A local like me is still learning the Barcelona public transport system.
I can only imagine what tourists feel like stepping into the city cold turkey. The variety of options for getting around Barcelona can get downright confusing.
Let us depart on a journey together then shall we?
Here’s your guide to mastering the city’s public transit, seeing what you need to see, and most of all saving money using discount transport cards.
1 – The metro
2 – Bus + night buses
3 – Taxis + ride sharing
4 – Hop on hop off bus
5 – Cable cars + funicular
6 – Scooter rental
7 – Bicycles
8 – Which discount transport pass?
9 – Airport transport
10 – Transport zones
Barcelona Public Transport
First off some advice: standard zone 1 single tickets go from €2.20 and up. It’s possible to cut this price in half by getting yourself an all-inclusive discount transport pass.
If you’ve got any questions about the passes write me in the comments below for custom advice.
The metro is fast, efficient, and air-conditioned.
With 8 lines it’s almost impossible not to find a station near your apartment or hostel. You’ll always find access for people with disabilities. It’s intuitive and easy to navigate so basically… just take it!
Trains run every 2 to 3 minutes. On weekends you may wait 4 to 5 minutes for your train while nights after 10 o’ clock it runs at 7-8 minute intervals.
Barcelona Metro Map:
Complimentary maps are found in the stations as well as being plastered pretty much everywhere else. If you’re prone to getting lost make sure you pick one up.
You can also grab your Barcelona metro map in advance online.
Barcelona Metro Hours:
- Sunday to Thursday from 5 am to 12 am.
- Friday from 5 am to 2 am.
- Saturday from 5 am and open all night.
Barcelona City Bus and Night-Buses
In Barcelona buses and night buses cover the entire city grid. It’s a great mode of transport because it allows you to see some of the city’s top attractions up close.
Keep in mind though there are some downsides:
- You need an advanced sense of direction!
- It’s slower than the metro.
- You may have to stand.
- Without a Barcelona transport card each ride will cost you €2.20.
Barcelona’s red buses run every 8-15 minutes from 5 am to 10 pm depending on the line. At night you’ll find the yellow nit bus (night bus) which runs every 20-30 minutes.
This website will help you find your bus but be careful setting the filters before your search.
Starting from January 2017 all Barcelona buses should have free wifi – but don’t expect supersonic speeds.
I’m happy to report that taking a taxi in Barcelona is remarkably simple.
On main streets I rarely wait more than a minute. Barcelona taxis are black and yellow and a green light indicates a cab is available while a yellow light indicates they’re taken.
Prices are affordable. Consider €8.00 to €15.00 as the average price for rides within the city.
From the airport to the city center you’ll be charged about €35.00 to €40.00. Every driver must use a meter but it’s possible that at the end of the ride you’ll be charged a slightly higher price.
There may be an extra charge applied for rides to the airport, large luggage, or night fares.
Starting in 2017 another transport option is to use Barcelona’s taxi booking app MyTaxi.
Never before has booking one of the city’s regulated black and yellow taxis been so easy – it’ll save you time hailing cabs and the odds of being taken for a ride are zero since the route is preplanned, like Uber.
Downloading the app is also a great chance to take advantage of my €5.00 reader discount. Simply insert the code “ashley.pil” upon sign up and you’re set to go.
For more information see how to sign up with MyTaxi.
The Tourist Bus
The best transport to see Barcelona if you detest walks or are traveling with kids.
This hop on hop off bus counts three different lines and will take you to pretty much every main attraction in the city. The roofless upper deck is a great place to get some sun and soak up the 360 degree view.
The free audio guide and app will make you a Barcelona expert in no time. And there’s WiFi.
Prices start at €26.10.
For more information read my article on Barcelona’s famous Bus Turístic.
Cable Cars and Funicular
Montjuïc Cable Car
With unspoiled views from 184 metres above the city, the open-air architecture museum Poble Espanyol, and its famous castle no trip would be complete without a trip up Montjuïc and this is a great way to do it in style!
Float 84.5 metres above the city and take in the incredible city views as you ride the Montjuïc cable car. The 750 metre run leaves from Avenida Miramar and stops at Montjuïc park and Montjuïc Castle.
Unfortunately the Montjuïc cable car isn’t included with any Barcelona travel card: a return ticket costs €12.50 per for adults and €9.00 for children between 4 and 12.
If you buy tickets online Ticketbar will give you a 10% discount.
Just print out the vouchers that they email you and head straight for the cable car. To get there you’ll need to take other transport options like the funicular, the Bus Turistic, or bus #150.
Port Vell Cable Car
Not to be mistaken with the Montjuïc cable car, even if this one takes you on a magical ride high above Barcelona as well. This one was built in 1926 and its distinctly ‘antique’ cars are a dead giveaway of this.
It isn’t included in any of the travel cards either and has the disadvantage of being sold solely in person – you’ll have to line up at ticket counters to go. Tickets cost €11 one way and €16.50 return. Consult their departure schedules online.
