Maps etc section
Apartment section
Places section
Miscellaneous section



My Barcelona 2013 trip diary, and links to all of the pictures I took, is here.

If you just want to see all of the pictures I took, all full-size on one big web page, go here (lots of big pictures, will take a while to load, your browser may not like it, may be a bad idea).

My 2014 trip: diary; all pictures.
My second 2014 trip: diary; all pictures.
My 2015 trips: diary; all pictures.
My 2016 diary: diary (also Budapest, Rome); all pictures.



Maps etc









When to go:

May to June, and September to October, are best.
July and August are hot and humid;
August is the major vacation month in Europe.

WeBarcelona weather

I went for the months of May and June, in both 2013 and 2014, and the weather was lovely the whole time. Almost always sunny, usually just cool enough to make walking comfortable. A few too-warm days, a few hours of rain here and there.

Barcelona's time zone is 6 hours ahead of East Coast USA.



The Metro is the easiest way to get around the city:

Metro map.
The Metro is run by two separate companies, so some maps may have only half of the information.

You may need buses or suburban trains to reach some places. And buses run along most city routes every few minutes.

From Wikitravel's "Barcelona":
... A one-journey ticket cost €2, so it's best to buy a multi-person 10-ride ticket for about €10 for Zone 1, which includes most tourist areas (called a T-10) or a personal 50-ride monthly ticket for €37. These tickets are also valid on the buses, trams, FGC (Catalan Railway Network) and on the main Spanish Trains (RENFE). ...

... Metro operating hours are: Sunday and M-Th 0500 to 2400, Fri 0500 to 0200, Saturday 24 hr (continuous service from Saturday at 0500 until Sunday at 2400). ... [If the Metro is closed, use the Night Buses.]

... Pay attention to the fact that to get from metro lines operated by TMB (1,2,3,4,5, 9/10 and 11) to the ones operated by FGC (6,7 and 8), or vice versa, you need to exit and then enter through a new pay-gate. In this case, if you had a one-journey ticket, you need to get a new one. If you used a multiple-journey ticket (such as the popular T-10 ticket - the one that locals use the most) you won't be charged for a second time when changing lines (as long as you are within the stated travel time for a single journey). ...

Most of the Metro stations have 2 or more exits, often widely separated. So it's easy to be disoriented when you get up to street level. Inside the bigger stations, you may have a long walk from the entrance to the platform you want.

Once you insert your T10 card, all buses and Metro trips within next 75 minutes count as one trip, except if you insert your card into another Metro entrance. That starts another 75-minute trip. In other words, you get only one Metro card-insertion per trip.

Metro sounds: Metro-ProximaStationeArcDeTriomf.mp3, Metro-ProximaStationeHospitalSanPau.mp3

1925 Metro map
The buses are pretty easy too:
Get a free bus route-map at Tourist Info in Placa Catalunya.

Use your T10 card in the buses.

On major roads, there may be two bus-stops within 150 feet of each other, with different buses stopping at each stop.

Regular (day) buses stop running around 2100 or 2200.

Zoom-able night bus route maps
Walk, walk, walk, walk, walk:
I walked my feet off in Barcelona. It's a fine city for walking: sidewalks are paved from building edge to curb, drivers respect pedestrians, buses and Metro are at start and end of any walk. Lots of pedestrian squares and parks and pedestrian streets. Lots of interesting small streets to wander down. Lots of museums and churches.

But when exploring the hilly edges of the city, start at the top and walk downhill !



Oh-Barcelona map of districts
Wikitravel's "Barcelona"
TripAdvisor's "Barcelona Travel Forum"
reddit's /r/Barcelona forum
SuiteLife blog
AngloINFO Barcelona
One World Nations Online's "Google Earth Barcelona Map"
Greg Miller's "Beautiful Interactive Map of Barcelona Digs Into Rich Architectural History"



Barcelona is notorious for petty crime: pickpockets, etc.

