On our third and final day in Barcelona, we had planned to tour the city in a rather different way. While researching online of sightseeing options in Barcelona, we came across the traditional hop-on-hop-off bus tours. Now, Barcelona is too exciting to be seen from a bus, we thought! We were looking for something that would allow us to experience Barcelona from up close. And that’s how we came across the Go Car Tours. It was something that we hadn’t ever experienced before as tourists, and that got us excited — a yellow convertible talking car that navigates you and shows you the city. The minute we saw the website and the concept, we were hooked. The next two days, my husband spent all his evenings looking at the various fun videos posted online of people who had tried the Go Car experience: forget the maps and just jump into a GoCar to drive around the city.
The Go Car Tours concept was launched in San Francisco in 2004 and is now available in five cities, including San Francisco, Lisbon, Barcelona, Madrid, and San Diego. You can choose from different tours available, with prices starting as low as 19 euros per person.
We had booked a full day sightseeing tour that combines the three routes to cover all of the Catalan capital in 8 hours. It is best to book your tour online well in advance as the number of slots are limited. All you need is a valid driving license and you are all set. If you are nervous about driving alone in a new city, you can even choose a guided group tour.
So, on the fixed day we arrived at the Go Car Tours office located in the Old Town – a lovely walk from La Rambla that takes you in narrow lanes of Barcelona. A group tour was just kicking off and I was distracted by the cute looking car parked on the side. We met a representative of staff who explained us how the car works and we were shown a video guide to understand the car a little better, before we could start.
(A tip: Make sure to check the car before for damages, scratches and dents with a member to staff to know the car’s condition before you sign an undertaking form.)
All set, we put on our helmets and were ready to drive away! My husband was a little too excited to be driving this little yellow convertible, reminding him of a variant of a kart race car. Barcelona’s traffic, like any big city, can be really nasty and right at the first turn on the main street, we found ourselves navigating a busy crossing (years of driving in unruly Delhi traffic came in handy here!). Our guide, a built-in talking system, introduced itself to us and gave us some history about the Catalan capital. We passed few streets, and realized the brakes were not working properly and the sound system, too, faltered. And soon we headed back to the office to change our car. The staff was very helpful and after examining the problem, they changed the car for us, a newer car which drove better.
And so, we started again. Once again navigating the same busy crossing, until we found ourselves on the main roads of the city and the adventure started! It’s a little scary at first, but as you drive some more, it becomes less intimidating.
A declaration here: I don’t think I have ever had so much fun before in a sightseeing tour. The talking-system guided us through the city’s main attractions, filling us up with interesting facts about the sights along the route, punctuating the stories with some really hilarious jokes. It would even tell you the perfect ‘match’ it is waiting for, as it looks for love! Remember that old saying that it isn’t about the destination, but about the journey? Well, this car exemplifies that. You have so much fun along the way that your journey comes to life.
It was quite hilarious too, as fellow tourists on road or on sidewalks looked at us as we drove by and waved at us! Some even paused to click a picture of us and the car, as it’s not something that you see every day in cities. It felt comically stupid, but we enjoyed these moments too!
What I loved about the car was that it was so easy to park and alight. I remember when we arrived at the iconic Sagrada Familia, it was overwhelmingly busy. The queues were overflowing and the traffic was horrible. But we found a parking spot right next to the grand church and parked it swiftly. The small car means it’s absolutely easy to just park it simply like a bicycle and alight. And that’s the best part about the car – you can stop for photos, for visits, or even for a relaxed lunch, without having to worry about the time. You can enjoy it according to your own pace and can go where traditional bus tour won’t.
From here, we drove towards Park Guell. And this is where the car really became an ‘adventure’, and a hysterical one at that. You see, the car has an engine of 50cc, so it doesn’t have the power to go uphill. And, so, there I was, pushing the car on the road, with my husband ‘driving it’, much to the amusement of onlookers. Some even joined in the fun, while another man pretended to flag off a ‘race’ as we passed him!
The tour then took us to Tibidabo, a mountain overlooking Barcelona. The drive leading to Tibidabo is picturesque and you will immediately notice how it was different from main town Barcelona in its character. Once you reach to the top, panoramic views of the city greet you and take your breath away. You will also notice impressive Spanish houses as you drive along the mountain road and downhill. Make sure you park the car here and savour the views.
Barcelona’s football stadium, Camp Nou, was our next stop – a must for all football fans! By now, the sun was at its brightest and my jeans were burning me and a sun tan was now visible! We stopped for lunch to beat the heat, before heading towards Antoni Gaudi’s masterworks of Casa Batllo and Casa Mila. These modernist buildings are known for their innovative architecture designs.
We, then, arrived at the La Ramblas and parked our humble car to see Port Vell, a modern waterfront harbor and main tourist attraction. A wooden bridge, an aquarium and an entertainment center are main attractions in this area. You will also see the iconic Monument of Christopher Columbus, dedicated to pay homage to his first voyage to the Americas.
After we resumed our trip from here, the GPS started acting up. We missed a turn and after that the GPS tried to get us back on the route, but we found that it got confused with the road works. It kept asking us to take a right turn, when there was none allowed. We spent almost half an hour driving around in this circle, trying to figure out the route. We even recalculated the route, but found us stuck as the GPS kept taking us back to the same road where right turn wasn’t allowed. Also, unlike a traditional GPS system that you have in cars, this one doesn’t speak unless you are on the right route, so it doesn’t help to get back on the route. We finally decided to reroute the guide to take us back to the office and end the tour, as we had got tired of navigating our way back on the tour.
What we loved:
- Fun and interesting way to see a city
- More personal experience as compared to a tourist bus full of 50 people
- Easy to park
- Helpful staff
- Blankets, for when the weather gets a bit windy and chilly
What we weren’t a fan of:
- It makes a lot of noise so after you have been on the tour for more than three hours, it starts getting to you
- Because of the small size of the car, the seat and leg space can get uncomfortable after you have been sitting in the car for hours.
- The GPS system needs to be improved
I would say the tour is a must try if you are in Barcelona. You will feel like a complete tourist, but it is also the most fun you will probably have! It was quite hilarious to sit in the car and wave at people passing by or seeing someone stop to click a picture of you in that car! It was an experience like no other, and I had a blast! You get to see the main attractions at a pace that you like. It was definitely the highlight of our trip.
I would, however, recommend a shorter tour of one or two hours. A full day tour can become tiring in that little car, and my legs and back started to feel uncomfortable after sitting cramped in the position for more than three hours.
Croissant score: 3.5 out of 5
You can read the previous two parts of Barcelona Diaries at links below: