Beaches in Barcelona
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Barcelona's platges (beaches) have improved and multiplied in number from Barceloneta north to the Fòrum site at the northeastern end of the Diagonal. At Barceloneta's southwestern end is the Platja de Sant Sebastià, followed northward by the Platges de Sant Miquel, Barceloneta, Passeig Marítim, Port Olímpic, Nova Icària, Bogatell, Mar Bella, and La Nova Mar Bella (the last football-field length of which is a nudist enclave), and Llevant. The Barceloneta beach is the most popular stretch, easily accessible by several bus lines, notably the No. 64 bus (which runs all the way from Pedralbes at the top of the city) and by the L4 metro stop at Barceloneta or at Ciutadella-Vil.la Olímpica (for the northernmost beaches such as Mar Bella). The best surfing stretch is at the northeastern end of the Barceloneta beach, and the boardwalk itself offers miles of runway for walkers, skaters, bicyclers, and joggers. Topless bathing is the norm on all beaches in and around Barcelona. There are public toilet facilities, but people often stop into a nearby bar to use the facilities. There are showers (free) at the edge of the beach.
North of Barceloneta
Running north of Barceloneta, the first beaches are Montgat, Ocata, Vilasar de Mar, Arenys de Mar, Canet de Mar, and Sant Pol de Mar, all accessible by train from the RENFE station in Plaça de Catalunya. Sant Pol is a good pick, with clean sand, a lovely old town, and the gourmet restaurant Sant Pau (popularly called La Ruscalleda after its chef, Carmen Ruscalleda), one of the best restaurants in Catalonia (or, for that matter, Europe). Another beach with a top-notch gastronomical opportunity is Arenys de Mar, with the famous Hispania restaurant a minute's walk from the beach across the NII road. Canet de Mar's beach extends for 10 km (6 mi), and offers rental options for surfboards or Windsurfers, as well as beach restaurants such as (in summer) La Roca or (all year) El Parador. The farther north you go, toward the Costa Brava, the more pristine the beaches tend to be, though this rocky coast specializes in tiny calas (coves or inlets) rather than lengthy strands.
South of the City
Castelldefels. Ten kilometers (6 mi) south of Barcelona is the popular day resort Castelldefels, with a long, sandy beach and a series of happening bars and restaurants. A 15-minute train ride from the Passeig de Gràcia RENFE station to Gavà or Castelldefels (be sure your train actually stops at these stations, or you'll go much farther than you intended) deposits you on a 10-km (6-mi) beach. In winter, this makes for a unbeatable walk: from November through March the sun sets into the Mediterranean, thanks to the westward slant of the coastline here. There are several good places in Castelldefels for lamb chops, calçots (spring onions), and paella.
Sitges. Sitges, 43 km (27 miles) south of Barcelona, is a popular resort with good sand and clear water. Trains from Passeig de Gràcia RENFE station head here.
Platja de la Barceloneta. Just to the left at the end of Passeig Joan de Borbó, this is the easiest beach to get to, hence the most crowded and the most fun from a people-watching standpoint. Along with swimming, there are windsurfing and kite surfing rentals to be found just up behind the beach at the edge of La Barceloneta. Rebecca Horn's sculpture L'Estel Ferit, a rusting stack of cubes, expresses nostalgia for the beach shack restaurants that lined the beach here until 1992. Surfers trying to catch a wave wait just off the breakwater in front of the excellent beachfront Agua restaurant. Passeig Marítim s/n, Barceloneta, Barcelona, Catalonia.
Platja de la Mar Bella. Closest to the Poblenou metro stop near the eastern end of the beaches, this is a thriving gay enclave and the unofficial nudist beach of Barcelona (although clothed bathers are welcome, too). The water sports center Base Nàutica de la Mar Bella rents equipment for sailing, surfing, and windsurfing. Outfitted with showers, safe drinking fountains, and a children's play area, La Mar Bella also has lifeguards who warn against swimming near the breakwater. The excellent Els Pescadors restaurant is just inland on Plaça Prim. Passeig Marítim del Bogatell, Barceloneta, Barcelona, Catalonia.
Platja de la Nova Icària. One of Barcelona's most popular beaches, this strand is just east of the Olympic Port with the full range of entertainment, restaurant, and refreshment venues close at hand. (Mango and El Chiringuito de Moncho are two of the most popular restaurants.) The beach is directly across from the neighborhood built as the residential Olympic Village for Barcelona's 1992 Olympic Games, an interesting housing project that has now become a popular residential neighborhood. Passeig Marítim del Port Olímpic s/n, Barceloneta, Barcelona, Catalonia.
Platja de Sant Sebastià. Barceloneta's most southwestern beach (to the right at the end of Passeig Joan de Borbó) now stretches out in the shadow of the W Hotel. The oldest and most historic of the city beaches, it was here that 19th-century barcelonins cavorted in bloomers and bathing costumes. The right end of the beach is the home of the Club Natació de Barcelona and there is a semi-private feel that the beaches farther east seem to lack. Passeig Marítim s/n, Barceloneta, Barcelona, Catalonia.
Platja de Gavà-Castelldefels. A 15-minute train ride south of Barcelona near the Gavà stop is a wider and wilder beach, with better water quality and a windswept strand that feels light years removed from the urban sprawl and somewhat dusty beaches of Barcelona. Alighting at Gavà and returning from Castelldefels allows a hike down the beach to the various beach restaurants specializing in local favorites such as calçots or rice dishes. Passeig Marítim s/n, Castelldefels, Barcelona, Catalonia.
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