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Port guide

Barcelona cruise port guide: What to do, see and eat

Barcelona cruise port may face new port regulations meaning ships can no longer dock at the foot of Las Ramblas – but for those who don’t mind the shuttle bus ride, there’s still plenty to experience in the Catalonian capital.

Words by Laura French

Barcelona has long lured cruise passengers with its enchanting mix of beaches, history and culture, from Gaudí’s whimsical architecture to the medieval lanes of the Gothic Quarter.

Here’s what you need to know about Spain’s new Barcelona cruise port rules plus what to do see and eat during a call to Barcelona cruise port on your next sea-bound vacation.

What are the new ship limits in Barcelona cruise port?

Last year, more than 2.3 million cruisers visited the city, docking at various ports in Barcelona: the newer Moll Adossat terminal in the south (used for big-ship brands including Royal Caribbean, NCL, Carnival and MSC Cruises); and terminals around the World Trade Centre in the north, set at the foot of Las Ramblas (pictured below – typically used by luxury small-ship lines including Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Silversea).

Amid concerns over exhaust emissions, however, the northern docks will no longer be used. Instead, from October 22, 2023, ships will need to dock at the larger southern port, located a little further out.

How to get from Barcelona cruise port to the city center

The existing Cruise Bus will be on hand to shuttle guests from Barcelona cruise port to the city in around 10 minutes (for €3 one way or €4.50 return), but the new regulation means passengers can no longer stroll from port to center in a few minutes.

Nonetheless, it’s certainly not the end for cruise tourism in the city (and it’s worth noting the Moll Adossat terminal already accounts for over 85 percent of cruises coming into Barcelona anyway).

If you’re heading to the city on your next Mediterranean cruise and don’t mind jumping on a 10-minute shuttle bus or taking a taxi from Barcelona cruise port, here’s our guide to the best things to see, do, eat and drink in Barcelona.

What to see and do from Barcelona cruise port

Casa Batlló Barcelona

Witness Gaudi’s whimsical creations

Barcelona owes much of its fame to art nouveau genius Gaudí, and you aren’t short on places to glimpse his legacy. Especially unmissable is the Sagrada Família – the indomitable basilica with mind-bending spires that have been under construction since 1882.

Twisted columns, symbolic towers and quirky additions such as glittering fruit sculptures make this unconventional church a must-visit, and it’s even more impressive on the inside, with a kaleidoscope of light pouring in through its striking stained glass windows.

It’s far from Gaudí’s only success story; head to the UNESCO-listed Casa Batlló and the nearby Casa Milà (also known as La Pedrera) to see more of his wavy, whimsical work, with brightly colored staircases, intricate mosaic tiling and skeletal roof terraces offering a further glimpse into the architect’s creative prowess.

Afterward, pay a visit to Parc Güell, a verdant hillside park designed by the architect that offers sweeping sea views flanked by dragon-inspired, sparkling mosaic walls. While you’re here, check out the Sala Hipóstilla, where stone columns rise beneath colorful tiled ceilings, then stop by Casa Museu Gaudí, a house-turned-museum where Gaudí lived for 20 years.

Wander the Gothic Quarter and Ciutat Vella

It’s not just the Gaudí influence that attracts visitors to Barcelona, of course; the city’s origins date back more than 2,000 years, with Roman ruins and medieval streets clustered around the atmospheric Ciutat Vella, or Old City.

At the heart of the Old City is the Gothic Quarter (or Barri Gòtic), an atmospheric, step-back-in-time maze of narrow lanes and cobbled plazas – among them the lively, palm-clad Plaça Reial.

Wander over to the Plaça de la Seu to see the Catedral de Barcelona (Barcelona Cathedral), a Gothic, gold-bedecked masterpiece housing a lavish Baroque altar, then head to Las Ramblas – Barcelona’s most famous thoroughfare, where bars, restaurants and souvenir shops sit beneath leafy trees.

Close by, the Mercat de la Boqueria food market has gained legendary status for its rows of fresh produce, while the El Born neighborhood charms with local restaurants and coffee shops tucked down hidden alleys.

