The first time I visited Barcelona I was just 15 years old. The only thing I cared about was skateboarding. So I skated everywhere, hunting down the best skate spots in town and dragged my poor Dad with me.
I had the best time ever.
It wasn’t until my second visit in 2011 that I realised the best way to experience the awesome city of Barcelona is actually by bike.
This time I was travelling solo and only had 3 days to see sights like Park Güell, Sagrada Familia, Casa Milá, Camp Nou and the Gothic Quarter. With no skateboard to get me from A to B, choosing to see Barcelona by bike was a no brainer.
Why you should see Barcelona by bike
Barcelona city centre is vast, so walking between the popular sights can be exhausting and time-consuming. Inevitably, you’ll need to take the city’s Metro at some point but on a beautiful day the last place you’ll want to be is the stuffy, overcrowded and predictably sweltering underground network of tunnels.
Cycling is not only a more attractive and less stressful alternative, but is also eco-friendly and healthier too. These days, bike rental in Barcelona couldn’t be easier. It’s as simple as booking online, choosing a pick-up point, turning up more or less on time and collecting your bike.
Where to go in Barcelona by bike
Whether you’d rather stick to flat terrain in the city centre, escape to the beach or push your way up the hill to Park Güell, cycling in Barcelona is a great way to get around. Here are 5 spots you shouldn’t miss!
Where better to start a cycling tour of Barcelona than the centre? The famous Gothic Quarter, or Barri Gòtic as it is called in Catalan, draws hundreds of visitors for its quirky art, unique ambience and of course marvellous medieval architecture. It was in fact in the Gothic Quarter – in a hidden courtyard along Carrer del Paradís – where Barcelona, which now spans 101.9km², was supposedly founded.
There you can see the remains of the Temple of Augustus, ancient palaces, authentic food markets and the old Jewish quarter. Barri Gòtic is also home to Joan Fontcuberta’s Kiss – a large street art piece made up by 4000 pictures from locals expressing their idea of freedom. It’s this sort of urban art that the barrio has become known for.
The Poblenou area, north of the city centre by the beach, is another popular quarter for discovering Catalan history and culture. It’s also perfect to explore by bike. Old but restored textile mills offer a fascinating insight into the city’s industrial heritage and architecture, while many derelict factories awaiting redevelopment have been transformed by some of Barcelona’s most talented street artists.
This post about graffiti in Poblenou by Barcelona Lowdown shows off some of the best pieces and even pinpoints them on a Google map so you can locate them using GPS.
Barcelona’s famous Parc de la Ciutadella is so-called due the military citadel that once stood in its place. As Barcelona’s biggest and greenest park, it is perfect for exploring by bike. With its own waterfall, lake, zoo, music kiosk, plant house, glass house, castle and even parliament building, there is no shortage of sights to see!
It’s worth making a day trip out of – or at least an afternoon – since the park is so beautiful. On a sunny, cloudless day you probably won’t want to leave. Take a picnic and if you can find somewhere to lock your bike you could even rent a rowing boat to enjoy on the lake.
If you’re prepared to break a sweat then head up to Tibidabo for some fresh mountain air and the best panoramic view of Barcelona. It’s quite the challenge, so you’ll need to be in reasonably good shape and stock up on water and snacks!
On the way up you can call in at the amazing Sarrià Market to refuel, or the stunning natural park of Collserola, where you can take a pick of bicycle trails to venture on. The return trip makes for a hair-raising experience so make sure your brakes can be relied upon!
Rental companies like donkey.bike provide top quality bikes and plenty of pick-up/service points across the city.
If some beach action and beautiful waterfront scenery is on your agenda, there’s nowhere better to relax in Barcelona than La Barceloneta. Beyond the packed beach and hectic, modernised promenade, you can still find the old fishing village feel that La Barceloneta was once known for.
After you’re done exploring you could take your rental bike to one of the many chiringuitos scattered along the beach where you can quench your thirst and fill up on bar snacks. Or, if you’re not limited by a budget, you could treat yourself to some excellent seafood at one of the top restaurants on Passeig Joan de Borbon.