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How does the metro work in Barcelona?

If you’re in Barcelona for the first time and have little experience with metros, the metro in Barcelona might seem difficult, but that’s no reason not to take it! The metro is the fastest, cheapest, and easiest way to get around Barcelona. Therefore, in this article, I’ll give you all my tips and show you how the metro in Barcelona works.

Last update: 30/01/2020

1. Buying a Ticket

You can easily buy metro tickets at the ticket machine. You can find these at all metro entrances, under the sign “venda de tiquets”. If you don’t speak Spanish or Catalan, first select English in the settings, and then choose your desired ticket. You can pay with cash or a bank card. However, be aware: the machine only gives change in coins, so it’s not recommended to pay with large bills.

There are various types of cards, from a day pass (T-Dia), a 10-ride card (T-Casual), to a monthly card (T-Usual). Additionally, at the ticket machines, they sell the tourist card “Hola Barcelona Travel Card“, which is made especially for tourists and can be handy if you plan to travel a lot by public transport.

I always use the T-Casual card (formerly T-10). With this, I am entitled to 10 rides, and within the same hour and 15 minutes, I can transfer to the bus or tram without having to pay for an extra ride.

Ticket Machine in Barcelona
Ticket Machine in Barcelona

All metro tickets (including the Hola Barcelona Travel Card and Barcelona Card) can also be used with other public transport operators, such as the tram and bus. Very convenient! And children up to 4 years old can travel for free!

2. Through the Turnstiles

Once you have bought your card, you can use it to enter the metro. You first need to insert the card into the machines at the metro turnstiles.

Make sure you stand on the correct side of the gate (usually the right side of the machine where you insert your card). You can also see this by the arrow in the machine of the gate that indicates the direction.

Metro Turnstiles in Barcelona
Metro Turnstiles in Barcelona

3. Choosing a Line and Destination

The metro network in the metropolis of Barcelona is divided into “zones”. The whole city of Barcelona is in zone 1, but the reach of zone 1 is even bigger than you might think: with a regular metro card, you can travel from Barcelona Airport El Prat to the slopes of the Collserola hills in Vallvidrera or to the beach in Montgat.

If you plan to travel outside zone 1, you will need to buy a card valid for multiple zones, but generally, you won’t need this for a city trip (unless you’re staying outside the city; then you do need to pay attention to the different zones).

It’s of course most handy if you already know where you want to go beforehand. You can do this via Google Maps, for example: you type in your final destination in the search bar and see which metro station is closest. Click on the red <M> to see the name of the station and the color of the metro line.

Many metro stations have easily recognizable names like Catalunya (for the central square Plaça Catalunya) and Sagrada Família (for the Sagrada Família church).

In addition to a unique color, the metro lines in Barcelona also have their own numbering. For example, the red metro line is called Línia 1 (L1), the purple metro line Línia 2 (L2), and so on. Another option is to use the Barcelona Metro TMB Map app. A complete overview of the metro lines (and their colors) can be found here.

Barcelona Metro Map and T-10
Barcelona Metro Map and T-10

Once you are through the turnstiles, you need to go to the right platform, which you do based on your destination. Pay attention to the signs that indicate the direction of the metro line and follow the signage and arrows to get to your platform.

4. The Platform

Once on the platform, you will see the metro line signs again confirming which metro line you are on, the direction of the metro, and which stations are coming up (in color) and which have already been passed (in white). There are also informative signs that again indicate the direction of the metro (you read this at “direcció” and then the name of the last station) and the oh-so-useful countdown clock.

Tip: at most metro stations where there is a small height difference between the platform and the metro door, there are small ramps on the left and right sides that make it easier for people with strollers, wheelchairs, or suitcases to board the metro.

5. In the Metro

Once in the metro, you can sit down or stand by the doors until you reach your destination. The signs above the doors always indicate the route of the metro and the next station. This is also confirmed via the loudspeakers with “proxima estació“ or “propera parada“ followed by the name of the station (in Catalan, never in English or Spanish).

It’s not uncommon for a group of street musicians (or in lesser cases, beggars) to pass by during your ride. Don’t feel obliged to give them money. As you will see, most fellow passengers ignore their presence.

