- After Madrid, Barcelona is Spain’s busiest international transport hub. A host of airlines, including many budget carriers, fly directly to Barcelona from around Europe. Ryanair also uses Girona and Reus airports (buses link Barcelona to both).
- Most intercontinental flights require passengers to change flights in Madrid or another major European hub.
- Iberia, Air Europa, Spanair and Vueling all have dense networks across the country.
- Barcelona's main airport is El Prat, with the majority of international flights arriving here. In addition, there are two other airports in nearby cities, which are used by some budget airlines.
El Prat Airport
Barcelona’s El Prat airport lies 17km southwest of Plaça de Catalunya at El Prat de Llobregat. The airport has two main terminal buildings: the Terminal 1 and the older Terminal 2, itself divided into three terminal areas (A, B and C).
Arrivals In T1, the main arrivals area is on the 1st floor (with separate areas for EU Schengen Area arrivals, non-EU international arrivals and the Barcelona–Madrid corridor).
Departures In T1, boarding gates are on the 1st and 3rd floors.
Tourist Information The main tourist office is on the ground floor of Terminal 2B. The other on the 1st floor of T1 operates the same hours.
Left luggage There are offices in both terminals.
Lost luggage Offices can be found in the baggage claim halls of both terminals.
The A1 Aerobús runs from Terminal 1 to Plaça de Catalunya (30 to 40 minutes depending on traffic) via Plaça d’Espanya, Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes (corner of Carrer del Comte d’Urgell) and Plaça de la Universitat every five to 10 minutes from 5.35am to 1.05am. Departures from Plaça de Catalunya are from 5am to 12.30am and stop at the corner of Carrer de Sepúlveda and Carrer del Comte d’Urgell, and at Plaça d’Espanya.
The A2 Aerobús from Terminal 2 (stops outside terminal areas A, B and C) runs from 5.35am to 1am every 10 minutes and follows the same route as the A1 Aerobús.
Fares on both services are €5.90/10.20 single/return. Buy tickets on the bus or from agents at the bus stop. Slower local buses (such as the No 46 to/from Plaça d’Espanya and two night buses, the N17 and N18, to/from Plaça de Catalunya) also serve Terminals 1 and 2.
Mon-Bus has regular direct buses (which originate in central Barcelona) between Terminal 1 only and Sitges (€7.10, 25 minutes, half-hourly). In Sitges, buses depart from Passeig de Vilafranca next to Parc de Can Robert.
Plana has services between the airport and Tarragona (one way/return €15/25), along with Reus, Port Aventura and other nearby southwest coastal destinations.
A taxi between either terminal and the city centre – about a half-hour ride depending on traffic – costs around €25. Fares and charges are posted inside the passenger side of the taxi; make sure the meter is used.
Train operator Renfe runs the R2 Nord line every half-hour from the airport (from 5.42am to 11.38pm) via several stops to Barcelona's main train station, Estació Sants, and Passeig de Gràcia in central Barcelona, after which it heads northwest out of the city. The first service from Passeig de Gràcia leaves at 5.08am and the last at 11.07pm, and about five minutes later from Estació Sants. The trip between the airport and Passeig de Gràcia takes 27 minutes. A one-way ticket costs €4.20.
The airport train station is about a five-minute walk from Terminal 2. Regular shuttle buses run from the station and Terminal 2 to Terminal 1 – allow an extra 15 to 20 minutes.
Girona-Costa Brava Airport
Girona-Costa Brava airport is 12km south of Girona and 92km northeast of Barcelona. You’ll find a tourist office, ATMs and lost-luggage desks on the ground floor.
A taxi ride into Girona from the airport costs €20 to €26. To Barcelona you would pay around €140.
Regular Renfe train services run between Girona and Barcelona (€8.40 to €12.25, around 1¼ hours). Speedier Avant trains get there in 38 minutes (one way €10 to €17).
Reus airport is 13km west of Tarragona and 108km southwest of Barcelona. The tourist office and lost-luggage desks are in the main terminal building.
Barcelona has ferry connections to the Balearic Islands and Italy. Boats depart from the port just south of the old city.
Passenger and vehicular ferries operated by Trasmediterránea to/from the Balearic Islands dock around the Moll de Barcelona wharf in Port Vell. Information and tickets are available at the terminal buildings along Moll de Sant Bertran, on Moll de Barcelona and from travel agents.
