My personal favourite cycling routes, trails and loops in Barcelona, based on the last 5 years or so that I’ve been exploring the city on two wheels.
With its thriving bike culture and almost 300 kilometres of dedicated bike lanes, Barcelona is a cyclist’s dream city.
When I was a boy I would ride my little red BMX listening to Queen’s ‘I want to ride my bicycle‘ on my Walkman until the batteries ran out. Cycling is still extremely important to me, an essential part of my everyday life, made even more enjoyable by Barcelona’s year-round balmy climate.
I love the fluidity of it and sense of freedom, the physical exertion and mental tranquility it brings me. It’s my meditation, a tonic for the the modern world.
I spend as much of my free time exploring Barcelona on my bike as possible. It’s one of the best things about living here and I almost always use my bike instead of public transport – it’s often quicker and always more enjoyable.
From sandy beach boardwalks and urban cycle lanes to pine-scented mountain bike trails and family-friendly parks, there truly is something for every type of rider in Barcelona.
The following are my personal favourite cycling routes, trails and loops in Barcelona. I should mention that I’m not much of a road cyclist and typically prefer to cruise the beach, urban bike lanes and mountain dirt tracks.
Breeze Through the Palm-Filled Parc Ciutadella
Perfect for easy riders and picnicking couples/families
The verdant 70-acre Parc Ciutadella is perfect for a relaxing bike ride and picnic pitstop. It’s easily accessed from the Born barrio in the old town and is well connected to a cycle track that will lead you down to the waterfront.
Don’t miss the iconic Arc de Triompf monument, which was built as the gateway to the World Fair, which Barcelona hosted in 1888. Once in the park, seek out the gorgeous water fountains and boating lake, or lock up your bike and pop into Barcelona Zoo to see the tigers. Check out my post about Parc Ciutadella here for more.
Tip: There’s a tiny corner shop just across the road from the Arc de Triompf. I often stop here to grab a couple of cold ones and a bag of pistachios or an ice-cream to keep me company in the park.
Starting point: Start at Arc de Triompf and follow the palm-fringed boulevard of Passeig de Lluís Companys. You can ride here from the city centre via the labyrinthine streets of the medieval Born barrio – you’ll probably get a little lost, but rest assured it will be a lot of fun.
End point: Head towards the beach and follow the beach boardwalk back towards the city centre or loop back on yourself and head back into the thick of the old town.
Bike needed: Any. Advice on where to rent bikes in Barcelona at the bottom of this page.
Time needed: 1-2 hours if you stop to explore the park.
Cruise the Boardwalk at Barceloneta Beach
Perfect for laid-back beach bums
Slap some sunscreen on and take a gentle saunter along the Passeig Marítim (maritime boardwalk), which traces the entirety of Barcelona’s sun-kissed coastline.
Stop for tapas, paella, cocktails and ice-cream at one of the many chiringuito beach bars and restaurants that overlook the cobalt waters – see my guide to the best bars and restaurants near the beach.
If you’re feeling lively then park up your stead and get involved in some water-based action – see my Barcelona watersports guide here.
The crowds can be maddening for cyclists who have a need for speed, but if you’re keen to kick back and go slow then this will be right up your street.
Tip: One of my favourite spots on the beach is at the foot of the glitzy W Hotel at the far end of the beach. It’s generally a little bit quieter and the little bay offers shelter on windier/wavier days – this is where I go paddle boarding.
Starting point: I like to start at the Christopher Columbus statue at the bottom of Las Ramblas and follow the cycle lane (it’s well marked) to Barceloneta beach. Then it’s just a case of following the coastline.
End point: If you’re feeling lazy then just head down to the glistening goldfish statue by the twin towers (you’ll know what I mean when you see it). Personally, I love the ride all the way down to Parc del Fòrum (mapped above), because you get to see all of Barcelona’s beaches and see how they change as you travel farther away from touristy Barceloneta beach.
Check out my guide to Barcelona’s beaches so you can choose one to take a pitstop at.
Bike needed: Any, though a beach cruiser will certainly add to the vibe.
Time needed: 1-2 hours for the ride and then as long as you desire for sunbathing and tapas munching.
Climb Montjuïc for Greenery and City Vistas
Perfect for adventurous/relatively experienced cyclists
With fragrant pine trees, sweeping views over Barcelona’s terracotta skyline and a host of attractions to admire along the way, this is the route I do most often. See my ‘One Winter’s Day‘ photo journal to see why I love it so much.
