Monday, February 17

Barcelona

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Barcelona is the capital and largest city of Catalonia and Spain’s second-largest city, with a population of over one and a half million people (over five million in the whole province). This city, located directly on the northeastern Mediterranean coast of Spain, has a rich history, having been under Roman, then Frank law before declaring its independence. In 1992, Barcelona gained international recognition by hosting the Olympic games which brought a massive upturn in its tourism industry. This had the effect of changing the city in ways that are still felt today with neighbourhoods renovated (and in some cases levelled) and the intense focus of modern design permeating all aspects of life in Barcelona from public buildings to something as simple as a park bench or an event poster. For visitors, this has translated into the very modern, yet incredibly old city you see now in the 21st century, where the new elements work to both preserve and celebrate the ancient. This beautiful city is full of what European cities are known for (outdoor markets, restaurants, shops, museums and churches) and is fantastic for walking with an extensive and reliable Metro system for more far-flung destinations. The core centre of town focused around the Ciutat Vella (“Old City”) provides days of enjoyment for those looking to experience the life of Barcelona while the beaches the city was built upon provide sun and relaxation during the long periods of agreeably warm weather.

When to visit

August is probably the busiest time in Barcelona; at the same time, about 10% of shops and restaurants can be found closed from mid-August to early September, when the owners go on vacations. In the centre of Barcelona, you will find most shops and restaurants open. However, there will still be plenty of tourists. Barcelona has decent enough beaches but the locals will really appreciate it if visitors do not consider it a beach resort and don’t wear beachwear when visiting churches, restaurants, etc. Barcelona is great off-season and is a lovely city even in the winter months of January and February as long as the possibility of rain is low. During these months the city is not too cold averaging between 9-10°C with sunny and blue skies. Given the high humidity, 19-23°C is considered comfortable weather, which is normally the temperature between April and June and between late September to November. This is the best time to visit the city. Anything warmer than this can feel too hot.

With children

Toddler happiness is considered a public responsibility in Spain: in any public place people around you put every effort into making your toddler happy: whenever he or she looks bored or is crying, everyone does their best to entertain or to calm them.

Airport

El Prat De Llobregat

Low cost carriers include: Norwegian , Air Berlin , Monarch Airlines , Jet2.com , Vueling (a discount subsidiary of Iberia), Wizz Air, easyJet , Ryanair , Blue Air , Transavia , Germanwings , TUI Fly among many others. Trick: You can also take a RyanAir carrier to an inner city like Zaragoza and then use the train to reach Barcelona one hour and 30 minutes later. Those flights are usually much cheaper (around 35 euros from Paris, London or Brussels).

 

Barcelona International Airport

Barcelona-El Prat International Airport (IATA:BCN), (ICAO:LEBL), is a major transport hub and flights land from all over Europe and beyond. Duty-free shops. Open c. 06:30-21:30 (a few until 22:00). Shops are numerous and some are hard to find elsewhere in the city. After security check, most shops are before the passport control; there are only one or two afterwards. Tax-free shopping refund. Office closes at 22:00 without fail. After that time cheques can be processed only by mail: complete your tax-free forms with your passport data and addresses, have them stamped by the customs office (a window next to arrivals gate door; they don’t ask to see your purchases); put them into the envelope you were given in the shop–and wait for several months. Cafes, pre-security check. Limited options, sub-standard fare. Food at Ars is awful and not cheap. ”Pans & Company” have almost no hot meals. For more options in Terminal 1 go to 3F better food and restaurants, but more expensive. Cafes, post-security check. Numerous options, all close c. 22:00 Parking: Costs €1.35/hr, €9.45/day, €6.75/day from the 6th day. Luggage lockers: At the airport, there is a baggage storage service on the ground floor of Terminal 1 that costs €4.60 per day for a large locker that easily fits 2-3 large suitcases (there are no luggage lockers or storage rooms in Terminal 2). In the city centre, there is a baggage storage service with keypad-based lockers on Carrer Estruc, 36 (right next to Plaça Catalunya) called “Locker Barcelona” (www.LockerBarcelona.com). Their prices start from €3.50 per day for a medium locker that stores 1 luggage bag. There is also a collecting service from Barcelona Airport and from your accommodation in Barcelona delivered by no-luggage.com. They are responsible for collecting your luggage at the airport on arrival or at the hotel / apartment when leaving and deliver it at the agreed location and time (airport or hotel / apartment, respectively). The price is very interesting: 10 € for the first bag and 5 € for each additional bag. You can also ask for 5 € per suitcase, plasticizing it, thus protecting from bumps on the plane. The price includes insurance value of € 3,000 for the content of the suitcase. Departure gates: For T2, poorly conditioned at ground level (at least gate57, sector 2A, after 23:00). T1 is hyper-modern and comfortable. Wi-Fi: Available throughout the airport, operated by KubiWireless . 15 min for free if you click in the blue option. or €7.50 for 45 min, €9 for 1 hr, €15 for 24 hr. You must provide a valid cell phone number, to receive the password via text message.