Mercat de la Boqueria food market barcelona
montjuic castle barcelona cruise port guide

Take the cable car to Montjuic Castle

There’s more in the way of history in the neighborhood of Montjuic, crowned by its hilltop, namesake castle. Originally built in the 17th century, the fortress was used to defend the city and later housed prisoners, including republicans who were executed there during the Spanish Civil War. Today you can access it by taking a cable car up from the Telefèric de Montjuic station, reached by funicular from the Paral-lel metro stop.

While you’re in the area, linger on in the evening to catch the Magic Fountain of Montjuic – a spectacular light, sound and music show that takes place throughout the year and has become one of the most popular things to do in the city (though it’s worth noting the show is currently suspended due to drought).

Relax on the beach or in the parks

If you’re done exploring and fancy a lie-down, head to Barceloneta – the city’s go-to stretch of sandy beach, located a 15-minute walk from the Gothic Quarter and flanked with lively bars and restaurants serving fresh paellas and cervezas. If you’re after a quieter spot, wander along the seafront promenade to reach the lesser-visited beaches of Nova Icària and Bogatell.

For green space, Parc de la Ciutadella is the city’s most famous park and for good reason, with its elaborate, sculpture-bedecked fountain and an idyllic lake where you can hire rowing boats.

While you’re here, check out the Arc de Triomf – a red-brick answer to Paris’s Arc de Triomphe – and the 18th-century Palau del Parlament de Catalunya, the seat of the Catalan parliament.

Parc de la Ciutadella barcelona

– READ MORE: Insider’s guide to Barcelona

Tibidado church barcelona

Explore the city’s lesser-known gems

If you’ve had your fill of the big hitters, dig a little deeper by exploring some of the city’s lesser-visited spots.

For colorful streets, trendy boutiques and quirky cafes, the bohemian neighborhood of Gràcia, in the north of the city, is well worth a visit; you’ll find an independent village feel here, with regular live performances on its myriad of plazas.

Elsewhere, the Sant Antoni neighborhood is becoming a foodie hotspot for those in the know, centered around a recently restored food market that’s now the largest in Catalonia.

Up on a hillside overlooking the city, Mount Tibidabo meanwhile dominates the skyline with an elaborate, neo-gothic basilica and one of the world’s oldest amusement parks (the surrounding area is also a hotspot for hiking).

For more in the way of picturesque vistas, Bunkers del Carmel – a hilltop viewpoint a 20-minute walk north of Parc Güel – is something of a locals’ secret and an idyllic spot from which to see the sun set over the city.

Where to eat and drink in Barcelona

Barcelona is something of a hotspot for foodies, bringing hole-in-the-wall tapas bars and fresh food markets together with a slew of Michelin-starred restaurants.

For the latter, it’s hard to beat the three-starred Lasarte, which offers wine-paired tasting menus by Martín Berasategui, who’s earned more Michelin stars than any other chef in Spain (think squid tartare with liquorice emulsion, Champagne ravioli and truffle duroc pig trotters).

For something a little more casual, try Gigi Von Tapas, located a 10-minute walk from the Sagrada Família and serving a mix of classic and creative tapas dishes. Over in the Gothic Quarter, the atmospheric L’Antic Bocoi del Gotic has regular queues but is worth the wait with Catalan dishes served in a wood-beamed, stone-walled restaurant, while El Bosc de Les Fades is nothing short of magical, with a fairy-tale forest theme featuring trees, waterfalls and twinkling lights.

On the drinks front, the city isn’t short on options – especially when it comes to cocktails. In the Old City, Dr Stravinsky serves experimental creations in an eclectic setting designed like a vintage laboratory.

Elsewhere, inventive cocktail spot Sips was ranked third in the World’s Best Bars 2022 list, while the now-legendary Paradiso came first, serving innovative creations that are every bit as mind-bending as Gaudí’s indelible creations (cocktail in a seashell, anyone?). We’d expect nothing less from this eclectic, ever-changing city.

– READ MORE: Best Spain shore excursions

Published 10.09.23