If you haven’t visited Barcelona, you must add it to your list. The capital of Catalonia is a cool city. My visit was brief, but I had a highly enjoyable time. Before I made it to Poble Sec to enjoy some pinxtos, however, I had to figure out the best way to get from Barcelona Airport to city center nearest my hotel.

Barcelona has no shortage of transit options between the airport and the city. Among the buses, the trains, and the metro, you might be a bit overwhelmed trying to figure out which is most cost effective and/or convenient. I’ll cover the primary ways to get from Barcelona Airport to city center, including the prices and pros/cons of each. The best option will depend on where exactly you’re headed, but assuming you need to get to one of the central districts like the Gothic Quarter or Eixample, any of these should work at least reasonably well.

Taxi: Costly

Taking a taxi from Barcelona Airport to the city center might be the most convenient option, albeit expensive. Expect to pay €25-30 for a one-way ride, before tipping. Compared to other options, this is quite the premium. The ride from the airport to the vicinity of Plaza Catalunya will likely take 20-30 minutes, depending on traffic.

The upside to taking a taxi is obvious: you’re taken directly from the airport to your destination. But given that other options can get you close for much less, I would not recommend a taxi unless you’re traveling as a group and/or truly require the convenience.

Best Way from Barcelona Airport to City Center

Uber: Does Not Exist

Uber has had a shaky experience in Barcelona, most recently pulling up stakes in early 2019. The service has not returned, so the ride-sharing platform isn’t an option if you’re headed here. Uber cites the imposition of a 15-minute delay by the Catalan government as the reason for suspending service.

Adding a delay to trips, just because, is an awful way to handle the competition between services.  I cannot blame Uber for their decision. The government wants to make sure ” taxis and ride-hailing firms are not competing for the same passengers.” Except they are, and this is just a way for the cab companies to preserve their market share.

If ride-sharing is still something you’d like to use, look into using Cabify, a service which still operates. They’ve managed to return service to the city through a series of loopholes. “Hecho la ley, hecho la trampa.”

Metro: Rather Inconvenient

I’ve never quite seen a metro map like Barcelona’s. It’s a bit of a mess. Rather than an efficient system that funnels people where they want to go (think NYC), or a planned system that is has a logical design (think Beijing), Barcelona’s leaves you scratching your head. At least it did for me. Maybe it makes total sense for locals. Some individual lines are helpful (like the green T3 line that  runs through the Gothic Quarter and Poble Sec), but many are highly inconvenient. I hopped on the wrong direction train trying to get to Barceloneta. Two transfers later, I finally arrived.

The airport line seems an afterthought. Rather than take you from Barcelona El Prat directly through the heart of the city, you’re guaranteed to need to take a transfer. Maybe two. From Barcelona Airport T1 to Liceu or Drassanes station (Gothic Quarter, Old Town), you could make one transfer and travel a total of 23 or 24 stops. That quite the journey. Or you make two transfers and travel just 15-16 stations. Not exactly what you want to do with a lot of luggage.

The cost isn’t especially compelling, either. A one-way ticket costs €5.15 from either Barcelona Airport terminal to anywhere in the network. The Hola Bareclona card is probably the most cost-effective purchase if you plan to ride the metro a lot during your visit.

A final note: I considered staying at a World of Hyatt property near Hospital de Bellvitge, but the location seemed so inconvenient based on the metro options that I passed.

Train: Cheap and Convenient For Terminal 2

The Renfe train is a decent option to get from Barcelona Airport to the city center, but more so if you’re traveling in or our of Terminal 2. It costs €4.20 one way. You can catch the R2 to Passeig de Gràcia, which is near several chain hotels. The trains run roughly every thirty minutes. There are connections that can take you to Plaza España or Plaza Catalunya as well. 

The downside is that the wait may be fairly long, and it’s a decent walk from Terminal 2 to the train station. If you’re flying into or out of T1, you’ll have to also catch the inter-terminal shuttle bus. These are free, and run very frequently. But it adds to the overall transit time. 

I chose the train option returning to the airport. My train left Passeig de Gracia at 9:05 AM, arriving at BCN Terminal 2 at 9:30 AM. The walk and shuttle bus resulted in an arrival at Terminal 1 at 9:45. This was a full hour after I left my hotel. 

Cheapest Way from Barcelona Airport to City Center

A1 Bus: Best Way from Barcelona Airport to City Center for Me

The Aerobus might not be the best way from Barcelona Airport to city center from a cost perspective, but the convenience is well worth the slight premium. These are private buses that run from both T1 and T2. The bus to/from Terminal 1 is A1, and the bus to/from Terminal 2 is T2. Pretty easy to remember. 

The Aerobus costs €5.90 one-way and runs every 5-10 minutes through most of the day, making it a highly convenient option. A return ticket is a slightly better deal at €10.20. The buses are comfortable and there is a luggage storage rack. 

To get to the Aerobus from Terminal 1, head out of the baggage claim, proceed straight, and then turn right through the doors showing inter-terminal bus service. The Aerobus will be downstairs, and you can buy tickets directly from the operator when you get to the bus. 

I caught the 4:00 PM bus at Terminal 1. It stopped at Plaza España 15 minutes later. There was a bit of traffic near the middle of the city, and it took a total of 35 minutes to get to Plaza Catalunya. My guess is that this was 10-15 minutes slower than a taxi ride. 

Choosing Your Best Way from Barcelona Airport to City

You have no shortage of options to get from Barcelona Airport to the city center. Heading to your hotel directly by taxi is obviously the most convenient, but it is 5x the cost of most other options. Among the remaining choices, the train, bus, and metro all have pros and cons. I’d research the stops for each compared to where you are staying before settling on the best way from Barcelona airport to city center for your particular trip.