Exploring the Gràcia neighborhood in Barcelona

Guest post by Linda Martinez

Barcelona has been on my radar for a long time so when a good friend from Bali asked me to meet up with her there for a few days in December, I couldn’t resist.  As I do in all new cities we visit, I checked Context Travel’s site to see if they had any tours going on while I was in town.

It’s amazing how many savvy travelers I know still have an outdated concept about walking tours.  Sure, there are still the huge groups with the person in front leading the crowd around with an umbrella.  Context’s tours are the complete opposite of this experience.  Think instead of a small group of no more than 6 people and visiting the city with a friend who is an art historian, archaeologist, etc. who is passionate about their field and who has all kinds of inside and interesting information about the place you’re visiting, its residents and the culture.  This is what you’ll experience on a Context tour.

I was staying in the Gràcia neighborhood and my friend was moving to Barcelona and was interested in that neighborhood as a possible place to live. She was leaving the planning of our couple of days together up to me, so I decided on Context’s tour:  “Gràcia and the Spirit of the Catalan Independence”.  Our docent was local Biel Heredero, a young native of Barcelona who is an art historian very active in the local arts scene and extremely knowledgeable about Catalan history and culture.

Our tour started at on the steps of the Virgen de Gràcia Sant Josep church.  This church built in 1626 gave the Gràcia area its name.


The majority of the works of architect Antoni Gaudí are in Barcelona and the association between the two is very strongly linked together.  However, we learned that he was not the only Modernista architect around.  The beautiful Casa Ramos was designed by Jaume Torres I Grau in 1906.  The Estelada – the flag of the Catalan separatist movement – hangs everywhere in the Gràcia neighborhood which many would consider the revolutionary heart of Barcelona.

Casa Ramos


My friend and I both wanted to see some Gaudí buildings though, but we were more interested in some of his lesser known buildings.  Biel did not disappoint and took us to see Casa Vicens – Gaudí’s first important work built between 1833-1888 and a residence for the owner of a tile & ceramic factory so the reason for all the tiles covering the building.  Since tile was an expensive material to use as decoration, not only was the tile easily accessible to him as a tile manufacturer, but it also showed off his wealth to the outside world.  Apparently the inside is just as beautiful, even more so according to our docent Biel, and Casa Vicens will be open to the public in 2016.

Casa Vicens


Plaça del Diamant is where there are entrances to underground bunkers that were in use during the Spanish Civil War and can be viewed by appointment.  There is also the bronze statue of Colometa, the protoganist in the 1962 novel by Mercè Rodoreda, “La Plaça del Diamant” translated into English as “The Time of the Doves” – the most famous Catalan book ever published and a must read/rite of passage for all school kids in Barcelona.


Continuing our walk in the Gràcia we encountered another Modernista building in Plaça de la Virreina which shows a style unique to Modernista architecture – sgraffito.  Sgraffito was a form of wall decoration in the 18th century that involved scratching through a top layer of plaster to reveal a different layer of color below. There is lots of attention to detail including tile mosaics on the underside of the balconies.


On we went to Plaça dela Revolucio.  In this square we found beautiful painted tiles formed into a hopscotch pattern – known as xarranca in Catalan.  This figure shows the various characters and elements that make up the annual La Mercè or Festa Major de Gràcia street festival – a huge festival celebrated every August in the Gràcia neighborhood that features competitions between various streets in the neighborhood, workshops, activities, and parades with the biggest parade of the festival featuring the Gegants (giants), the Castellers (the human towers), the Caps Grossos (big heads) and the Dracs (dragons).


In a building facing the clock tower at Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia, you can view some of the huge papier mache heads and figures that make up the Gegants and  Cap Grossos (Giants & Big-Heads).


In the center of  Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia is the symbol of the Gràcia neighborhood – this clock tower built in 1862 survived bombings from federal troops when the Gràcia neighborhood attempted secession in the late 1800′s.  The neighborhood has always been and continues to be a hotbed for Catalanism and dissension.


