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The Best Beaches in Barcelona
It's an unusual combination in Europe: a major metropolis fully integrated with the sea. Barcelona's 4.2 km (2.5 mi.) of beaches allow for its yin/yang of urban energy and laid back beach vibe. When you're ready for a slower pace, seek out a sandy refuge.
Over the last decade, Barcelona's platjas (beaches) have improved and multiplied in number. Barceloneta's southwestern end is the Platja de Sant Sebastià, followed northward by the platjas de Sant Miquel, Barceloneta, Passeig Marítim, Port Olímpic, Nova Icària, Bogatell, Mar Bella (the last football-field length of which is a nudist enclave), La Nova Mar Bella, and Llevant. The Barceloneta beach is the most popular stretch, easily accessible by several bus lines, notably the No. 64 bus and by the L4 metro stop at Barceloneta or at Ciutadella-Vil.la Olímpica. The best surfing stretch is at the northeastern end of the Barceloneta beach, while the boardwalk itself offers miles of runway for walkers, bicyclers, and joggers. Topless bathing is common on all beaches in and around Barcelona.
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.
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 (but 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.
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.
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, somewhat compromising its role as the oldest and most historic of the city beaches. But it was here 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.
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 Can Patricio or any of the other beach restaurants dishing out delicacies like calçots or paella.
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