When you arrive at your station, you first need to pay attention to which of the doors (left or right) will open. For this, you can look at the red arrows at the corners of each metro wagon: these indicate which side of the metro doors will open at the next station. Very handy to prepare yourself to get off!

Traveling by Metro in Barcelona
Traveling by Metro in Barcelona

6. Transferring

Often, you’ll need to transfer between metro lines because your final destination is on a different metro line. Transferring in the metro can only be done at designated metro stations where multiple metro lines connect. The transfer options are always indicated by signs.

When transferring, you’ll need to walk a short distance from one platform to another (follow the signage). This generally takes about 5 minutes, although it can be longer.

For example, the transfer at Passeig de Gràcia between L3 and L4/L2 is the longest, and the transfer between L5 and L3 at Vall d’Hebron is the most impressive (you go from deep underground to high up using many escalators and elevators).

You’ll often find street musicians in the metro corridors, making the transfer more enjoyable.

Metro Station Universitat in Barcelona
Metro Station Universitat in Barcelona

7. Exiting

When you exit the metro and want to reach the street, it’s advisable to first check which street name you should head towards because the exit is marked by “sortida” followed by the street name. At each metro station, there are multiple exit options.

If you don’t know the street name, check the map of the area where you are to find out which exit is best for you. I find these maps very handy. You can find neighborhood maps both on the platform and above at the exit where the turnstiles are and on the street next to the metro entrance.

To exit, you need to follow the signs for “sortida” and walk through the exit turnstiles. You don’t need to check out. The turnstiles will open automatically as you walk through (if there is a revolving gate, it will turn with you). Pay attention to the green arrows indicating which turnstiles to use to exit.

8. How Long is the Ticket Valid?

On the back of the regular 10-ride card, it shows how many rides you have left. Every time you use the card at the turnstiles, a code is printed with the last digit indicating the number of rides remaining. You can also see the number on the screen at the turnstiles. When your ticket is used up, the following message will appear on your card: “Títol esgotat”. Then you know it’s time for a new card.

For a day pass or a Hola Barcelona public transport card, you can go through the turnstiles as many times as you like within the provided period (starting from the moment the card is activated). After the chosen period, the card will deactivate itself and will no longer work.

9. Until What Time is the Metro Open?

You can use the metro every day. During the week, from Monday to Thursday, it’s open from 5:00 AM to 12:00 AM. Additionally, it stays open later on weekends: until 2:00 AM on Fridays, and the metro runs all night on Saturday. On Sundays, the metro closes at 12:00 AM.

On holidays like New Year’s Eve, the metro also runs all night.

10. A Few More Handy Tips

  • You can recognize metro entrances in Barcelona on the street by the red <M> posts.
  • Your metro card is also a ‘public transport card’ that allows you to take the tram, bus, city trains FGC, and the Funicular de Montjuïc!
  • When using escalators, always stand on the right side to allow others to walk on the left. Never stand side by side on the escalator as it blocks the way for others.
  • If you have difficulty walking or are traveling with luggage or a stroller, use the elevators and ramps available at most stations.
  • On the platform, let people exit the metro before you board, just like you would on a train.
  • Beware of pickpockets, especially in crowded areas, during transfers between metros, near the stairs, or at the ticket machines.
  • If you need additional information about the metro, visit the information counters in the metro and consult the metro staff (easy to recognize by their uniforms).
  • The Barcelona Card can also be used on the metro and provides discounts at many museums and attractions.
  • Traveling with a dog in the Barcelona metro is now allowed (except during busy times from 7 to 9 AM and 5 to 7 PM).
  • You can also travel with a bicycle on the metro (except on weekdays from 7 to 9:30 AM and from 5 to 8:30 PM).

With these tips, traveling by metro in Barcelona should hopefully be much easier and enjoyable. If you have any questions or want to share your own tips and experiences, please leave a comment below!

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Photo of author
Hello! My name is Marta, and I am a born and raised Barcelonian. I love introducing people to Barcelona, especially the Barcelona known to locals. In Barcelona, I am always looking for fun places and tips that I can then share with you, with the goal of helping you experience Barcelona like a local.

Marta Rubio

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