Fares vary enormously according to season, how far in advance you book and whether or not you want a cabin. Fares for a Butaca Turista (seat) from Barcelona to any of the islands typically start around €60. Cabins for up to four people are also available on overnight standard ferries.
Grandi Navi Veloci runs high-speed, luxury ferries three (sometimes more) days a week between Genoa and Barcelona. The journey takes 18 hours. Ticket prices vary wildly depending on season and how far in advance you purchase them. They start at about €80 one way for an airline-style seat in summer, and can be bought online or at Trasmediterránea ticket windows. The same company runs a similar number of ferries between Barcelona and Tangier, Morocco (voyage time about 26 hours).
Grimaldi Ferries operates similar services from Barcelona to Civitavecchia (near Rome, 20½ hours, six to seven times a week), Livorno (Tuscany, 19½ hours, three times a week) and Porto Torres (northwest Sardinia, 12 hours, daily).
Barcelona is well-connected by bus to other parts of Spain, as well as to major European cities.
- Much of the Pyrenees and the entire Costa Brava are served only by buses, as train services are limited to important railheads such as Girona, Figueres, Lleida, Ripoll and Puigcerdà.
- Various bus companies operate across the region. Most operate from Estació del Nord, but Hispano-Igualadina and TEISA do not.
- Hispano-Igualadina buses depart from Estació Sants, which is also Barcelona's main train station. TEISA buses depart from a stop in on Carrer de Pau Claris in L'Eixample.
Long-distance buses leave from Estació del Nord. A plethora of companies service different parts of Spain; many come under the umbrella of ALSA. For other companies, ask at the bus station. There are frequent services (20 or more daily) to Madrid (seven to eight hours), Valencia (four to 4½ hours) and Zaragoza (3½ hours) and several daily departures to distant destinations such as Burgos, Santiago de Compostela and Seville. Fares vary hugely depending on what time of day you travel and how far in advance you book.
Eurolines (www.eurolines.es), in conjunction with local carriers all over Europe, is the main international carrier. Its website provides links to national operators; it runs services across Europe and to Morocco from Estació del Nord, and from Estació d’Autobusos de Sants, next to Estació Sants Barcelona.
Car & Motorcycle
- Vehicles must be roadworthy, registered and have third-party insurance.
- Ask your insurer for a European Accident Statement form, which can simplify matters in the event of an accident.
- A European breakdown assistance policy is a good investment.
- EU national driver’s licences are accepted, as are those from some other non-EU countries (like Switzerland). Otherwise, an international driving licence is a good idea.
The AP-7 autopista (tollway) is the main toll road from France (via Girona and Figueres). It skirts inland around the city before proceeding south to Valencia and Alicante. About 40km southwest of Barcelona, the AP-2, also a toll road, branches west off the AP-7 towards Zaragoza. From there it links up with the A-2 dual carriageway for Madrid (no tolls). Several other shorter tollways fan out into the Catalan heartland from Barcelona.
As a rule, alternative toll-free routes are busy (if not clogged). The A-2 (often signposted NII) is the most important. From the French border it follows the AP-7, drops south from Girona to the coast and then southwest into Barcelona, from where it heads west to Lleida and beyond.
- Train is the most convenient overland option for reaching Barcelona from major Spanish centres like Madrid and Valencia. It can be a long haul from other parts of Europe – budget flights frequently offer a saving in time and money.
- A network of rodalies/cercanías run by Renfe serves towns around Barcelona (and the airport).
- Frequent high-speed Tren de Alta Velocidad Española (AVE) trains between Madrid and Barcelona run daily in each direction, several of them in under three hours.
- Most long-distance (largo recorrido or Grandes Línias) trains have 1st and 2nd classes (known as preferente and turista). After the AVE, Euromed and several other similarly modern trains, the most common long-distance trains are the slower, all-stops Talgos.
- A trenhotel is a sleeping-car train with up to three classes: turista (seats or couchettes), preferente (sleeping car) and gran clase (for those who prefer to sleep in sheer luxury!).
- The main train station in Barcelona is Estació Sants, located 2.5km west of La Rambla. Direct overnight trains from Paris, Geneva, Milan and Zurich arrive here.
- From here it's a short metro ride to the Ciutat Vella or L'Eixample.
- Estació Sants has a tourist office, a telephone and fax office, currency exchange booths open between 8am and 10pm, ATMs and left-luggage lockers.