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Barcelona and Madrid Entrance Fees: Online or In Person?

We will be in Barcelona from Oct 10 to 14 and in Madrid from Oct 14 to Oct 17. How critical is it to purchase your tickets online in the US before attending museums in those two cities? If you don't buy online, how long would you probably need to wait in line to purchase a ticket this time of year? If you buy a ticket online, is it typically good all day for the day you purchased it for or just the time of day you purchased it for? How flexible are they?

Posted by
9363 posts

Every museum is different. Which ones are you asking about? I have been to Madrid numerous times and have generally walked right in to museums without much of a wait. Places like Casa Mila in Barcelona might require a pre-purchased ticket to avoid a ticket-buying line. There is really no way to know what the situation will be at any given museum at any given time. I don't know of any museums in Madrid that issue timed tickets, except for special exhibits (like the Bosch exhibit at the Prado right now).

Posted by
6741 posts

Check the websites for the places you plan to visit. Buy tickets online unless you are not committed to a particular place. Some will be open, use anytime tickets and others for a specific time. I don't like being tied to a specific time but sometimes it well worth it, necessary. For La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona buy tickets in advance. Hopedully others can answer your questions about the time of year.

Posted by
19161 posts

The Picasso Museum in Barcelona sells tickets for specific time-slots, and the lines there are certainly long during peak season. Enric has said that Barcelona doesn't really have a slow season. so I'd tend to book the Picasso Museum ahead of time unless you plan to take the Picasso walking tour run by the tourist office, which includes a ticket to the museum. I think the other museums in Barcelona aren't too much of a problem. The modernista sites (Gaudi et al.) are a different matter entirely.

Posted by
22 posts

What would be the likely worse case scenario in terms of waiting in line? Once you buy the ticket, do you get right in or are you given a later time for that day or the next day?

We are arriving in Madrid on Friday and were thinking of going to the Prado that evening when it is free -- how mobbed are the free Fridays?

Posted by
19161 posts

Unless it was extended, the Bosch exhibition has closed, so I think you'll be OK in the Prado. You may run into clots of people in front of a few paintings, but your progress through the museum (which is huge) should not be impaired. I assume a lot of local folks interested in art have been to the museum recently to see the exhibition, so with luck your Friday will be a bit less busy than the typical free day.

If you tell us what other key sights you hope to see, we can give you our best guesses. There's no sense in our trying to speculate about where you might go.

Posted by
956 posts

From visiting Barcelona three times, and Madrid not at all, I would suggest purchasing Sagrada Familia and the tower walk , and the Picasso in advance. You can build your day around those. My experience is that it always takes longer with the mechanics of purchasing a ticket rather than just showing the barcode and entering any museum.
The Miro was not crowded.
We stood in a 30 minute but mostly shady line for Gaudi's home. BTW, if you decide not to go to the Picasso, I did not think it was nearly "all that". Paris Picassos IMHO are better.

Posted by
367 posts

I can only answer about Madrid. We were there about this time last year and had no problem buying tickets. If you plan to go to the big three museums: The Prado, the Thyssen (great for Impressionism and more modern art), and the Sofia Reina (worth it just to see Picasso's Guernica), then get the Paseo del Arte ticket that will get you into all three within a year of buying it. One visit per museum. It's 28 euro for the pass, separately you'd pay 35 euro for all three museums. You can get the pass at any of the three museums, I suggest getting it at either the Reina Sophia or Thyssen, the Prado will always be a little crowded. Check the museum websites for the days they're closed so you can plan ahead. If you do buy the Paseo del Arte ticket in the States, just get it from one of the museum websites, not other travel sites. The Prado is huge, to do it justice you want to give yourself plenty of time. Hope this helps. Enjoy Madrid, it's a wonderful city!

Posted by
9363 posts

I think the previous poster means to buy the pass at either the Reina Sofia or the Thyssen.

Posted by
11266 posts

For the Prado, try to see it on your last day in Madrid, for two reasons. You'll be most awake and most over jet lag, and after the Prado, every other art museum will be second fiddle. On my first Madrid visit in 1995, I made the mistake of seeing the Prado my first day. The combination of jet lag, being indoors instead of outdoors, and all that great art meant a not so great visit. On my second Madrid visit in 2015, I made sure to follow my own advice and see it my last day - what a difference!

I do agree with the combo ticket for the three Madrid art museums. Or, if you're not going to all of the others, you can buy a ticket late in the day at the Prado ticket window (when the lines have diminished to nothing). You have to specify which day you want your Prado ticket for, and it's only good for that day.

