Visitors often ask, ‘How long does it take to get to the city centre from the Airport?’
The short answer is usually, ‘About 30 minutes’.
However, this doesn’t account for time spent in immigration, baggage claim, orientation, and wandering around trying to make sense of it all after a long flight.
What you need to know is how long does it really take to get to the city centre after landing.
I have travelled in and out of Barcelona airport more than sixty times and know how to move in, around and about the departure and arrival areas at all four passenger areas.
Realistically, the total time from touch-down at Terminal 1 to city centre is between 1 hour 45 minutes and 2 hours 15 minutes.
I recently flew into Terminal 1 and kept a log of the actual times for each aspect of the journey. So, what follows is not a guesstimate, but actual timings based on real experience of how long it takes to travel from Terminal 1 to the city centre.
Hope you find it useful when planning your arrival.
Taxi-ing to Finger
Time: 4 minutes.
Disembarkation and walking via Immigration to Baggage Claim
Seatbelt light off at 7.49pm.
Walk Time: 26 minutes
Arrival al at Baggage Claim: 8.15pm.
Elapsed time: 30 minutes.
Retrieved bag at 8.42pm
Wait Time: 27 minutes.
Elapsed time: 57 minutes.
Walking to Shuttle Bus Stop
Walk Time: 3 minutes. Arrived at the stop for the Shuttle Bus at 8.45pm — exactly 1 hour after touchdown.
Elapsed time: 1 hour.
Airport Shuttle Bus to Terminal 2
Wait time: 5 minutes
Journey time: 9 minutes.
Arrived at Terminal 2 at 8.59pm.
Elapsed time: 1 hour 17 minutes.
Terminal 2 Shuttle Bus Stop to RENFE rail terminal
Walk Time: 4 minutes: Escalator, across bridge and down stairs, through ticket barrier to platform.
Elapsed time: 1 hour 21 minutes.
RENFE Rodalies train
Wait time: 5 minutes.
Train departed at 9.08pm and arrived at Estació Sants at 9.30pm.
Journey time: 22 minutes
Elapsed time: 1 hour 48 minutes.
Transfer from RENFE to Metro
Walk Time: 5 minutes: Elevator from rail platform to Metro L5 (Blue) - direction: Vall d’Hebron
Elapsed time: 1 hour 53 minutes.
Line 5 (Blue) Estacio Sants to Verdaguer (La Dreta de l'Eixample).
Wait time: 1 minute.
Metro from Sants at 9.36pm arrived at Verdaguer (La Dreta de l'Eixample) at 9.42pm.
Journey Time: 6 minutes.
Elapsed time: 2 hours.
Walk Time to apartment: 5 minutes.
TOTAL ELAPSED TIME: 2 hours and 5 minutes.
Airport to City Centre Transit Options
There are several ways of getting from the Airport to the city centre:
RENFE Rodalies train.
Metro Line 9 Sur.
In sum I would politely suggest you plan on a minimum travel time from touchdown at Terminal 1 to city centre of 1 hour and 45 minutes by whichever means of transport you decide to use.
I have travelled in and out of Barcelona airport more than sixty times and know how to move in, around and about the departure and arrival areas at all four passenger areas. You’ll likely want to add on some orientation time.
I was travelling alone — experience suggests that transit times are always a little quicker when travelling solo. If travelling as a couple or family or in a group you’ll likely want add on some discussion/orientation/restroom time.
I was travelling with a small, cabin-sized case — if travelling with two or more bags and a carry-on bag, or with an extra-large suitcase, then you may want to avoid the metro leg of the journey as getting the bags through the older ticket barriers and up and down a considerable number of steps can be very tiresome.
I usually fly via Terminal 2 but over the past few years I have used Terminal 1 Arrivals & Departures at least 12 times.
I do not like Terminal 1 — the walking distances between plane and arrivals, alleviated only in part by moving walkways, are considerable.
I had a TMB/ATM travel ticket so I did not have to spend time purchasing a ticket from a machine. You may want to factor in another 5 minutes to buy a ticket (for example, a T-Casual or a T-Familiar).
You can purchase TMB/ATM tickets at the tobacco kiosk in Terminal 1 Arrivals or at the RENFE rail terminal).
Although I landed at Terminal 1 I elected to use the train from Terminal 2, via the Airport Shuttle, to connect with the Metro — the total cost of the journey using a T-Casual is only 1,14€ ($1.25).
It was a relatively quiet arrival time; it may have been a different experience if arriving between 8am and 12noon.
I am a EU citizen. I could have scanned my passport, however, as there were no lines I chose to present my passport to a border official.
Family and friends visiting from the States have not reported any hold ups at immigration — but, if arriving from outwith the EU it may be a good plan to allow a minimum 10/15 minutes for clearance.
Trains depart from the airport at 8 minutes and 38 minutes past the hour (apart from the first train in the morning which departs at 5.42am) and the last train of the day is at 11.38pm. So, you may have a possible wait time at the station of up to 28 minutes.
If I had taken a taxi from Terminal 1 I would probably have arrived home at around 9.25pm so could have shaved approximately 25 minutes off the total journey time, but it would have cost approximately 30€.
I saved 28,86€ (that's two menù del días!).
I could have taken Metro Line 9 Sur (Gold) and changed at Collblanc to Line 5 (Blue). This journey costs 4,10€ one-way and would have taken about 45 minutes. So, I could, in theory, have been home for around 9.35pm — about 12 minutes earlier than using the train and metro combination. (If your hotel/apartment accommodation is in Pedralbes or Les Corts you may very well want to consider taking Metro Line 9 Sur (Gold)).
I used the RENFE train to Estació Sants — where you can change to Line 3 (Green) and Line 5 (Blue) metro.
TIP: If you're staying in, near or around Poble Sec or El Raval you could take the RENFE train as far as Sants and transfer to Metro Green line (L3) — Poble Sec or Paral·lel to your accommodation.
TIP: If you're staying in, near or around la Sagrada Familia then you could take Line 5 (Blue) metro from Sants.
TIP: If you are going to be staying in, near or around Plaça Catalunya and Eixample Dreta you could take the RENFE train to Passeig de Gràcia and walk a few blocks or take a taxi.
TIP: If you are staying in, near or around Born you could take the train to Passeig de Gràcia, get off and then wait on the same platform for a train to Estació de França — wait time is between 5 and 30 minutes and journey time: 10 minutes.
Here's a link to the RENFE Rodalies schedule in English: RODALIES.
And here's a link to the current Metro map: METRO.