Despite its serious revolutionary history and vibe, the Gràcia really impressed me as a peaceful oasis in a sprawling city.  Kids played in the streets and the squares, couples and groups of friends hung out in cafes and families strolled or sat and chatted.  There were lots of great restaurants and there is a definite “green” ethos to the neighborhood with lots of organic markets, shops and restaurants.  As a vegetarian, eating was easy for me here despite the meat and fish heavy tendency of cuisine in Barcelona.  In fact, two of the best meals I had were in this neighborhood:  a vegetarian paella at L’Arrosseria Xàtiva and at La Pubilla, a restaurant where absolutely every dish had meat in it, the chefs whipped together a special dish not on the menu that was made with egg, mushroom and vegetables and was mind-blowingly delicious.  For that dish alone I’d come back to this neighborhood, but despite that the Gràcia is definitely an area of Barcelona worth spending a lot more time in.

Places to Stay:

Cross-Pollinate properties in the Gràcia neighborhood:

Studio Maignon

The following properties are in the southern part of the Gràcia neighborhood bordering the L’Eixample neighborhood:

Passeig de Gràcia Suite 34

Passeig de Gràcia Penthouse 51

Passeig de Gràcia Terrace 42

Passeig de Gràcia Residence 33

Linda, along with her husband Steve, is the owner of The Beehive Ho(s)tel in Rome.


What to See on Barcelona’s Montjuïc Hill

by Jessica Infantino Trumble

Many people who visit Barcelona may overlook Montjuïc. Often overshadowed by the over-the-top Modernista sights that the city is known for, Montjuïc offers visitors a respite from the tourist-filled streets, not to mention a great view of the city. What’s event better is that many of the sights on Montjuïc are free, making for an affordable and laid back day of sightseeing in Barcelona.

While Montjuïc has everything from recreational areas to museums, many of the sights that remain today are a result of 2 major events – the 1929 Worlds Expo and 1992 Summer Olympics.

A Fortification High Above the City

Long before these 20th century events, the hill was anchored by the Montjuïc Castle. Not your typical castle, the star-shaped fortress dates back to 1640 has served as a defensive fort, a prison, a military museum (which was inaugurated in 1963 under Francisco Franco) and now a municipal facility.

Only the shell of the original structure remains, but the Montjuïc Castle is still a worthwhile sight to explore, especially for its commanding views overlooking Barcelona and its harbor. And if you happen to visit in the summer, you can catch a movie in the moat during an open-air film festival at the castle.

Barcelona as the World’s Stage

The 1929 Barcelona International Exposition put Montjuïc on display for the world to see. This was Barcelona’s second go at hosting the Worlds Expo (the first was in 1888), and Montjuïc was chosen as the site because of its availability of space.

Planning began in 1905, led by Modernista architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch, targeting 1917 for the event, which was postponed more than a decade due to World War I. As you may expect, the Worlds Expo had a huge urban impact throughout the city – buildings were remodeled, metro lines were extended and the funicular that is still used today to reach Montjuïc was constructed in anticipation of the event.

That year, 20 countries participated in the Worlds Expo, each with a dedicated week to “show off”. While many of the pavilions and sights were never intended to be permanent and were torn down shortly after the event, a few exceptions remain today.

Starting at the top of the hill, the Palau Nacional was the grand exhibition hall for the event and is now home to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC) with an impressive collection of art from the 10th to the 20th century. As you descend down the hill, notice the grab bag of architectural styles and elements, from the neoclassical columns (representative of the Catalan flag) to the Venetian towers that flank the entrance of the exhibition area (modeled after St. Mark’s in Venice). Even Plaça d’Espanya at the bottom of the hill drew its influence from St. Peter’s in Rome.

The Barcelona Pavilion designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe housed the German exhibition during the Worlds Expo. This decidedly modern building is one of the most significant pieces of architecture from the 20th century, promoting the idea that “less is more”. Simple in form, the structure includes a “floating roof” and furniture that Mies van der Rohe designed himself. Like other pavilions, the original structure was torn down but later rebuilt in the 1980s following Mies van der Rohe’s original design.

By contrast, the elaborate CaxiaForum across the street is an example of Barcelona’s Modernista architecture designed by Puig i Cadafalch. Formerly a textile factory, it now serves as a free museum and cultural center. Other sights that remain from 1929 include the Magic Fountain, with nighttime water and light shows that still wow crowds, and the Spanish Village that was designed to show off different styles of the country’s architecture. When you reach the bottom of the hill, you won’t be able to miss the Las Arenas Bullring, which was turned into a shopping mall after bullfighting was banned in Barcelona in 2010.

