Back in May, I took a 1,500 mile car trip through Basque Country in Spain, Andorra, and France – and traveled out of Barcelona Airport (El-Prat) (BCN). I was able to capture some great photos and had enough time to kill to write a proper airport review on the Barcelona Airport.
Arriving to Barcelona Airport – First Impressions
BCN is located about 15 km outside of Barcelona (in Catelonia) and serves around 35 million passengers every year (Barcelona Airport ranks #31 worldwide in terms of enplaned passengers, but Madrid is busier). I was flying from BCN to ZUR on LX 1955 (you can read the second leg of the journey and Swiss Air flight review here), which departs from Barcelona Airport Terminal 1. There are two terminal in Barcelona Airport, but Terminal 2 is rarely used (mostly for low cost carriers).
Terminal 1 is new and modern, designed by Ricardo Bofill and opened in 2009. It is the 5th largest terminal in the world, and has an area of 548,000 m2. You can see from this picture the openness and spaciousness of the layout (this also was in a rather deserted end of Terminal 1 that no flights were operating out of).
Barcelona Airport Terminal 1 facilities include (according to Wikipedia):
- 258 check-in counters
- 60 jetways
- 15 baggage carousels (one of the new carousel is equivalent to 4 carousels in the old terminal) and
- 24,000 parking spaces, in addition to the 12,000 already in the terminal 2
The forecast is that the airport will be able to handle 55 million passengers annually and will reach 90 operations an hour. There is a planned Barcelona Airport extension worth a total investment of €5.1 billion in the future.
First things first, WiFi is NOT free. You have to login via Kubi Wireless and you get 30 minutes for free but then they make you pay. Hack: if you are traveling with multiple devices/phones, you can snag 30 minutes free on each one.
Shopping at Barcelona Airport
Barcelona Airport is an extremely upscale airport, with gobs of luxury stores and local brands to spend time in. Some of my favorite stores include popular Spanish brands Zara, Desigual, and Mango – these stores never disappoint for finding reasonably priced European fashion. You’ll discover why Europeans are always so well dressed in any of these airport stores.
Even though Desiqual was founded by a Swiss guy, you’ll still find representative Spanish tastes in this boutique store, which has it’s flagship store in Madrid.
Zara may be the epitome of Spanish fashion and is also a case study at many business school due to their innovative supply chain and stock management practices. Not to mention the catchy styles that are always en vogue and a la mode.
Mango is a store you may have seen already in the US, but is truly representative of Barcelona design (founded in Catelonia in 1984). Go have a look to get a sense of this city’s fashion and vibrancy.
Another favorite global brand featured at Barcelona Airport is Adidas – this store had a European spin on the brand I know and love back in the US (with of course much more focus on soccer).
If that’s not enough to get your sports fan fix – you simply MUST go and see the store for FC Barcelona (FC Botiga). You’ve never experienced being an *extreme fan* until you’ve seen FC Barcelona play – in fact, I’ve seen them watched by exuberant fans on 3 continents (Africa, Europe, and Asia). Pick up your FC Barca souvenir here.
Finally, if you’ve left your souvenir shopping for the last minute, be sure to check out Thinking Barcelona for your office mates, friends, and significant other.
Dining at Barcelona Airport
One of the things I really liked about Barcelona Airport, besides the open layout, was the open and accessible outdoor spaces. Of course these double as natural smoking areas (which also decrease the cost of operating sponsored smoking rooms) – but it’s also just great idea to build outdoor space in to any airport design, since fresh air and sunlight always make a more enjoyable experience for the airport guest.
For that reason, my favorite place for snacking was the Haagen Dasz located outside, with picnic tables, modernity, and sunlight abounding. Not to mention ice cream is a refreshing bite to beat the notorious Barcelona heat.
If you need something more substantial, you can always check out one of the numerous lounge bar concepts featuring local cuisine (Tapas, also known as Pintxos in the Basque region in Northern Spain). Little concept bar cum loungers were scattered all over the airport and made for the feeling of social gatherings spaces that knit together the landscape and brought in an element of warmth.
If you really need something quick and are in a hurry, I especially liked this super vending machine kiosk that had everything you could possibly want in one place (coffee, soda, snacks – both healthy and tasty). I think they even mostly took credit cards.
Then you’ll love this deluxe Nespresso Espresso Boutique machine in the middle of the airport shopping area of Barcelona Airport – seriously cool and high-tech. And tasty! You can personalize the flavor experience you want to have with individual pods (brewed to taste). I should also mention that this is a great place to stand for people watching – I wasn’t the only one enthralled by this machine. Many a passenger walked up to this kiosk to explore, interact, and takes pictures of (but ultimately not purchase). In fact I triggered a picture-taking frenzy…once I stopped to take a picture about 5 others joined me.
Other Things to Do at Barcelona Airport
Besides shopping and dining, there are a few other noteworthy things you can do (especially during a longer layover) at Barcelona Airport.
First of all – are the kids traveling with you? They’ll love the play area located in the middle of the Food Court in Terminal 1 – Barcelona Airport.
If all you really need (and want) to do is get some work done in a quiet place at the Barcelona Airport, then you can check out the airport lounge (upstairs). It includes showers, rooms you can rent by the hour or the day to rest and unwind, a lounge, and a wellness area!
And, if you’re ever looking for more suggestions of things to do at Barcelona Airport, be sure to check out the conveniently located airport information kiosks. There are also interactive touch-screen displays located throughout the airport (but unfortunately nobody uses them).
Of course you can always consult the tripchi airport app for more and personalized recommendations!