For Barcelona, if you want to see any of the following, advance tickets are recommended, unless you really enjoy standing in long ticket buying lines (can be 1-2 hours at the biggest ones like Sagrada Familia):

Sagrada Familia
Casa Mila
Casa Batllo
Picasso Museum

It's probably a good idea to get advance tickets for the Palace of Catalan Music, but even in September when I went, there were some same day or next day English tours available.

Whether or not a ticket is timed or good for the whole day depends on the particular attraction and the particular ticket you buy. For instance, last year the advance tickets for Casa Batllo were not timed, but apparently now they are.

To find advance purchase websites for some of these places, look at the grey box on the right of this post of Rick's, and scroll down to Spain: https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/sightseeing/avoiding-lines

Posted by
19161 posts

The Barcelona tourist office sells skip-the-line tickets for many of the most popular sites for an extra 2-euro fee per ticket. If you're uncomfortable booking before you leave, you can stop in there and probably get what you need. In early August they told me it would be prudent to buy the La Sagrada Familia ticket (but they don't sell tower access) 2 days ahead if I wanted an early-morning slot and to buy the Parc Guell ticket a day ahead for an early-morning visit. I wasn't worried about the timing for Casa Mila (La Pedrera) and Casa Batllo, so I didn't ask about those.

When I visited Casa Batllo it was extremely crowded; they seemed to push as many people through that site as possible (subject, perhaps, to a fire-code limitation?).

I don't know whether the tourist office sells tickets for the Palau de la Musica Catalana tours; quite possibly not.

Posted by
2575 posts

You need to specify which sites because it varies considerably.

Posted by
22 posts

In Barcelona for 4 days , we are looking at going to:
Sangra Familia
Parc Guell
Casa Mila
Gracia
Manzana de la Discordia
Museu Picasso
Sant Maria del Mar
Drassanes & Museu
Fundacio Joan Miro
Motjuic
Museu d'Art Contemp
Museu Nac d' Art de Catalunya

We will be in Madrid for 2.5 days taking the train Friday morning and in the afternoon going to:
Prado (free evening)
Museo Nacional Reina Sofia
Parque del Retiro
Museo Nacional Reina Sofia
Plaza de la Cibeles
Puerta de Alcala

Saturday is open but may include Hop On, Hop Off Bus, and Sunday will be a day trip to Toledo.

Posted by
2575 posts

SaGRADa Familia > pre-book
Parc Güell > pre-book
Casa Milà > pre-book
Gràcia > that's a neighbourhood!
Manzana de la Discordia > that's not a place(*)
Museu Picasso > pre-book
SantA Maria del Mar > free except 1-5pm (approx)
Drassanes & Museu > on the spot
Fundació Joan Miró > on the spot
MoNtjuïc > that's a neighbourhood!
Museu d'Art ContempORARI DE BARCELONA (MACBA) > on the spot
Museu NacIONAL d' Art de Catalunya (MNAC) > on the spot

(*) that's just a nickname given at the beginning of the 20th century to the stretch of Passeig de Gràcia where three competing bourgeoisies had their homes built. Please specify which of the museums are you specifically visiting.

PS: Check your spellings... otherwise your google searches won't yield information!

Posted by
19161 posts

OK. You'll need to optimize your visit geographically and be ruthless in the museums, focusing on the things you're most interested in.

  1. Block of Discord (Casa Batlló) - the Eixample - southern Gràcia

Many modernist buildings in this area. A lot of the city maps mark interesting buildings, and you'll find they're all worth seeing (mostly from the exterior only). It's just a matter of how much time you have to wander around. Off the main drag (Passeig de Gràcia) it's quieter and there are restaurants that seem to be patronized by locals.

The Block of Discord, up Passeig de Gràcia from Plaça de Catalunya, includes three important modernist buildings. The Casa Lleò Morera was closed in August and I'm assuming remains so. The Casa Batlló is very worth seeing but tends to be mobbed, per my earlier post. I believe that's the place with the interesting photo op near the end of your visit. You step out on a little balcony, a photo is taken, and you can buy it for (I think) 12 euros. I thought it was cheesy until I got a quick look at someone else's picture; the background offered a great close-up of the multi-colored façade.

In between is the Casa Amatller. It's much less crowded than the Casa Batlló. The interior is pseudo-castle more than modernist. Sort of interesting but not to my taste except for some individual pieces of wood furniture; if you're primarily interested in modernist sites, skip this one. A tour is mandatory. No pre-booking required but I don't remember how often the tours are done in English. I assume info is on the website. $$$ chocolate shop on the ground floor.

