A lot of tourists and visitors do it the other way around. Finding themselves in Barcelona and looking for a day trip away from the city. This one assumes you’re already in Girona. The obvious bit is that the earliest you can get away, the more time you’ll have in the Catalan capital. While there are many cultural points of interest this informational guide excludes such delights-we’ll cover those in another post.
The quickest and least stressful way is to go on the TGV / Alta velocitat fast train service. Just 38 minutes from Girona without any stops. Buy your ticket and exit the station building (the side facing parc Central) and a short walk over to a stand-alone building (image below). Take the down escalator as the platforms are underground, and give yourself enough time to go through security. This is also the way down to the underground bus station.
If you prefer to drive down the roughly 100 kms distance this is best done using the AP7 motorway toll road (approx. return cost 15€). The free alternative is to use the N-II route but this will probably double your travel time. Once in Barcelona there are plenty of car parks, mostly underground but they aren’t cheap. You can try to find a good deal via a parking app, and the city traffic is busy most of the time.
For me the downside to using the AVE travel option is that you arrive at Barcelona Sants station, which isn’t too bad but I’d prefer to be nearer the centre. Plan B is to take the ‘media distancia’ train from Girona, 1hr.15m and get off at Passeig de Gracia station-better situated for shopping. That train departs from the platform above ground
Passeig de Gracia is a long wide avenue full of swanky upmarket stores that wealthy tourists flock to. Its famous crowd pulling landmarks include Gaudi’s Casa Batllo, which wouldn’t be out of place in a Shrek movie. Gaze upwards and marvel at the sheer effrontery to normal straight line architecture. Don’t imagine you can just walk straight in, pre booking is highly advisable.
For the less culturally inclined, exit the station and go towards the large Apple store in Placa Catalunya to restore your capitalist beliefs. Once here you ought to move on to the famous Las Ramblas, a short walk away. A big tourist attraction, this pedestrianised tree lined avenue stretches all the way down to the port area. Be sure to check out the La Boqueria food market, it’s predominantly tourists who funnel through its myriad stalls. Plenty of food and snack options here to tempt you. Locals prefer to shop elsewhere as it has sadly succumbed to the vagaries of mass tourism. I tend to agree.
Aimlessly wandering has its attractions but can lead to a haphazard experience. If you fancy a dip and weather permitting you can make your way by taxi or subway to Barceloneta, the city’s go to place for a beach day. Summertime this long stretch of beach is heaving with visitors. Stretch your legs along the long promenade and chill out in one of the many beach bars.
Feel like you might want to spend the night here then further up along here are two cool 5 star seafront hotels. The Arts Barcelona and the W-Barcelona have the perfect sea views that are hard to beat. This lengthy seafront is a popular evening spot with cool music and cocktails as the big pull.
Feel like you’ve had enough then walk back towards the trendy El Born neighbourhood. It has a laid back hipster approach and youthful vibe. Narrow lanes filled with small boutiques for the curious shopper, and characterful bars to rest your weary legs.
Keep weaving your way through and you’ll find yourself in the old quarter of Barcelona, Barrio Gotico. The quaintness continues but it’s time for a cautionary word of warning.
This area, especially at night, requires a degree of alertness as regards petty street crime. Plenty of forums have stories of how tourists have had their bags and backpacks stolen or picked in Barcelona. It even happened to me once.
I was walking along the street in the old town on my way to a comedy club. Two strangers approached me and my wife, cleverly separating us. They started handing out various business cards for local restaurants. The guy high-fived me and I responded. As I lowered my hand I felt my front pocket and instantly realised my wallet was missing. At the same time the two strangers quickly departed running off into the maze of alleys. I ran after them but to no avail as they disappeared into thin air.
I started to rustle through nearby trash bins as I’d read that these pickpockets often take the cash and dump the wallet. I flagged down a passing police car who looked unsurprised and told me that I should go to my local police station to report the crime. Alas my comedy club evening was devoid of any laughter.
If you came here by train then I’m sorry but there’s no enjoying any night time fun as the last train back to Girona is at about 9.30pm. Catch it from Sants station or Passeig de Gracia.