The Port Vell Cable Car leaves from the Torre de San Sebastién, a few steps away from the beaches of Barceloneta and stops halfway at Torre di Jaime I (the port) and continues to Avenida Miramar at the foot of Montjuïc.
The Montjuïc Funicular
The good news? It’s valid with any Barcelona travel card. You won’t get a view since it’s more like a type of covered metro that slowly moves uphill, but we’re taking this for value anyway.
The funicular is caught at Parallel (green line L3) metro station and leaves you at Avenida Miramar where the Montjuïc cable car leaves.
Update: the Montjuic Funicular will be closed for maintenance works from November 5th till the early spring.
Barcelona Scooter Rental
Can’t you just imagine yourself cruising around all Mediterranean-like by renting a scooter?
Cooltra is the highest ranking scooter rental agency on Tripadvisor and is known for its reliable service and rigorous safety and inspection standards. And you can get one for as little as €25.00.
Booking your scooter using my discount code ‘BARCELONAHACKS’ gets you a €10.00 discount.
With a climate so mild getting around by bike is not only possible but suggested. The benefits of renting a bike in Barcelona are as follows:
- It’s good exercise.
- Better for the environment.
- There are more than 200 km of bike lanes to take advantage of.
- It gives you access to streets unreachable by public transport.
- Prices start at just €5.00.
For the cheapest and most reliable service with flexible rental windows check out my article on Barcelona bike rentals.
Careful: the red and white bikes you’ll spot around the city (Bicing) are only for residents.
Barcelona Transport Tickets
To figure out which Barcelona travel card is right for you I’ve made a list below – so you can spend more time planning a real Barcelona itinerary than worrying how you’re gonna pay for the bus.
These all-inclusive Barcelona public transport tickets include access to the following:
- City buses.
- Ferrocarril (overground rail services).
- Transport from the airport to the city center.
- The Montjuïc funicular (not to be confused with the Montjuïc Cable Car).
Keep in mind if you’re traveling outside zone one (rare since zone one is massive) you’ll need to pay extra. Those of you with kids? You’ll be happy to know kids under four travel free.
The Hola BCN Card
The Hola BCN card is a discount tourist travel card with unlimited travel. You won’t have to worry about buying new tickets. It comes with a 48, 72, 96, or 120 hour validity and prices vary from €14.25 to €33.25.
You can buy your Hola BCN card online from the Barcelona Tourism Office and pick it up at either airport terminal or in Plaça Catalunya. Just print out the vouchers or show it on your smart phone.
If you buy in advance online you’ll save 5%.
The Barcelona Card
This one is for more than just getting around and that’s why I’ve dedicated an entire article to this popular Barcelona travel card.
On top of unlimited travel it also includes free entry and discounts on attractions, museums and other activities. If you’re here for culture or shopping or both this one is highly recommended.
Like the Hola BCN this card comes with a 48, 72, 96, or 120 hour validity and prices range from €18.00 to €54.00.
If you buy in advance online you’ll save 10%.
The Online City Pass
On top of this you’ll get return tickets on the best Barcelona airport transport with Aerobus, a one or two day pass on the Bus Turistic, and 20% discounts to virtually every main attraction in Barcelona including restaurants, museums, flamenco shows, and more.
It also gives you 20% off the Hola BCN public transport pass.
It’s the only ticket that allows you to have the whole holiday planned from the comfort of home – all the tickets including the 20% discounted ones can be bought online which means no lines.
The mother of Barcelona public transport tickets among residents.
This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right one for you. T-10 tickets cost €10.20 and include 10 public transport rides with a 1 hour and 15 minute validity.
This card is not valid for the metro from the airport. The T-10 ticket doesn’t expire and is ‘interpersonal’ meaning a group of friends can share the same ticket by stamping it once for every person traveling. It can be bought at every metro or train station.
A comparison? The mathematics say if you’re going to travel more than six times a day (very probable) the Hola BCN is the transport card to get.
Transportation From the Airport
One of the most common questions I get is how to get from the airport to the city centre.
The main options are the Aerobus, the metro, the bus, and the airport train from Terminal 2. The metro is more suited to residents on the outskirts and is not connected to the centre.
The other options run to Sants Estacio, Plaça de Espanya, Plaça d’Espanya, and Passeig de Gracia.
I suggest looking at my article on airport transport to find the right one suited to you.
Barcelona Public Transport Zones
With 6 zones covering nearly 300 different towns things are a bit confusing at first.
The good news? The odds of you going outside zone 1 are virtually zero unless you’re going to beach side towns like Sitges. None of Barcelona’s major attractions are found outside this area.
Check out this Barcelona public transportation zone map just to be sure.
Get at Me in the Comments Below
You must be exhausted after all that reading, how did you find it?
Let me save you even more time – if you’ve got any questions about travel cards, Barcelona public transport, or anything else regarding your holiday in Spain get at me now in the comments below.
Also don’t be afraid to join the Barcelona transport discussion in my new Facebook group called I’m Off to Barcelona – here you can ask any questions, air out grievances, chat with fellow travelers, and more – anything goes!