Welcome to part 1 of my Barcelona Marathon and City Guide! This installment will share a few tips and tricks for race weekend, including transport, the race expo, and things to see and do the day before (that won’t ruin your legs!).
Whilst planning my trip to Barcelona, I stumbled across the best, most informative website EVER: barcelona-tourist-guide.com. I hope you find it as useful as I did, and that my runner’s guide to Barcelona helps to fill in any marathon-specific gaps!
As always, if you think I’ve missed something, or have any questions, you know where to find me! 🙂
Before the race
– Getting around
Barcelona was a super easy city to navigate. The airport transfer was straight forward, everything was extremely central, and the metro was easy to use.
There are a number of options for travelling between the airport and the city centre, depending on your preference:
- The Aerobus goes from outside T1 or T2 and will take you to Plaça Espanya or Plaça de Catalunya, where you can then join the metro. Tickets cost €5.90 for a single and €10.20 for a return (ticket valid for 15 days). You can find timetable details here.
- The RENFE overground train, which stops at a few places including Passeig de Gràcia (a town centre station that joins the metro).
- The metro. A new line – L9 – has recently been introduced, which links the city centre to the airport (T1 and T2). A single ticket costs €4.50.
If you’re going for a long weekend, I would recommend the HolaBCN travel card. This card is valid for 2, 3, 4 or 5 days (we paid for 5, which was only 28.80€ each) and includes the RENFE airport train. The card can be used for UNLIMITED travel on the metro, bus (TMB), urban railway (FGC), Montjuïc funicular, tram (TRAM), and regional railway between the hours of 5h00 and 23h00. We booked and paid for our cards online, and picked them up at the Tourist Information stand at the airport on arrival. The L9 metro ISN’T included in the HolaBCN card.
You can find out more about the HolaBCN card here. Information on other types of metro tickets can be found here. There are also information boards in the metro stations, which detail the types of tickets. The ticket machines are available in English and are really easy to use, too.
– The Expo
The great thing about Barcelona Marathon is that the expo, start and finish are all in exactly the same place: Plaça d’Espanya. The expo building is directly outside the metro:
And the start/finish line is directly next to it! (See below, between the 2 towers).
You don’t need a medical certificate for Barcelona, which is a definite plus. You just present your passport and confirmation email, and you get your race packet! The pickup area is really simple – just one long table with the numbers displayed above (they split them into a few groups to spread people out).
Opposite this, before you head into the main expo hall, is a second table where you can pick up your technical race t-shirt. This is split up based on size, which you would have selected when you registered. Just present your race packet (they’ll scribble on the packet so you can’t claim more than once) and they’ll hand over your top. The top colour matches your corral (pink, in my case) which is quite cool on the day – as you can easily spot others in your pace group, and follow them to your start area! (And of course, it makes it easier to pick them out on the course, too).
I chose not to wear mine on the day, so as to stand out for my boyfriend to spot me – but lots did! 🙂
– The Day Before
As you can imagine, there is TONS to do in a city like Barcelona. I’ll admit, I was quite disorganised and didn’t really plan too much beforehand, but it turns out that for loads of places you can book tickets online, and just present your ticket on your mobile when you get there (rather than having to print them out). So if you haven’t pre-booked, don’t fret!
A few things were recommended to me by friends: the Sagrada Familia, which is in the city centre and super easy to get to; the Tourist Bus tours, which follow 2 different routes in March and take around 2 hours for a city tour (though I didn’t end up doing this, it’s on my list for next time) and of course, Barceloneta beach. This gets wildly busy in the summer, but amazingly it was quite peaceful on marathon weekend! (This isn’t the only beach in Barcelona, but was the closest one to the expo and we didn’t fancy travelling further afield!)
As well as the Sagrada Familia, you also have Gaudi’s other projects on La Diagonal: Casa Milà, or “La Pedrera” and Casa Batlló are both worth a visit. We chose not to go inside, as entry is pretty expensive at over 20e, and they’re spectacular enough from the outside! Make sure you check them out during the day and at night, as they look vastly different.
Another of the Gaudi must-sees is Park Güell – but NOT before race day. My boyfriend picked this one for the day directly afterwards, but kept very quiet about one little teeny detail: the climbing. (Thanks, James).
Stairs, and more stairs…
I played a game of spot-the-runners. Hint: all of us were hobbling about and gripping the handrails as if our lives depended on it!
Whilst the views were stunning, I did stop a couple of times and question my life choices slightly. (For example, I may or may not have needed help getting down from that rock. #runnerproblems).
If you do fancy it, it’s well worth the effort. Park Güell is about a 15-minute uphill walk from Lesseps metro stop, but luckily for the worst of the climb there are escalators (though not, as I soon realised, for the way down!)
– Carb Loading
Collecting my Asics pace band, and some free bread from the expo! Carb loading FTW!
There are loads of places to eat in Barcelona. However, I would recommend checking out the local restaurants online before you travel. I forgot to do this, and ended up eating at the hotel the night before the marathon. A couple of good areas for food are Barceloneta (mostly paella and tapas places, but SO GOOD), and on/around La Rambla (huge variety). We found a couple of really nice Italian places as well.
One thing to keep in mind is that the Spanish tend to eat later than we do here. 9pm is a completely normal dinner time, and lots of restaurants won’t open for dinner before 8pm. If you want to have an early meal, stick to the touristy areas, as the restaurants and cafes here are more accommodating and serve food for most of the day.
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Stay tuned for part 2, which will cover race day itself! 🙂