Let the Summer Games Begin

The 1992 Summer Olympics was a good excuse to spruce up Montjuïc for a new wave of visitors. In fact, the site was chosen because it already had a stadium that was originally built for the 1929 Words Expo.

In fact, the site was chosen because it already had a stadium. Originally built for the 1929 Worlds Expo (for games between the participating nations), the Olympic Stadium was also intended to host an anti-fascist alternative to the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which never happened due to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. It was also used as a staging area for cars during the Spanish Grand Prix in Montjuïc in 1975.

The exterior you see today is original, but the interior was completely rebuilt to accommodate 65,000 spectators for the 1992 games, and the stadium has since been served as a venue for events ranging from football to concerts. Fun fact: Michael Jackson performed a concert at the stadium as part of his Dangerous Tour in 1992.

Other sights in the “Olympic Ring” include indoor arenas, swimming and diving pools, as well as the 446-foot tall Communications Tower. Designed to resemble the body of an athlete, the tower was used to broadcast coverage of the games around the world. The 1992 Olympics hosted athletes from 169 countries and was such a hit that Barcelona soon became one of the most visited cities in Europe after Paris, London and Rome. Also nearby is the Olympic and Sports Museum, celebrating the 1992 games and Olympic history, and the Fundació Joan Miró contemporary art museum dedicated to Barcelona’s homegrown artist.

Getting There and Around

There are several different ways to reach Montjuïc, whether you choose to start at the top and work your way down or vice versa. Most of the sights are within walking distance of each other, but there are also several bus lines (#50, #55 and #193) that run through Montjuïc.

  • Take the L2 or L3 metro line to the Paral-lel stop, then follow the signs along the path to reach to reach Montjuïc Castle (it’s about a 15 to 20 minute uphill walk). Alternatively, you can take the Montjuïc Funicular (covered by your metro ticket) from the metro station to the top of the hill.
  • Take the L1, L3 or L8 metro line to the Plaça d’ Espanya stop, which drops you off at the entrance of the Worlds Expo area.
  • Alternatively, there’s also an aerial tramway (which was intended to be a tourist attraction for the Worlds Expo but didn’t open in time) that runs across Port Vell between Montjuïc and Barceloneta. While a little pricy, it is a novel way to reach the hill with great views as you cross the water.

For more useful tips about Barcelona from Jessica, check out these posts, from her blog:

Modernista Barcelona in 6 Hours

Rambling Down La Rambla in Barcelona

Barcelona Neighborhood Guide

by Amy Knauff

If you’re trying to decide where to stay during your trip to Barcelona, keep reading for an overview of the most central neighborhoods. And keep in mind my personal rule of thumb (though absolutely not a hard-and-fast rule!): if you’re there for just a couple days, better to splurge and stay somewhere very central so you can make the most of your time and avoid any time wasted on public transport (efficient though it may be). If you’re staying for a longer period of time (say, 4 days and up), stay somewhere a little less central and a little more residential: you’ll save money and you’ll get to know the “real” city and not just the touristy parts.

The Ciutat Vella (Old City) is basically the historic center, which is subdivided into a few different neighborhoods – Gothic Quarter, El Born/La Ribera/Sant Pere, La Rambla.

These are the most central neighborhoods of Barcelona. If you stay in the Gothic Quarter, El Born/La Ribera/Sant Pere, or La Rambla, you will be within walking distance of most tourist sites and you’ll only have to take public transport to get to the Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, or Montjuïc. If you’re into walking, you can also easily get to the Manzana de la Discordia in L’Eixample. El Raval and Barceloneta are also central, but slightly less so, so you may use the metro a little more often if you stay in either of these areas.

Barri Gòtic (the Gothic Quarter) – this is the very oldest part of Barcelona. It has the ruins of an ancient Roman wall and the medieval Jewish quarter. You’ll find the Cathedral as well as Plaça Sant Jaume with City Hall and Plaça Reial (my favorite square in Barcelona!). Fairly new restrictions on accommodations in this area have forced many to close or move; you will find some here but not as many as you might think.

