This article details my experience visiting Barcelona and having a walk through the city during a short stopover in between two flights.
A Barcelona stopover
As I already explained in the trip report introduction, it was a bit of a challenge finding a cheap way to fly from Romania to Morocco as there are no direct flights and one-stop itineraries on the major European legacy airlines were prohibitively expensive.
I solved this problem by booking two cheap one-way flights: One flight from Bucharest to Barcelona, and another flight from Barcelona to Casablanca.
There were some advantages and disadvantages to this.
The clear drawback was that I wouldn’t have any protection in case of a delay since my second flight from Barcelona to Morocco was booked separately with a different airline than my initial flight from Bucharest to Barcelona.
However, considering that there was a 10-hour gap between the arrival of my first flight in Barcelona and the departure of my second flight to Casablanca, I believed that there was a big enough cushion to accommodate any potential delay.
Besides, having 10 hours in Barcelona between my flights was hardly a crime as I could easily travel from the airport into the city centre and do something fun to kill the time.
Bucharest (OTP) to Barcelona (BCN)
Wizz Air – Flight W6 – Airbus A321
Plane registration number: HA-LZD
Economy Class – Seat 20A
Departure: 7.20am – Arrival: 9.40am
Flight time: 3h20m – Distance: 205 miles
Price: 62 euro
Flight to Barcelona
My first flight of the day from Bucharest to Barcelona was rather uneventful.
As I never sleep well the night before an early morning flight, I dozed off for most almost the entire duration of the flight.
To my surprise, the weather in Barcelona was cloudy and foggy, which unfortunately meant that there were not really any views at all upon landing.
However, the most important thing was that we arrived on time, giving me approximately 7 hours to explore Barcelona before needing to return to the airport for my second flight of the day.
From Barcelona Airport to the city
Barcelona El Prat Airport has two separate terminals: Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.
Terminal 1 is the main airport terminal and is also the newest and by far the nicest one.
Terminal 2 is much older and is primarily used by low-cost airlines, so this was also where my Wizz Air flight arrived.
Although you can use the bus to get from one of these airport terminals into Barcelona, taking the metro or suburban train is more comfortable and usually much faster.
The best transport option from Barcelona Airport to the city centre depends on the terminal you arrive or depart from, as Terminal 1 is connected by the metro system while Terminal 2 has a station for the Rodalies suburban train.
From the Airport Terminal 2 train station there is only one line you can take: The R2 to Granollers Centre or Maçanet-Massanes.
The R2 suburban train from Barcelona Airport Terminal 2 towards Granollers or Maçanet-Massanes makes stops at Barcelona Sants, the city’s main train station and important interchange point for other suburban railway lines, as well as at Passeig de Gràcia, the ideal stop for the city centre.
Having visited Barcelona on numerous occasions in the past, I found myself uncertain about how to spend my time during the stopover.
If it’s your first time in Barcelona, the obvious thing to do during your stopover would be to head out to the city centre and walk around the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter) or to visit sights featuring Antoni Gaudí’s famous architecture such as Parc Güell, Sagrada Familia and Casa Milà.
Art lovers may want to check out Fundació Joan Miró, modern architecture buffs the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion and football fans should head for the Camp Nou stadium and the FC Barcelona museum.
At the ugly, uncomfortable and passenger-unfriendly station of Barcelona Sants I disembarked the train.
Here, I changed trains and boarded another Rodalies train towards Estació de França.
The transfer was fortunately extremely smooth as I only needed to wait a few minutes for the França-bound train to arrive at the exact same platform where I had disembarked earlier.
Estació de França
Called Estació de França in the locally dominant Catalan language or Estación de Francia in Spanish, this terminus is the second most important train station in Barcelona after Sants.
The name simply means “France Station” in English as this was the historic terminus of train services from France.
Estació de França is a world apart from Sants as it is a beautiful station with fine architecture and a true railway ambiance.
This station therefore made for the perfect place to start my Barcelona stopover.