There's even a whole web site about this: Robbed in Barcelona. Also see TripAdvisor's "Barcelona: Health & Safety".

Especially be careful around Metro entrances, and on La Rambla. Watch out for having your smartphone or camera snatched out of your hands, or off your table as you eat outdoors.

From someone on reddit: "It really happens a lot more at night and around drunken-tourist areas."

Caroline Williams' "How pickpockets trick your mind"

My strategy: I kept everything in one small backpack, and held onto that with a death-grip.

If your debit card is stolen, call your bank immediately. The thieves will head for an ATM within 15 minutes and try to guess your PIN, and they may succeed.

If your phone is stolen, report the theft immediately to your service provider; do not delay. There are gangs who will run up thousands of dollars of calls as quickly as possible, and you are liable for everything up to the time you report the theft. Then call the provider again to make sure they got the report (article).

In general, have a plan in case your stuff is stolen. Have card numbers and reporting phone numbers written down somewhere safe. Be aware of what you are carrying, so you know what you lost. Write down serial numbers for devices. Have passwords and security software enabled on devices (see security web page). Have photocopies or scans of important documents.



Bought a guidebook: "Eyewitness Top 10 Barcelona" (on Amazon). Pretty good, but very much stop-at-the-city-limits. Supplemented by maps from Tourist Info, Metro, etc.

Lonely Planet's "Catalunya & the Costa Brava" (on Amazon). Pretty good.



Airport:

Make sure the airport code says "BCN" (AKA "El Prat"); apparently some budget airlines might list Girona or Reus as "Barcelona airports".

Arriving:
From Wikitravel's "Barcelona" and elsewhere:
Arriving: International arrivals are in terminal 1, except for Ryanair.
Free shuttle bus between terminals 1 and 2.
Aerobus (one-way €6) or RENFE train (one-way €3, or buy T-10 travelcard for €10 (but not in terminal 1)).
Train doesn't run from about midnight to about 6 AM. Aerobus doesn't run from about 1 AM to about 6 AM. Night busses (N16 and N17) run all night.
[Apparently machines at train in airport might try to sell you a 4-zone T10 card; get a zone-1 T10 for about €10.]

As of 2016, there is a new L9 Metro station at the airport (both terminals, I think). The T10 card works to/from airport on Rodalies train, but not on the L9 metro. Airport Metro station isn't in any of the 6 zones and it functions as a virtual one that behaves like zone 1 for all tickets except for single-ride and T10 !

Departing:
From Wikitravel's "Barcelona" and elsewhere:
When leaving: Please be aware that you can check in for your flight only at the respective terminal T1 or T2 and, since they are 7 km apart and there is little information available at the train station and bus stops, it's good to know which terminal you need before arriving at the airport!

From barcelona-tourist-guide:
When leaving: It is important to remember that both Aerobuses for Terminal 1 and for Terminal 2 stop at the same bus stops in the city centre. If you are making your way to Barcelona Airport, make sure that you take the right Aerobus. Both buses look the same, however the bus to T1 is the A1 and the bus to T2 is the A2.
If departing and taking Aerobus, the bus attendant can tell you which bus to get on for your airline.

When arriving, I did shuttlebus-train-Metro. But departing, it might be better to do Metro-Aerobus, to eliminate the uncertainty of the up-to-30-minutes wait for the airport train in Sants station.

Metro-train-shuttlebus took me about 1:25 from Virrei Amat to T1 once, but I got lucky with the train timing; probably averages 1:40 or so. Metro trains run less frequently in the early weekend mornings, add a few minutes for that (on a Sunday at 5 AM, I saw 11 minutes between trains on L1 line).

Aerobus site says "average trip is 35 minutes". I think that's between Placa Catalunya and airport.

First Aerobus of the morning (5:30 AM) to airport will have a crowd waiting to board it. When I took that bus from Catalunya on a Sunday morning, two A1 buses came at 5:23. But some people still ended up standing in the aisle. If you're boarding at Espanya, you may not be able to get onto the very first bus of the morning.

