Barcelona

Should you rent a car in BarcelonaSpain>Barcelona

Even if many people will suggest that there is anything but a need to get a car here, there are a few situations in which a rental car in Barcelona could still prove useful:

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  • Green Catalonia — once you get beyond the dismal Barcelona suburbs, you are out into the verdant landscape of Catalonia. As with anywhere, the car will give you much more freedom to explore.
  • Skiing — Barcelona is a major gateway to the Pyrenees. A hire car will give you a bit more flexibility compared to a resort transfer bus, but it certainly isn’t an absolute need.
  • Andorra — the tiny principality of Andorra isn’t just a cheap ski resort or a duty-free haven! The scenery is superb in summer too, but the transport links are not. A hire car will give you the flexibility to drive around Andorra, choosing a different route in and out. Make sure you fill your petrol tanks there too!
  • Full Dali experience — to get the most out of a visit to Dali’s homeland (the Dali triangle), you can also visit the fishing port of Cadaques and the castle at Pubol. This is much, much easier to do with a car.
  • Beaches — although there are excellent beaches in the city of Barcelona itself, a car will give you much more access to beaches on both the Costa Daurada (west) and the Costa Brava (east).

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Barcelona without a car – within the city

Barcelona has it all — the city of Barcelona really is Europe’s great all-rounder, with something for everyone! You’ll have plenty to do, whether your interest lies in food, football, music, art, architecture, or all of the above. There is just so much to see within the limits of the city that many visitors don’t even think about getting out beyond.

Saving money by not hiring a car in Barcelona!

  • Spend as long as you want: There is simply so much to see and do, that you can spend several days, or even a week here, without wanting to leave town. This is a boast that few other European cities can make.
  • Excellent public transport — Barcelona has one of Spain’s best metro systems, rivalled only by the capital Madrid. This is supplemented by trams, frequent bus services on the main arterial routes, and a good network of suburban train services. All that is missing is a good central train station — Barcelona Sants, from where AVE trains depart from Madrid, is dark and dingy!
  • Great walking city: Barcelona has seen huge improvements in its walking environment in recent years. A number of wide diagonal avenues have been closed off to motorised traffic. This network is set to expand further as the city develops a series of  local street “clusters”.
  • Cycling city – Barcelona is also improving a great deal as a cycling city. Most wide avenues have dedicated cycle paths. Many former through streets have now been closed off to through traffic.

Other reasons to visit Barcelona without a car

  • Cable cars and funiculars — Barcelona has a variety of cable cars and funicular railways which supplement exploration on foot. You can always take especially  a ride to the top and walk down.
  • Barcelona’s answer to Cape Town – Montserrat: An excellent day (repeat – make a full day of it) excursion to make from Barcelona is the monastery of Montserrat. This is easily done by train, combined with a cable car to the top and funicular railways around the site / back down again. There is little point in driving there.
  • City of Beaches — in Barcelona, you are never far from the beach. There are several metro / FCG lines which will take you straight there, but mEtro line 4 is particularly useful.
  • Architecture — virtually everywhere you look within the city of Barcelona itself (this doesn’t apply to the dreadful suburbs), you will see stunning architecture. This is especially so in the Eixample district, best known for its Gaudi houses. Barcelona also has plenty of examples of modern architecture including prominent buildings by leading architects such as Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, Santiago Calatrava and Frank Gehry. Just don’t get as absorbed in it as Gaudi did, or you will end up being hit by a tram!

Barcelona without a car – beyond the city

  • Figueras — Salvador Dali’s hometown of Figueras can easily be visited by train from Barcelona. The city of Girona can also be included on the same trip. The other two sites as part of the ‘Dali triangle’ are not as impressive as the Dali Theatre-Museum in Figueras. They can still be reached by bus with a bit of planning (but it’s more convenient to have a hire car for this).
  • Nuria Valley — the railway line to Nuria is recognised as one of the most scenic in Spain.  It is certainly an easy way to explore the great scenery outside Barcelona itself without needing to bother with a hire car.
  • Two city tour — a trip to Barcelona can easily be combined with a visit to one of Spain’s other great cities, especially Madrid or Valencia. Either can be reached by train in under three hours. It should be reasonably easy to book an outward flight to Barcelona and a return through Madrid or Valencia from many parts of Europe. However, there is more than enough in and around Barcelona without needing to venture to other places.

Barcelona without a car – practicalities

  • Parking costs — if you bring a rental car into the city of Barcelona itself, you’re likely to get hit with hefty parking charges (upto €30 per night), whether at your hotel, or in public car parks. Hotels on the edge of the city may have free parking, but they won’t provide such easy access to the city centre. On-street parking is expensive, and rarely available for overnight use.
  • Easy airport rail link — trains are available directly from Barcelona airport into a number of different stations in the centre of Barcelona. If these are not within easy walking distance of your hotel, you can transfer by metro to a stop that is – or take the bus.
  • Car hire cost – if you are used to cheap car hire in places like Malaga, expect to pay a little more in Barcelona. Expect to pay more to pick up a hire car in Barcelona city centre. However, Barcelona is only expensive by Spanish costa standards, not compared to most places in Europe.

James says - a few trip notes:


Barcelona was one of the original reasons for setting up Carornocar.com. I had heard from a friend who had picked up a hire car at Barcelona airport, driven it to the hotel, kept it in the garage for a week, and then driven it back to the airport.

Now this isn’t just a waste of money on car hire fees, it also means paying needless parking charges. Now, chances are, most people who get a hire car in Barcelona will actually drive it somewhere, but before doing so, we suggest reading our pros and cons. 


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Conclusion — there is more than enough to see in and near to Barcelona itself to make it possible to get around without needing a car. 

Even those with itchy feet can still make three excellent excursions by train in different directions – to Montserrat, Figueres and Nuria, without needing to think about hiring a car.

Verdict — no

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Author: Carometer

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