Barcelona is one of the world’s most popular city break destinations. But what about cycling in Barcelona and the region beyond the city?
The answer is that cycling in the Barcelona region is fantastic. In our opinion, it’s an area that should be better known amongst cyclists than it is.
In this guide we speak to Quim Vizcaíno, a keen cyclist who is passionate about making it easier for visitors to discover the cycling in and around Barcelona region.
Read on for in-depth information on road cycling in Barcelona including the best bike rides around Barcelona, bike hire, where to stay and more.
What’s special about cycling in/around Barcelona?
What makes cycling in and around Barcelona pretty unique is the variety of landscapes and cycling routes you find within a relatively small area. The cycling possibilities are infinite and you’ll find hospitable weather all year long. Due to Barcelona’s popularity as a city break, getting here is also extremely easy.
To give you a flavour, the routes just to the east of Barcelona, in Maresme county, are perfect for winter breaks, as temperatures are mild until summer, and the roads are quiet and peaceful. Head 100 kilometres north of Barcelona, to the foothills of the Pyrenees and you’ll find fantastic riding in spring, summer and early autumn. In between, there are the interior territories where there’s excellent cycling throughout the year.
In general, roads are well maintained, and there is a vast range of secondary roads connecting cities to villages or even Barcelona city.
Layer on top of this Mediterranean forests, vineyards, cultural heritage, gastronomy and wine and you’ve got yourself an awesome cycling holiday destination!
If you need any further encouragement, how about tacking an easy day trip to Barcelona onto your bike trip? Could be one way to keep both the cyclists and non-cyclists in your life happy?!
Cycling routes in Barcelona region
Overview (from a cyclist’s perspective)
Barcelona province lies in the centre of Catalonia, one of the seventeen regions of Spain. It is located in the northeast of Spain. To the north of Catalonia lies the Pyrenees Mountains and the border with France. To the south, lies the autonomous region of Valencia. To the west is Aragón.
Barcelona region is one of Catalonia’s four provinces. It lies at the centre of the region and occupies an area around Barcelona city. It extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the Pyrenees and includes 12 different counties.
Barcelona region has around 5.5 million inhabitants, 5.1 million of whom live in the urban area itself. The remaining 400,000 live spread around the province, a territory of 7,726 square kilometres.
This means that away from the urban centre of Barcelona, most of Barcelona’s region is a cyclist’s dream of meandering roads through all sorts of landscapes.
Plains and mountains
Coastal plains roll up to meet the coastal hill ranges of El Garraf, Serra de Collserola, Serralada de Marina and la Serra del Montnegre I el Corredor. All of these are protected as Nature Parks.
Beyond the coastal relief lie the plains of El Vallès, El Penedès, El Pla de Bages and Osona. They are surrounded by gorgeous mountains such as El Collsacabra, Les Guilleries and the foothills of the Pyrenees.
Scattered throughout these plains and acting as natural borders between them are the breath-taking massifs of Montserrat National Park and El Montseny UNESCO Biosphere. The route to El Turó del Home, the highest summit of El Montseny massif (1,712 m), is one of the region’s classic climbs and it can be started right from the coast north of Barcelona city, or from the interior plain of Osona (more on that below).
The high mountains
For those looking for an even tougher challenge, part of the Pyrenees is located in the Barcelona region. Just 100 kilometres from Barcelona, you’ll find summits that go all the way up to more than 2,500 metres. More on the Berguedà region below.
For further information on Barcelona’s regions please visit: https://www.barcelonaesmoltmes.cat/en/
Must-do cycling routes in Barcelona region
Barcelona is surrounded on all sides by potential cycling routes, but there are four areas where you’ll find especially great riding.
Below I’ve shared a brief overview of what to expect from each region as well as my favourite route in each, to give you a taste of what’s on offer.
Maresme lies east of Barcelona, it’s roughly 50 kilometres from the city to Calella, which is one of the main bases for cyclists. It has a superb location in between the Mediterranean Sea and coastal hill ranges. Here cyclists can enjoy flatter routes and gentle ascents. There’s also the Montseny massif for those that want to tackle a bigger challenge.
Within Maresme county I’d suggest staying in Santa Susanna or Calella, which are both sports and bike friendly destinations. They play host to many cycling and triathlon competitions as well as Barcelona’s Ironman and professional cycling teams on training camps.