Now that I've been doing this for a few years, and coming from the far side of Barcelona (Nou Barris), when leaving I do Metro-Train-ShuttleBus (metro Fabra i Puig to Sant Andreu Comtal). The big crushes for boarding the train are at Passeig de Gracia and Sants Estacio, so boarding at an earlier station is better. Look up the train schedule in advance, to avoid the uncertainty. The train is faster and more comfortable than taking the Metro for 15 or 30 stops. Cheaper than the Aerobus.

From my brother:
When leaving, make sure you allow plenty of time at Barcelona Airport. Checking in at the United ticket counter, plus security, plus passport control took me a full hour. The United ticket counter was especially slow. [And this was with ticket printed online the previous evening. Maybe he was directed into the wrong line.]

I flew out via Lufthansa in 2013 and USAirways in 2014, and printing boarding passes the night before let me go through a 5-minute baggage drop-off line instead of a 20- or 45-minute check-in line.




From US Dept of State's "Spain and Andorra Country Specific Information":
Spain is a party to the Schengen Agreement. This means that U.S. citizens may enter Spain for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa. Your passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay. You need sufficient funds, evidence of hotel reservations or an official letter of invitation if you will stay with family or friends, and a return airline ticket.
My first arrival experience: no questions asked, no other docs needed, when I presented my USA passport at Immigration. Scanned it, stamped it, on my way. And nothing at Customs, either: I just walked out through the green "nothing to declare" arch. [Later, my brother had exactly the same experience. And I've had same experience every time for last couple of years.]

My understanding of Schengen requirements for US citizens: you can spend 90 days of each 180 day period in EU. So you could come for 30, leave for 30, come for another 30, etc indefinitely. Or come for 45 days, leave for 1 day, come for another 45, then have to wait 89 days before coming again.





Apartment



My apartment:

I rented an apartment through Airbnb in 2013, for about $1500 for 2 months. 3 bedrooms, up to 6 people, Wi-Fi, air conditioning, no smoking, no pets. In Nou Barris / Porta, in central zone of Metro, but N corner of Barcelona.

Stupid: I realized, long after committing, that what I rented was just one bed in a 6-bed apartment; I thought I was renting the whole apartment, and there were extra charges if I put more people in it. I probably will have the whole place to myself most of the time, but maybe not.
[Later found out: owners changed terms of the listing a few months after I made my reservation. So I did reserve the whole apartment, then they changed me to just renting one bed. Save a copy of the rental listing terms when you make your reservation.]

But: when I arrived, the apartment owner switched me to stay in her apartment, a couple of blocks away, with her and her son. On Carrer Deia, across the street from Placa del Soller. Which turned out to be great: we shared food, the bedroom was nicer, they acted as translator/guide, we went places together. Nice people.

After seeing the original apartment, I would say it really is more like a 4-person apartment, not a 6-person. Probably sleeps 4 adults plus a child. One bathroom, not overly large. The kitchen is small; really only one person or couple at a time could be cooking.



Apartments:
Airbnb
ApartmentBarcelona
HouseTrip
HomeAway
Holiday Lettings
Owners Direct / HomeAway
Waytostay

Renting is a bit risky: there can be problems. See for example:
Greg Harvey's "Why Airbnb is dead to me"



From Mike:
Enjoy Barcelona. Be sure to pack earplugs when you go. It has to be the noisiest city I have ever been to (travelled quite a lot with job as cameraman for BBC).

The problem is unbelievable, I have stayed there 8 times now and have found only the Arts Hotel (on floor 8 and over) do-able ... The concrete roads are the cause of the noise. Most of the good premium hotels have double glazing, but it does not remove that constant noise. Last time there was for 6 days, ears felt like they had been used for crazy golf by the time to come home.
My experience: this wasn't a problem. But I wasn't staying in a tourist section of the city. Traffic is fast and loud on a couple of the very major roads, such as Via Laietana, but I wouldn't say "noisiest city".







