A visit to Barcelona would not be complete without taking a stroll around Port Vell, Barcelona´s oldest port. It is located on the site where Barcelona´s first port was established. It has been completely revamped in recent years and now offers a variety of attractions, museums, shops, bars, and restaurants. It is currently managed by Port 2000, an independent urban management company that was established by the Port of Barcelona in 1988 to manage and operate the facility. Today the Port Vell attracts over 16 million people annually and is considered a point of reference for both locals and tourists.
The Port Vell is marked by the Mirador de Colón, the Christopher Columbus monument at the end of Las Ramblas, which is one of the most famous statues in the city. The monument commemorates the visit Columbus made to Barcelona in June 1493 where he was received by the Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella. From the bottom of the statue you can ride a lift to the top, which has amazing 360-degree views of the city. A single adult ticket costs €3.
If you continue walking past the statue you will find the Rambla del Mar, a wooden swing bridge which crosses the harbor to the Maremàgnum. The Rambla del Mar is considered a symbol of Port Vell and has become something of a tourist destination itself. In fact, it is often used for shooting films and advertisements. It´s quite wide and is usually full of people feeding the birds, relaxing in the sun, or taking photographs. The bridge opens every hour to let boats through.
The Maremàgnum is a shopping center/leisure complex complete with two floors of stores, bars, and restaurants. The building itself, like many in Barcelona, is an architectural wonder built primarily of glass. Not only that, the stores are open every day from 10am to 10pm making it the only shopping center in Barcelona to open on Sundays. Many of the restaurants have terraces with harbor-side seating, perfect for a drink or meal in the sun. However, visitors should be aware the ambience of the Maremàgnum changes completely in the evening. The restaurants are decent but the clubs and discos can be quite seedy, and are not really recommended for an evening out. www.maremagnum.es
Another popular attraction in the Port Vell is the Aquarium, which is adjacent to the Maremàgnum. There are 11,000 fish and sea creatures and 35 themed tanks that represent various underwater habitats, such as reefs and underwater caves. It´s certainly nothing extraordinary and is a bit overpriced, but it is a great activity for kids. An adult ticket costs €17,50 a child´s ticket (12 and under) costs €12,50. www.aquariumbcn.com
If you´re in the mood for a movie check out the IMAX Port Vell, the world´s first integrated IMAX cinema. 3D films are shown nearly every hour on giant screens. If you´ve never been to an IMAX cinema it´s worth checking out, and is also a fun activity for the family. Tickets cost between €7,10 and €12. www.imaxportvell.com
If you´re interested in the history of Catalonia you will definitely want to visit the Museu d’Història de Catalunya. It is located in the Palau de Mar, the only surviving warehouse on the Port Vell harbor. There are three floors tracing the history of Catalonia from the Stone Age to the 20th century as well as some interesting temporary exhibitions. Visitors can pick up an informational guide in English at the front desk. Make sure to stop at the bar/café on the fourth floor terrace when you´re done for some excellent views of the harbor. Entry costs €4. www.mhcat.net
The Santa Eulàlia, a three-masted ocean schooner, is also worth a visit. It dates back to 1908 and once travelled from Barcelona to Cuba before being renovated and put on display. A tour lets you walk on the deck and visit the interior. Entry costs €2,40 but is included in the Maritime Museum ticket.
If you are looking for something different you could also arrange a take cruise or speedboat tour with Orsom Barcelona. The company offers day tours as well as special summer evening tours such as their jazz cruise. They can also arrange custom cruises for groups, companies, and private parties. Interested parties should contact the company directly for information on prices and availability. http://www.barcelona-orsom.com
Another option if you want to take a boat tour around the Mediterranean is Las Golondrinas. They offer sightseeing boat tours around the harbor and the coast. Prices start at €6,50 for a 35 minute tour around the harbor.http://www.lasgolondrinas.com
The Port Vell offers something for everyone. There is an activity for any time of year and for every budget, making it a great place to spend the day. For more information on Port Vell visit http://www.portvellbcn.com