Here’s my favourite route in Maresme:
You can also check out these additional routes for further inspiration:
- Montseny – (per Collformic) – distance: 149 kilometres, elevation gain: 2,436 metres
- Ports del Maresme – distance: 101 kilometres, elevation gain: 1,104 m
- La Vallalta I La Carretera de Mata – distance: 43 kilometres. elevation gain: 548 metres
El Penedès lies west of Barcelona; it’s roughly 60 kilometres from the city to Vilafranca del Penedès, the capital of the county and and a great base for cyclists. However, for those who prefer to stay by the coast, it’s only 40 or so kilometres away – more details of towns to stay in a few paragraphs below.
The Penedès region is a welcoming plain that extends to the coast. It is surrounded by the impressive mountain of Montserrat and the Garraf and Ordal hills. Cycling is the perfect way to discover the region’s culture, tradition, gastronomy and rich tradition of wine-making
El Penedès is perfect for those who prefer quiet and relatively easy riding. The plain ends right by the coast, where the picturesque cities of Vilanova i la Geltrú or Sitges are located. Come here to discover a territory of vineyards, mediaeval architecture and a gently rolling landscape.
Scattered throughout the region there are many villages and cities that might be perfect hubs for you to stay, relax and enjoy their peaceful atmosphere. For those who are after some more action, there is also the possibility to start and stay in bigger and vibrant cities like the ones located by the coast. I’d suggest taking a look at Vilafranca or the coastal towns of Sitges, Vilanova or Sant Pere de Ribes.
Here’s my favourite route in Penedès:
You can also check out this additional route for further inspiration:
- La Clàssica del Penedès – distance: 123 kilometres, elevation Gain: 1776 metres
To the northeast of Barcelona, lies Osona. It’s roughly 70 kilometres from Barcelona to Vic.
The charming city of Vic is full of history and provides riding throughout the mountainous surroundings to the north face of el Montseny, El Collsacabra and Les Guilleries Nature Parks.
This region is great for moderately challenging riding.
Here’s my favourite route in Osona county:
You can also check out these additional routes for further inspiration:
- Volta al Montseny – distance: 106 kilometres, elevation gain: 2,240 metres
- Volta a Bracons – distance: 101 kilometres, elevation gain: 1529 metres
- Volta a Alpens – distance: 101 kilometres, elevation gain: 1,057 metres
- Volta a l’Estany – distance: 59 kilometres, elevation gain: 845 metres
Challenge seekers will find their paradise in El Berguedà county. The town of Berga in El Berguedà county lies about 100 kilometres inland from Barcelona, towards the north.
The region is home to the steepest climbs near Barcelona. Within a small area there are no less than twelve mountain climbs. As an example, take a look at the climb to el Mal Pas de Capolat: 5,1 km with 444m elevation gain an average gradient of 8,7 % and maximum gradient of 20%.
The town of Berga is the perfect location to explore these stunning mountains.
Here’s my favourite route in Berguedà county:
You can also check out these additional routes for further inspiration:
- Volta a Alpens – distance: 98 kilometres, elevation gain: 1,725 m – this route allows youto connect to Osona county and its routes.
- Volta al Mortirolo – distance: 44 km, elevation gain: 1,304 metres
- Rasos de Peguera climb – distance: 13 km, elevation gain: 973 metres
- Volta al Cadí – distance: 167 km, elevation gain: 3,388 metres
- Another great ride in the area, for gravel and MTB, is “El Camí dels Bons Homes” (The Good mans’s trail). The route was the former escape route across the Pyrenees through which many Cathars (also known as the perfects, good men or albigeoises) fled from southern France, where the French crown and the Pope started a crusade against them back in the XIII century.
Or why not try out multiple areas around Barcelona – the network of secondary roads means you can cycle from the Maresme region all the way to the Pyrenees on minor roads!
In general, road cycling in/around Barcelona is on roads that are well maintained, with a maze of peaceful and quiet secondary roads connecting the small towns and villages.
As is to be expected, some of the mountain roads might be in less good condition with the usual kinds of rough surfaces and small potholes you often find at altitude, due to the harsh conditions they are exposed to.
Bear in mind that while most of the time routes in this region are quiet and peaceful, there will be busier periods. For instance, expect that the roads nearby or close to the coast will carry heavy traffic in summer but they will be quiet in winter.
Also worth knowing is that in areas like El Penedès there are many paved rural paths, traditionally used to farm vines and transport the harvested grapes to the wine estates. The county’s administration has refurbished many of them, so they have become excellent cycling paths.
In recent years, the regional government has been implementing measures to improve cyclist safety such as widening roads, erecting specific traffic signs, adding alternative cycling paths along main roads, reducing the speed limit and applying a more bike friendly circulation code.
The Cyclocat app also has a useful feature that lists road safety using a colour code, according to things like the volume of vehicles.
