When you’re short on time but still want to see much of Barcelona on your own, the Hop-On/Hop-Off Bus (or HoHo) is definitely one way to go.
POSTED BY PINKY
I think we can all agree that a visit to any city for the first time requires doing a bit of homework. This involves at least finding out what the general must-sees and experiences are that will give any visitor a flavour of the city and its culture.
Next is to come up with an itinerary that touches on your specific interests based on what you know about the city.
And this is where the Hop-on/Hop-off bus comes in. Marvelously, if I may add.
Whether traveling alone or as a family (where payment for travel expenses comes out of only one pocket), consider the HoHo as a cheaper way to see the city for the first time compared to joining a guided group tour or hiring a private car-driver-guide.
Because of the audio commentary on the bus, it also becomes an efficient way to “shop around” for specific points of interest that you might want to return to for further exploration.
Even if you haven’t done much homework for your trip before leaving home, the HoHo pretty much allows you to enter the city relatively blindly.
It’s certainly a convenient way to enjoy the city without having to figure out the local transport system. And you can go on and off the bus for as many times as you want for the duration of your ticket.
Not all Hop-on/Hop-off bus systems in the world are created equal, however. But luckily, Barcelona is one city where it works extremely well.
One-day or Two-day Ticket?
There is a lot to see and experience in Barcelona. So I suggest getting a 2-Day or 48-hour ticket instead of just the 1-day or 24-hour option.
The difference in price between the two tickets is quite minimal anyway that getting the 2-day ticket, along with the flexibility it offers, just makes more sense. But you’ll need 2 consecutive days to use it. Something to keep in mind.
How to Attack Barcelona
Barcelona has three Hop-on/Hop-off routes to choose from: red, blue or green. And there are specific stops on each route that allow you to jump over to another colour route if you wish to do so.
Personally, I just go for the red and blue routes. The points of interest along the green route you can go see on your own on a different day if you’d like or if you have the time. Otherwise, the red and blue routes are certainly more than enough to keep you busy.
I find that tackling one route per day seems to be the most efficient way to use the system. Of course, if you only get a 1-day ticket, you’re left with very little choice but to maximise it by combining both routes on the same day.
Since I suggested getting a 2-day ticket (to be used on 2 consecutive days), let’s plan for that one, shall we?
The day we arrive in Barcelona is usually a day where we take it easy.
We always stay in the center of town, as close as possible to Plaça de Catalunya.
So our first day is typically spent eating in a nice restaurant as a way to welcome ourselves to this vibrant city, stocking up the fridge if staying in an apartment (which we usually do), and walking around looking for ideas to bring home as mementos or gifts. We don’t necessarily buy them yet, but we keep them in mind for when it’s time to get something.
A 2-hour walking tour of the Barri Gotic, or the Old Town from which the rest of the city grew, is a particularly good way to get introduced to Barcelona as well.
This is also the day to buy your Hop-on/Hop-off bus ticket. A day in advance so you don’t need to worry about it the next day.
The countdown on your ticket begins the moment it’s activated when you board the bus, not when you buy it. But Day 1 is good only on the day it’s activated and ends when the bus closes on that day, regardless of whether you’ve used it for 12 hours or only one hour. That’s why it’s important to use it as early as possible on the day that you choose to activate it.
(This is in contrast to Madrid’s system. But that’s for another story.)
You can purchase your tickets online, in hotels or on the bus as well, but we got ours at the Tourist Information (TI) centre below Plaça de Catalunya. If you get it there, just make sure to have your passports with you.
When choosing a route, it pays to double check with the coordinator on board the bus or at the TI counter if all points of interest on that route are open on the day that you wish to take it. There’s nothing worse than wasting time in a city when your stay there is limited as it is.
After choosing a route, take the appropriate bus and stay on it. Don’t get off the bus until after you’ve completed one loop, which takes approximately 2 hours each on the red and blue routes. The green route only takes 40 minutes nonstop.
Refer to the written guide and listen to the audio commentary. They’re pretty simple and straightforward, and contain much of the info you’ll need at this point.
If you wish to get anything more in-depth than that, simply choose a specific point of interest and explore it further when you get there. But you’ve got to manage your time wisely if you wish to see as many places as you can along the route.
If you’re particular about the sound quality of the audio tour, you can use your own earphones. Just remember to take them with you when you get off the bus!
During the high season, you will most likely encounter long lines at the bus stops outside the more popular sights.
This is where a bit of planning and strategising will prove helpful, such as deciding which stop to tackle first or at which hours to best see the more popular sights.
And frankly, the HoHo may not be for everyone. I, however, like to use it whenever I’m lazy about having to figure out the local transport system or when I’m showing people around – or both.
The Extra Benefit
The biggest thing I love about having the HoHo option, however, is this: when my feet are tired yet I still want to see more of the city, staying on that bus is the answer.
This way, I don’t feel like I’m losing out or wasting precious time in Barcelona by resting indoors when I could instead be exploring this lovely, exciting city.
But best of all, sitting there on the bus relaxed and unharried, after having heard the commentary for the umpteenth time, not only lets me catch details that didn’t quite sink in before.
It also allows me to really see the entire city and appreciate it for what it is – through different eyes.
There are two companies that operate Hop-on/Hop-off buses in Barcelona, but I’ve really only tried the one that’s called Bus Turistic since the early ’90s. So I figured, why ruin a good thing, right?!
For more information on Barcelona’s Bus Turistic, visit here.