconceptions about Spain

A quick guide to the different regions of Spain

The 10 most beautiful beaches in Spain

I just wanted to let you know that this page contains affiliate links. If you decide to buy something using one of these links, I will earn a small commission. Don’t worry that’s at no extra cost to you but it does help to fund our travels and keep the website running. Thank you!

17 thoughts on “What you need to know before visiting Barcelona”

  1. A very useful insights for people who want to visit Barcelona. And I was surprised that the city isn’t too cold in the winter and isn’t too hot in the summer.

    Like

  2. This is a great guide! I especially like the tips about the Metro Cards. The tourist card is for unlimited rides during that time frame, right? Also, great tip to pre-buy tickets! It’s great to skip those lines.

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    1. Yes, the Hola BCN tourist card gives you unlimited access to all public transport, during the time frame including the airport… which is great! If you don’t think you’ll be using public transport that much you can get a single use or 10 journey metro ticket.

      Like

  3. I love Barcelona, it will always have a piece of my heart. A useful piece of information to note is that you can buy a T-10 ticket at the airport to use for 10 journeys on the metro, buses and trams, including the train journey from the airport – it is definitely worth it if you plan to use the metro a few times while you’re in town, and it can be used for multiple people too.

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  4. I’ve been wanting to visit Barcelona for some time now. A ton of really useful information in this post. I will definitely be aware of pickpocketing in crowded areas and I’ll probably take the train from the airport into the city 🙂

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  5. This is indeed a great guide to Barcelona. In fact perfect for first-time visitors to Barcelona with really invaluable information. I love the fact that you have covered all aspects ranging from getting around Barcelona to language and food.

    Like

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