Although it means you’ll see less along the way, the Barcelona Metro is the best method of transport to get you easily and cheaply around the city. It really is a pleasure to use; the trains and the platforms are clean, it’s safe and the trains are frequent with information tending almost always to be correct. There are, however, a few things you need to know about using the Metro in Barcelona which will make your travels even less hassle-free.
You can buy single or multi-journey tickets. A single ticket (1€ 35) is for one journey including any changes you need to make so long as you don’t exit the station and go and do something else between stages. Therefore you should be careful not to exit through the barriers at stations where you need to change trains and should look carefully for the directions to the other line. The only stipulation is that your journey should not take more than 1 hour and 15 minutes.
You can buy a T10 ticket which is valid for all public transport in any one 1 zone (metro/subway, tram, bus and train services). There are six zones to choose from. Most of the major sights can be accessed with a Zone 1 ticket. As of May 2009 these cost 7 € 70 making an excellent saving of 5 € 80 based on ten single journeys. A T10 ticket is valid for one calendar year although it becomes invalid in January when the new tariffs are announced. If you have journeys left over when you leave Barcelona hold on to your ticket if you know people who might be going to Barcelona. An acquaintance heard we were heading to Barcelona and gave us a ticket with eight journeys left! Other tickets exist - a one day ticket, a two day ticket and so on. You need to make a quick judgement what is best for you. The options are explained on the ticket machines - which are in Catalan so click on the union Jack for English instructions if you aren't sure. You don't need one ticket per person. You can share a multi journey ticket, simply put the ticket through the barrier and pass it back to the person behind and go through in the same way. The number of journeys used is printed on the back of the ticked each time it goes through the machine.
Do look after your ticket as crumpled ones may cease to work. If this happens you should find a station attendant and they will give you a new ticket with the remaining number of journeys on it. When you buy a single or a T10 you need to validate it either on the Metro platform machine for a single ticket, or on the platform machine or on the validation machine on buses for T10s.
If you want unlimited travel on public transport, consider the Barcelona Card which includes free travel across the city for the validity of the card (among other benefits). These can be bought from tourist information offices or online and if you buy this way you even have the option of picking it up at the airport if you fly into Barcelona.
When entering a station you might find that there are two entrances depending on which platform you want and that you may not be able to access both platforms from one entrance. Check which direction the platform takes you before you put your ticket in the barrier. If you get it wrong you may be lucky and a nice station employee will let you through the barrier without passing your ticket through if you explain, but it’s possible they might refuse. I would advise caution as the best approach as it would be a shame to waste journeys for no reason.
Let’s move on to those ticket barriers. First I tried to put my ticket in the right hand side slot of the ticket validation machine and entered on the left hand side turnstile; the turnstile wouldn’t open. Foruntately a local lady spotted my error. You must enter your ticket on the left hand side and enter on the right turnstile. However, at stations such as Catalunya where they are not turnstile barriers but those sliding glass partitions you must do it the other way round.
Some stations have lines for Metro and for conventional train services so again you need to check which platform you are on as they do not use all the same stations and backtracking would mean using up another journey.
Once on the right platform, do not worry too much if you have just missed a train as they are very frequent. An overhead sign counts down the time until the next train and is – as far as I have seen – totally accurate. Once safely boarded you’ll see a line map on board the train for the line you are on and when the train leaves on station, the a dot above the name of the next one lights up red so you know exactly where you are. The name of the station is announced too and this is clear and audible.
Some stations have several exits/entrances and it can be frustrating to exit at one, walk to your destination and learn that there was a nearer one; I’m thinking in particular here of Passeig de Gracia which has a second entrance/exit just next to Casa Battlo, the wonderful apartment black designed by Gaudi. Unless you know this from experience there’s nothing you can do about this but if you look carefully you may see signs to this effect.
The very short funicular ride between Paral-lel and Montjuic is also part of the Barcelona Metro but if you want to ride it just because it’s a funicular then you’ll be disappointed because it’s a very short journey that takes place almost entirely underground. However it only takes two minutes and is the best way to get up the mountain if you are low on time. Note, though, that is operates shorter hours and is in use between 09:00 and 20:00 in autumn and winter and until 22:00 in spring and summer.