As Spain's second-largest city after Madrid, Barcelona teems with no shortage of things to see and do. Getting from one place to the other in a city this size can seem challenging to first-time visitors. Throw in the unfamiliar Catalan place names, and things are seemingly complicated even further.
But although it seems complicated at first, Barcelona's public transportation system is a cheap, easy and efficient way to get around town. It's a much better option than renting a car, and although the city is quite walkable, sometimes catching the metro or a bus can save you valuable time.
How to Ride the Barcelona Metro
Here in Barcelona, the most popular way to get around town is via metro.
Operated by TMB (Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona), locals tend to prefer the metro for its easy-to-use system, low fares, and frequency of trains.
Metro stations are usually indicated by red and white signs bearing an M. Once inside the station, purchase a ticket from the electronic machines (instructions are available in Catalan, Spanish, English and French), and use it to pass through the turnstiles.
Barcelona Metro Fast Facts:
- Cost: €2.20 for a single ticket. €10.20 for a 10-journey pass, known as a T10 (allows rides on all public transportation in Barcelona)
- How to pay: Cash or card at the ticketing machines
- Hours of operation: Monday–Thursday 5 a.m.–midnight; Friday 5 a.m.–2 a.m. (Saturday morning); weekends 5 a.m. Saturday–midnight Sunday
- Transfer information: At the transfer station, follow the signs indicating where to board the train for your final destination. Once you arrive, exit the station as normal.
- Accessibility: As of September 2019, only 14 of Barcelona's 159 metro stations have not yet been adapted for users of reduced mobility. Steps are being taken to make all stations accessible as soon as possible.
Start planning your journey using the Barcelona metro system's online route planner.
Riding the TMB Bus
Buses in Barcelona are another easy way of getting around town, with the added bonus of getting to see the city pass by as you ride. TMB, the same company that runs the Metro, also operates the bus system.
Bus stops in Barcelona are either shelters or poles displaying the numbers of the bus lines that stop there. As your bus approaches, wave to the driver to indicate that you'd like to board.
Once on the bus, be sure to validate your travel pass (such as the T10 card) if you have one; if not, you can buy a ticket from the driver for €2.20. The largest bill accepted is 10 euros.
When your stop is approaching, press the red button to signal the driver. Exit the bus through the rear doors.
Check the TMB website for full information about how to take the bus, including operating hours.
The Rodalies Commuter Rail
Rodalies is the suburban train network throughout Catalonia. Its stations are identified by a white R against an orange background. This is an especially great transport option for taking day trips from Barcelona.
Information about the trains, including schedules and routes, is available on the Rodalies website.
Barcelona's Tram System
The tram network in Barcelona is not very extensive at this point, but it's a great way to explore beyond the city center. There are six tram lines and nearly 30 kilometers of track. Visit the Barcelona tram website to learn more.
Getting To and From El Prat Airport
- Metro: The L9 Sud line stops at both terminals. Tickets cost €4.50.
- Aerobús: Connects both terminals with Plaça Catalunya. Tickets cost €5.90.
- Train: The L2 train currently only stops at Terminal 2, though plans are in place to add a stop at Terminal 1 as well. It's accessible in Barcelona proper at the Passeig de Gràcia, Sants, and França stations. Pricing information can be found on the Rodalies website.
Taxis in Barcelona
Official Barcelona taxis are painted black with yellow doors. They can be found at taxi ranks all over town, or you can call one at +34 933 033 033.
Renting a Car
While renting a vehicle can be a great way to explore further-afield parts of Catalonia, it's not really an ideal way to get around Barcelona. The sheer number of people and vehicles in the city can make it difficult to get around, other drivers seemingly treat traffic laws as mere guidelines, and finding a decent, centrally located parking spot (that's not in an expensive garage) is next to impossible. Our advice: save yourself the money and frustration.
Bike Sharing in Barcelona
Bicing, Barcelona's bike-sharing program, has become a popular method of public transportation in the Catalan capital.
With more than 6,000 mechanical bikes and 800 electric bikes available to rent, it's a quick and efficient way to get around town. It's also easily integrated with other modes of public transportation in Barcelona, with docking stations conveniently located near metro stations and bus stops.
Tips for Getting Around Barcelona
- Barcelona is a generally safe city, but petty crime such as pickpocketing is common on public transportation. Watch your belongings and be aware of your surroundings at all times, especially on crowded metros and buses.
- Always keep small bills and coins on you in order to pay for public transportation. Oftentimes drivers won't be able to give change for large bills, and ticketing machines won't accept them, either.
- Walking can be an extremely rewarding and enjoyable way to see the city. Barcelona is incredibly pedestrian-friendly, and most of its major sights are concentrated into one area that's easy to navigate on foot.
- As in any major city, public transportation in Barcelona can get very crowded during both the morning and evening rush hours. Plan accordingly or consider an alternative method if you're on a tight schedule.
- If you're visiting in the summer, you'll likely want to check out one of the famous Barcelona beaches. But don't limit yourself to crowded Barceloneta just because it's close to the city center. Instead, hop on public transportation and head further afield—you'll likely have a much more pleasant experience, and find yourself surrounded by locals rather than tourists.