Where to stay in this neighborhood – The Codols Flat


El Born/La Ribera/Sant Pere – there is a confusing mess of names for this neighborhood (three of which I’ve mentioned above): the areas referred to overlap one another, or are different names for the same area. But for our purposes, we’re talking about the neighborhood on the other side of via Laietana – the main artery that basically cuts the old city in half — from the Barri Gòtic. El Born (more or less the lower part of the neighborhood) is now a very trendy area with lots of restaurants, bars, and boutiques. The upper part of the area is a little more traditional and less touristy. This area is home to the Picasso museum, and is close to the Arc de Triomf and the lovely Parc de la Ciutadella. There are more accommodations here than in the Barri Gòtic, but they’re still limited simply due to space constrictions.

Where to stay in this neighborhood – San Augustì Flat


La Rambla – also referred to as Las Ramblas, this is the big tourist strip of Barcelona. While you’re on or near La Rambla, you must be viligant about watching your wallet or bag because pickpocketers abound. La Rambla runs from north to south starting at Plaça de Catalunya and ending at the port, and divides the Barri Gòtic and El Raval neighborhoods. La Rambla itself is a tourist trap – but an interesting, not-to-miss one. A stroll down it to see the human statues and performers, and the flower, bird, and souvenir stalls, is obligatory. But I don’t recommend eating or drinking anything at the restaurants/bars: I’m sure it makes for good people-watching, but the arm and leg you will be charged is not worth it. As far as accommodations, right on La Rambla and the Plaça de Catalunya you’ll mostly find expensive hotels.

Where to stay in this neighborhood – Apartamento Boqueria


El Raval – the neighborhood on the other side of La Rambla from the Barri Gòtic. It used to have a very bad reputation as being seedy, dirty, rundown, and even dangerous (think: prostitutes and drug dealers). However, since Barcelona got cleaned up for the 1992 Olympics, like the rest of the city, it’s been revitalized. These days it’s an up-and-coming trendy, artsy, bohemian, multicultural neighborhood, full of interesting night spots and bars. Here you’ll find the MACBA (Modern Art Museum of Barcelona), the Boqueria market, and the Rambla del Raval (don’t miss the fat-cat statue!). The lower area close to the port is still more rundown looking with some litter and graffiti. More and more tourist accommodations are opening up in El Raval, from hotels to B&Bs or private apartments.

Where to stay in this neighborhood – Lleó Flat


Barceloneta – If you’re looking at a map of the city, this is the small area that juts off the bottom of Barcelona on the east side of the port. It used to be a working-class area populated mostly with fishermen and their families; today it’s a mix of local families who have been there for generations, expats, and tourists. The grid-pattern streets are narrow and in the more traditional parts of the neighborhood you’ll see laundry strung out to dry on lines stretching across the street.  Closer to the water and in the squares, you’ll find some of the best seafood and paella restaurants in the city. The city’s most popular Barcelona beach is here, and you can walk up and down the boardwalk to get to other beaches. Smaller tourist accommodations, mostly rental apartments, are in this area and especially popular in the summer.

Where to stay in this neighborhood – Natalie’s Barceloneta Flat


The following three neighborhoods are very central, though less so than the historic center. They’re all well-connected by metro and bus so you can very easily get anywhere you need to. L’Eixample is a mix of touristy and residential, being the closest of the three to the Old City. Gràcia and Sagrada Familia are the least touristy and will give you the most genuine what-it-feels-like-to-live-in-Barcelona experience.

L’Eixample – locals further narrow this neighborhood down to “L’Eixample Esquerra” (left-hand side) and “L’Eixample Dreta” (right-hand side), but it’s all part of the same residential neighborhood just north of the historic center. The main thoroughfares are the Passeig de Gràcia, the Rambla Catalunya, the Gran Via Corts Catalanes, and the Avinguda Diagonal. L’Eixample is a mix of residential apartment buildings, offices, businesses, stores, bars, and restaurants. Here you’ll find the most important Modernista buildings, including Gaudí’s La Pedrera and Casa Batlló. The neighborhood is also packed with tourist accommodations (hotels, B&Bs, rental apartments).

