I'm not for a moment trying to put you off arriving at Barcelona, it's a fabulous city, our nearest "Capital", it's so close that we often just go for a night out, cinema, supper etc, etc, etc.
Pity about it's road signing though. They really ought to do something about that. I have taken people/got people from/to the airport what must be hundreds of times and I think I've managed to make it without getting lost precisely once..... I suppose at the end of the day it doesn't really matter, you don't get to know a place until you've got lost in it etc, etc, but if you are in a hurry, got three excited kids in the back and just want to get to your destination then me blurbling on about its cultural delights will do no more than raise groan and a curl of the lips. So here goes.
Barcelona airport is to the South-West of the City, your destination is to the North-East. Your task is to cross from one side to the other aiming for the Autopista AP7 (it used to be called the A7). You've got three choices, round it on the "inland side", round it on the "sea side" or straight through the middle.
Round it on the "inland side" means leaving the airport and following signs saying "Ronda d'Alt", going through the middle means finding the "Ronda del Mitg" and going under the port means finding the "Ronda del Mar" or "Ronda Littoral" via signs saying "Zona Franca". It would be fine if all signs at every junction said "Ronda d'Alt" etc., but they don't, they don't.
All is not lost, however, even if you are going to be. An (albeit) tarnished golden rule is to follow any sign saying GIRONA and/or FRANÇA. Now it's highly likely that if you do get lost following these you will end up on the coastal motorway C32 by mistake. This takes you to Mataró and beyond but you will be glad to hear that it's no problem, keep straight on to the end of the motorway and you will, eventually, end up on the AP7 but by a different route, via the N2 (was called the NII) and it's prettier this way anyway.
Whatever you do to get there, the AP7 takes you through Girona and Figueras, then, eventually over the border to França and that's where you want to be. (see also below).
Just remember the two magic words when you are looking at direction signs, Girona and França, and your stress levels will be kept to a minimum. Keep remembering, you ARE on holiday.
IF YOU ARE ARRIVING AT GIRONA AIRPORT
It's a doddle. Leave the airport on the (one and only) exit road and you will pick up the AP7 Autopista within 2 kilometers. Head north towards França then follow below.
At the border, the Autopista seamlessly becomes the Autoroute and changes its name from AP7 to A9. Welcome to France. Leave the A9 at the first exit which is marked Sortie 43, Le Boulou. Now look at your Arrival instructions.
AND ON THE WAY BACK ...
Allow plenty of time! The border crossing can be slow. Allow time to get lost in reverse. Barcelona Airport is called Prats de Llobregat, just to make things simple....
AND IF YOU WANT TO GO BARCELONA ON A DAY TRIP ...
... Drive over the border to Figueres. My old advice was to park your car in the station car park but damnit they've closed down the car park so that's become almost impossible because parking round the station is really difficult, nay impossible. As usual, all is not lost ..... Instead of going to the OLD station in the centre of Figueres, you now take the Olot road out to the west and find the NEW station which is called "Figueres-Vilafant" Here you can park your car in the station Car Park and take the high-speed express train, the AVE, which delivers you in a breathtaking, almost silent, 55 minute glide to the heart of Barcelona. It used to be that if you kept your train ticket and showed it when you return to pick up the car, it gave you cheaper parking but I am not sure that's still the case, I'll find out.
Last train back is around 21.30 but check that on the RENFE website where you can also buy the tickets. Ticket prices vary "à la Ryanair" so buy in advance at http://www.renfe.com, if you can't read "Catalan" you can click on "Welcome" at the top of the page to do it in English ...
Reductions for over 60s are really generous. You need to go to any RENFE station with proof of identity and age, ask for a "Targeta Dorada" and hand over 6 Euros which you'll make back on your first journey. It needs to be renewed every year. Monday to Thursday the reduction is 40%, Friday to Sunday, 25%.
Bus routes to Camp Nou: 7, 15, 43, 67, 68, 74, 75, L12, L50, L60 & L62
Metro: Line 3 (get off at Maria Cristina or Les Corts) & line 5 (get off at Collblanc or Badal)
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