In the last few years, Barcelona’s sun-drenched beaches and waterfront became a pleasant escape for locals and tourists alike. Its lively vibe made it one of the most popular public zones in the city. No wonder! A simple day at the waterfront offers delightfully picturesque refuge from the hustle and bustle of the crowded city center. After all, architecture gems like Sagrada Familia or Park Guell can wait a day or two while you relax taking in the sun on a Barcelona beach!
The fresh sea breeze is not as far from the center as it seems. Located just a few-minute walk from Barri Gotic, you can easily reach the waterfront by foot, metro (yellow line, stop Barceloneta) or a local bus (45, 59, D20, V15). Whichever transport you choose, soon enough, you will find yourself immersed in a world of stylish bars, authentic seafood restaurants, and palm-decorated promenades. There is a lot to explore! The waterfront stretches from Port Vell across 4 kilometers of sandy beaches all the way to Parc del Fòrum.
The waterfront experience starts at Port Vell (“Old Port” in Catalan). It comprises of two yacht harbors, a maritime station for ferries as well as landing areas for cruise ships. The harbor has seen a massive transformation in the past few years with its most significant additions being Maremagnum, a bustling shopping and nightlife complex; and the largest Marine Aquarium in Europe. Because Maremagnum stands in a designated tourist area, it’s the only commercial center in the whole of Barcelona that opens on Sundays and holiday days.
The complex sits in the middle of the port, almost completely surrounded by water, which makes the views all the more interesting. Right next to it, you can hop on board of one of the Golondrinas, small sightseeing tourist ships that will take you on a cruise along Barcelona’s shore.
Back on the bank, the palm-riddled promenade sweeps down the marina to the Palau De Mar. This rather majestic building was once a simple warehouse only transformed into Palau in 1992. Today, it houses the Museum of Catalan History, office spaces as well as numerous bars and restaurants. If you want to enjoy a spectacular view of the entire Port Vell as you sip a refreshing drink, ascend to the 1881 Per Sagardi bar on the Palau rooftop. The entrance hides inside the Museum of Catalan history; just take the lift to the 4th floor!
From here, a walk down Passeig de Joan de Borbó is a cheerful affair accompanied by a defile of cafes, bars, and restaurants. The charming views from the terraces often make up for the occasional gastronomic shortcomings. Rather than under the spotlight, the authentic culinary goodies hide in the narrow streets of Barceloneta. The best food is often served in the smallest, unassuming, simple places.
The area of la Barceloneta was barely inhabited until the mid 18th century. Its construction was inspired by political and military decision to relocate all the residents of the Ribera neighborhood to make space for the construction of Felipe V’s fortress, La Ciutadella. The whole neighborhood was designed by a Catalan engineer Juan Martín Cermeño. Today, Barceloneta offers a curiously appealing mix of traditional and modern. Fresh laundry hanging from the narrow balconies of the quaint and colorful buildings accompanies your every step, while the modern bars and restaurants beg you to live to the fullest.
Once in Barceloneta, wander through its streets and explore all that’s exposed or hidden. However, be sure to respect the locals who continue living their daily lives alongside the curious travelers.
Whether you follow the Passeig de Joan de Borbó or cut through the charming streets of Barceloneta, you will quickly reach Passeig Marítim. Its wide wooden walkways, palm trees, and designer showers are the reminders of Barcelona’s Olympic moment of glory in 1992.
Today, the beaches form the essence of Barcelona’s rather legendary nightlife. During the day, the numerous beach clubs serve as restaurants and chill out spots offering drinks and snacks; that is until the DJ takes over once the sun had set on the horizon. Other than nightlife frolics, the shore offers many activities including beach volleyball, outdoor gym, yoga, ping pong as well as (e)bike rentals and Segway tours that let you explore further corners of the area.
As you lay your eyes on the curious copper fish sculpture glimmering in the sun and the two skyscrapers towering above, you are approaching Port Olímpic, Barcelona's Olympic Marina. In 1991, the city was in need of a sports marina which would match exigent standards of Olympic sailing competitions. The marina they built can dock 740 yachts and its entrance is visible from anywhere in Barcelona.
Since then, Port Olímpic became one of the top Barcelona attractions for locals and travelers alike. This is a place where bars and restaurants mushroom, and nightlife boasts with opportunities. If you are feeling lucky, you can also drop by the Gran Casino de Barcelona, the largest casino in Spain.
Port Olímpic doesn’t neglect the more outdoorsy type of visitors either. Watersports lovers can indulge in yachting, parasailing, kayaking, paddle surfing, or windsurfing. On the other hand, those with a taste for speed or funky adventures can try a jet ski, flyboard, flyfish or a crazy sofa!
Further down the shore, beyond the Port Olímpic, lie Platja Nova Icària, Bogatell, Mar Bella, Nova Mar Bella, and Llevant - beaches created from tons of imported sand. This promenade is popular with local joggers, skaters, cyclists, and walkers. It offers a somewhat calmer and more relaxing ambiance than the often crowded beaches of la Barceloneta.
Inland from these five beaches, in the point where the Avinguda Diagonal cuts through the neighborhood of Poblenou and reaches the sea, the 19th-century industrial landscape fuses with the high-tech business district. Diagonal Mar is a mix of residential zones, green spaces and a plethora of activities.
The highlights in the area include the DHUB (Museu del Disseny de Barcelona) displaying over 70,000 objects from the collections of the Museum of Decorative Arts, Museum of Textile and Clothing, Museum of Ceramics, and the Graphic Arts Cabinet; the museum of contemporary art Can Framis, and the Fòrum area by the sea used to host large events such as music festivals, fairs, and grand celebrations.
Barcelona beach and waterfront got a lot to offer. Whether you want and indulge in fresh seafood specialties, chill on the beach, shop, sightsee, go bunkers with watersports, or party, you won’t be disappointed. True, there are many exciting to do in Barcelona without going anywhere near the beach. However, this little sunny little detour is worth the effort.