Where to stay in this neighborhood – Zoo Rooms


Gràcia – north and a little to the east of L’Eixample. This area is absolutely adored by young Barcelonians and expats alike. Once a very traditional neighborhood, you’ll still find older locals mixed in with the artsy, bohemian types who are flocking here. You won’t find many “tourist sites” in this area, but its charming streets and squares filled with terrace (outdoor) bars offer good nightlife and food, and the interesting little shops are great for a not-so-touristy souvenir to take home. Being less touristy than the historic center of neighboring L’Eixample, you will find accommodations here, but not nearly as many.

Where to stay in this neighborhood – Angie’s Gràcia Attic Guestroom


Sagrada Familia – here we’ve got another confusing neighborhood-name issue. The Sagrada Familia is technically in L’Eixample, but tends to be referred to anyway as its own neighborhood. Also, nearby neighborhoods that are within walking distance of the Sagrada Familia have their own names – for example, Hospital de Sant Pau, Guinardó, or Clot – but for clarity purposes here I’ll just refer to the whole thing as “Sagrada Familia”. The main tourist site in this area is, obviously, Gaudí’s magnificent Sagrada Familia Basilica, and there’s not much else there in the way of tourist attractions. That means most tourists stay in other areas and take the metro out to see the Sagrada Familia. Besides the few blocks around the basilica, the area is mainly residential, with shops, businesses, and restaurants. Like Gràcia, you’ll find some tourist accommodations (as you will all over Barcelona) but not as many as the more central neighborhoods mentioned earlier.

Where to stay in this neighborhood – Apartamento Los Wiwoos


It’s worth mentioning that there are, of course, plenty of other neighborhoods in Barcelona, although they aren’t as central as the ones mentioned above, and are less frequented by tourists. For instance, we work with some properties, like Anita’s B&B, in the Sant Gervasi area (kind of far out near Tibidabo mountain, but with an amazing view of the city), Poble Sec (a residential neighborhood close to Montjuïc), and the Olimpic Port area (a kind of industrial-looking residential neighborhood, but super close to the beaches and Barceloneta). If you’re considering accommodation in an area that’s not mentioned above, just take a look at the map of Barcelona: if it falls within the boundaries of a tourist map, or if it’s close to a metro stop, you’ll be just fine.

Some notes on Barcelona’s fantastic public transport system:

-The metro is extensive, with 11 different lines going throughout the city and into the surrounding areas. There are close to a hundred bus lines which also cover places the metro doesn’t quite get to.
-In my experience, the buses and metro are clean and safe, and staff is pretty helpful.
-The metro is super easy to navigate; ticket machines are self-evident (and you can choose English), and there are maps everywhere clearly indicating where you have to go. The bus system is a little trickier, but if you get a bus map or ask the driver or a local, you’ll get where you want to go.
-Both the metro and buses run until late. You can easily get back to your accommodations after a late dinner and a leisurely stroll around the city. If you’re planning on partying into the night, you’ll probably need to grab a taxi back (which is cheap in Barcelona).
-Both buses and metro are rather efficient. Metros go by every few minutes, with wait times updated to the second on screens over the platform. Buses go by pretty frequently too and you can use your smartphone to easily get wait time updates.

If it sounds like I’m raving… well, maybe I am just a tiny bit. After years of living in Rome, the public transport system in Barcelona really is impressive to me. The point, though, is that it’s so easy to get around the city at almost any time of day that you can really stay anywhere you want. You’re not confined to the historic center because it’s too much of a pain to get back and forth from other areas, as you are in some big cities. This, in turn, means that accommodations are spread out all over the city rather than just being concentrated downtown. In fact, from my experience and research, it seems that the residential L’Eixample neighborhood has more hotels, B&Bs, and rental apartments than the historic center does.

Barcelona – City of Chocolate

by Amy Knauff

This is probably going to sound crazy (or obnoxious), but I’m currently living in a Central American country with a tropical climate and… I miss autumn! I can just picture readers out there glaring mental daggers at me, or getting ready to submit this post to whitewhine.com. Don’t get me wrong, having beach weather almost year-round is pretty awesome. But autumn has been my favorite season my whole life, so when I see friends posting pictures on Facebook of gorgeous red-gold-orange-yellow trees, sidewalks filled with satisfyingly crunchy leaves, and trips with their kids to pumpkin patches or apple orchards, I can’t help getting a little nostalgic for my old East Coast autumns.

