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Smaller EU airports, trains to Barcelona?

Starting to plan for our Spain tour, March 2023. We would like to touch down at a less chaotic airport, just about anywhere except Russia, spend a few days relaxing, and then train to Barcelona to meet up with our RS group. Any suggestions?
I have a list of the 100 busiest EU and UK airports. Thanks for your suggestions!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_busiest_airports_in_the_European_Union

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_busiest_airports_in_Europe

Posted by
5650 posts

One of the challenges with many of the smaller airports is that you usually have to connect in one of the chaotic airports. You could fly into Nice or Marseille, but you would probably have to connect in Paris or London.

I didn’t find Barcelona’s airport to be chaotic (but don’t know the status since covid). Is your goal to just spend time in another place or to avoid Barcelona’s airport?

Posted by
23438 posts

Like Laura says, it is not going to be direct. And you probably will have to go through immigration in a connecting airport. I can think of a lot of things to avoid but this is not one of them. I would look for convenience over chaos.

Posted by
3966 posts

Barcelona's El Prat airport is relatively tame actually, definitely isn't on par with the likes of Heathrow or Atlanta.

I've been to El Prat a number of times and haven't felt it was chaotic or stressful :)

Posted by
2532 posts

I agree with the previous comments, but to address your question, try looking at Perpignan and Toulouse, if only because the trains to Barcelona will be easy too.

Posted by
15651 posts

I don't quite understand the question. If you aren't changing planes, it's usually not a hassle to get through most European airports, especially if you only have cabin baggage. I think "busy" just means how many passengers go through in a year. It doesn't mean inefficient or chaotic. Exiting an airport is usually straightforward. You get off the plane, maybe have a longish wait to go through immigration if you're unlucky and several large planes land at the same time, then wait for baggage (if you checked) and walk out the door.
OTOH there aren't that many places where you can relax and then get a train to Barcelona that doesn't take way too long. Presumably you want a large enough airport that you can fly into from the US, so you aren't changing planes. Paris is the only city that comes to my mind right away (about 6.5 hours by train w/o connection), but that's hardly a place to relax. So do you mean you can't get a direct flight from the US to Barcelona? Or Madrid?

Posted by
9787 posts

try looking at Perpignan and Toulouse, if only because the trains to Barcelona will be easy too.

Except there is only ONE direct train a day between Perpignan and Barcelona during the off season, as I understand it . Toulouse probably not much better. The French and Spanish are not that great on cooperating on cross-border rail.

Posted by
11356 posts

I think you are making your trip much more difficult and filled with more risks as far as getting to your RS group tour on time.

Posted by
1259 posts

I don't quite understand the question.

Yeah, sorry about that. The challenge is to be utterly clear, while concise, without wandering off into puns, anecdotes, and clever metaphors, which I can do but I chose to spare us all.

Posted by
1259 posts

I think you are making your trip much more difficult and filled with more risks as far as getting to your RS group tour on time.

We'll arrive in Barcelona one or two days early, like usual. No, I'm making this trip far more interesting by adding a trans-Euro rail adventure and a few days of pre-tour relaxation. All while allowing a cushion to meet the tour's starting deadline.

Posted by
1259 posts

So do you mean you can't get a direct flight from the US to Barcelona? Or Madrid?

I have no clue at the moment; we have made no firm plans. Might be fun for us to simply arrive Barcelona a week early and train out from there on day trips. Appreciated your observations and suggestions!

Posted by
1259 posts

Is your goal to just spend time in another place or to avoid
Barcelona’s airport?

Thanks for your contribution, appreciate it. Goal is to arrive in a smaller city, stay a few days, and take a train to Barcelona to see the countryside and extend our adventure within acceptable risk. We're carryon-only. I assume we'd get to a smaller EU airport much like folks get to Twin Falls, Idaho: change planes, change planes, and then change planes.

Posted by
1259 posts

Barcelona's El Prat airport is relatively tame actually,

Yes, I saw El Prat is way down the lists of busiest airports. Might fly into Barcelona a week early and day trip out of there. Thank you!

Posted by
7007 posts

It might just be easier to fly into Barcelona, and take a train from there to wherever you want to relax before the tour. Changing flights is always more chaotic than arriving!

Posted by
1259 posts

The French and Spanish are not that great on cooperating on cross-border rail.

Very helpful! Thanks.

Posted by
3966 posts

The French and Spanish are not that great on cooperating on cross-border rail.

Neither are the Spanish and Portuguese! The Napoleonic wars made sure of that, don't want another easy way to get your invading army across borders ;-)

Industrial Revolution on the Iberian Peninsula happened within a generation of the horrors and destruction of the Peninsular War brought on by the French, 1,000,000+ military and civilian dead in a few short years.

Posted by
27367 posts

Girona, while not tiny, is a lot smaller than Barcelona. It has some worthwhile sights and an historic center that's a delightful place to wander. Girona's less than an hour from Barcelona by fast train. There are slower trains that are considerably less expensive if you prefer not to buy your train ticket in advance.

Girona has an airport of its own, but I think it's primarily, if not exclusively, used by RyanAir--no one's favorite budget airline.

Our Barcelona residents can recommend other places.

Posted by
2355 posts

Granada. Tiny airport. One terminal, maybe two gates. Can’t get much less chaotic. But will require a plane charge probably in Madrid (huge airport) or Barcelona.

Posted by
1259 posts

Girona's less than an hour from Barcelona by fast train.

Terrific, thanks. I've added it to my list.

Posted by
27367 posts

Granada's a great destination, but it is not close to Barcelona. The trip takes at least 6 hours by express train.

Posted by
2213 posts

One word for a place to chill outside of Barcelona: Cadaques