Cruise from Barcelona – the essential guide

“We love to cruise from Barcelona. The Catalan captial has it all – a rich culture, fantastic architecture, great food and loads of sunshine!”

Where to stay before you cruise from Barcelona

Barcelona is a true gem on the spectacular Costa Brava. Make the most of your cruise vacation and spend some time in the city before you board your cruise from Barcelona. Easily reachable, Barcelona Cruise Port (Port de Barcelona) is located close to the city at the end of the famous street La Rambla.

We’ll try and make your choice of hotel easy by breaking down Barcelona into different areas of the city that we recommend, and why.

Accommodation options in Eixample, Barri Gòtic, Barceloneta Barrio and Gràcia. 

Eixample

The area of Eixample is our go-to place in Barcelona. With a great selection of hotels in different price ranges, a lively night life offering great tapas bars, and easy walking distance to the heart of the city, Eixample is a good family choice.

  • Olivia Balmes Hotel – this is a great 4-star hotel with excellent service. It’s bright and modern with a large open-plan reception area and a small rooftop pool. 
  • H10 Art Gallery – we love the area this hotel is in, just a short walk from Olivia Balmes. There are plenty of tapas bars within the vicinity and this 4-star  hotel is personal and quirky with bright pop art covering the walls. On the rooftop is a small sundeck and a plunge pool.
  • Hotel Majestic – an excellent, pricier hotel situated directly on Passeig de Gracia just a few blocks from Casa Milà. Hotel Majestic is an elegant hotel with a wonderful bar on the ground floor and a roof terrace with pool. Worth the extra price tag if you want an unbeatable location. And from the roof-top you will get a wonderful view over to the Basílica de la Sagrada Família.
  • Hotel Jazz – a popular 3-star hotel located 5 minutes by foot from Plaça de Catalunya where the hop on/hop off buses stop. The hotel has a great roof top pool, clean rooms and good food.

Barri Gòtic

With a stay in Barri Gotic, you are in the Gothic quarter of Barcelona, the historic old town. You can’t get more central. You will be close to the main tree-lined pedestrian street of La Rambla and steps away from restaurants, bars, cafes and markets. It’s lively, crowded, noisy and splendid. Stay here if you are a couple looking to be in the heart of it all.

  • Hotel Colón – a stylish, traditional family-run hotel with cosy rooms and great views. Ask for a room on the higher floor to get a view over to the cathedral.
  • Hotel Catalunya – a great location close to many eateries and shopping. A small rooftop pool for a plunge at the end of a hot day.
  • Hotel Le Meridien – probably my favorite hotel in this area. In the middle of the old town, the hotel has good sized rooms, excellent service and a great breakfast! On the ground floor there is an excellent bar with live music most days of the week. Do not stay here if you are looking for peace and quiet! This is a lively spot in the middle of Ramblan.
  • H10 Cubic – What we love about this hotel is its spacious, modern interior and fantastic front-desk staff who are completely focussed on great customer service. Situated right in the middle of excellent shopping and walking distance to many sights including the cathedral, this hotel is a winner. From the roof-top plunge pool area to bright and airy dining you will find everything you need here. Opt for a room with a city view alternatively looking out onto an inner courtyard.
  • Hotel Barcelona Apolo – this Melia hotel is a large medium standard hotel situated about a 20 minute walk from La Rambla and just 10 minutes from the Columbus Monument. It’s very popular with cruising guests as the taxi to your cruise port is only around 10 minutes from here. It’s also a good choice for families as rooms are large and extra beds are available.
  • Petit Palace Boquería Garden – located right on La Rambla, this hotel is cosy with a lovely courtyard. You are very close to the Liceu metro station. We have had mixed reviews about the service but often good prices can be found for the central location.

Barceloneta Barrio 

If you want to live close to Barcelona’s fabulous beach, then this is the area for you. It’s about a 20-30 minute walk from the center of the old town, however local buses run frequently or hop on Barcelona’s metro system for an even faster ride.

  • Hotel Duquesa de Cardona – this hotel is decorated tastefully in muted tones with wooden floors. The view from the pool area looks directly over the wonderful harbour. Here on the roof-top deck they offer al fresco dining.
  • H10 Port Vell – another good hotel in the H10 Spanish hotel chain. A simple, elegant hotel right next to Barcelona’s trendy El Born area and a 10 minute walk from the Picasso museum. 
  • Catalonia Port – a compact hotel in a small building, overlooked from all sides when you are on the roof-top terrace. But still it’s a good choice. The rooms are fresh and unassuming, the service is excellent and there is a great breakfast buffet. If you are a family with kids just ask for the extra stow-away beds and you can share the same room. This offers good value for money for being in a great spot.
  • W hotel – If you are looking for a luxury stay as close to Barceloneta boardwalk as possible, look at the 5-star W hotel. Architecturally spectacular, you cannot miss the W hotel’s sail-like shape, it’s as close to the beach as you can get. 

