It's easy to see why Barcelona hosted the Olympics: its architecture is some of the most unusual and inspiring in the world. Before arriving in Barcelona, consider an affordable car rental with Skyscanner.
Arrival in Barcelona
There are plenty of rental car companies at the Barcelona Airport: Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Europcar, Goldcar Rental, Hertz, Sixt, and Thrifty. These companies are located in Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. Cars vary from economy-sized coupes to full-sized sedans, and prices vary according to the type of car.
Driving in Barcelona
Spain has four rush hours due to the siesta— 8:00 to 9:30 a.m., 12:30 to 2:30 p.m., 3:30 to 5:00 p.m., and 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Navigating the city is usually easy. However, atascos (traffic jams) are horrendous. Spain has the worst accident record in the European Union, so drive defensively!
A U.S. license may not be recognized, so consider getting a Spanish license. The closest Spanish Consulate can help with this lengthy and difficult process. An International Driver's License by itself is not enough; travelers must also have the license from their home country with them. Rental cars also require a logbook. Insurance is mandatory and driving without insurance can result in a hefty fine or even prison time. Drive on the right side of the road, and pass on the left. Cars coming from the right have the right-of-way, as do cars on roundabouts.
People who get tickets and do not have a Spanish residency must pay the fine on the spot.
Things to See and Do in Barcelona
The Boqueria Market (Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria) is Barcelona's premier food destination. While the market opened in 1840, the culinary tradition dates back to the 13th Century meat peddlers. Today one can find Spanish delicacies such as Jamon Iberico (a type of ham), manchego cheese, and bacalao (salted cod). Fine Spanish wines also flow freely.
The Gothic Quarter (Barri Gotic) is the oldest part of the city, with Roman and Medieval architecture. The Barcelona Cathedral is a must-see and still bears the scars of dictator Francisco Franco's bombing during the Spanish Civil War. Barri Gotic is one of the liveliest parts of the city, with several shops, bars, restaurants, clubs, and cafes. The area is not that large, so feel free to wander at leisure.
The Church of the Sacred Family (La Sagrada Familia) is the masterpiece of Catalan artist Antoni Gaudi, and the quasi-Gothic cathedral has been under construction since 1882. It is scheduled for completion in 2026. The cathedral is designed to use architecture to promote Catholicism. For example, the facades portray the life of Christ from birth to resurrection. The church has a dress code and admission fee. Book online in advance and dress reverently.
Returning the Car
The closest 24-hour gas station to the airport is Galp, and it is actually on site. Follow the signs. A car wash is available, but not open 24/7.
Barcelona is the most-visited city in Spain, so prepare for crowds. The most temperate time to visit is late spring. The peak season is summer and the cheapest time to visit is winter.