And the food! Don’t get me started on the food I’m missing… those hearty comfort foods that can only be truly enjoyed and appreciated when it’s chilly outside. The ham stews and pumpkin pies of my childhood. And from my years living in Italy, roasted chestnuts, pasta with funghi porcini, truffles. And one of my favorite cool-weather, warm-you-up treats? Hot chocolate!

Actually, I find chocolate in general much more satisfying when in cool weather. As I sit here in the tropics sweating and being bitten by mosquitos, I don’t really crave melty, messy, super-sweet chocolate (try a refreshing fresh-squeezed lemonade instead). But oh, when it’s gray and bitter outside, nothing gets those endorphins moving like a gorgeous dark chocolate truffle.

My European friends tell me that the cool weather has finally hit there. It’s nearly November, summer is well and done by now, and it’s time to really embrace the fall and everything that comes with it. If you’re visiting Barcelona around this time, I cannot emphasize enough that you should not miss all the delicious chocolatey treats you’ll find around the city.

I always knew that chocolate con churros was famous in Barcelona — and on my first visit I made sure to try the thick, gooey hot chocolate accompanied by fried churros sprinkled in sugar. It was the perfect rainy December afternoon merinda. (It’s also a favorite post-discoteca snack in the wee hours of the morning among young Spaniards, much like a trip to a 24-hour diner in the US, or a cappuccino and freshly baked cornetto in Italy.)

But it wasn’t until I took Context Travel’s “City of Chocolate” tour last time I was there (oh god! a whole tour about CHOCOLATE!) that I realized the importance of chocolate to Barcelona. When thinking about chocolate in Europe, Switzerland or Belgium probably pops into your mind: but it turns out that Spain was actually the first place that chocolate arrived in the Old World, when Columbus brought back unprocessed cacao beans with him into the port of Barcelona. In fact, after taking the chocolate tour, I suddenly started seeing chocolate shops and granjas (cafés that specialize in chocolate and sweets) all over the place when I hadn’t even noticed them before.

The “City of Chocolate” tour is led by Esther, a native Catalana with perfect English, who met us near the port and led us around the city for about 3 hours, ending in the Eixample neighborhood just north of the Old City. Context keeps their tours small (my group only had 5 people), which means you can get to know each other and the guide during the tour, easily ask questions, and the guide can personalize the tour a bit based on what the group seems to be interested in.

During the 3 hours Esther mixed a good amount of chocolate history and culture in Barcelona with interesting tidbits about the city, commenting on things as we walked, both chocolate-related and non-. I learned odds and ends that I wouldn’t have from a guidebook, like:

-the Columbus statue in the port is meant to be pointing to the New World, but it’s actually pointing in the wrong direction

-the bronze plaques you see on the ground in front of some stores signify that it’s an historic food shop

-thick, bitter hot chocolate drinks were used to keep sailors energetic, full, and warm during long trips (without weighing the ships down with too much food)

-the street performers on Las Ramblas actually have to audition and get permits to perform there

But of course the most fun part of the tour is the tasting. Esther brought us to Granja Dulcinea, one of the oldest granjas in the city, where we sat down and tried hot chocolate with melindros (a ladyfinger-like cookie) as well as a bottled cold chocolate drink called Cacaolat (which kind of looks like a Yoo-Hoo… remember those?).

We stopped in three chocolate shops later on in the tour — first at one of the oldest ones of the city (with one of those historic plaques in front), Fargas, where we saw a piece of old-fashioned chocolate-processing machinery and lots of different kinds of classic chocolate bonbons. Esther picked out several different flavors for each of us to taste-test as we walked along to our next tour stop. The second tasting stop was at a sweets store/café on Las Ramblas, filled with interesting, trendier chocolate designs and combinations, where we tried chocolate-covered mint leaves and bright red chocolate lips. Our final stop at the end of the tour was a modern, elegant shop filled with gorgeous, perfectly arranged chocolate bonbons of all different types, both classic flavors and unusual ones (ginger, Caribbean lime, strawberry-champagne, etc). Everybody on my tour was so chocolated-out by then that we all opted to take our chocolates away to have later, once we’d come down from the sugar high.