Gràcia

What we love about Gràcia is the peace and quiet outside of the main touristy old town in Barcelona. This neighborhood is full of indie shops, small cafes and bars and where you find the locals live. The tree-lined streets are inviting, with a slight bohemian feel. There is really only one hotel that we feel is worthy of recommendation located right next to the Gràcia neighborhood:

  • Hotel Barcelona 1882 – a beautiful, elegant hotel with friendly service. The hotel offers a free guided tour of  the Sagrada Familia on Saturdays to their guests (we are hoping this service resumes following the pandemic). Enquire about booking your free spot when you make your hotel reservation, it’s well worth it! The very name of the hotel ‘1882’ is a nod to when Gaudi first started building this breathtaking architectural masterpiece, which is still under construction, 140 years later.

5 fantastic ways to spend the day in Barcelona

So you’ve chosen your hotel, and now it’s time to experience Barcelona. Below are 5 recommended areas of the city, each of which you can explore as much or as little as you have time for. And in any order you like. In a city with so much history and art, it’s a good idea to pack a pocket guide book so you don’t miss anything. Alternatively of course you can book a guided tour with a knowledgable local.

Either way, the following daily itinerities will cover the must-see sights and a few hidden gems. And at the bottom of the page you find essential information on how to get to the Barcelona Cruise Port for your cruise from Barcelona!

Day 1: Eixample

Eixample is very walkable, and easy to navigate as it is laid out somewhat on a grid system. As well as being Barcelona’s nerve centre of commerce, this vibrant area of famous sights, restaurants, cafes and markets has plenty of hotel options. Eixample is my favourite part of Barcelona in which to stay. 

Start your day at Barcelona’s university. The inner courtyards are beautiful and this elegant landmark dating back to 1861. Walk towards the fountain on Plaça de Catalunya and wonder northwards along Rambla de Catalunya. This tree-lined street has super boutiques and deserves a little window shopping.  

The famous Mansana de la Discordia

Casa Batllo, Antoni Gaudi
Casa Batllo, Barcelona (Antoni Gaudi)

Turn right on C/ d’Aragó towards the beautiful street Passeig de Gràcia. Here you will discover the famous Mansana de la Discordia. See these three dramatic houses of different architectural styles and you’ll understand why they attract crowds every day of the week. Vibrant, beautiful and unique, the most famous of the three is Gaudi’s Casa Batllo. They have to be seen to be believed.

Continue on the Passeig de Gràcia to Gaudi’s surreal Casa Milà (La Pedrera).  If you want to climb to the roof then be sure to purchase tickets in advance, as queues can be very long. This will save you both time and money.  In our opinion we prefer to wait until visiting La Sagrada Familia for a breathtaking view over Barcelona.

If you are starting to get hungry there are many good eateries close by. We recommend Tragaluz on Pasaje de la Concepción, serving a good range of well-priced dishes including classic tapas. 

Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
La Sagrada Familia, Barclona

After lunch head towards Antoni Gaudí’s Basilica of La Sagrada Familia, the church that exemplifies his architectural genius. It’s essential to purchase skip-the-line tickets before your visit, as there are usually endless queues.

Admire the cathedral from the small square Plaça de Gaudí before climbing the clock tower for a breath-taking view over the city.

Book a ticket in advance or even better a guided tour and learn the rich history including a tragic end to one of the world’s greatest architects.

At the end of your visit you can take the metro directly back from Sagrada Família metro station to Passeig de Gràcia. Buy a metro ticket at the station with your credit card.

Day 2: The Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic)

The Gothic Quarter is Barcelona’s old inner core, well preserved from the middle ages. This medieval part of the city is characterized by the main street La Rambla.

At the point where Eixempel meets Barri Gòtic is Plaça de Catalunya. This enormous, striking plaza surrounded by monumental buildings has a large fountain in the center.

It is where all the taxis and hop on, hop off buses stop and where many tours begin. So if you are looking for a bus this is where you’ll find it to most parts of the city. Plaça de Catalunya is also the starting point of La Rambla and therefore a good place to begin your day. 

Barcelona’s fantastic food market Mercado de La Boqueria

Start by walking from Plaça de Catalunya southwards down La Rambla, Barcelona’s wide pedestrian boulevard.

