Travel by boat

There are regular ferry services between the United Kingdom and north-western Spain. Brittany Ferries is sailing from Portsmouth to Bilbao and Santander. The journey is more than 24 hours, so it’s not realistic unless you love the ocean and have some spare time on your hands. Spain’s main ferry line, Trasmediterránea, connects the mainland of Spain (including Barcelona) to the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands.

This ferry’s fast catamaran service takes half the time of the standard ferry, but catamarans are often canceled because they can only navigate in very calm waters. Trasmediterránea and Balearia operate overnight ferries from Barcelona, Valencia and Dénia to the islands of Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza. Formentera can be reached from Ibiza via Balearia and the local ferry company Transmapi. Mallorca is the nearest island from Barcelona via ferry crossing. Long-distance ferries are fitted with a range of seating options including sleepers, a hotel, multiple bars and a small shopping area.

You can pick up schedules and buy tickets at the ferry ticket office in the port.

Cruise travel

Barcelona is the busiest cruise port in Europe and the fourth largest in the world. Vessels dock at the Port Vell station, which has seven cruise terminals. All terminals are equipped with duty-free shops, telephones, bars / restaurants, information desks and currency exchange booths. Ships docking near the terminal entrance are a 10-minute walk from the southern end of Las Ramblas (the Rambla), but those docking at the farthest end require passengers to catch a shuttle bus (Autobús Azul, a distinctive blue bus) to the port entrance.

The shuttle, which runs every 20 minutes, connects all terminals to the public square at the bottom of the Rambla. If you're walking up Las Ramblas, after about 10 minutes you'll get to the Drassanes metro station for public transport around the city. The shuttle runs every 30 minutes or so.

A single metro or bus fare is €2.15; a 10-ticket fare (T-10) is €9.95.

Don't rent a car if you're planning to explore Barcelona. Public transport and taxis are by far the most sensible options. City busses operate daily from 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.; all-night busses operate from Plaça Catalunya on a small range of routes from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

The FGC (Ferrocarril de la Generalitat) train and the ATM metro are convenient trains that take you within walking distance of almost everything in Barcelona. The Barcelona Tourist Bus is another excellent way to get around the city. Three routes (Red, Blue , and Green) cover just about every place you want to visit, and you can hop on and off whenever you want. Busses run from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (8:00 p.m. in summer) and a one-day ticket costs €29; tickets can also be purchased online on www.getyourguide.com.

If you’re planning to explore the Spanish coast or the countryside, you’d probably prefer a vehicle, but even a cheap model (diesel, manual transmission) with fuel costs and highway tolls will set you back at least €50 a day. Enable a lot of time to get back to your car, as the traffic in Barcelona is always strong.

Getting to the airport

Barcelona's main airport is El Prat de Llobregat, 14 kilometers (9 miles) south of Barcelona. If you choose not to purchase airport transfers from your cruise line, the easiest way to get from the airport to the cruise port is by taxi (approximately €35). Public transport is available, but transfers between busses, subways or rail stations can take up to 10 minutes to travel, which could be impractical with several pieces of luggage. If you only have light baggage, this is certainly going to be a cheaper option.

The RENFE airport train is cheap and reliable, but only runs every 30 minutes. The RENFE station is a 10-to 15-minute walk from the port gates from the airport. Trains run from 5:42 a.m. to 12:38 a.m., stopping at Estació de Sants. The one-way fare is 4.10€.