The quickest and easiest way of reaching Barcelona is to fly direct to El Prat de Llobregat, the city's airport. Catalunya's other major airport, Girona - used mainly by charter flights and less than an hour from resorts on the Costa Brava - is also handy for Barcelona. Only ninety minutes from the city by train, it's an attractive point of entry into Catalunya in its own right, and is often much cheaper to reach than Barcelona itself. The other charter airport in the region is at Reus, west of Tarragona, again just ninety minutes from Barcelona by bus or train.
How much you pay to get there depends on the season, with the highest fares being from May to September, when the weather is best; then dropping during the "shoulder" seasons - March-April and October-November - with the best prices during the low season, December to February (excluding Christmas and New Year when prices are hiked up and seats are at a premium). Note also that flying on weekends may add to the round-trip fare; price ranges quoted here assume midweek travel.
You can often cut costs by going through a specialist flight agent - either a consolidator, buys up blocks of tickets from the airlines and sells them at a discount, or a discount agent, who in addition to dealing with discounted flights may also offer special student and youth fares and a range of other travel-related services such as travel insurance, rail passes, car rentals, tours and the like. Some agents specialize in charter flights, which may be cheaper than anything available on a scheduled flight, but again departure dates are fixed and withdrawal penalties are high.
Another option if travelling from Britain is to go by train, bus or car , though these inevitably take much longer than a plane and often work out no cheaper.
Booking flights online
Many airlines and discount travel websites offer you the opportunity to book your tickets online, which may cut out the costs of agents and middlemen. Good deals can often be found through discount or auction sites, as well as through the airlines' own websites.
Flights from the UK and Ireland
Flying to Barcelona from the UK takes about an hour and a half, around thirty minutes more from Ireland, and connections at the other end into the city are so frequent that you can easily be on the Ramblas sipping a coffee by noon. There are charter flights from London
throughout the year, either direct to Barcelona itself, or to Girona. The widest selection of ads for London departures is invariably found in the classified pages of the London listings magazine Time Out
or in the Evening Standard
. For departures from other British airports
check the local evening papers and the Sunday Times
From Ireland , summer charter flights to the Costa Brava are easy to pick up from either Dublin or Belfast, and there is a year-round nonstop scheduled service from Dublin to Barcelona. However, other package holidays or city breaks are often routed via London, with an add-on fare from Ireland for the connection. Students, and anyone under the age of 31, should contact Usit, which generally has the best discount deals on tickets.
Flights from the USA and Canada
There is a fair variety of flights from most parts of the US to Madrid, with connections on to Barcelona. Occasionally, however - and especially if you're coming from Canada - your best bet may be to route via another major European city. Flying times to Barcelona (excluding lay-overs) is around eight hours from New York, nine hours from Toronto. If Barcelona and Spain are part of a longer European trip, you'll also want to check out details of the Eurail pass, which must be purchased in advance of your arrival and can get you by train from anywhere in Europe to Barcelona.
Nonstop flights from the BUS to Barcelona are offered by Delta out of New York in high season and year round by Iberia also from JFK (approx. $1000 in high season). Air Europa operates direct flights from JFK to Barcelona via Madrid (with a short stop in Madrid but no change of plane). Iberia flies nonstop from New York, Miami and Chicago to Madrid, where you have to change planes to catch a connection to Barcelona. The US carriers Delta (from JFK), Continental (from Newark) and American (from Miami) also offer nonstop flights to Madrid, with onward connections to Barcelona on a European carrier - usually Iberia or Spanair.
The lowest midweek Apex fare on Delta's high-season nonstop flights to Barcelona is $930. On other routings, you should be able to find return Apex fares from New York to Barcelona for approximately $420 in the low season or $920 in the high season. From Chicago expect to pay in the region of $640/$950, from Miami $700/$1000, from LA $1000/$1350. However, one of the airlines' special promotional offers is likely to be better value than any of the above, and you may even find that the cheapest fare comes with fewer restrictions when it comes to advance booking or duration of stay. At the time of writing, for instance, taking advantage of promotional offers from major airlines, you could pick up return fares to Barcelona for as little as $298 from New York, $320 from Chicago, $398 from Miami or $529 from LA. From Canada , Iberia operates three nonstop flights a week to Madrid from Montréal, with connecting flights to Barcelona. Expect Apex fares on indirect flights via Europe to cost around CAN$1250 (high season) or CAN$950 (low season) from Toronto or Montréal to Barcelona. From Vancouver the fares hover around CAN$1800 or CAN$1300 depending on the season. Also, from the West Coast, you could look into the economics of crossing the border and flying from Seattle to Barcelona (on Continental, for instance, via Newark and Madrid).
From everywhere in North America you might also find it worthwhile asking about routings via other major European cities : Northwest/KLM via Amsterdam , Lufthansa via Frankfurt , TAP or TWA via Lisbon , British Airways via London or Sabena via Brussels , for example.
Flights from Australia and New Zealand
There are no direct flights to Spain from Australia or New Zealand. However, a number of airlines do fly to Barcelona with a stopover elsewhere in Europe or Asia. Another possibility is to fly to Madrid, from where you can pick up a connecting flight or train.
The lowest standard return fare from eastern Australia to Barcelona is around A$1600 in low season and A$2400 in high season; from New Zealand, you're looking at NZ$2150/$2500.
From London to Barcelona takes around 24 hours by train on the standard cross-Channel route, though using the Eurostar service through the Channel tunnel (which runs from London to Paris in 3hr) can shave up to six hours off this. However, using Eurostar to kickstart your rail trip to Spain is expensive - you will almost certainly be able to fly all the way there for less.
Most regular train departures are from Victoria or Charing Cross stations, daily at between 9 and 11am, changing trains in Paris in the early evening (you have to change stations in Paris, too - from Nord to Austerlitz; take metro line 5, direction Place d'Italie). From there, there are two routes to Barcelona, and on either you'll be changing trains again at the French/Spanish border early the next morning.
Buses from London to Barcelona travel via Figueres and Girona, and arrive 26 hours later (most buses continue to Valencia and Alicante). They are operated by Eurolines ( ) in Britain, and by Iberbus/Linebus and Julia in Spain. Departures are daily at 11am or 9.30am on Wednesdays. In both Britain and Spain tickets are available from many travel agents; Eurolines sells tickets and through-transport to London at all British National Express bus terminals. The standard one-way fare from London to Barcelona is £69; return £106.
The journey is long but quite bearable - just make sure you take along enough to eat, drink and read, and a small amount of French and Spanish currency for coffee stops. There are stops for around twenty minutes every four to five hours, and the routine is also broken by the cross-Channel ferry (included in the cost).
By car, ferry and Eurotunnel
The bus follows the most direct road route from London to Barcelona: if you plan to drive it yourself, unless you're into nonstop rally motoring, you'll need roughly to double the time. See the list of ferry company and Eurotunnel telephone information numbers below, or contact your local travel agent for the latest ticket and departure details.
Customer Services Centre tel 0870/535 3535, .
Brittany Ferries tel 0870/901 2400, . To Santander, St-Malo, Roscoff, Cherbourg and Caen.
P&O European Ferries tel 0870/242 4999, . Portsmouth to Cherbourg, Le Havre and Bilbao.
Sea France tel 0870/571 1711, . Dover to Calais.