A quick jog down Carrer del Consell de Cent will give you a side view of the Casa Lleò Morera's glassed-in balcony, if you're interested. Beyond the Block, you can walk down Carrer d'Aragó to a multi-story hardware store (sorry, don't remember the name) and take the elevator or stairs up to Floors 3 / 4 / 5 for views of the backs of the houses, particularly of Casa Batlló. The windows are very large but also quite grimy. Next time I'll take some damp paper towels!

Casa Milà (aka La Pedrera) is a bit farther up Passeig de Gràcia on the other side of the street. Near the end of your visit you'll encounter a lot of detailed information, including film clips, about Gaudi's work, including buildings outside Barcelona. This makes visiting La Pedrera potentially very time-consuming, though of course you can just pass by that exhibit.

If you keep walking up Passeig de Gràcia you'll be in the Gràcia neighborhood, which is full of grand buildings, including some modernist ones.

  1. La Sagrada Familia - Park Güell - Gràcia

You can wander through more of Gràcia before or after visiting La Sagrada Familia and Parc Güell.

Beyond La Sagrada Familia, unfortunately off the route to Parc Guell, is the stunning Hospital de Sant Pau modernista site. English tours or audio guide. This is a multi-building, multi-story site that takes quite some time to see.

  1. MNAC - Miró - Montjuïc

Montjuïc is a not-insignificant hill. If you don't take a bus or the funicular up the hill, you'll need to combine escalators and steps (about 100) up from Plaça d'Espanya to get to MNAC. MNAC is rather large. There's an interesting section on modernism. It also has very important church frescoes and architectural elements. Try to find time at least to walk through that part of the museum. The Miró's permanent collection is essentially 100% Miró. It's displayed wonderfully, but with limited time I'd suggest skipping it if you're not a big fan of Miró.

  1. Picasso - Santa Maria del Mar - Barri Gòtic

Try to allow time for wandering around the Barri Gòtic when you visit the Picasso and Santa Maria del Mar. The Picasso covers mainly the early period plus late-career ceramics. Crowds can limit your ability to see the art.

Posted by
19161 posts

Madrid:

I don't think you'll be able to do all the things you list on Friday, even though they are in the same section of town, but you can finish up on Saturday if you've missed important things. Retiro Park is very large; I met some folks who said they basically spent their entire first day (after flying in from the US) at the park. The Botanical Garden located between the park and Paseo del Prado was very nice in mid-May. There's a modest entry fee for the garden; I think it's 4 euros.

Posted by
22 posts

I am getting lots of good information -- thanks!

Next Tuesday, we are going to pick up my power wheelchair rental near Sangra Famila then go the Sangra Famila, followed by Parc Guell and then Casa Mila. Is it walkable between those three places? Are the neighborhoods interesting and safe? What are the streets like in terms of condition (cobblestone, etc) in L' Eixample?

Our thinking was to explore one area a day. L' Eixample on Tuesday; Port Vell & La Ribera on Wednesday and Montjuic & Raval on Thursday then taking the train to Madrid on Friday. Does one of those areas in Barcelona deserve less time than the others?

Posted by
19161 posts

L'Eixample won't have cobblestones anywhere, I don't think. It's a bit newer than the cobblestone era.

I didn't realize you'd be using a wheelchair. Before heading to Parc Guell, verify its accessibility. As you can see on this map, there are some steps. I don't remember whether there's a way to bypass them. If you Google "Parc Guell accessibility", you'll get a lot of links that should help you decide.

In any case, I don't think it's advisable to travel under your own steam to Parc Güell. Directions for using public transportation are here. I'm assuming you'll be with someone who's walking, right? The usual suggestion is to take a bus. I took the Metro, using different stations going and returning, and both walks were fairly lengthy. The park is distinctly uphill from both of those Metro stations. Walking down from the park would be easier. The walk toward the Lesseps station was more interesting than the walk from the Vallcarda station. I was able to use a couple of outdoor escalators on my way up from Vallcarda; I don't remember whether there were elevators as well.

It's a rather long distance back down to Casa Casa Milà--about 2 miles.

I did quite a bit of walking in that general area, but not the exact walks you are considering. I saw nothing that looked remotely unsafe and much interesting architecture. A lot of middle class and upper-middle-class apartment buildings, I'd say. But I can't guarantee that the entire walk from the park to Casa Casa Milà will be interesting. It would be great if you could check with a knowledgeable person in Barcelona about the most interesting route to take.

I didn't find Raval scary, but it has some scruffy areas. Lots of ethnic food joints (as well as scattered white-tablecloth places) and active street life. Not necessarily pretty architecture. I think some people would be uncomfortable in parts of the Raval after dark.

The timing strategy for your visit seems pretty good to me. Don't forget to eat! I had trouble finding time for that.