Cruise from Barcelona - the essential guide - Cruise Trail

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 in the city at the end of the famous street Las Ramblas.

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

Eixample

  • Olivia Balmes Hotel – this is a great 4-star hotel with excellent service. It’s a bright, modern hotel 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 Hotel. 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-top deck and pool area. 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.

Barri Gòtic

  • 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 Le Meridien – probably my favorite hotel in this area. In the middle of the old town, the hotel has good sized rooms and excellent service. On the ground floor there are bars and 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. When we arrived we asked for a room with a city view instead of looking out onto an inner courtyard (albeit pretty) which we had been allocated. The view was amazing, and worth the extra euros per night.
  • 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.

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 is directly over the harbour, and is just wonderful. 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. 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, 139 years later.

5 fantastic ways to spend the day in Barcelona

If I were your guide, here is how we would spend our time in Barcelona. I have covered 5 main 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.

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 is a great place to start your day. 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

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 Batilo. 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.  Personally I prefer to wait until visiting La Sagrada Familia for my 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

After lunch head towards Gaudi’s Basilica of La Sagrada Familia, the church that exemplifies his architectural genius. 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 and teaming with shopping, markets, street entertainers and the like.

The heart of Barcelona, the Gothic Quarter is the old medieval part of the city characterized by the main street La Rambla. At the point where Eixempel meets Barri Gòtic is Plaça de Catalunya. This is where all the 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. This is a good point to start 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 walking boulevard. Take care of your wallet and watch the pick-pocketers amongst the crowds as you look up to admire the medieval facades. 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 meandering 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.

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, and 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 right from the age of 14.

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 at one of the main rental stations around the city. 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 areas 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, on Plaça de Catalunya. And you’re back where you started your fabulous day out.

If you are looking for a beach day 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 2 eur ride.

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.

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.

How to get to Montjuic – you have 4 options:

  • 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.
  • Ride the funicular, the mountain train, which leaves from Parallel metro station.
  • The Montjuïc Cable Car (Telefèric de Montjuïc) – 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.
  • 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, I 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

Heading north out of the city center, we took a cab to Parc Guell for sheer convenience as we were starting out after lunch. To make the most of your day here, we recommend instead visiting the park as a stop on a hop on, hop off bus tour. 

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

If you are an FC Barcelona or Messi 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.

Getting from city to port for your cruise from Barcelona

Now, time to get to the Port of Barcelona for your cruise from Barcelona. Here are your alternatives. Barcelona is the largest and busiest cruise port in the Mediterranean. Check your cruise ticket to be sure you get to the correct terminal.

  1. Private Transfer: If you are more than 2 people then I recommend booking a private transfer for pick up at your hotel before you leave home. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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
Cruising – questions to ask to kick-start your planning
Top tips for booking a cruise and avoiding common mistakes

Meet the Author

Mattias has nearly 2 decades of travel industry expertise, working with cruise lines, tour operators, airlines, IT providers, hospitality suppliers and everything else in between that makes the travel industry tick. more..