It’s easy to discover why Barcelona is one of Europe’s most popular cities to visit. From the glorious sandy beaches to the extraordinary architecture, Spain’s colorful second city is a fabulous place to explore. So renting a car is the best way to tour Barcelona and the surrounding Catalan coast and mountains.
Whether you’re visiting Barcelona for work or pleasure, a rental car will add to the overall experience and help you to take in everything you want to see and do. We’ve got plenty of car rental pick-up locations all over the city, including at El Prat Airport, Sants Railway Station and in the city center.
All of our Barcelona offices offer our famous best-price guarantee - so in the unlikely event you can find cheaper car hire, we’ll refund the difference. And don’t forget we also offer the reassurance of a free 24-hour helpline.
The exciting, non-stop attractions of Barcelona spread across the coastal strip between the Mediterranean and the foothills of the Pyrenees. Beyond the city are popular seaside resorts and major attractions dotted through the mountains. If you have a hire car it won’t take long to drive around them all, thanks to a comprehensive and efficient road network.
To help find your bearings, take the multi-lane ring road around the city – it runs from the waterfront looping round to the hills behind. This is the best way to escape the busy streets of the center and visit the suburbs or outlying destinations.
Barcelona is the transport hub for north-east Spain, so you’ll find the main roads head out to the wider country from here. The A2 motorway heads west to Lleida and Zaragoza, and major trunk roads run along the coast down to Tarragona and up to the Costa Brava.
The roads around Barcelona are mostly very good quality, particularly the modern motorways, or ‘autopista’. There are a few rougher lanes in the mountains but you’ll find they’re all part of the adventure of heading into the countryside.
Barcelona is the capital of the Catalan region and you'll notice road signs written in Catalan, rather than Spanish.
Before you head into the center of Barcelona, make sure you’ve checked your route, as there are pedestrianized area across the city, as well as one-way routes.
The Spanish driving rules include driving on the right-hand side of the road, of course, and all passengers being obliged to wear seatbelts.
The speed limits vary depending on the road you’re traveling on: the maximum speed on motorways is 75mph and 62mph on dual carriageways. On other rural roads the limit is 56mph, but with an allowance to drive up to 68mph temporarily to overtake a slow vehicle. The blanket limit is 31mph in built-up areas.
Barcelona has all the ingredients for a memorable visit: a unique atmosphere, impressive beaches, a beguiling historical quarter, and more art, entertainment, and food than you’ll be able to experience in a lifetime. But if you need a break from the buzz of the Catalan capital, you can find a string of top resorts stretching out in either direction – or head into the hills for some really memorable scenery and attractions.
The unique architecture of Antoni Gaudi forms one of the most popular attractions in Barcelona. The most visited is Sagrada Familia, an unfinished church which has been under construction for the last four generations. The building's towers are one of the city's most iconic landmarks, with the Tower of Jesus and the four Towers of the Evangelists currently being worked on.
Try to make time to see his strange sculptural edifices in Park Guell. Found in the La Salut district of Barcelona, this public park is home to some of Gaudi's finest work, with brightly colored tiles bringing the structures to life.
Enjoy the social scene
No visitor should miss Las Ramblas, a world-renowned pedestrian thoroughfare with an extraordinary street-life of buskers and street traders. If you go for a stroll here, don’t forget your camera and you'll see some great performers in action.
Whilst here, make sure to visit Mercado de La Boqueria, one of the best markets in the city.
Barcelona lives up to its reputation as one of Europe’s nightlife hot-spots. You’ll spot people going to eat dinner around midnight, thanks to the huge number of tapas bars offering tasty little snacks at any time of day.
Quaint Quarters and art
The Gothic Quarter is the atmospheric old part of town near the harbor, where you’ll find the best historic landmarks, including Barcelona Cathedral, the city hall and presidential palace, amid a maze of narrow cobbled streets and alleys. Stretching from La Rambla to Via Laietana, make sure to visit one of the quarter's street markets and browse the stalls filled with local delicacies and crafts.
And for something a little more modern, enjoy one of the best collections of Picasso’s work anywhere in the world by browsing the galleries of the Picasso Museum. It celebrates the modern artist who lived and worked near the city.
Along the coast
The French border is only 75 miles to the north but in between is a busy strip of coast known as the Costa Brava, with dozens of beaches and resorts. In your rental car from Barcelona, take a drive along the coast road to discover best scenery and views around Tossa de Mar.
Heading south you’ll find the Costa Dorada, with colorful resorts like Sitges and Vilanova i la Geltru and the interesting old seaside town of Tarragona, which has a medieval hilltop cathedral and cloisters. Further to the south-west is the delta of the River Ebro, a protected natural park.
Exploring the area inland
You’ll discover the best views of Barcelona, from the top of Tibidabo Mountain, a short drive inland from the city center. For a family day out, there's a permanent amusement park on top.
Drive a little further into the hills to find Montserrat, a spectacular multi-peaked mountain. On its slopes is an ancient Benedictine Abbey, housing a much-venerated statue of ‘Our Lady of Montserrat’. The mountain rises over 4,000ft high and the views are extensive. On a very clear day you can even see the island of Mallorca.