Montjuïc is a hill/small mountain which is most famous for being home to Montjuïc Castle and the remnants of the 1992 Olympic Games, which are still in use.
Don’t miss the needle-like Telefonica Communications Tower that sits within the grounds of the Olympic Park – a useful homing beacon.
Tip: If you follow my route you will find yourself at the Caseta del Migdia, a little outdoor bar housed under the canopy of a pine forest with epic views over the Mediterranean. Be sure to stop here to cool off with a cerveza – the ride back into town is all downhill!
Starting point: There are many ways to take on Montjuic but I like to start at Plaça d’Espanya and take in the view of the majestic Palau Nacional (National Palace – houses the Catalan Museum of Art) as you begin the ride. To get here from the city centre, take the cycle lane in the middle of Avinguda del Paral·lel – it’s a long straight road. Once you’re at the foot of the palace, the road bears left. Follow it up towards the communications tower (pictured above) and keep going up, up, up until you reach the castle.
End point: The final destination is basically Montjuic Castle – the views from here are incredible and if you follow the crowds you will find a little look out point with dramatic vistas over Barcelona. From here you can swoop down the main road that leads back to the city (follow the cable cars) or double back on yourself if you fancy doing it all again.
Bike needed: Any as long as you have a few gears to play with – the climbs are pretty brutal. Advice on where to rent bikes in Barcelona at the bottom of this page.
Time needed: I do the full loop from my house (mapped) in less than an hour but allow 2 or 3 hours to fully enjoy the views along the way.
Push Yourself on Carretera de les Aigües in the Collserola Mountains
Perfect for experienced cyclists and those who want get out of the city
Carretera de les Aigües (Road of the Waters) is a gravelly cycle/running track that runs horizontally across the face of Barcelona’s Collserola mountain range for around 10 to 15 km (route mapped below).
With the various narrow paths and tracks that lead off it, it offers the best mountain bike routes in Barcelona.
I absoultely adore it here. There’s something magical about the sweet smell of the pine trees as they ooze their sticky sap and sway in the breeze, the sound of the sunbaked soil crackling under your tyres as you weave along the mountain’s contours.
Tip: Be aware that you may encounter wild boar, but they rarely seem bothered or even slightly interested in humans.
Most visitors don’t make it this far out of the city centre, which I think is sad because it’s probably my favourite part of Barcelona. Typically it’s just serious mountain/enduro bike riders and neon-blurred runners.
It’s an relatively easy ride once you’re there, but it’s an absolute ballbuster of a climb to ride up there, even if you take your bike on the FGC train up to the nearby Avenida Tibidabo stop. It’s totally worth it though and the views across the city are truly spectacular.
If you’re really “into cycling” and crave a bit of physical exertion, this is the route for you.
Tip: For an extra burn you can climb all the way up to Tibidabo, the vintage theme park that can be seen looming over Barcelona from almost anywhere in the city (route below).
Starting point: I recommend following the cycle track along Avinguda Diagonal all the way to the western fringe of the city, cutting through Parc Cervantes and joining the track at the carpark here. Please note that this in itself is one hell of a ride – I see a lot of riders driving here and jumping on their bikes here.
End Point: At the other end of the Carretera de les Aigües is another carpark. I normally turn around here and double back on myself, taking the same route back into the city. In theory you could also follow the road from here back into the city, but I’ve yet to find a route that isn’t fraught with angry drivers who don’t like cyclists.
Tip: Obviously you could start and/or end your ride at either of these carparks (especially if you have access to a car) – I’m just sharing my personal favourite way to do it.
Bike needed: You’ll need a mountain bike or a gravel bike with decently chubby tyres. Advice on where to rent bikes in Barcelona at the bottom of this page.
Time needed: The route I take (mapped above), which basically starts on Avinguda Diagonal and ends at the carpark before doubling back on itself, takes me around 2.5 hours on a good day, though you’ll want to set aside at least 3.5-4 hours if you want to stop and take in the epic views.
Practical Advice for Cycling in Barcelona
Bike tours in Barcelona: Guided bike tours are a fantastic way to see and learn about Barcelona – if you’re in a small group that is (avoid large tour groups at all costs).