The main reason for my decision to continue my journey to França station was the station’s close proximity to Parc de la Ciutadella (Ciutadella Park).
Although I generally like to walk a lot when visiting cities, this is especially true when I have a stopover in between flights as there is nothing better than stretching your legs.
While riding the Rodalies train from the airport to the city centre of Barcelona, I figured that a leisurely walk through Ciutadella Park and along the nearby beaches would be the perfect way to spend my stopover.
Although not as famous as Parc Güell, I do actually like Ciutadella much better as you can actually walk around in peace and are not surrounded by throngs of tourists.
Sights in Ciutadella Park
There a couple of noteworthy sights to see in Ciutadella Park.
The most iconic landmark within Ciutadella Park is arguably the Arc de Triomf, which was constructed as the grand entrance to the 1888 Barcelona World Fair and is located at the far northern end of the park.
Within the park, you can discover a couple of other beautiful buildings in the Catalan Modernism architectural style, including the Castle of the Three Dragons and the Hivernacle and Umbracle, which are two large greenhouses.
You can also find the building housing the Catalan Parliament (Palau del Parlament de Catalunya, or the Palace of the Parliament of Catalonia) inside Ciutadella Park.
Don’t forget to take a look at the beautiful Ciutadella Park Fountain as well.
A short 10-minute walk from Ciutadella Park will take you to Somorrostro Beach, which eventually extends into Barceloneta Beach further south.
Somorrostro Beach is surrounded by modern high-rise buildings and adjacent to Port Olímpic, a yacht harbor that was originally constructed for the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games.
There is a wide selection of bars and restaurants located directly at the beach or on the main promenade one level higher.
Barceloneta Beach is probably the best known of all the beaches in Barcelona.
The beach takes its name from the nearby Barceloneta quarter, which was originally a working-class neighbourhood of fishermen but has now become a more gentrified area that, unfortunately, has been heavily affected by the negative consequences of overtourism, with many apartments and houses being rented out on platforms like Airbnb.
As my Barcelona stopover walk made me thirsty, it was about time to sit down somewhere and have a drink and a small snack.
At one of the beach bars in Barceloneta, I enjoyed a cold pint of beer, a classic Spanish tortilla (egg and potato omelette) and some bread with tomatoes.
After enjoying my time at the beach, I decided to explore the Barceloneta neighbourhood a bit more.
The neighbourhood is characterised by narrow streets constructed in a grid-like pattern.
There are plenty of appealing bars to be found in Barceloneta – I ended up at a place called Bodega Fermín where I enjoyed a tasty Spanish IPA and some chorizo sausage.
Back to the airport
A few beers and a short walk later, my Barcelona stopover had come to an end, and it was time to make my way back to the airport.
Since my outbound flight on Royal Air Maroc departed from Terminal 1, I had to take the metro for my return to the airport.
With excellent public transport links connecting both terminals of Barcelona Airport to the city centre, it is quick and easy to venture into the city during your stopover.
The possibilities for activities during a stopover in Barcelona are endless, and the best choices will vary depending on your personal preferences.
When I have a layover, I always prefer to go for a walk around town to stretch my legs, and that’s exactly what I did during my Barcelona stopover.
I certainly had an enjoyable afternoon walking through Ciutadella Park and along Barceloneta Beach, making frequent stops for some beers and snacks.
Trip report index
This article is part of the ‘Qatar Airways Qsuites Adventure to Casablanca‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:
1. A Stopover Walk Through Barcelona (current chapter)
2. Review: Joan Miró VIP Lounge Barcelona Airport
3. Review: Royal Air Maroc Economy Class Barcelona to Casablanca
4. Taking the Casablanca Airport Train: The Cheap Way Into the City
5. Review: Ibis Casa Voyageurs Hotel, Casablanca
6. Casablanca: Is Morocco’s Biggest City Worth a Visit?
7. Review: Royal Air Maroc Zenith VIP Lounge Casablanca Airport
** rest of the chapters to follow soon **