Barcelona — By Andy Hayes on February 18, 2011 at 9:58 am
Filed under: beach, museums, neighborhood, Shopping, sightseeing, top-feature

A Walking Tour of Barceloneta

While the throngs of crowds will be wrapped around the Sagrada Familia waiting patiently for their turn, there’s another quiet neighborhood that has lots to see and do and is decidedly a little more low key.  Once you’ve finished exploring Gaudi, turn your sneakers towards the area known as Barceloneta (map).

It’s simple to get here – it has its own metro stop of the same name, or a 15 minute walk from Las Ramblas.  Traditionally, this was a poor area – at first a refuge for poor settlers who were mistreated by the French military.  Then it became a fisherman’s quarter, with simple and inexpensive homes.  Today those same buildings might be a tad old fashioned, but they’re charming nonetheless.

Barceloneta was dramatically changed in the 1990s – when Barcelona was the 1992 summer Olympic host city, money poured into the area and transformed this sleepy and often not-so-desirable part of town in a buzzing beach hot spot with public art, high rises, and trendy cafes.  Not all the charm was washed away, and now some say this beach is one of the best urban beaches in the world.  Others say that it’s still boring and just touristy.  I have to disagree, but you’ll have to see for yourself to decide.  Here’s what you can expect on your visit.

Beach Boardwalk

I suggest if you’re wanting to spend a day walking around Barceloneta, start with the beach – it is the highlight, and the beach is about 3/4th of a mile long. It’s a short 10 minute walk from the metro, though you can actually get there from the nearby Vila Olimpica stop more quickly, so if you are doing a day on the beach that might be a better option.

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One note, Barcelona is terrible for pickpockets, so be mindful of romping around in the sand and leaving your valuables out of sight. You would be amazed at how quickly a backpack full of electronics and passports can disappear if you don’t keep a close eye on it.

While the beach has always been the highlight of this community, the major works of art that line the beach are far newer. The quirkiest is Rebecca Horn’s Homenatge a la Barceloneta, but my personal favorite is the massive golden fish (pais d’or) by Frank Gehry.

The beach boardwalk is also perfect for people watching. On our stroll we saw sumo wrestling (yes, really – but with big fat suits), musicians, souvenir hawkers, volleyball, and sunbathers of the topped and topless variety.

The beach also has a number of bars, called chiringuitos. Cold beers and classy cocktails are at the top of the menu, and loads of paella restaurants are in the area.  Let’s just say, you will not go hungry or thirsty.

Sightseeing

If you’ve spotted all the things you want to see along the beach, then why not head for one of the several attractions that are in Barceloneta?  Things are easy to find as the neighborhood is roughly the shape of a triangle (the beach being the longer part), so nothing is very far.  The main attractions that might be of interest all in tiny Barceloneta:

  • Barcelona Zoo (map):  Close to the metro station, the zoo has not only a collection of animals from around the world – the Komodo Dragon house is very fun – but also flora and fauna, including a number of trees planted to help educate children on their role in climate change.  The zoo also has a lot of public art.
  • Parc de la Ciutadella:  This is one of the largest parks in Barcelona, and in the center of it is the Catalan Parliament. The park was meant to be the grounds surrounding a fortress which was demolished.  There’s also some monuments, including an Arc de Triomphe, and a zoology museum.
  • L’Acquarium (map): This is one of the largest aquariums in Europe, and is famous for its diving with sharks experience, as well the enormous glass tube which you can wander underneath one of the tanks.  For children, the acquarium is a ton of fun as there are interactive games and learning activities they can take part in.

I have not been so I can’t vouch for them, but there is one other museum in this district:  the Maritime Museum of Barcelona (website, only in Spanish).  It’s focus is on maritime-related exhibits from the 1750s-1850s, so if that’s your cup of tea, I suggest a visit.

Lastly, if you’re in the area and interested in a round of shopping, the Maremagnum (map) is one of the new establishments leading the charge of gentrification in Barceloneta. There are several name brand shops in this beautiful and airy building, but what’s really interesting is the facility’s “Boutiques Independents” program, which seeks to provide space and platforms for emerging designers to exhibit and sell their clothing!  It’s a great idea and a win-win for shoppers and artists.

Have you been to Barceloneta? What was your favorite?

Photo Credits: Barceloneta, Hector Garcia

Related places:
  1. A
    la Barceloneta, 08039 Barcelona
  2. B
    Barcelona Zoo, 08003 Barcelona
  3. C
    MOLL ESPANYA DEL PORT VELL, S/N
  4. D
    Maremagnum
Tags: beach, museums, neighborhood, Shopping, sightseeing, top-feature


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