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Travel from San Sebastian to Barcelona (with 11 and 13 year old)

Hi! Our family is traveling to Spain in June. Flying into Madrid June 8 and Flying home from Barcelona June 21. From Madrid we are renting a car to drive through Rioja region, into San Sebastian. How would you recommend getting from San Sebastian to Barcelona? We could drive (6 hours), drive a portion, and then take a train, or some other combination of car, train, bus? And where could we drop the car?

Also, our flight home from Barcelona is at 6am, any suggestions of places/areas to stay that are central, but easy to get to the airport with public transportation/taxi?

Thank you for any advice you can share.

Posted by
2168 posts

How much time will you have to make the trip from San Sebastian to Barcelona, a few hrs or a few days?

Posted by
4 posts

A few hours, would like to maximize time in Barcelona. Unless you think driving through Pamplona and/or Montserrat are must do's.

Posted by
2168 posts

Hi I see two potential options:

Option 1 (the fast route): Simply drop off your car in San Sebastian, and take an early morning direct flight (1 hr) to Barcelona on vueling, Iberia etc. tickets go for around €50, there are multiple flights. This option will save you the most money and time for Barcelona.

Option 2 (the scenic route): This would be my personal recommendation, the area between San Sebastian and Barcelona (Aragon and Navarra) is an ancient land of Roman ruins, Moorish palaces, and Medieval castles, and the best part will feel like you have all to yourselves to explore, compared to the throngs of tourists you will find in San Sebastian and Barcelona. If you do not foresee coming back to this corner of Spain I think you would miss out.

First, I would use the rental car to drive south-east to the Royal Medieval Palace of Olite (one of my favourite castles in Spain), then I would continue east until you reach Zaragoza (capital of Aragon). Once in Zaragoza, drop off your car and visit some of her impressive sights, la Aljaferia Moorish Palace, Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Pilar, and maybe some of the Roman ruins like the Forum or Theatre, the Mudejar Architecture of Zaragoza has been named a UNESCO WHS. After have lunch in El Tubo tapas district. Then catch the AVE high speed train, from Zaragoza Delicias station, direct to Barcelona (1:30 hr). While this will certainly take up the entire day, I think it will be well worth it and very rewarding in the end.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you so much for such a thoughtful reply. We are in discussion, but leaning towards Option 2. I love the idea of seeing a lot, while also experiencing an AVE train.

Posted by
2168 posts

Great! Yeah that part of Spain is really an underappreciated gem, you could even spend a night or two along the way to really get the most of your time there. In the walled medieval town of Olite, I mentioned above, there is a Parador Hotel actually in the Royal Medieval Castle itself, maybe fun experience for the kids - https://www.parador.es/en/paradores/parador-de-olite

Posted by
897 posts

I do t recall many hotels near the Barcelona airport, but I do recall being shocked at how quickly we got from the cruise terminal to the airport! Barcelona is a great taxi town—they are everywhere and cheap.

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks so much! The more research I've done, it looks like many of the hotels are 20 min or so from the airport. Our flight is at 6am, we didn't want to add anymore time to the early morning than we had to. If we stay up late like the locals, and have to be at the airport at 3 am.... it's going to be a short night:)