One of the best parts about visiting Barcelona is that its essentially a beach city. Of course there are dozens of tourist areas and cultural sites but if the sun is out, the beach is the place to be. Barceloneta is the Barcelona neighborhood that sits right along the Mediterranean and the area is chock full of restaurants, clubs, markets, and people. During the high season this area will be packed with tourists but even by mid-March when Barcelona starts to see some sixty degree days there will be a nice crowd out at the beach. Because this is a big tourist area, be careful in the crowds and look out for pickpockets trying to lift valuables off the tourists. But in general, this is a great stop on your trip because it is essentially free. It is not a museum with a ticket price or a club with a cover, just walk right onto the sand and spend the day basking in the sun.
Getting to the Beach
The best way to get to the beach from around the city is by taking the Metro to the L4 line Barceloneta stop. It can be a lengthy walk from the city center but from the metro stop its less than ten minutes to the surf. The beach itself is about five kilometers long with a port in the middle making it an easy walk down the boardwalk. However there are also several places to rent bikes for an hour or so. Prices usually get pretty steep after the first one or two hours but it can be fun to ride down the coast and see all the restaurants and shops. All around Barcelona are “Bicing” stands of bikes which is a city initiative to cut carbon emissions used by other forms of public transit. However these stands are mostly just for locals and require a yearly membership card.
Tips for Getting Your Money’s Worth
This area is great for restaurants and clubs when you aren’t enjoying the sun and surf. However, for a student, a lot of these places are meant for tourists and so can get a little pricey, especially the closer you get to the water. Some of the places right on the sand will charge you an arm and a leg for a glass of sangria and a tapa. But, if you cross the street off of the beachfront, prices plummet and you still have a good view of the ocean while you enjoy your lunch. In terms of drinks and snacks, don’t even bother with the restaurants. There are hundreds of little supermercados where you can get a liter and a half of sangria for three euros or a big bag of Lays for under two euros. The best part is that you can sit in the sand with your toes in the water while you enjoy your afternoon snack.
The biggest thing that I was unprepared for when I went to Barceloneta was the solicitors. All over Europe it feels like there are hordes of people in the streets trying to sell you everything from knock-off purses to selfie sticks. Well the beach is no exception. Within moments of arriving you may be offered any number of products and services. The most persistent are the men selling “mojitos” who will loop around every few minutes to peddle drinks that look like 98 percent green syrup with a splash of rum. Every vendor will tell you that its a “good price just for you” or ask you to “just try, no problem” but if you give them an inch you give them a mile and they will pester you for minutes on end. Give them a no gracias or just a firm shake of the head and they should move on. Its the worst when you first arrive but after you’ve said no a few times they will just pass by. Whatever you do, don’t take a sip. Even if they insist and leave the drink by you while they walk around. The minute you touch it, you pay for it and the four euros you’ll pay for your beachside drink are not worth it. The other vendors will be selling henna, beautiful beach blankets, massages, hair braids, and a dozen other things. Personally, I almost caved to buying a beach blanket they were so pretty but even if you want one of these things, make sure to watch all the vendors, negotiate prices, and get the one you really want.
Another small thing I didn’t consider before getting on the plane to Barcelona was sunscreen. In Spain sunscreen can be very very expensive, sometimes two or three times as much as you see in the U.S., and it rarely comes in bottles of less than 100 mL that are approved to carry on in Europe. A day in the sun is fun but not if the next two weeks you have to pay for it with a sunburn or you have to drip twenty euros on sunscreen. Be prepared and dole out enough sunscreen into little 100 mL bottles before you leave and you’ll save a lot of trouble when you get to Barcelona.
Enjoy the Surf!
After a couple days of seeing the sites its incredibly relaxing to be able to just lay in the sand and enjoy the sun. I have always grown up on East coast beaches and that little bit of time on the water always leaves me feeling refreshed. This was not exactly the same, the sand is courser and more rocky, the constant pestering by peddlers can get annoying, and the crowds can be overwhelming but if you can tune out all the distractions and differences from home, you can make a great day. Barceloneta is a must-see if your visiting the city for a few days or even a few hours. Not many places have the thriving culture, interesting history, and variety of things to do like Barcelona. Definitely take advantage of this city and its beautiful coastline while you are here.