Barcelona Cruise Port Guide

barcelona Cruise port Guidee

Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain – A Barcelona Cruise Port Guide

Barcelona port from the air.

Barcelona, second largest Spanish city and proud capital of Catalonia

This is one of the largest cruise ports in the world with 9 cruise berths. If you cruise the Mediterranean you are sure to end up with a day ashore here and you will probably be back more than once! Which is probably a good thing as, although it is a wonderfully convenient port, this vibrant and exciting city is so full of things to see and do, that eight hours is only going to give you a chance to see a fraction of the city!

Sagrada Familia – top Barcelona tourist attraction

The port is only 16km from the Airport – about 15 minutes by taxi – but if your cruise starts or ends here I would definitely suggest tacking a night or two on before your cruise to really get a chance to explore.

Columbus Monument in Placa del Porta de la Pau

If you are cruising here you need to have a plan and potentially book tours or tickets ahead. The ever popular option of the HOHO bus it not a great option here because the city is large, there is no access to the older parts of it and traffic can be bad – I’ve heard of people sitting in traffic for ages, only to reach somewhere they could have walked to in half the time!

There are Taxis available at the cruise terminal – taxis are metered. There is a fixed price supplement of €4.30 for a taxi taken to (and from) both the airport and cruise port.

Port Shuttle stop

The Port Shuttle Bus runs

to the Columbus Monument in Placa del Porta de la Pau – which is perfectly situated between the tourist port and the foot of the probably the most famous Tourist  street in town, La Rambla. The shuttle stop is convenient for local buses, the Metro and the HOHO – There is a second Taxi rank here but although you won’t pay the fixed €4.30 supplement of €4.30 you do have to pay a couple of Euro a head for the shuttle. There really isn’t any benefit to coming here to grab a taxi unless there is a huge queue at the Cruise Terminal. 

cafe at the Maritime museum
cafe at the Maritime museum

If you’re not too confident about doing too much on your own, there is plenty to see and do within fifteen minutes walk of the shuttle! The Columbus Monument right in front of you has a lift to the viewing terrace – Columbus is pointing out to sea but definitely not towards America  – there’s a great view if you fancy a trip up there! The Maritime Museum is on the opposite side of the roundabout and is an interesting place to spend an hour or so with a nice shaded orange tree covered terrace for refreshments. Drassanes stop is the nearest Metro stop – it on the other side of the Maritime Museum. I quite like the Metro system but I know a lot of people find it confusing so maybe only try it if you’re feeling confident!

Boat trip base and the Rambla de Mare Bridge beyond

You will find boat trips here at the harbour or you could walk across the Rambla de Mare bridge. This brings you to a shopping mall with the ubiquitous fast food joints. The Barcelona Aquarium is just beyond which is a popular destination for kids, also an Imax and one of the first submarines ever built – the Ictineo II. This is not the way to reach the beach – for that, walk on, past the Museum of Catalonian history and right round the edge of the port! The area here is called Barceloneta – a great place to eat local sea food as it is still a traditional fishing area  even tough it is sandwiched between the commercial port and the flashy modern port built for the Olympics in 1992. 

The Catalan Flag flies everywhere
The Catalan Flag flies everywhere

Although Barcelona is on the sea and has a beach it is not a seaside town – it is a wealthy, stylish, cosmopolitan city. Locals frown very heavily at tourists dressed for the beach visiting the Cathedral or one of the super smart, upmarket restaurants or bars so do not get fooled by the nearness of the beach into thinking you can wander in shorts and a bikini top! While we’re on the subject local people are very pro Catalan independence – Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia and you will see the red and yellow Catalan Flag flown widely. Many people speak Catalan – this is one of the five official languages of Spain and local really hate it being referred to as a dialect. Catalan is actually closer to French and was not influenced by Arabic in the same way as during the Moorish conquests, so whereas many Spanish words have the prefix al from the Arabic, Catalan words do not – so artichokes  are alcachofas in Spanish but carxofes in Catalan. 

Sagrada Famila, La Rambla, Barca FC..

If you ask anyone about Barcelona, the two things that they will probably mention first are the Sagrada Familia and La Rambla but there is a lot more to Barcelona than that. Of course if they are a football fan they will also mention Camp Nou. And thats why I say that you should have a real think and plan ahead because trying to do even just those three in one day would be pretty impossible – even with pre-booked tickets!

Camp Nou

FC Barcelona – ‘Barca’ is the richest football club in the world with a huge fan base, the club is supporter owned. Camp Nou stadium is a complete tourist experience with a Museum and Trophy exhibition. There are various levels of tour available – on one you even get to walk on the pitch and come away with a personalised FC Barcelona shirt. If you have footballing fans to consider this definitely needs planning and pre-booking!

Sagrada Familia

 Visible from Camp Nou but about an hour and a half walk away ( take Metro or taxi) is the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia – this astounding (and frankly, quite bonkers) church is the work of the Catalan architect Antonio Gaudi.  Designed in 1882 it is due for completion in 2026 – which will be the Centenary of Gaudi’s tragic death in a tram accident.

Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia

It is absolutely essential to prebook tickets to go inside the Sagrada Familia. There are timed entries to visit the church interior and also for an extension ticket fro take a lift up to the bell towers. Make sure you join the right queue…

Mp personal favourite is the interior

It really is an absolutely jaw dropping experience – Gaudi must have had an incredible imagination – his use of modern stained glass techniques means that the interior has a constantly varying wash of colour. The light that changes with both time of year and the weather – I could honestly visit on every trip to Barcelona and not get bored! 