Barcelona cycling paths
The region’s administration is committed to more bikes in Barcelona and making Barcelona a cyclist region, not only as a leisure practice but also as a sustainable means of transport. You’ll find bike paths within Barcelona but also many other towns and cities in the region.
An example of this is the Blue Ways project. The project will recover the paths along the banks of the main rivers in Barcelona’s region to turn them into cycle paths, connecting all the towns and villages along them.
Cyclocat’s maps and bicycle route information, mentioned above, is also a valuable source of information.
Barcelona cycling events
In terms of cycling events, the region’s calendar is pretty busy!
There are competitions in all categories: mountain bike, gravel and road bikes.
Here are a selection of events, sorted by county. Note that not all of these sites yet have an English language edition of their website (though many are working on it). As you’ll know, you can usually find a translation of a website, by right clicking on a page and selecting Translate into English:
Santa Susanna Bike Show – April
Ironman 70.3 Barcelona – October
Pedals De Clip – May
Ciclo Garraf Penedès – March
Marxa Jufré – June
Terra De Remences – May
Ronde Van Osonen – February
Orbea Cadi Challenge – June
La Ruta Minera – July
Retro Trobada Berga – September
Portal Attack Berga – September
Tour De Lord – May To September
Four Cims – July
Where to stay
In an attempt to make it easier for cyclists to visit, there are various accreditation schemes – more information on that below.
This ensures there are many bike-friendly accommodation options, many of whom are certified or in the process of getting the recognition.
Moreover, in Barcelona’s region there are certified sports and cyclist destinations, as with the coastal towns of Calella, Santa Susanna and Castelldefels.
Depending on the area of Barcelona’s region you wish to explore, the number of accommodation options varies. But the good news is that there is a quite large number of certified bike friendly hotels.
I’ve listed some of my favourites below. All the hotels and accommodations suggested offer services to cyclists. The exact service level might vary but most of them offer:
- A safe space to store the bike
- An area to clean and maintain the bicycle, providing even a basic tool kit for maintenance and repairing.
- Auxiliary services such as luggage transfer
- Information on cyclist routes and services
- Information on bike hire/repair shops
- Flexible breakfast/lunch/dinner times or other alternatives such as picnic (these aren’t offered by self-catering apartments of course)
- Specific menus
- Flexible check in/out
The coastal cities of El Maresme have a myriad of bike friendly hotels, and other accommodation options. For example:
Hotel Volga, Calella
Hotel Kaktus Playa, Calella
Hotel Florida Park, Santa Susanna
Mas Salagros, Vallromanes
Bike-friendly camping options include:
Camping El Pinar -Platja, Santa Susanna
Camping Barcelona, Mataró
Camping Bellsol, Pineda De Mar
Camping El Far, Calella
Camping Globo Rojo, Canet De Mar
Camping Del Mar, Malgrat De Mar
Scattered throughout the Penedès area there are many hotels and other accommodation options offering specialised services to cyclists.
I particularly like Hotel Desitges, which is a hotel that has hosted many professional cyclist teams.
Also Vilafranca del Penedès city hostel offers bike friendly services.
You’ll find other options here.
As in El Berguedà, Osona is full of rural accommodation options. Most of them were originally farmhouses or cottages that have been renovated recently. Great examples of this type of accommodation are:
Accommodation options in Berga are a mix of hotels, mountain hubs, tourist flats and campsites. My favourite in the area that offers specialised services for cyclists is Campsite Berga resort.
However, for those who love to relax in the quietest locations, the region offers many rural accommodation options and campsites:
Bike hire and bike rent in Barcelona region
Prices, services and bike brands often change. Please let us know if anything is incorrect.
You’ll find bike shops in Barcelona region as well as companies offering bike hire services throughout Barcelona region. For example
42 Radis – Carrer De Romaní, 61, 08370 Calella – +34 937 66 19 27
Fun Bikes – Carrer De Valldebanador, 2, Local 1, 08370 Calella – +34 93 037 65 90
Descent – +34 637 877 997
Bikesitges.com – Josep Soler Tasis, 13, Sitges – +34 652 151 637
Esportec – Carretera De Puigdàlber A Can Cartró Km 0,6, Bv-2155, 08797, Puigdàlber – +34 635 19 91 26
Lets Velo – Avinguda Del Pla Del Diable, 1, 08720 Vilafranca Del Penedès, Barcelona – +34 607 97 76 72
Catalonia Bike Tours (On Request) – Vic – +34 608 57 68 21
Cicles Vic – Eix Onze De Setemebre, 48, Baixos, – Vic – +34 93 886 30 49
Pedratours – On Request – Carrer De La Ciutat, 16, Berga – + 34 93 821 51 11
Best time to visit Barcelona region
In general, thanks to the region’s variety of landscapes, and mild temperatures cyclists can ride all year round.