Places to see and things to do



[Info gathered from various places, including:
Barcelona Holiday Review By Richard Watson
Barcelona Travel Guide
Don Boyd's "My Barcelona top 10"
trip report 1793 on Slow Travel
Serda Yilmaz's "Notes from my trip to Barcelona"
tripadvisor's "Barcelona: The Best Sights of Barcelona"
LittleAesthete's "Top 10 Barcelona"
reddit's /r/Barcelona
reddit's "Visiting Barcelona" wiki
Maribel's Guides
Everything Barcelona
Angloinfo's "Living in Barcelona"
]







Miscellaneous



Shopping:
Food and non-food markets: Mercats de Barcelona



Bicycle:

Rent a bike ? 43 miles of bike lanes. Helmets are optional.

Rental costs about €15-16 for one day, half that for each additional day, €55-60/week.
Guided group bike tours: about 3 hours for about €22-25.
Budget Bikes
Barcelona By Bicycle (AKA Un Cotxe Menys ("One Car Less"))
Barcelona By Bike (tours only, no rentals)
Classic Bikes Barcelona
Barcelona Holiday Bici

Barcelona By Bicycle says: 2-month rental for €240. Budget Bikes says: €200.
Buy a bike (and lock) in Barcelona and leave it there at end of trip ?
Maybe the apartment comes with a bicycle, or the owner could borrow one from someone for me ?

Ideas for buying a bike (but watch out for stolen bikes):
Try buying from one of the rental shops listed above. But probably expensive.
Look in ads in free "Metropolitan" magazine.
LoQUo (but you'll need to read Catalan)
craigslist
Green Bikes - Second Hand Bikes

Carrefour sells a new 26" mountain bike for €99.

From Busik on Cycling Forums 2/2012:
Bikes in trains:

It's free of charge but there are limitations (more strict this year). In regional trains, for short distances, you can take your bike in the train, no problem. For longer distances only up to 3 bikes are admitted, and you have to get an authorisation and a ticket for the bike (remember, free of charge). Foldable bikes are an exception and you can carry them with you in the train but they have to be folded before entering the train.

Bikes in buses: There are no buses with place for bikes and the only way that you can get a bike in a bus is to have a folded one.

Bike-sharing program is for residents only (maybe not true, but requires year-long subscription ?).

If you buy a bike, etch your name onto it, paint it weirdly, and take pictures of it so you can identify it if/when it's stolen. Maybe look for it at the Els Encants flea market.

My experience:
After arrival in 2013, I decided not to get a bike.

The Metro and buses are very good. Extremely good.

Despite bike lanes on the sidewalks, and sidewalks completely paved from building edge to curb, there's so much foot-traffic and car-traffic and motorcycle-traffic that you'd have to be a very good urban bike-rider to bike safely here. The tourist areas often have insane amounts of foot-traffic. I fear I would run into someone. And biking uphill in some outskirts of the city (toward Tibidabo, for example) would be a bummer.

Also, biking didn't seem to fit my style: I would take Metro to point A, walk and wander through neighborhoods and streets and museums to point B, take Metro home from there. With a bike, I'd have to walk back to point A to get on the bike again. And usually after all the walking, I would have been in no mood for a long bike-ride home.




Trains and Long-Distance Buses:

Barcelona to Madrid:
About.com's "Madrid to Barcelona by Train, Bus, Car and Flights"

Trains from Barcelona to Madrid:
Barcelona Madrid Train.
Use RailEurope for tickets; don't use RENFE site.
High-velocity train (AVE): cheapest fare I've seen is US$106 one-way, more typical is US$146 one-way, PLUS handling fee of US$18. Takes about 3 hours.
Combinado train: about €??? one-way, more stops, takes about 6 hours.
Costa Brava overnight train: about €??? one-way, takes about 9 hours.

