Updated Apr 24 2020
One of the best pleasures that Barcelona has to offer is the possibility of enjoying the Port Vell (Old Port area) and the Promenade, whether it’s to sunbathe on the beach and swim in the sea, to take part in an aquatic sport, to drink in one of the ‘chiringuitos’ (the little bars on the beach), to eat in a good restaurant or simply to take a quiet walk along the seafront. So that you make the most of your visit to Barcelona’s promenade, we’ve prepared a detailed section for you, which we hope will be very useful.
When Barcelona opened up to the sea
Although now it might be difficult to imagine, Barcelona’s Promenade (in Catalan Passeig Marítim de Barcelona), which is now loved by tourists and locals alike, is actually relatively new. Barcelona is of course a city that has always lived practically next to the sea, but it wasn’t until the city was chosen for the Olympic Games of 1992 that the major works were carried out that really opened Barcelona to the sea, later creating this magnificent promenade in time for the Cultural Forum of 2004, when it was extended to reach its current length of 5km.
We think that the most interesting part of the seafront is the part that runs from the Old Port (El Port Vell) up to the start of the Rambla del Poblenou. You can walk in whichever direction you choose, but you should really dedicate half a day (morning or afternoon) if possible, as this will give you the chance to enjoy the charms of the area without having to hurry. The walk, which we recommend you either start or finish with a good paella depending on the time of day you’re there, wouldn’t be complete without sitting down for a drink in one of the ‘chiringuitos’ (the bars on the beach itself that are open between the end of March and the end of October). It also goes without saying that if your trip coincides with one of the summer months, it’s compulsory to stop off at one of the beaches along the waterfront to sunbathe and have a dip in the sea!
El Port Vell (The Old Port)
The Port Vell, is the oldest port in the city, as its name suggests. Its current appearance is thanks to the major facelift the seafront was given in advance of the 1992 Olympic Games. In spite of its name, it’s now much more than just a port, because there are many attractions in the area, such as a commercial centre with shops, restaurants and Barcelona’s aquarium. It’s therefore one of the most visited areas of Barcelona, by tourists and locals alike. In spite of all this development, the main charm of the area still lies in the sea, the little boats and the seagulls that are very much at home there.
Currently the Marina in the Old Port, where the pier can be found (el Moll de La Barceloneta) is going through a major transformation, and as is often the case in these situations, there’s been a fair amount of controversy because a large part of the works is focussed around bringing in more tourism at a luxury level, something that the local residents of the simple La Barceloneta district have criticized. Of all the changes that have been planned, the most controversial is the plan to allow large boats to be moored there, which it’s argued will have a detrimental effect on the aesthetics of the area.
Without doubt, the two most charming areas of the Old Port are the Moll de Bosch i Alsina, which is better known as the Moll de la Fusta (in English ‘wooden wharf), which used to serve the purpose of the stowage and transport of wood, and the Rambla de Mar, the floating walkway that provides a direct link to the Maremagnum commercial centre, where you’ll find the cinema, the aquarium, shops and restaurants. It’s a great place in which to sit and admire the beautiful views of the Old Port, and perhaps take a few photos.
Map of the Old Port
It’s not possible to see 100% of Barcelona’s coastline without going out on a boat trip around the Old Port and the promenade. As well as the historic boats known as the Golondrinas, more companies have started providing a similar service over the past few years. In addition to this, if you’re after something a little more luxurious there are other companies that arrange different types of excursions by yacht or sailing boat.
Companies that offer boat trips and excursions
* If you prefer, you can also hire your own boat (Itacaadventure) or jet skis (Jet Ski BCN)
The Passeig Marítim (the Promenade)
Divided into three different areas – Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta, Passeig Marítim del Bogatell and the Passeig Marítim de Mar Bella – you’ll find a huge amount of attractions along the promenade, from its beaches to monuments and buildings of interest, as well as bars, restaurants and of course the hidden charms of La Barceloneta.
This was the Athletes Village for the participants of the 1992 Summer Olympics, and is now a residential area very close to the Olympic Port and the Platja de la Nova Icària beach. There’s not much character or ambience in the area, apart from a few bars and restaurants, and the ‘Centre de La Vila’ commercial centre, which has a cinema showing films in their original language.
Places of interest near to the Paseo Marítimo
Map of the Passeig Marítim (the promenade)
An excellent way to discover Barcelona’s promenade is to do so by bike, which will allow you to have a bit of exercise whilst enjoying the views that the promenade and the Old Port offer, in a novel way.
Bicycle Hire companies in the area
If you’re not in the mood for pedalling, a good option for seeing the promenade without getting tired is to hire the service of a bicycle taxi, also known as pedicabs. Trixies is one of the companies that offer this service.
In between the Nova Icària beach and that of Bogatell there’s a set of stone benches that, although they might not be the most comfortable in the world (we can vouch for this!), have their own charm and allow you to sit down, or even lie down for a bit, to rest and enjoy the sunshine.
Barcelona’s promenade is made up of a total of 10 different beaches, and despite the fact that many of them merge into each other, they do each have their own characteristics. So it’s possible to find more family-friendly beaches, those in which you can take part in water sports, some that are popular with the gay community (such as Marbella Beach), and even a designated nudist beach.
