The Barceloneta district, an idyllic seaside neighbourhood, was the place of residence for boat crews and fishermen. It sits on a plot of reclaimed land in the shape of a lateen sail, formed by the accumulation of sand after the construction of a dam to protect the breakwater in the 15th century. The Barceloneta was built on a wasteland in the 18th century to shelter the old inhabitants of the Ribera neighbourhood, who had lost their homes when Phillip V of Spain built a giant Citadel from which to be able to dominate the city and the coast.
It was built according to instructions given by the French military engineer the Marquis of Verboom, with the era’s most advanced urban planning ideas. With its narrow, rectilinear streets and proximity to the fishing port, its small-scale houses were occupied by fishermen and people associated with the fishing trade and metals industry.
The City Opens to the Sea
With the Olympic Games of 1992, Barcelona decided to open the city up towards the sea. The Barceloneta underwent a complete transformation of its beachfront. Old factories were removed to make way for social housing. The old chiringuito bars and bathhouses were demolished in favour of spacious sandy beaches.
The Barceloneta is one of the city’s most popular local neighbourhoods among visitors and young people. The spirit of the neighbourhood is alive in every corner, with the smell of food, people’s voices, and the taste of the sea, which is right next door with its port and beaches.
Restaurants, tapas bars, and prestigious culinary establishments sit side by side with the traditional images of locals sitting in their chairs on the street, and clothes hung out to dry on balconies. Highlights in the centre of the neighbourhood include the church of Sant Miquel del Port and the remodelled local market.
World-renowned architects have built modern buildings in the neighbourhood, such as the Gas Natural company building, whose glass façade reflects the surroundings.
Metro: (L4) Barceloneta
Bus: 17, 36, 39, 45, 57, 59 and 157.
Guided tours: 933 428 260.
The Transition to Modernity
The Estació de França
Historically, Barcelona has been the city with the highest level of industrialization and a pioneer in implementing the railways. It was from here that the first working railway in Spain, the Barcelona-Mataró line, took its maiden voyage in 1848.
The Estació de França , designed by E. Maristany, the Marquis of Argentera, at the turn of the 20th century, didn’t begin construction until 1926 when the city was preparing for the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition. The engineer A. Muntaner and the architect Pedro Muguruza were in charge of completing the works. As in the majority of that era’s constructions, iron is the protagonist in this train station that connected the Catalan capital for the first time with France–hence its name–.
The building is in a modernist style and stands out for its historic and artistic character. A large, very luminous U-shaped terminal houses seven platforms and twelve tracks. The station’s spacious entry hall, in the noucentista style, is the work of Duran Reynals. Luxurious materials such as marble and bronze were used in its construction, giving the premises that eye-catching look that it’s so renowned for.
Av. Marquès de l’Argentera, s/n
902 320 320
Metro: (L4) Barceloneta
Bus: 14 and 51.
Barcelona Bus Turístic: Parc de la Ciutadella-Zoo.
Open Hours: Daily, from 5:00 to 24:00.
This work, by the German artist Rebecca Horn, consists of four disjointed cubes piled on top of each other on the Barceloneta beach. The sculpture l’Estel Ferit is 10 meters high and fits perfectly with Olympic-era Barcelona’s taste for innovative art.
Its symbolism is linked to the Barceloneta neighbourhood’s past, to which it pays homage. It commemorates and remembers the typical restaurants and huts of the Barceloneta from the 1980’s. Each cube, surrounded by glass windows, is organized as an independent unit, and its image, which appears unstable, is silhouetted against the sea’s horizon, while beachgoers take in the sun around it.
Rebecca Horn was part of a series of monuments, sculptures, and outdoor conceptual art by artists in 1992 from around the world meant to decorate and beautify a run-down neighbourhood and, with the Olympic Games, open it up to the sea.
Pg. Marítim de la Barceloneta, Platja de Sant Miquel.
Bus: 36, 45, 57, 59 and 157.
This sculpture, popularly known as La Dorada (The gilthead bream, a highly valued fish here) is the work of the Canadian architect Frank Gehry. He designed it in 1989 and it was inaugurated in 1992. It is Gehry’s first work in Barcelona.
The figure is shaped like a great golden framework made of fine lines of stainless steel supported by a metallic structure: a soft, subtle shape with an intense golden colour, visible from the Barceloneta beach and from the Port Olímpic.
Depending on how far away it is seen from, the sculpture can be read in different ways. From afar it really looks like a headless fish. Up close it takes on a much more abstract and fanciful vision. According to its creator, the sculpture links the city of Barcelona to its seaside roots and the sun, climate and light of the Mediterranean. Barcelona’s taste for innovative art.
Pg. Marítim de la Barceloneta, Port Olímpic.
Metro: (L4) Ciutadella-Vila Olímpica
Tram: T4 and T5 Ciutadella-Vila Olímpica
Bus: 10, 36, 45, 57 and 59.
Barcelona Bus Turístic: Port Olímpic.
Sailing and Good Times
Barcelona’s Port Olímpic was designed by O. Bohigas, J. Martorell, D. Mackay and A. Puigdomènech and built to give the city a worthy marina that could serve as the headquarters for the sailing competitions of the 1992 Olympic Games. Equipped with 740 boat moorings, the entrance to the port is visible from any point in Barcelona. Boat rentals or boat rides are available.
Since then it has been one of the city’s most popular leisure areas. There is a wide and varied selection of restaurants during the day, and at night, music and dancing take over the atmosphere.
On either side there are spacious, very well-equipped beaches with sports facilities, daily cleaning, and chiringuitos where you can enjoy a drink day or night.
Pg. Marítim del Port Olímpic.
932 259 220
Metro: (L4) Ciutadella-Vila Olímpica
Tram: T4 Ciutadella-Vila Olímpica
Bus: 10, 36, 45, 57, 59, 71 and 92.
Barcelona Bus Turístic: Port Olímpic
Barcelona has more than 4 km of wide and shallow golden sandy beaches . All of them have the international distinction of the “blue flag”, which attests to both the quality of its waters and the cleanliness of the sand, as well as to the facilities it offers.
Attended by lifeguards for much of the day, they offer all types of facilities that allow beachgoers to enjoy their waters. Furthermore, a public announcement service informs beachgoers in various languages of the swimming conditions throughout the day.
These beaches currently make up one of the largest leisure spaces available to Barcelona’s residents and visitors. Just a few minutes away from anywhere in the city thanks to easy access by public transportation and by bicycle, each year they welcome around seven million people.