One of the great things about Barcelona is the coastline and its city beaches. After a hot day of sightseeing, museum hopping, shopping and walking around, there’s nothing more refreshing than jumping into the fantastic Mediterranean Sea. And better than just cooling off, Barcelona offers a vibrating beach life during the extra long Spanish summers.
It hasn’t always been like that though. Until 1992 the inhabitants of Barcelona are said to have lived with their back towards the sea. Unlike now, they didn’t come here to have long Sunday lunches and some paddling afterwards as the beaches along the coastline were non-existent. When Barcelona hosted the Olympic Games in the summer of 1992 the city’s council decided to pull out all the stops, giving the visitors an opportunity to experience a brand new city beach.
It started with the cleaning up of Barceloneta and the construction of the Olympic Village: Vila Olímpica. A new port was being built as well: the Olympic Port. And it worked as the whole world could see what Barcelona had to offer and the beach was probably one of its main attractions. After the Olympic Games tourism in Barcelona continued to grow, as did the kilometres of golden sand; the first towards the Fòrum in the north and recently also the south part of Barcelona underwent a facelift.
Nowadays Barcelona has nine beaches within the city borders: Sant Sebastià, Sant Miquel, Barceloneta, Somorrostro, Nova Icària, Bogatell, Mar Bella, Nova Mar Bella and Llevant. The beaches close to the neighbourhood of La Barceloneta and Vila Olímpica are usually the most crowded ones, especially during the weekends and holidays they’re packed with locals, families, tourists and youngsters. Some people prefer the quieter beaches towards the north, such as Mar Bella or Nova Mar Bella. Both are a bit further away from the city centre, but can be reached easily by metro (L4), bus or bicycle.
If you don’t like the idea of a city beach at all, you may want to leave the metropolitan area of Barcelona and find yourself a more idyllic playa somewhere else along the coast, just like many locals do. Sitges, Montgat and Sant Pol de Mar are favorites and can all be easily reached by train.
But back at Barcelona, the beach area is more than sand and the shimmering sea. Think activities such as stand up paddle (SUP), surfing, pilates on the water, skating, biking and, for those who don’t like the salty water, there’s an outdoor swimming pool just in front of Barceloneta’s beach. In the early morning and in the evening, when the beaches are quieter, you’ll see locals participating in boot camp sessions or simply running along the boulevard.
Feeling hungry? Naturally, sea and fish are inextricably connected. La Barceloneta is the best barrio in town to order a fish paella. Good restaurants are Salamanca and Can Majó. If you want to try something else, order the Catalan variation called arròs negre; black rice made with squid ink and, believe me, it’s delicious. Barraca is a more modern urban rice restaurant, with a broad variation of rice dishes from
Catalonia and other Spanish regions, such as Valencia. Most are combined with fish.
Another possibility is to visit one of the many temporary looking restaurants along Barcelona’s coast. La Guingueta de la Barceloneta, by chef Carles Abellan, is definitely a good option. Further to the north you’ll find La Guingueta de Escribà, from a Catalan family famous for its culinary traditions.
Just looking for a place to have cocktail? A beach based nightlife can be found around the Port Olímpic and the twin towers Torre Mapfre and Hotel Arts. Here you’ll find many clubs such as Opium and Shoko, and the local casino. Right at the port you can sit down at one of the many terraces for food or drinks in the evening and, later on, most places transform into late night venues where party-hard tourists hang out until early morning. However, these are not usually frequented by locals.
The area around the W Hotel, Barcelona’s newest icon, is the current place to be for drinks. Here you’ll find different bars and restaurants, and on the 26th floor of the same hotel you’ll find the bar with a view: The Eclipse Bar. It’s a fancy venue for food, drinks and music but after sunset it can get pretty crowded and it’s definitely not the cheapest place in town. But when the bar closes you still have the beach to hang out and enjoy Barcelona’s early summer sunrise.