The “City of Chocolate” tour is a must-do for chocolate lovers like me. (By the way, there’s also a chocolate museum in Barcelona — not included on the tour — that looks like it’d be worth a visit: www.museuxocolata.cat) If you’re not a chocolate fanatic, Context Travel offers plenty of other tours you can choose from — on food, art, architecture, history, and even tours geared towards kids — in Barcelona and in 15 other European cities, 4 US cities, and 2 Asian cities. Visit their website www.contexttravel.com for details.

Getting in and out of Barcelona

by Amy Knauff

EL PRAT AIRPORT:  This is Barcelona’s main airport, located very close to the city. Most flights come into here. It’s very well-connected and easy to get to and from town by here by public transport or taxi:

The quickest and most convenient way to get to or from El Prat is, of course, via taxi. They don’t have ‘flat rates’ but run by meter; however, taxis in Barcelona are not too expensive and, depending on where you’re going, it may cost you around €20-30. You should note that in addition to the price you see on the meter, there is a surcharge for luggage (€1 per piece) and weekend nights (€2.10). It takes about 20-30 minutes to get into town via taxi.

This is by far the cheapest way to get into town, and it’s actually very easy! It’s the cost of a regular public transport journey, so if you buy, for instance, the T-10 ticket that you’ll use around Barcelona in the machine at the airport, just stamp it in the turnstile and then get onto the train into town. The train stops at major points in Barcelona like Clot, Passeig de Gràcia, or Sants Estació. From these points, there is a metro station connected and you can take the metro to wherever you need to go; otherwise, you can exit the station and grab a taxi for the rest of your journey. The train runs from 6 am to 11 pm every 30 minutes. The trip is about 30 minutes or so. If you’re leaving Barcelona to go to the airport, the stop on the train you want is “aeropuerto”.

You can take the aerobús A1 to/from Terminal 1 or A2 to/from Terminal 2. The stops are: Plaça de Catalunya, Sepúlveda-Urgell, and Plaça d’Espanya. The bus runs from 5:30 am to 1 am daily, about every 20 minutes. This is also takes about 20-30 minutes, depending on traffic. A one-way ticket costs €5.30.

GIRONA AIRPORT:  This is quite far outside of Barcelona, farther up the coast. Many low-cost flights (Ryanair etc) fly into this airport.Barcelona Bus
This is the best and most convenient way to get into Barcelona city from Girona-Costa Brava airport. It takes about 75 – 90 minutes. Buses leave according to flight schedules, so you’ll always be able to get to/from the airport in time for your flight. The drop-off / pick-up point in Barcelona is the Estació d’Autobusos (bus station) at Estació del Nord. From there, you can connect to the metro to get to where you’re going, or take a taxi from outside the station. Tickets cost €15 one-way or €25 round trip. You can check out the exact schedule on http://www.sagales.com

You can take a train from the Barcelona Sants train station to Girona city center. It takes about 70 minutes. The train tickets can cost from anywhere to about €7.50-€20.00 depending on what train you take. From Girona city center, you’ll need to take either a bus or a taxi to the airport. The bus takes about 25 minutes, leaves every hour, and costs €2.15 one-way or €4.10 round trip. A taxi from Girona city to Girona airport would be about €20.00. This is more expensive and complicated than the Barcelona Bus, so this would ONLY be worthwhile if you wanted to make a visit to Girona city.

Rental car
You can hire a car at the airport and drive down the coast to Barcelona. This is more expensive and will take you longer (especially if you’ve never driven in Spain before!) but this could be a good option if you want to stop at some different beaches along the way and make a day of it. Otherwise, if you just want to get directly to Barcelona, this is not a good option. At Girona airport, you’ll find a Hertz, Avis, and Europcar rental offices. We recommend calling ahead of time to check prices and also to make sure you can drop off your car in a different place than you picked it up.

The two main train stations in Barcelona are the Estació de Sants and Estació de França. From both of these, you can connect to the metro easily to get to other places in the city. There are also bus stops close by, and you can catch a taxi from outside the station if you wish.  If you come into Barcelona by bus, you’ll probably be dropped off at one of these train station as well.