Barceloneta

La Barceloneta is the old fisherman’s quarter of Barcelona – and many people will tell you that it’s still the very best place to go if you want to get fresh seafood. Barceloneta beach is thought of as the beach of the city itself, so can be quite crowded on weekends during the height of summer.

Barceloneta was first developed during the eighteenth century and is bordered by El Born, Port Vell and the sea. It’s a very pleasant walk from Las Ramblas around the harbour and marina – although there is also a Metro Station, on Line 4, Yellow. Once you get there, there’s a very good place for hiring cycles, Barceloneta Bikes, which would be a really good way of seeing the seafront.

Although people usually associate Barceloneta with the beach – it is Barcelona’s widest and longest as well as its busiest – there is more to the area than that.

There’s the Aquàrium, for example. Opened in 1995 and Europe’s second largest, the Aquàrium is a spectacular construction on the Moll d’Espanya. This has to be one of the best days out in the city – a fascinating mixture of entertainment, education and information. It has 35 tanks, 11,000 animals and 450 different species. Walking through the methacryllate tunnel amongst the sharks is an awesome experience. And, incidentally, qualified divers can actually dive amongst them for real! L’Aquàrium is adjacent to the multi-screen IMAX cinema.

Directly facing the harbour is the Palau de Mar, which houses the fabulous Museu d’Història de Catalunya – one of the most interactive and least ‘dry’ museums you could ever visit. It also has a café giving superb views across the port when you need a break.

You will also enjoy wandering around the marina, with its engaging, and expensive, mix of vessels and, on the Moll de Rellotge and Moll Pescadors, the fishing boats.

The wide, sandy beach itself stretches from Port Vell all the way to the Port Olímpic – dominated by the towering Hotel Arts and the Mapfre Office Block opposite. The entire length of the Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta contains bars, cafés, American-style restaurants, seafood restaurants and nightclubs – this is a bustling place at night as well as during the day. On your walk along the seafront, at the entrance to the Port Olímpic, is the famous Frank Gehry steel lattice fish sculpture looking out to sea. Commissioned for the 1992 Games, notice how the beautiful bronze colour changes with the light.

Barceloneta is a colourful, noisy and exhilarating beach in the summer. In the autumn and winter, it can be a windswept, bracing walk. It is everything you would want from a city beach and, for many visitors, comes as a complete shock; they don’t think of Barcelona for a beach holiday.

It’s certainly always worth a visit – especially if you try some of the arroz negro – rice dyed with squid ink – or fresh paella that you’ll smell enticingly as you walk along. Restaurants near the sea with good reputations include Can Mojo, La Mar Salada and Barceloneta.