Park Güell

Although the Sagrada Familia is his most obvious  work there are many, many other examples in Barcelona and you could have an awesome day choosing to visit some of them – Casa Batlló and La Pedrera apartments are both on on Passeig de Gràcia, Park Güell – a park of ceramic extravaganza in the north of the city – a park of ceramic extravaganza and imagination! ALL of these need pre- booking to access but Gaudi can be also be found in the more mainstream parts of the city too – the elegant Plaça Reial square contains a fountain and lamp-posts designed by him early in his career and elsewhere you will spot tiles and even drain covers that are his work! 

One of Gaudi earliest inputs to the city is at the Ciutadella Park where he designed the Cascade fountain for the 1888 World Exhibition Exhibition – as well as the fountain, this beautiful park also house the Catalonian Parliament, Barcelona Zoo, The Science Museum and a boating lake –  a great place to take kids!

 Ciutadella Park
Cascade at Ciutadella Park

Montjuic and the Olympics

On the other side of the city and right above the cruise port is MontJuic which was the main site for the 1992 Olympics when it was heavily modernised and improved. This is a great place to visit, particularly when its very hot, as it is high above the town and will feel a bit cooler! You can easily spend a whole day there  – main features are the National Art Museum, The Joan Miro Foundation – displaying art by this famous Catalonian painter, modern art at the Caixa Forum , also an outdoor theatre, scenic local swimming pool with a stunning view over the city, the Olympic Stadium and a ‘Magic fountain’ – which sadly is an illuminated evening only experience! The Poble Espanyol is a sort of theme park, arts and craft centre with glass blowing and cafes. A popular stop for cruise coach tours it is honestly all very touristy and fake!

Castle of Montjuic

It couldn’t be more different to the large and forbidding Castle of Montjuic which has a sad past. It was used as a prison and interrogation centre in the dark days of Francos rule when Barcelona was basically punished for its opposition to him – at the end of the Spanish Civil War 4000 Catalan nationalists were shot nearby. Today the castle is an international centre for peace and you can walk the battlements and photograph your ship which is just below you.

Montjuic Cable car
Montjuic Cable car

As you can imagine the Montjuic site is huge – and all of these sites are linked together by a series of exterior escalators and cable cars – including the little red cabine that you can see swinging above the port.

Montjuic Cable car
Montjuic Cable car

The cabins go across from Montjuic and down to the to the beach. This makes a nice round trip from the port.

SUGGESTED DAY 1 You can take a taxi up to Monjuic, spend as much time as you want there and then come back by cabins. The first stop is the World Trade Centre which is a short walk back to the shuttle stop. Or you can carry on across to the Beach and then either walk or taxi back to the shuttle/ port. Its not far as the crow flies but it is quite a walk right around the harbour! Sadly it isn’t an option to use the local shareable bike scheme Bicing in Barcelona as this is for residents only.

Place de Catalunya
Place de Catalunya

Central Barcelona

At the opposite end of La Rambla is Place de Catalunya – the heart of Modern Barcelona. The airport shuttle buses operate from here and there is a huge tourist information centre. Any demonstration or celebration tends to centre here and you never know what you will find! There is a huge branch of the Spanish chain store El Corte Ingles on the corner which has a really good food hall which has a cafe with a terrace on the top floor. You get some amazing views and it is a great place to buy foodie souvenirs too!

El Corte Ingles view to Sagrada Famnilia and beyond
El Corte Ingles view to Sagrada Famnilia and beyond

I would suggest that if you want to visit La Rambla that you start from this end rather than from the port end. It is a long wide street featuring a mosaic by Joan Miro. It is full of cafes, restaurants, stalls, street performers and flower kiosks – the ‘top’ end is slightly quieter, less crowded and not quite so touristy. La Rambla is one of the places it pays to be particularly alert and be careful with your possessions – especially when seated at a cafe. In all honesty I’m not sure that Barcelona is any worse than any other city for this type of pretty crime but is certainly is a problem and especially in this area so just be careful and leave any unnecessary valuables on board.

Heading down La Ramla, on the right, is one of my favourite spots La Boqueria Market. It is packed full of stall from seafood and meat to cheese and ‘fast food’ like Crepes!

La Boqueria Market.
La Boqueria Market.
La Boqueria Market.

Unusually the market is open 8.00 until 8.00. It is surrounded by small bars and restaurants so its is perfect for lunch or an afternoon snack. I love to visit for the local colour and to shop for food related souvenirs. You will find amazing selections of dried mushrooms, herbs and spice and we usually buy some nuts, cheese and sausage to nibble on the balcony back on board. 

Barcelona Cathedral

Gothic Barcelona

The Old Town or Barri Gotic is off to the left as you head down to the port – its narrow shady streets weave and wander unlike the american style grid system that the rest of the city is based around. It is the site of the original Roman settlement of Barcino – you will find more information and excavations in the Museu d’Historia. Towering over the streets is the ornate Romanesque Cathedral with its gothic cloisters that dates back to 1298.

Gothic Quarter
Gothic Quarter

Other points of interest in the area are The Palau de la Musica designed by Domenech i Montaner,  the Picasso museum,  the Catalan Government buildings in Place de Sant Jaume and the Palau Real – the royal palace where Ferdinand and Isabella received Columbus after his voyage to the New World in 1492. 

SUGGESTED DAY 2 would be to follow the signs for the Barri Gottic from the Shuttle stop, wander up through the Gothic quarter to Place de Catalunya and then back down La Rambla towards the shuttle – not forgetting to investigate the market and all the shady little squares, quirky museums and bars that you will find on the way. Then possibly up the Columbus. Monument for the views if you still have the time and the energy!

As you can see there is an enormous amount to do in Barcelona itself – this is just the quickest run through of just some of the things you could do! So have a good think, make a plan, book tickets ahead and have a great time!

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