To get a really complete overview of Barcelona, from the pine-blanketed cliffs of Montjuic to the vibrant street art of the hipster Poblenou barrio, I recommend taking an alternative bike tour with the guys at Steel Donkey Bike Tours. Not only do the guides reveal the secrets and stories of the city’s ancient past, but they also take you off the beaten path and introduce you to local foodie spots and hidden nooks of the city.
No two tours are ever quite the same and the groups are always kept small, with the guides using their local knowledge to work in local festivities or avoid crowded areas, so you can spend more time exploring the city on your trusty steed. The ideal bike tour for first-time visitors in Barcelona.
I also recommend the sustainable and fun Bamboo Bike Tours – you can read about my experience here. I haven’t done any other bike tours in Barcelona, but I will update this post if and when I discover any other great tour providers.
Where to rent a bike in Barcelona: I highly recommend renting bikes from my amigos Annebeth and Ramiro at El Ciclo. They’re lovely people and offer a fantastic service – they’ll also be able to help with directions and offer you some insider tips.
You can rent mountain bikes from Terra Bike Tours – I have no experience renting from them but as far as I am aware it’s one of the only places you can rent mountain bikes in Barcelona.
You may also want to check out the Donkey Republic stationless bike sharing company. Their bikes are locked at various points around the city – you pay for your rental bike and unlock it with the app. See my full post to hear about my experience.
Want to bring your own bike to Barcelona? As a bike tourer myself – see my Costa Brava touring adventure – I know that it’s nice to have your own gear, especially if you’re planning longer bike trips across other parts of Spain. Obviously you can box up your bike and fly with it, but you can also ship your bike to Spain easily and cheaply with well-known companies like TNT.
Beyond the City ~ Cycle Trips and Tours Outside Barcelona
Girona: Serious Cycling Beyond the Capital
If you’re a serious cyclist then you may already know that the region of Girona, which lies just over half an hour away from Barcelona, is world-renowned for its cycling terrain. In fact, Lance Armstrong once had a house here and brought his team here to train. Whether you go for the day or stop over for a couple of nights, you’ll love the Medieval streets of Girona city.
My friends Dave and Saskia at Bike Breaks Cycle Centre will provide you with bikes, advice and everything else you’ll need to ride the area (including guided tours).
Penedès: Vineyard Rides
If like me your ideal bike ride would include riding and tasting your way through mile after mile of vineyards, you’ll fall in love with the Penedès wine region.
Also located just over half an hour away from Barcelona, this fertile wine region produces 95% of the world’s Cava (the local version of Champagne) is the perfect destination to combine bike riding with wine sipping. Some great wine tasting tours here too!
Barcelona Cycling Rules and Safety
Barcelona is extremely bike-friendly but there are a couple of things to keep in mind.
1. Stay in the bike lanes – Remember that you shouldn’t be riding on the pavement/sidewalk – police will shout at you if you do and can fine you. This is annoying because I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve nearly killed pedestrians (and myself in the process) who were walking in bike lanes. And the police don’t seem concerned about this!
2. Ride on the right – Many of the roads in Barcelona are one way, which means the bike lanes are too. There’s always some jackass cycling the wrong direction at 100mph – don’t let it be you.
3. Stay focussed and think like a local – I understand. You’re on holidays and it’s sunny and it’s warm and it’s Barcelona! But don’t forget that this is a real city with real people. Respect the cycle lanes and don’t cycle four-abreast with your friends so that people can’t overtake you. More advice and things you should know before coming to Barcelona here.
4. Helmets are not necessary – But if you’re an inexperienced rider or riding with kids then it’s definitely worth wearing one. I normally do (mainly because I normally like to stop for a beer or vino before heading home).
5. Lock, lock and triple lock your bike – I’ve had a number of bikes stolen in Barcelona and it never ceases to make me feel sick. It’s a HUGE problem here. Not only will thieves steal your bike but they will also take seats, wheels and pretty much anything they can. Someone stole the rear wheel off my last mountain bike and it worked out cheaper for me to buy a new bike than to replace it (frame, tyre, tube, gear cassette, etc.). So whatever you do, lock your frame to something sturdy and lock both wheels and your seat to the frame.
6. Avoid putting your bike on the metro – You can take your bike on the metro on Saturdays, Sundays, public holidays and every day in July and August, but it’s not a pleasant experience and generally not worth the effort. On weekdays throughout the rest of the year, bicycles are only allowed from 5.00 am to 7.00 am, from 9.30 am until 5.00 pm and from 8.30 pm until close of the service. Fold up bikes are allowed at all times and all days.