Barcelona is a great city to explore at any time of the year, but if you’re seeking maximum activity visit between June and September when the main festivals take place (ranging from the music and multimedia Sonar Festival in mid-June to traditional Catalan human towers and local music at the Virgen de la Mercè on 24 September). Be aware that many shops and restaurants close for 2 weeks in August. If you can’t stand the heat come in May or October, and avoid December to February if you don’t like the cold - Barcelona can get surprisingly wet and chilly in winter.
Note: flight, boat, train and bus timetables change constantly, and airlines come and go, so please do not rely solely on this information for your travel planning. Check with relevant companies, or a flight search engine like Skyscanner, first.
Barcelona’s El Prat airport (14km from the city centre) is Spain’s second largest and has schedule, charter and budget links to most other European countries, the US and South America, as well as domestic flights to all major Spanish cities.
From the UK:
The flying time is approximately 2 hours. Services include:
Ryanair also flies from London Stansted, London Luton, East Midlands, Glasgow Prestwick, Bournemouth and Birmingham to Girona Airport (a 1-hour drive from Barcelona - the airline puts on a coach) and from Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, London Luton and London Stansted to Barcelona Reus (again an hour’s drive from Barcelona).
From elsewhere in Europe:
From within Spain:
There are flights from most other Spanish airports, including those in Mallorca and the Canary Islands, with Iberia and Air Europa .
From North America:
There are flights from Newark with Continental Airlines, from Atlanta and New York (JFK) with Delta Airlines and from Miami with Iberia. Air Canada operates services from Toronto Pearson and US Airways runs seasonal flights from Philadelphia. From other cities in the US and Canada, the quickest option is normally to fly via London with one of the airlines listed above.
From the rest of the world:
Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways and Royal Jordanian have flights from many Asian and Australasian destinations via their respective hubs.
From the Airport:
Trains run every 15-30 minutes to Sants (the city’s main rail terminal) and Passeig de Gràcia (a hub for metro and local train routes). The Aerobus service to Plaça de Catalunya in the city centre runs every 15 minutes and takes about 30 minutes. A cab fare to a city centre location should cost no more than €50.
For those with a fear of flying or a passion for trains, an interesting alternative is to go by train from London or mainland European cities to Barcelona, via Paris. The mid-afternoon Eurostar from London to Paris catches the sleeper from Paris, arriving in Barcelona early the next morning. Alternatively, there’s a spectacular daytime option departing London early in the morning, changing in Lille and Montpellier and arriving in Barcelona in the evening.
Trains from France arrive at Estació del Nord, on metro line 1 (the Arc de Triomf stop); trains from most Spanish destinations, including the high-speed AVE train from Madrid, go to Sants station (on metro lines 3 and 5).
For more information see www.seat61.com.
Despite Barcelona’s size the city centre is quite compact, with many of the main sights lying within a short stroll of each other, and the metro is fast and efficient - though make sure you keep an eye on your valuables. There’s also a modern tram system reaching out to the suburbs, though it’s unlikely to be of much use to visitors, and a network of local trains run by TMB and national Spanish rail (RENFE). Fares are generally cheap, but if you’re planning on spending a few days in the city it’s worth getting a T-10, which is valid for 10 journeys (including buses and trams) and can be shared by 2 or more people, or a Barcelona Card, which can be used across all public transport for up to 5 days.
It’s unlikely you'll need a car, but if you want to hire one to explore the countryside around Barcelona then see our car rental recommendations.