Barcelona AVE to Madrid airport:
They make it as easy as possible to do this, but there are a few steps:
  • AVE from Barcelona Sants Estacio to Madrid Atocha station.
  • Up a couple of escalators and 50 meters to entrance to train.
  • Swipe AVE ticket on machine and get a free train ticket.
  • Take train, but it may dump you off at Charmantar station instead of going all the way to Madrid Barajas airport.
  • If so, take another train (using same ticket) to airport.


Bus from Barcelona to Madrid ?
Costs around €30 ? Takes 8 hours ?
costasur.com
busbud.com
Barcelona Nord bus station

In Madrid: see Central section of my Places to Visit in Spain page.



Traveling by train from Barcelona to Paris, from reddit 4/2014:

As someone who's done this a few times, the high-speed train is the best and most comfortable way to do it.

Some random thoughts:
/r/Barcelona's "Travelling from Barcelona to France"




Food:

Tapas (not native to Catalonia), or pintxos (Basque counterpart of tapas)
Flautas (little sandwiches)
Waffles sold at street stands
Sausages

Wikitravel - Eat
Barcelona Underground

Majority of traditional restaurants and cafes are closed between 4 PM and 8 PM ?

Great sandwich place: "Bo de B", Carrer Fusteria (corner Carrer Merce) near the main post office (Correos, on Via Laietana one block in from harborfront road; sort of halfway between Bareloneta and Jaume I Metro stations).

From someone on reddit:

Indian: Menjar Per Emportar (very cheap; Carrer dels Codols 7; from lower end of La Rambla take Carrer Dels Escudellers to Carrer dels Codols).

Kebab: Bismillah Kebabish (very cheap; Joaquin Costa 22; close to MACBA; from upper end of La Rambla take Carrer del Carme to Carrer de Joaquin Costa).

Pork sandwiches and other sandwiches: Can Conesa / Conesa Entrepans (Llibreteria 1; from Jaume 1 Metro walk down Carrer de Jaume 1 to Placa Sant Jaume, right and right onto Llibreteria).

Beer and small sandwiches: Cerveceria 100 Montaditos (nine locations in Barcelona, including one at Placa Urquinaona, and another right at the Paral.lel Metro stop). Even cheaper on Wednesdays and Sundays ?

My experience (I'm from USA):


Tried restaurant Ca L'Estevet in Raval 11/2014; was expensive and disappointing.




Cannabis clubs are not for tourists:
George Mills' "Barcelona cannabis club closed for selling drugs"
Russ Hudson's "10 Things You Need to Know about Barcelona Cannabis Clubs"

Private and personal growth and use is legal ?
Damian Corrigan's "Is Cannabis Legal in Spain?" (says Yes)
TheLocal's "How Barcelona is getting it wrong on cannabis" (says Yes)
We Be High's "Marijuana in Barcelona, Spain" (says Yes)

"Barcelona Cannabis Club Directory" Facebook group
Kush Tourism's "Cannabis Social Clubs of Spain - Barcelona"



Wi-Fi:
Most fast-food places and cafes and bars have Wi-Fi; go in and order a drink or food, and ask for the password.

Some shopping malls have free Wi-Fi in the public spaces, too.

Barcelona WiFi:
There is free Wi-Fi provided by the city in various places, mainly around government buildings, museums, some plazas, and "markets", I think.

The network is called "Barcelona WiFi", there is no password.

Speed is limited, operation usually limited to hours 0800-0100, only browser access is allowed (no Skype or peer-to-peer), and adult sites are blocked. Smartphone apps such as "Here Maps" do work.

The first time you use it, you will have to submit an email address, indicate (in general terms) where you live, and agree to terms of service. Then you have 10 minutes of free access in which to read your email and click on a "confirm" link in an email from the service.

Every subsequent time you use it, you will have to specify your email address, indicate where you live, and agree to terms of service again. But no new email will be sent.

