City Tours via Hop on Hop off buses
When visiting Barcelona, there is no shortage to places to see or things to do. In this fifth article in a series of blogs about Barcelona as a pre or post cruise stop, I cover the use of Hop on Hop off style buses to tour Barcelona.
2. Places to see
3. Transportation to and from the airport
4. Transportation to and from the port
5. Getting around the city
6. Barcelona Markets
7. Hop on Hop off buses
8. Day trips from Barcelona
9. Fun Facts
Every major city in Europe offers up some type of city bus touring option and many of those consist of the hop-on, hop-off type of bus service. Affectionately referred to as hoho buses, this means of transportation allows sightseers to either remain on the bus for an entire loop tour of the city or gives them the option to get on and off the buses at various stops along the route. There are different companies in Barcelona that offer hop-on, hop-off bus tours and they are all priced similarly. Usually, the vehicles are some type of double decker style buses with the tops open to allow for a broader range of viewing. In inclement weather there can be some form of covering that the operator will pull over the top upper deck if there is a type of ribbing in place but on two of our trips to Barcelona, the tour operator basically gave us disposable rain ponchos and the upper deck was open to the elements. For this blog article, I will simply refer to the different company offerings by the generic term of hoho buses.
In Barcelona, the hoho companies usually offer two or three colour coded routes that tourists can choose from (red, green, yellow, and blue). There, is a choice to either purchase the right to take just one route or buy a package deal to take all three (in the cases of a company that offers three routes). Although the routes do overlap in the city centre, we found that they veered off to cover different aspects of the city, so I usually recommend that tourists take all available routes to enjoy a more comprehensive overview of the city. However, for those arriving by cruise ship for a one day stop, it may be best to purchase a ticket to take just one route as you will want to get off and tour some of the sites along the route. Take the route that has the most places that you want to see.
The buses all provide ear buds that will allow you to plug into the sound system and hear information in the language of your choice as the bus moves around the city. I find this especially useful and informative. However, in high tourist season, there are times when the sets malfunction so sound quality can be hit and miss. On our last visit to Barcelona, the English-speaking channel on the sound system at our seat was not working and the bus was full which meant the ability to move to another seat was not an option. We ended up listening to the tour in French and feeding the pertinent information to an Australian couple sitting in front of us whose sound system at their seat was also malfunctioning.
If you are in Barcelona for a pre or post cruise stop, I recommend buying a two-day ticket. The cost averages around €36,00 for a two-day pass while a one-day ticket will run you approximately €27,00. As already mentioned, there are different companies that offer the hoho tours, but as indicated, I have found that they are all similarly priced.
The advantage of taking a hoho bus is that you are able to get a tour around the city and that such a tour, will always include many of the most popular tourist spots. If you are interested in getting off the bus to visit any specific site, you can do so and when you are ready to move on, you simply take the next hoho bus that comes along. Another advantage is that often there are coupons attached to your hoho tickets for discounts on entries to various sites or at certain restaurants.
People often disagree on how to make the most efficient use of their Hoho tickets. There are those that advocate in favour of taking the full route tour once and then on the second go around, getting off at different locations you earmarked on your first trip. Other people recommend getting off and on as you arrive at each point of interest. I have done both. On one trip to Barcelona, we bought two-day tickets for all routes. We spent most of the first day (a little over 6 hours), taking all three route tours and noting the areas where we wanted to spend more time. The second day we got onto the red route hoho and spent the first five hours getting off and touring specific sites of interest. In the afternoon, we moved on to the Blue route hoho where we did much the same. For those of you who read my blog on things to do in Barcelona, we got off at the Gaudi designed Sagrada Familia and the home of FC Barcelona. By the time we visited both those sites, we did not have a whole lot of time to see much else so the other areas of interest on the blue route were missed. Therefore, budget your time and prioritize the places you really want to see.
The disadvantages of taking a hoho are that you are on a bus that sticks to a specific route and if you are only in port for the day, you may not have the luxury of time to spare. Spending time on a bus that is slow to get you from the points on your “must see list” may not be the most efficient way to move from point to point. Additionally, hoho buses are on set routes and time schedules. So, if you get off a bus at a popular spot, by the time you are finished touring that site and go back to the hoho pick-up/drop-off stop, you may find that there is a line up and you must wait for a couple of buses before you can board.
All in all, if you want to tour a specific site or two, and you are only in Barcelona for the day, take a taxi and avoid the hoho buses. But if you want to get an overview of the city and enjoy a broad spectrum of sights and points of interest, I fully recommend taking a hoho.
As always, if you have any comments or tips, please feel free to add them to this site or contact me. I want to acknowledge and thank Monty Malloy for allowing me to use some of his Barcelona photos in this blog.
Happy travelling everyone!