A useful guide to La Barceloneta and Port Vell
Are curious to know more about the southern area of Barcelona? Walking from Port Vell until La Barceloneta you can appreciate the atmosphere and the mystique of the maritime city, the one inhabited by fishermen, liven up by restaurants and brand new places like the Maremagnum, a mall right near the port.
In 1992 the area experienced a urban renewal -before the Olympic games took place- that transformed it into the current Spanish Moll.
Did you know that La Barceloneta is known as the “Barcelonan Naples”? It could seem a little weird, but here you will find the same atmosphere and the same maze of streets as in Naples.
Formerly inhabited just by criminals who took shelter from the police, La Barceloneta remained abandoned until 18th century, when fishermen started to move there thanks to its vicinity to the seaside. Since then the area kept going on being inhabited by humble people, even if houses have been changing a little and so has the whole district.
La Barceloneta is a cosmopolitan place. In summer it becomes one of the most vital areas, both nights and days, when chiringuitos (Spanish word for kiosks) and bars offer live music on the beach. Right here you can appreciate some works of design like the “Golden fish” by Frank Gehry and the “Metal cube” by Rebecca Horn.
The peculiarity of this place is the coexistence of both the modern and the traditional influence. De facto near the modern places you can still see laundry hanging out the balconies, women talking on the doorsteps, fishermen cleaning their nets, old warehouses and restaurants serving fresh fish –the one just caught by the same fishermen!-.
La Barceloneta is connected to the Port Vell, literally the old harbour, a waterfront harbour part of the Port of Barcelona. Built in 1992 (as part of the renewal program prior to the Olympics), it was a shabby place of abandoned warehouses, railroads and factories. Port Vell is nowadays one of the focal points of the city and tourist attraction where during the years malls, restaurants, shops and cinemas have been replacing old fish markets.
One of the best pleasures here, is to enjoy a walk through the Passeig Maritim, the seafront, an ideal moment for sunbathing or swimming, a good occasion to practice some aquatic sports or just have a relaxing walk. Passeig Maritim is 5km long!
Below a list of what to see in Port Vell.
- Monument Colon
The starting point of Port Vell is represented with a big monument dedicated to Christopher Columbus. Built in 1888 for the Exposición Universal de Barcelona, its aim is to remember the discovery of America achieved by Columbus himself. The bronze statue is located over a 60m tall column standing in the centre of the square. Exactly inside the column there is a panoramic elevator from where you will be able to admire a stunning view : from the seaside to the mountain, including both the port and the historic city centre. Don’t miss it!
- Aquarium de Barcelona
If you are travelling with your family this is the right place for your kids to have fun! It is the biggest aquarium in Europe and, including more than 20 fish tanks, it is home to 450 species of animals and plants. The aquarium has an underwater tunnel and represents an ideal instrument for your kids to get to know the Mediterranean seabed. In the latest section “Explore” your kids will be allowed to touch the maritime ecosystem too!
- Drassanes Relais de Barcelona
It is a shipyard and former military building of Gothic architecture placed right in the area of the port. Its construction started in 13th century, but during excavations in 2012, it was discovered a new building constructed on the old medieval dockyard in 16th century, giving the building the current structure. Nowadays it is the seat of the Barcelona Maritime Museum.
How to get there
You can get there by underground just taking the green line L3 and getting off at Drassanes stop.
For those who are passionate about adventurous experiences you will have the chance to board on the famous “Golondrinas” –literally swallows-, traditional boats made of wood. Their route starts exactly in front of the monument a Colom and allow you to admire the entire area from the seaside and appreciate its fascinating atmosphere.
Speaking of typical things, if you would like to eat something authentic have lunch/dinner at one of the numerous bars around the area. Don’t miss the chance to taste the famous “zarzuela” a fish soup, and “la bombas” a kind of meat balls with potatoes. And don’t forget to eat paella, of course!