By Bus

Aerobús is the city’s shuttle bus service that connects the Airport (both terminals) with the centre of Barcelona (Plaça de Catalunya), leaving every 5-10 minutes (A1), every 10-20minutes (A2), every day of the year. The “A1” line takes you to/from Terminal 1 and the “A2” line takes you to/from Terminal 2. The shuttle bus service is available everyday from 5:30am to 1am, and the journey lasts about 30 minutes (although it can take considerably longer during rush hour). From the Airport, the shuttle bus makes a total of 4 stops: Plaça Espanya, Gran Via – Urgell, Plaça Universitat, and finally Plaça de Catalunya. To the Airport from Plaça de Catalunya, the shuttle bus only makes a total of 3 stops: Sepúlveda – Urgell, Plaça Espanya, and finally the Airport. A one-way ticket to/from either Terminal costs €5.90 or you can buy a return ticket for €10.20 which you must use within 9 days. You can pay by either credit card (machine only) or cash (machine/ticket agent). Buses are heavily air-conditioned in Summer, so consider having something extra to wear during the journey. Aerobús stops running after 1am, but you can catch a Nitbús night bus service instead (line N17 to T1 or line N16 to T2, 22.00-05.00 every 20 min. The ride from Plaça de Catalunya to the Airport takes about 40-50 min). The cheapest, but slower option than Aerobús, is a bus 46 serving both T1 & T2. Its last stop in Barcelona is Plaça Espanya reached in 25-30 minutes. The one-way ticket costs €2 and can be purchased from the driver. Even cheaper is to buy a T10 Travelcard from the machine located at the train station outside Terminal 2; this offers even greater value and convenience if further transfer by metro, bus, tram etc. will be needed as the T10 Travelcard journey is valid for 75 mins – see the Transfer by Train section for details. Between 11 pm and 6 am the 46 bus service is replaced by N16/17 buses; they take a diversion adding some ten minutes to otherwise a very rapid journey ending at the same Plaça Espanya.

By Train

A cheap and fast option is the half-hourly RENFE R2 Nord suburban train line calling at Sants (travel time is 18 min), Passeig de Gràcia (24 min), El Clot-Aragó (30 min) and more stations beyond Barcelona city limits. Please be advised that this airport train has changed, and no longer terminates at Estació de França (it now goes through the centre of Barcelona and into the suburbs, so it is important to know at which station you should get off). The train terminates next to T2 by section B, with a connecting green coloured bus service to T1 (plan for an extra 15 min of travel). The airport train station has got facilities for disabled people: escalators, lifts, etc. A single ticket for the train is €4.10 (April 2014), but you can also buy a T10 travelcard (€10.30 for ten trips over any period of time; each of those trips includes 3 bus, metro, train or tramway transfers made within 75 min) instead. You can buy a T10 from the ticket vending machine at the airport station and at the tobacco shop in front of Terminal 2B; you can buy a T10 travelcard at Terminal 1 in the tobacco shop just outside the arrival lounge exit. If you arrive at T1, you’ll need to catch the free airport transfer bus (it goes from T1 to T2B then T2C then loops again to T1) and stops right next to the Aerobus stop. The ride is at least 10 minutes long. Get off the bus, head into the terminal, follow the sign to Renfe, go up the escalators, leave the terminal building, go through the overhead pass until you get to the train station. About a 10-20 minute walk. Buy the T-10 pass and use it to access the station.

By Taxis and Transfer Services

Airport transfers can be arranged for groups, taxis are available but expensive (€30-40 to the city centre). Taxis and Minibuses can be pre-booked on-line: 

Book Taxi Barcelona offers taxi transfers from €39 (up to 4 people) to 59€ (7 people), with special offers for World Mobile Congress, Hotel transportation, La Roca Village Outlet Shopping and many other destinations. Online booking with secure payment, last-minute booking (2 hours before pick-up) and free of charge cancellation. Barcelona Airport Taxis offers a taxi (up to 4 people) for €59 and a microbus (up to 7 people) for €79 Barcelona Private Airport Transfers private car service (up to 4 people) for €65 and a van service (up to 7 people) for €75 Easy Private Taxi offers a car (up to 4 people) for €55 and a minibus (up to 7 people) for €70 Taxi Barcelona Transfer offers English speaking service with very good prices. Barcelona Transfers – buses to Barcelona city and Port, €10. Because of the narrow streets, coaches will often drop people a short walk away from their hotels. There are also a number of official pick up points around the city. You must confirm the pickup to the airport up to 72 hours in advance.

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