Take care of your wallet and watch the pick-pocketers amongst the crowds as you look up to admire the medieval facades. If someone bumps into you, or stops to ask you a question, hold onto your valuables.

Head towards Mercado de La Boqueria, the best food market you will find anywhere. It’s easy to spend hours here. At the little eateries and bars, sample tapas, cheeses or sweets in the hundreds of fresh food stalls. Or grab an iced fruit juice before continuing your walk of the old town. 

From La Boqueria, cross the street and continue down La Rambla, making a left on Carrer de Colom and into Plaça Reial.

This is one of the city’s busiest spots with fountains, cafes and restaurants. It is a favorite of ours for lunch tapas and a beer.

The Cathedral of Barcelona and Picasso Museum

Exit the square on the other side and walk to The Cathedral of Barcelona, built in 1298. You will walk through the beautiful Plaça de Sant Jaume where most of the Government buildings of Barcelona are located.

On one corner you will find the tourist information office if you need to pick up a map. If you are lucky there will be an outdoor antique market or street choirs performing outside the Cathedral.

Enjoy the walking through winding streets and old town markets to get to the Picasso Museum, about a 10-minute walk from the Cathedral.

It’s worth the entrance fee to see the fascinating earlier works of a young Picasso. The museum has the best collection of Picasso’s earliest art from the age of just 14 years old.

Shopping, parks and the beach – experience it all before you cruise from Barcelona

Now you have two options.

For some relaxation head towards Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf and the city park, just a 10 minute walk away. Enjoy the park or explore the area on bike by renting a public bicycle nearby.

Barcelona has over 200 km of dedicated bike lanes, but my advice is to stay away from the busy walking boulevards and keep to the park or coastline on your cycle ride.

Alternatively, head in the opposite direction for some afternoon retail therapy. Walk along Avinguda del Portal de l’Àngel, a beautiful, wide pedestrian street with familiar retail names.

This is my favorite shopping spot in Barcelona. Finish your afternoon with a visit to El Corte Inglés, Spain’s famous department store. And you’re back where you started your fabulous day out.

If you are looking for a beach day instead, hop on the metro at Drassanes, just off La Rambla and before you reach the Columbus Monument (Monument a Colom) at the bottom of the street.

Get off at the Barceloneta stop. From here you can walk to the beach within 15 minutes or hop of one of the local buses for a short ride that costs just 2 euros.

Day 3: Barceloneta, the Beach & Port Olympic 

From an empty industrial area to a beautiful beach front with a wide open boardwalk, Barcelona’s beach front area Barceloneta, has been transformed during the last 30 years ever since the city hosted the 1992 Olympic Games.

You can reach the beach after a long walk from the city, but we recommend the metro instead, getting off at Drassanes or the Barceloneta stop.  Sculptures, art, skyscrapers and shopping malls now line the beach boulevard.

Walk along Rambla de Mar. This floating wooden pier stretches all the way to Maremagnum, a lively shopping galleria and movie complex. There are plenty of fast food restaurants and bars here for a lunchtime snack.

After a lazy few hours on the beach, head towards Port Olimpic. Here you can take a boat trip with one of the many companies offering captained sailings around the coastline.

Enjoy a whole new view of the city from the ocean. Alternatively shop at El Centre de la Vila-Port Olimpic, a large, inviting shopping mall. 

And while you are here, walk across the road to our favorite restaurant and experience the freshest seafood in the city at La Fonda del Port Olimpic.

Or a fantastic alternative is Can Sole restaurant, located on Sant Carles 4 in Barceloneta.

Day 4: Montjuic

The park of Montjuic rises over 200 meters over the harbour and is a beautiful green oasis visible from the city center.

It’s a memorable day out before your cruise from Barcelona. Enjoy the baroque style castle, Castell de Montjuic, that dominates the hillside and art museums – and of course the view over Barcelona. Hopefully you’ll visit on a clear day otherwise the views can be somewhat hazy.

To get to Montjuic – you have 4 options:

Local bus

Take a local bus from Plaça d’Espanya. This is your cheapest option. And if you are using the metro in the city then your metro ticket will include bus rides too. Check when you purchase your ticket.

Mountain train (funicular)

Ride the funicular, the mountain train, which leaves from Parallel metro station.

Montjuïc Cable Car

The Montjuïc Cable Car (Telefèric de Montjuïc) is highly recommended if you don’t mind heights! This is great fun and also the priciest way to get to Montjuic. The cable car leaves from the cable station at Parc Montjuïc.

Walking

Walk it! Yes it’s possible but only if you are feeling very energetic. On a hot day it will be tough. Pack a water bottle and wear good shoes!