Obviously, conditions are optimal during spring and autumn.
However, winter could be a great time to cycle by the sea in the El Maresme region, or even in Penedès, where temperatures are milder.
Summer is a great time to cycle in the Pyrenees, explore its mountain climbs and enjoy the remarkable landscapes around Pedraforca, or the shady routes of el Montseny, Guilleries or Lluçanès areas in Osona.
So, it doesn’t really matter whether you decide to cycle in winter or summertime, the regions that make up the Barcelona province will provide great cycling opportunities all year long. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that in summer, all the coastal cities and towns will be crowded, as they are well-known summer destinations, (especially Sitges, Calella, Vilanova). Inland areas such as Osona and Berguedà are much quieter at this time of year.
Detailed weather information is available:
Tips for cycling in/around Barcelona
Rules of the road
Cyclists are of course required to comply with all traffic regulations.
While cycling in groups on roads without kerbs (or less than one metre wide) with heavy traffic or low visibility, ride in a single file and in groups of up to five riders. Leave enough room between different groups (approximately three car lengths).
For roads with kerbs (or more than one metre wide) you can ride two-abreast and in groups of up to 10 cyclists. Leave close to 50 metres of space between other groups.
Other good practices on the road include:
- Slow down when you reach roundabouts, and group together as much as possible. Cars have an obligation to respect you as a “group unit”.
- Turns: the group leader must indicate changes of direction with their arm to the relevant side. Repeat the signal 3 times. The other members of the group will also make the signal.
- Stops: indicate that you are stopping, just like you indicate turns. Important: the leading group must provide a space for the whole group to get completely off the road.
- Objects on the road: objects on the road, stones, holes, dangerous objects and glass are pointed out with the arm diagonally towards the ground, on the side where the object lies.
- Rubbish: do not throw away energy bar wraps, gels or anything in general, either on stops or while riding.
- Parking: on stops, park your bicycles in a safe place and in places that cause no obstruction for other people.
For any further information about traffic regulations in Spain, please visit this website.
Of course you need to make your own decisions on what safety precautions to take as on any ride, but my personal suggestions are
- Always ride with your helmet properly fastened.
- Make your presence clear with light under the saddle and in the handlebar.
- Use reflective elements and use a bright-coloured cycling apparel to make you as visible as possible for drivers.
- Make sure you have travel, health and liability insurance.
Regarding safety more generally, the region around Barcelona is considered as pretty safe – if problems occur, they tend to be in and around Barcelona city. As any other major city, Barcelona suffers from some issues, theft being the main one. However, a bit of caution and common sense will help you avoid unpleasant situations, (for example don’t leave anything unattended, wear your wallet in your front pockets and your backpack on your front too.)
Training before you arrive
It’s worth thinking about the characteristics of the area you want to stay in and routes you want to ride before you leave home.
This is especially relevant in the case of cycling most the routes of the mountainous Berguedà region. Bear in mind that most of them are mountain climbs, so they’re quite demanding. If you want to ride these routes, plan your training accordingly.
For easier riding, with less need to train before you come, consider the three other areas of the Barcelona region, mentioned above.
Bike friendly certifications for businesses
In order to promote and attract cyclists, there are many quality labels and certifications available for businesses that want to highlight their focus and specialised services for cyclists.
Some of these certifications were launched by public administrations, such as the Catalan Tourism Agency (Cicloturisme or Turisme Esportiu Labels), or using public money like the EuroVelo initiative. Other certifications are set up by private businesses (for example Bikefriendly, Cycling friendly, Bett+Bike).
In Spain, the two most common schemes are Cycling Friendly and Bikefriendly. In Catalunya many companies have also joined the Cicloturisme label.
Transport within the region
Barcelona region covers an area of 7,726 km2, so it’s worth hiring a car if you want to jump from one cycling region to another without relying on public transportation.
Alternatively, if you want to focus on riding in just one area, a car might not be necessary. Most of the towns we’ve mentioned are connected to Barcelona by public transport.
Your bicycles will be welcomed on trains without any extra charge, even if you take a long- distance train (in that case you just need to click the bicycle extra box, but don’t worry, there’s no charge).
If travelling by bus, most companies will charge an extra fee (about 10 euros).
Food and drink
Depending on the area of Barcelona’s region you wish to ride in, the local gastronomy can vary a great deal.
