Ironman Barcelona is one of the biggest Ironman events in the world and a very popular way to end the season for people all over the world. Especially UK is well represented but there are quite a lot of Norwegians and other Scandinavians as well. The name, IM Barcelona, could be a bit misinforming. The race is not actually in the city of Barcelona, but in Calella, a small holiday town about 50 km west of Barcelona. I guess that IM Calella does not sound as attractive. If you are planning your whole stay in Calella, you are not going on a big city holiday, but to a touristic small town with endless beaches. In many ways it give me the associations to Alcudia in Mallorca.
The obvious way is taking the plane to Barcelona Airport, which is rather accessible from wherever you may live. Getting from Barcelona to Calella on the other hand is not that obvious.
- Train: There is a train station on the Barcelona airport and there is a train station in Calella. Unfortunately there is no direct train between the stations so you have to change train in Barcelona central station(NB). That is not an impossible task, but it around two hours and changing from on platform to another can be a hassle when traveling with a bicycle suitcase. The train station in Calella is right where the start/T1/T2 is, and depending of where you have booked your accommodation it may be a €10 – 20 taxi ride to your hotel, unless you are not happy to walk a long way with your bicycle suitcase. A lot of the hotels are in the finisher/registration/expo area which is about 1,6 km away.
- Bus: Sagales is the bus company that goes from Barcelona Airport to Calella. With no traffic jam the bus trip should take 1 hour and 15 minutes, which was precise when we took the last bus going 22:45 on Friday evening. Taking the bus back at Monday morning however took one hour more than that, and combined with a 15 minutes delayed departure time, it made some of the other passengers lose their flight(!). I planned to take the bus back this time also, but after having the departure delayed more than 20 minutes and being completely full, I saw no other opportunity than getting a taxi to the airport, which instead of costing €9,5 as the bus, a taxi costs around €120. The bus may be a inexpensive, fast and practical way to get to Calella (stops in the main road along Calella which most likely is close to your hotel), but it may be unreliable, especially going from Calella Monday morning so plan with a solid time buffer.
- Taxi: It is fairly expensive costing around €120, but if you plan ahead and travel with other you can fit at least four persons with bicycle suitcases in a maxi taxi getting the price down to €30 each. That is at least the most effective and hassle free way of transportation. There are also companies that offer airport transfer that might be just as fast and effective and even a bit less expensive. I haven’t tried any of them but it is worth checking out.
- Rental car – That is probably my solution if I am competing in Barcelona next year. It might be time consuming to pick up the taxi at the airport, but the drive to Calella, and parking the car in Calella should be quit easy.
Usually there is a “perfect” location for accommodation on races, which is as close to Start/T1/T2/Finish area as possible. In IM Barcelona there is no such location since Start/T1/T2 is one place and Finish/Registration/Expo area is 1,6 kilometers further down the beach. Staying near both places has their pros and cons, but you would not go wrong if you choose a hotel near the start or the finish, or some place in between. If you choose to travel by train I would have picked a hotel as close to the train station as possible which is also right next to the start area.
Both times I have stayed at Hotel Mont-Rosa, which is right next to the beach and close to the finish/registration area. I find location the location to be very practical, both regarding actually doing the race but also if you are getting to Calella by bus. The hotel standard is not the best and I would recommend (as always) bringing with earplugs. Many people are there to do the Ironman, but most people are not. Many are there to party, and while its not turning in to Ibiza at night there might be some people singing and shouting in the streets around. Paying €88 for three nights including breakfast, lunch and dinner is a bargain (1 p on single room). The food is obviously not Michelin rated, but if it’s one occasion that plain and boring dishes with simple carbohydrates does the work, it’s the days before a race.
The start of October is outside the typical vacation season and there is quit good capacity in the hotels, so I recon most of the hotels will have a fairly good price.
Where to eat
The most popular restaurant in Calella is, by my observation, McDonalds. While eating there is on my “no-go” list I must admit I stopped by for a McFlurry after the race. There are plenty of restaurants Calella, and I guess most of them are fairly good. With cozy restaurants serving good, healthy Mediterranean real food there is absolutely no reason to make McDonalds your restaurant of choice. The restaurants are mainly located from “the main street” and in the “Old City streets east”.
If you want to buy groceries I would recommend the larger supermarkets like DIA.
What to do:
The last days before a race the best thing is probably to do as little as possible. At least I have enough with my pre-race preparations. After the race you should celebrate, eat and enjoy your amazing effort. Calella is a small town that in my opinion can be experienced enough in a couple of days, just walking around in the town. If laying on the beach is your post-race activity of preference then Calella is a perfect place to be. Personally I am too “rastløs”, and want to see more. Using the rest of the vacation in Barcelona would be my choice.