Whichever way you choose to get there, we would absolutely recommend walking down to make the most of the views and sights along the way. 

Don’t miss visiting The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc situated at the tip of Avinguda Maria Cristina and below the Palau Nacionaland. From there it’s just a short walk to arrive back at Plaça d’Espanya.

Day 5: Parc Guell and Camp Nou

Parc Guell

Visit this splendid park as a stop on a hop on, hop off bus tour. Choose the blue line starting at Plaça Catalunya.

Gaudi’s 30 acre park is a fantastic way to see his inspirational architecture. Gaudi himself actually lived in the mansion you see as you walk in.

Playful and full of nature-inspired fantasy, the park has wonderful views over the city. Be sure to buy a ticket to get inside the monumental area, which is where most sites are located, it is well worth the entrance fee.

Camp Nou stadium - home of FC Barcelona
Camp Nou, FC Barcelona

Camp Nou

If you are an FC Barcelona fan then a visit to the city wouldn’t be complete without seeing Camp Nou before your cruise from Barcelona.

Visit the stadium and the museum but be sure to get tickets ahead of your visit, it’ll be busy.

On the same blue route on your hop on/hop off bus ticket you can visit both Parc Guell and Camp Nou on the same day.

Start early and the bus ride takes time but is a great way to see Barcelona outside the city center. The hop on, hop off buses leave from Plaça de Catalunya.

Best day trip from Barcelona

If you choose instead to substitute one of your sightseeing days in the city with an excursion further afield, here are our recommendations:

Half-day trip Montserrat and the Black Madonna

Monserrat is the spiritual soul of Catalonia. Located about 60km north of Barcelona, the area is characterized by the jagged mountain tops. The name literally means “serrated mountain”.

The Black Madonna, image of the Virgin Mary, is located at the back of Montserrat’s Royal Basilica, Santa Maria de Montserrat. This historic monastery and the Benedictine abbey are located on a cliffside,and if you are a lover of art then you’ll really enjoy this half-day excursion.

And remember if you are doing this trip to avoid wearing shorts or sandals as you may not be allowed to enter the basilica. Good walking shoes and cotton layers to beat the heat are perfect when visiting in summer months. In shoulder season or in winter then take a jacket, as the mountain air can get chilly!

Queues to enter the monastery are long in high season, and you will need tickets. A prepaid excursion with a guide will make it quicker to enter.

Montserrat and the Black Madonna plus lunch and wine tastine

To extend the half-day tour of Montserrat’s Royal Basilica and the Benedictine abbey, include a traditional Catalan lunch and a visit to a fantastic vinyard to try out the local wines. Ensure you book in advance and include a guided tour of the vinyards and the wine cellers.

Getting from city to port for your cruise from Barcelona

Barcelona is the largest and busiest cruise port in the Mediterranean. Check your cruise ticket to be sure you get to the correct terminal. Getting to the port for your cruise from Barcelona is quite easy. Here are your alternatives.

Private Transfer

If you are more than 2 people then we recommend booking a private transfer before you leave home for pick up at your hotel . Tell them what time you want to check in at the cruise port and they will calculate your pickup time from your hotel to get you there in good time.

Taxi

Ask your hotel about pre-booking a cab. Allow time to get to the Port. Traffic and queues are unpredictable, especially in high season. Taxis charge a flat rate plus a cruise port supplement. Be sure to establish the price with your driver before you start. 

Metro & Bus

From Plaça de Catalunya use the metro to get to the station Drassanes. A short walk takes you to the Columbus Column. From here you will find blue buses (PortBús) departing every 20 to 30 minutes to the Port. Again, be sure to check your cruise ticket so you get to the correct terminal. Note! It is really too far to walk to the cruise terminal, especially on a hot day. And you are on a main road making the whole walk quite unpleasant. Plan your trip and leave yourself extra time if you are relying on public transport. When all else fails get yourself into a cab.

How to start planning your cruise from Barcelona

If you are still in the planning process and need help deciding on the best cruise for you, these articles will help you along the way.

They are full of good advice and travel tips to help you book the perfect cruise for you and your family:

Package trip – Mediterranean cruise from Barcelona 2022 – Royal Caribbean International

Cruise packing list essentials – our best tips

Cruising – questions to ask to kick-start your planning

Essential tips for a first time cruise

Top tips for booking a cruise and avoiding common mistakes

Meet the author: With more than 20 years experience from the travel industry, Mattias offers tips, expert advice and a unique perspective anchored in having worked with market leading cruise lines, tour operators, consolidators, airlines and hospitality suppliers. Read more..