La Barceloneta

A Former Fishing Quarter With Great Beaches and Seafood

The port district of La Barceloneta is the closest to Barcelona City Centre of the self-contained village suburbs that used to ring the old city of Barcelona and in fact, .is one of the four neighbourhoods that make up the District of Ciutat Vella.

La Barceloneta still just about survives as a working fishing district, the large quayside taken up by repair yards, boats and nets of the local fleet, but the truth is the luxury yachts and cruise vessels moored along the Moll d'Espanya have taken much of the protaganism.

However, the main reason Barcelonans come here is to eat the fantastic seafood in the restaurants along the Passeig Joan de Borbó.

What's more, in 2005, La Barceloneta beach gained status as the best urban beach in the World according to the Travel Channel show The World's Best Beaches.

My Catalan friends dispute this award hotly, particularly the ones from the Costa Brava and Tarragona but it is true to say that so the neighbourhood is a great attraction for tourists.

Unfortunately, the unruly behaviour of some of these tourists, particularly those staying in unregulated tourist apartments, has caused complaints from local residents in the last few years, which in turn has provoked a debate into what kind of tourism really benefits Barcelona.


Getting to Know La Barceloneta

The triangular wedge of urban development that makes up La Barceloneta was laid out in 1755 to house the people displaced by the building of the military fortress, where the Parc de la Ciutadella now lies.

It's a classic eighteenth century grid of streets where previously there had been a shanty town built on mud flats.

The long, narrow streets are still very much as they were planned, broken at intervals by small squares and lined with low-built, multi-windowed houses designed to give the sailors and fishing folk who lived there plenty of sun and fresh air.

La Barceloneta is still a working fishing district, the large quayside taken up by repair yards, boats and nets of the local fleet.

If you arrive by cable car from Montjuïc, you'll get a superb aerial view of all the whole neighbourhood on the way in.

The barri also retains a lot of its erstwhile village character, particularly in the central Plaça de Barceloneta, around whose fountain and eighteenth century church continue activities of Barcelona's squares - people filling water-bottles or passing the time of day, kids riding bikes and playing ball.

In the recently renovated  El Mercat de la Barceloneta, the neighbourhood also has an excellent local market and another centre for the authochtonous community.

The Best Seafood in Town

The main reason most people, city inhabitants included, have always come to Barceloneta is to eat the wonderful seafood.

However, the redevelopment of the whole of the waterfront area, which was prompted by the adjacent Olympic Port and Vila Olímpica and the renovation of Estació de França railway station, had a serious effect on what used to be some of the city's best seafood restaurants.

Enacting a statute restricting development close to the beach, the authorities caused the outright destruction of most of the restaurants which faced the beach on the south-east side of La Barceloneta.

Known as xiringuitos, many had been there for years but had no real legal status, and so at a swoop the options for al fresco dining in one of the city's best spots were drastically reduced.

Fortunately, though, the many restaurants on the main Passeig de Bourbó, facing the harbour, haven't been affected and they remain lively throughout the day and night.

You can sit outside at most and get great views of the city centre across Port Vell as you enjoy your meal.

In addition, the old warehouses next to the water have been converted into the Palau del Mar, a conglomeration of bar-restaurants whose terraces overlook the harbour, and while you are there, it's also worth paying a visit to the Museu d'Història de Catalunya.

Blue Flag Beaches

After your meal, you can cut through the Barceloneta streets to the Barcelona Beaches of Sant Sebastià, La Barceloneta and Somorrostro.

These beaches were cleaned up in time for the 1992 Olympics, furnished with showers and cafés, and backed by the long promenade of the Passeig Maritim.

Sant Sebastia and Barceloneta beach actually run into each other and are impossible to tell apart whilst Somorrostro is separated from the other two by a breakwater and is named after the shanty town that stood there until the late 1960s.

As a whole , the Barceloneta beaches gained status as the best urban beach in the World and total third best beach in the World, according the documentary film 'Worlds Best Beaches' produced by Discovery Channel in 2005.

So not surprisingly, the beaches are a massive hit with locals and tourists alike, although to be perfectly honest I find the crowds in summer a bit much.

Staying in La Barceloneta

I would have expected there to be a large number of Barceloneta Beach Hotels and Hostels but there are surprisingly few.

To be perfectly honest, the 5-Star turn in Barceloneta accommodation is the magnificent W Barcelona, with the Pullman Barcelona Skipper coming some way behind both in terms of luxury.

Hotel 54 is an excellent mid-range option and then the category drops significantly to the Campus del Mar Student Residence and the Bedcelona Beach Club and Equity Point Sea Barceloneta hostels.

Renting a self-catering apartment in La Barceloneta is another possibility but given the current problems with local residents I strongly suggest you do so through a respectable regulated agency.

Public Transport

  • Metro La Barceloneta - Yellow L4 Line
  • Buses - 39,45,59,64, D20, N8, V15

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