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In April I was lucky enough to visit the beautiful city of Barcelona for a couple of days and I was eager to see as much as I possibly could during my short stay there. I tend to take two types of holidays, if it's a beach holiday I'm quite happy to lie on a beach or by a pool all day and relax whereas if it's a city break I like to cram as much as I possibly can into my stay! We arrived at lunch time and decided to explore by foot... however three hours later, after having spent the majority of that wondering around aimlessly trying to follow a map that probably wasn't even of Barcelona, I finally admitted defeat and wondered if there was a better way to explore (I'm also rather a fan of blister-less feet and was keen to keep them that way)! There was an underground which seemed quite popular and also quite reasonably proud but I didn't really fancy seeing what was under the ground of Barcelona and decided to opt for the traditional tourist "bus tour" which arguably is corny and makes you stand out like a flashing, sore thumb but it seemed preferably to standing in a crowded and sweaty underground!
We ended up selecting the Barcelona Hop On, Hop Off City Bus Tour which was run by the Barcelona City Tour company which is an international company operating around the world. There was also a similar tour offered by the Barcelona Bus Turistic which offered similar prices and routes. We selected the first one after realising that it visited more places on its routes and also that the queues for this bus from the central point at the top of Las Ramblas were much shorter. Tickets could be purchased directly from quite a few hotels or from one of the numerous stands located along Las Ramblas or in the majority of villages around Barcelona. You could also purchase a ticket directly from the attendant on any of the buses as well so the tickets were easy to acquire. The only downside was that we were given small, paper tickets which we nearly lost on numerous occasions! Tickets were priced for adults at 23 Euros for one day or at 30 Euros for two days while children were slightly less at 14 Euros and 18 Euros. These prices were identical to the Barcelona Bus Turistic we found so there was no difference.
The Barcelona City Tour buses were easy to spot as well as they were all bright red and had an open top. They were al double deckers to ensure they could fit as many people on as possible and they all had the Barcelona City Tour logo across both sides in large letters. The interiors of all the buses we got on were incredibly clean and as comfortable as you'd expect. On the bottom deck there tended to be about fifteen seats as the front of the bus obviously housed the driver and then the attendant and their little ticket station. Upstairs the buses were standard sized, I'd estimate around fourteen rows of seats upstairs organised in a typical way. The downstairs seats were covered in fabric while the upstairs seats were plastic, I suppose in case of any rain. The upstairs did have a plastic covering which could be pulled over in the case of any rain or wind... which luckily we didn't experience during our entire stay there! When you purchased your tickets you were also given a set of red headphones, these could be plugged in at the side of any seat to enable you to listen to the tour guide which gave you information (in over twelve languages) on the area you were visiting and the sites you were passing in the bus. We didn't encounter any problems with the headphones and found the information provided was very informative - it included a mix of culture, history and general information about Barcelona.
The Barcelona City Tour operates on two separate routes although your ticket is valid for both routes. One route covers the west and north of the city while the other route covers the east of the city. The routes only intersect at a couple of stops which is why it's recommended that you purchase a two day ticket to enable you to spend one day on each route. If you were to stay on the bus without getting off it would take you about three hours to cover the first route and about two and a half hours to cover the second route. As you can see, if you want to visit more than about four or five attractions you're not going to get it all done in just one day at all!
The buses were really regular, we were told we could expect a bus between five and fifteen minutes but we found we never had to wait for more than about seven or eight minutes for a bus to arrive. The attendants were all extremely efficient at getting people on and off and we never had to wait for very long at all. There was an attendant on every bus and they all spoke good English which was ideal if we wanted any information at all. We were also given a map and a tour book when we got on our first bus which showed the two routes and also offered information on every single destination that the bus stopped at. This was available in a variety of languages as well. Overall the additional extras that came with the tickets were a great help.
The buses travelled around all the major attractions including the Gothic Quarter, the World Trade Centre, the Olympic Stadium, the Nou Camp Stadium, Placa Espanya, Sagrada Familia, Tibidabo, the various beaches along the coast line and numerous other destinations. If you want to view the exact routes you can do online at www.barcelonacitytour.com. All the buses stopped at the relevant Barcelona City Tour sign and this was the same place that we were picked up from each time. The tickets also allow you to get on and off as many times as you like so you really can visit all the attractions, more than once if you want to as well. We spoke to numerous people about what we'd seen after going on the two day bus tour and they all agreed that there wasn't really much we didn't see of Barcelona. In fact we'd never have seen so many brilliant sites without purchasing the tickets, even the underground wouldn't have got us to so many!
The only downside I can think of is the fact that the tickets were rather flimsy and small as well. They got easily crumpled up and we did feel it may have been better to give a cardboard ticket or even a plastic wallet to put them in. The fact that they were giving our earphones does suggest they could have splashed out a little bit more on the tickets, especially as you had to show them every time you got on a bus. While we were there we didn't have to queue for a bus once and managed to get an open top seat every time, apparently in the summer months the queues can be much longer to get on the buses and the upstairs seats can be more sought after. This didn't impact on us at all but I'm not sure how it'd be in the middle of July or August!
The buses ran from 9.00am until 9.00pm every day which meant there was plenty of time to cram as much in as possible. I thoroughly enjoyed using the Barcelona Hop On, Hop Off City Tour Buses and I would definitely recommend them to anyone who is planning on visiting Barcelona and wanting to see as much as possible despite having an aversion to blisters and large amounts of walking like me! They were affordable, efficient and enjoyable... to be honest what more could I possibly ask for? A fantastic service which I wouldn't hesitate to use again!
Thanks for reading.