Barcelona WiFi
telecompaper's "Barcelona to launch free Wi-Fi on public transport in 2015"




Public bathrooms:
None in the Metro stations.
Some in the train stations, once you get to the platforms.
All of the libraries have them.
Most of the big shopping malls or department stores have them (El Corte Ingles, etc).
All of the museums have them, some in the entranceway before you have to pay.
El Born CC (former Mercat del Born) has bathrooms.
Public bathrooms in front of MACBA (at end of Carrer d'Elisabets), and another set on La Rambla (near intersection with Carrer del Escudellers).



The Local: Spain's News in English



Medical, especially for USA citizens:

"In Barcelona, there are pharmacies on every corner of the streets. Pharmacists can give first aid, examine you, make bandages and give medicine. Do not hesitate to visit them if you need it." They don't do stitches. You may have to pay cash for everything.

From Rick Steves' "Do I Need Travel Insurance?":
"Before buying a special medical insurance policy for your trip, check with your medical insurer - you might already be covered by your existing health plan. While many US insurers cover you overseas, Medicare does not."

I believe Medicaid does not cover out-of-state services, much less out-of-country services.

From comments on a Fodor's forum:
"If you have a policy that covers you abroad (and many private plans do), [usually you pay cash and then insurance reimburses you when you return home]. However, policy coverage and procedures vary -- I really think you should ask your insurer this question, [because if] you don't follow procedures or get the correct documentation, it could cost you. Also, a special claim form may be required and there may be other requirements for coverage (eg, notification within 24-48 hrs of an emergency hospital admission)."
and
"You must check with your insurance company. Some offer worldwide coverage, some offer only emergency coverage, some offer none."
and
"Unless you already have something in writing detailing coverage while traveling, ask them to send you a copy of that section of the policy, so there can be no mistake."

US State Dept's "Medical Insurance"



Quick history of Barcelona:

Some Neolithic settlements up to 4000 years ago. Founded by Romans as "Barcino" about 2000 years ago, taken over by Visigoths by 500 AD or so, then taken by Moors around 715, then by Charlemagne in 801, then invaded by Moors again, then independent around 880 (Count Wilfred the Hairy).

A golden age of Barcelona from about 1010 (start of collapse of Moors in Cordoba) to siege of 1473. From about 1360 to 1460, periodic famines and bubonic plague, and then civil wars.

Last of Moors finally pushed out of southern Spain in 1492. Golden Age of Spain was 1500-1650, with Spain dominating the economy of Europe, reaping vast riches from the colonies. Barcelona defeated by Castilians in 1652, conquered by them again in 1714.

Development started in 1800's, World Fair in 1888, artistic era started in late 1800's (Gaudi, Picasso, etc). Spanish Civil war 1936 to 1939, Franco dictatorship 1939 to 1975. Olympics in 1992.
Apartment Barcelona's "10 Things You Didn't Know About Barcelona"



For those living in Barcelona:
Reporting a broken traffic light or other "civic" problem: call 010, or tweet to @barcelona_010, or use Bustia Ciutadana smartphone app.

Other smartphone apps ( 1, 2 ):
TMBAPP (Official app for Metro and Bus).
RenfeTicket.
Bicing.
TripAdvisor BCN. [Is this same as TripAdvisor app and then downloading Barcelona for offline use ?]
BCN Visual (old photographs of Barcelona).
Barcino 3D.
FC Barcelona Official App (Barca football).
BCN Museus.
Bustia Ciutadana (report broken streetlights, etc).
AlertCops (contact nearest police in case of incident).

Waste disposal: Ajuntament de Barcelona's "Waste Browser".

City "Lost and Found" office: l'Oficina de Troballes.

Computer sales and repair shops: on Sepulveda, starting near Universitat Metro station.

Barcelona claims/aspires to be a "smart city", but some things could be improved:




TripAdvisor's "Placing a complaint while on holiday in Catalonia"

Barcelona webcams





Staying in Spain full-time:
See my Moving to Spain page.

See my Places to Visit in Spain page.









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