For instance, Maresme area is known for its white wines (pansa blanca is the local grape), peas, strawberries, fish and seafood. The Penedès region on its turn is another top wine region, famous for its wines and Cava, (the Spanish sparkling wine made following the traditional method, also known as Champenois). Other local products are the red prawns from Vilanova, the Ordal’s peaches, the duck and black rooster amongst many other.
Those who dare to ride the slopes of the Pyrenees, in el Berguedà or the routes in Osona, will be able to enjoy a more powerful cuisine based on meats, beans, stews. Make sure, when in Osona to try their mouth-watering cured meats, chestnuts and cocas (sweet bread). The gastronomic highlights of el Berguedà would be cheese, mushrooms (during late summer and fall), black peas and mountain potatoes.
All routes suggested pass by numerous villages where you will be able to stop to get some food, drinks or anything else you might need during the route. In some areas, especially the mountainous ones you might find spring fountains to fill up your bottles. Therefore, you can keep your body hydrated and full of energy at all times.
In the areas close to Barcelona, English is widely spoken. That is especially true in the coastal areas such as Maresme and Penedès, where tourism is an important economic activity. In the region’s interior, English-speakers are less common but in nearly every village and town, there will be some English-speaking people (even if they’re not very fluent!).
If you want to win local people’s hearts, learning a few words of Catalan will go a long way!
Crash course of Catalan Language
- Hello! – Hola!
- Good morning – Bon dia!
- Thank you – Gràcies or merci.
- Please – Per favor/ Si us plau
- No problem – Cap problema
- I’m sorry – Ho sento
What to do off the bike
Barcelona’s region treasures an impressive and diverse nature and cultural heritage, including 15 nature parks, beautiful coasts and beaches.
The region’s mountains are perfect to practise almost all sorts of adventure sports like rock-climbing, hiking, canyoning or even cross-country skiing. Summits such el Pedraforca, el Montseny or even Montserrat are true paradises for mountain lovers.
On Barcelona’s shores you can practise aquatic sports such as sailing, stand up-paddle, kitesurfing, windsurfing or even surfing when conditions are appropriate.
This is one of my favourite things about the region; it offers it all, allowing you to make the most of both the sea and the mountains. The only trouble is that makes you picky when visiting other places which don’t have everything!
The region has an extremely rich cultural background created over the centuries by many civilisations and cultures, including the Iberians, Romans, Visigoths and Arabs. Each one of them left something behind, creating the melting pot you find today.
Culturally speaking, the region stands out due to its art nouveau buildings designed by architects such as Antoni Gaudí, Lluís Domènech I Montaner or Josep Puig I Cadafalch, the three most relevant Catalan art nouveau architects. Also, there’s plenty of mediaeval architecture that is worth visiting and many Romanesque small churches and monasteries all over the region such as Sant Pere de Casseres, Seva and Sant Quirze de Pedret.
Barcelona region is home to nine Unesco World heritage sites, as well as two cultural traditions that are included in their list of Intangible Heritage.
Interesting traditions cyclists might encounter during their visit (depending on the period and area) are: Mercat Medieval de Vic, La Festa de la Filoxera (VIlafranca del Penedès), Les Santes, Festes de la Verema (Sitges/ Penedès/ Alella).
From springtime until October, many cities and towns house music festivals of various styles (Vida Festival, Canet Rock, Mercat de Música Viva de Vic, Vi-jazz, etc.)
How to get to Barcelona
Getting to Barcelona region is easy, as Barcelona’s airport is a very important international hub. There are many airlines offering direct flights to different cities such as London, Birmingham, Manchester Edinburgh and Bristol.
The city is also very well connected by train and Barcelona’s port is one of the most active ones in the Mediterranean Sea.
Once in Barcelona, you can reach each one of the cycling destinations we’ve mentioned by train, bus or car, and in the future, thanks to the Blue Ways project, also by bicycle!
As previously mentioned, bicycles are allowed in Spain’s railway service, Renfe, without cost, and bus companies charge a small extra to carry your bicycle.
Train from Barcelona
- R4 line to get to El Penedès, R2 to get to Sitges and Vilanova to start the Penedès 360 from the coast.
- R1 to reach El Maresme Region (Calella or Santa Susanna)
- R3 to get to VIC.
For further information on railway timetables and more, head to https://rodalies.gencat.cat/en/inici/index.html
Bus from Barcelona
Barcelona – Berga Line – https://www.alsa.com/en/web/bus/bus-schedules
A huge thank you to Quim for this hugely useful information about cycling around Barcelona. We hope it helps inspire your next trip!
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