During the summer months it’s practically impossible to find a quiet beach in Barcelona, but it’s certainly possible to avoid the busiest, which are usually those that are situated along Barceloneta’s promenade (Platja de Sant Sebastià, Platja de La Barceloneta, Platja de Sant Miquel and Platja del Somorrostro), as these are the nearest beaches to the city centre.
The beach season usually runs from June until September, although thanks to the good climate that Barcelona enjoys during the last weeks of spring and the first weeks of autumn, there’s often a summery feel to the beaches at these times, with thousands of people making the most of the sun’s rays.
Bars, restaurants and ‘chiringuitos’
Along the Old Port and the promenade you’ll find all sorts of restaurants and bars. Although the food is very good in most of them, there are also some in which the quality isn’t so good, and these are generally the ones that offer the typical tourist menu. Please, whatever you do, avoid the pre-prepared ‘Paellador’ paellas and the paella + tapa + sangría offers – you will get much better food in the more authentic places. As well as the compulsory paella, we recommend that you try a ‘tapa’ that originates in La Barceloneta, ‘La Bomba’, that consists of a kind of potato pastry, filled with meat, which is freshly fried and accompanied by a spicy sauce.
Barcelona’s chiringuitos are small bars, usually taking the form of temporary kiosks as some are only open in high season, and they can be found on the beach itself, near to where the sand meets the promenade. They are the perfect place to go for a drink, as they are so close to where you’ll be sunbathing or walking along the waterfront, and some offer food too (although the quality varies depending on the chiringuito that you go to). They are usually open between the end of March to the end of October.
Bars and chiringuitos
Without a doubt, the best place to go for a good paella in Barcelona is the district of La Barceloneta. It has a great fishing tradition and you’ll find that many of the restaurants have been there for generations, although these have been joined by some newer outfits, all of which offering food of the best quality. Many of these restaurants don’t have an outside seating area, as they are often found in the narrow side streets of La Barceloneta. However, we’re mindful of the fact that many of you will want to sit outside, and near to the seafront if possible, during your precious few days of sunshine in Barcelona, so we have given you a list of some of our recommended restaurants, some of which have terraces and are situated right on the waterfront.
The best paellas in La Barceloneta and along the promenade
LA MAR SALADA
TAVERNA CAN ROS
CA LA NURI PLATJA
+ info on where to eat the best paellas in Barcelona.
Discos and nightlife options
Barcelona’s promenade is the place to be at night-time too, as you’ll find many bars and clubs there, especially next to the Platja del Somorrostro (the most fashionable bars, where techno, house and disco music is most popular), and in the Port Olímpic (without as much atmosphere, home to smaller bars and clubs that play more Latin music and have themed evenings). Eclipse Bar is also well known as a more exclusive bar, located up on the 26th floor of the W Hotel Barcelona, at the other end of the promenade.
Individual opening times and days of the week on which the bars and clubs are open vary greatly. Some are only open on certain days (normally Thursday to Saturday or Sunday), whereas others choose to open every day of the week. As a rule the clubs close around 3am during the week and 5:30am at weekends. In summer the chiringuitos stay open until midnight (those near the Old Town), or 02:00 (those nearer the Sant Martí district), and they sometimes have a DJ or organise live music concerts, which makes them an ideal place to spend the evening outside.
Barcelona’s promenade hardly has any shops. The few that there are can be found in between the Pez Dorado (Golden Fish) monument by Frank Gehry and the Torre Mapfre and the Hotel Arts. As far as the Port Vell (Old Port) is concerned, all the shops are contained within the Maremagnum commercial centre, which also houses bars, restaurants and a cinema.
As a general rule, Barcelona’s shops close on the vast majority of Sundays and public holidays, although this tradition has started to change in recent years. However, this isn’t the case with the Maremagnum shopping centre; as it’s located in the harbour area, it manages to avoid the city’s legislation and opens every day of the year between 10:00 and 22:00.
All of the places that make up the promenade are the perfect stages for celebrating the city’s fiestas, and for organising all sorts of events. The main places in which these events take place tend to be the area outside the Fòrum (concerts and fairs), the Maremagnum commercial centre (gastronomic events and markets), and the grassy area of the Port Vell (circuses).
Firework displays on the beach.
The nearest weekend to 24th September.
Platja de Sant Miquel / Platja del Somorrostro.
End of September.
Streets and squares in La Barceloneta.
Food, clothing and accessories.
On a fairly regular basis.
Festival celebrating Brazilian culture.
Moll de la Marina.
The nearest weekend to 24th September.
The open space outside the Fòrum.
Gastronomy, dance and Andalusian culture.
End of April / beginning of May.
The open space outside the Fòrum.
In 1996 the Club Natació Atlètic Barceloneta (Barceloneta Swimming Club) set up the tradition of starting the year with a refreshing swim in the sea. This strange initiative takes place on 1st January at 12:00 on the Platja de Sant Sebastià, so if you happen to be in the city on New Year’s Day you might like to see how the bravest locals rise to the challenge of having a good dip in the freezing sea! Everyone can take part, so if you want to do so, all you have to do is pre-register in the Swimming Club’s offices in La Barceloneta. The grand prize is a hot bowl of soup and a certificate proving your crazy achievement!
Hotels in the Old Port and along the Promenade
Staying along the seafront is the preferred option for many people who are spending a few days in Barcelona, especially for those who are there during the summer months. In spite of the many hotels to choose from, the huge demand means that it’s rarely cheap to stay in one of these hotels. However, there are always special offers available if you reserve far enough in advance.