Barcelona is a great city for visitors and locals alike, people who enjoy sun, surf and fun. There are several beaches to choose from, all of which are easily accessible. And, as is true for most cities, some beaches are a little nicer than others. In fact, one of Barcelona’s best and nicest beaches may be in Vila Olímpica district.
Facing the city’s port area and the spectacular Mediterranean Sea, Vila Olimpica didn’t even exist before the 1980s. This part of town was essentially overlooked and forgotten while most of the interesting sites and things to do remained in the center of the city, a fact that is still largely, but not entirely, true today. In fact, that all changed when plans were made to host the 1992 Summer Olympic Games.
Vila Olimpica and Port Olimpic were constructed specifically for the Olympic Games and included apartments to house the athletes. When built, the apartment buildings containing the apartments replaced dozens of old factories and warehouses, dramatically changing the character of the neighborhood. Today, those apartments are privately-owned and they remain spectacular symbols of the 1992 Olympic Games.
In the period leading up to 1992, Barcelona also made modifications to the highway that had long separated the city from the sea. The result: a new underground highway and beautiful seaside walkways were created, along with a brand new port. The name given to this area was Port Olimpic.
Today, Port Olimpic is one of the nicest destinations in the entire city and Vila Olimpica is a smart and chic residential district. It is also where some of the liveliest and best entertainment in all of Barcelona can be found … and enjoyed. Pedestrians can walk along the esplanade which passes right by the luxurious Hotel Arts complex and stop to enjoy dinner at one of the many fine seafood restaurants that dot the landscape. The area is also home to lots of finest lounges and cafes.
In total, Vila Olimpica is one of Barcelona’s newest neighborhoods, filled with style and sophistication for those who live there … and those who visit.
When you get to Vila Olimpica, the first things you will probably see are the twin towers. You can’t miss them because they dominate the landscape. The first tower is called Torre Mapfre. It is currently serving as one of Barcelona’s more noteworthy office buildings and features a large shopping center on the ground floor level.
The second tower is the home of the Hotel Arts, a spectacular hotel complex that was designed by internationally-known architects, Bruce Gram and Frank O. Gehry and is currently owned by the world-famous Ritz-Carlton Group. This remarkably-beautiful 5-Star hotel overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and features more than 450 luxurious rooms and suites. Interestingly, the towers rise more than 150 meters into the sky, making them the tallest buildings in all of Barcelona.
There is another famous sight you’ll want to see when you are in Vila Olimpica. It’s the breathtakingly stunning metallic Fish. Created by Frank O. Gehry, the architect who also designed Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum, the sculpture rests imposingly right outside the front entrance of the Hotel Arts. This is a magnificent one-of-a-kind work of art that changes color – almost magically – each time sunlight hits it at a different angle.
Of course, Port Olimpic is a welcome destination for both tourists and locals for a variety of reasons. Ideally-suited to the tastes of water sports enthusiasts and bicyclists, its marina was designed by a group of well-known architects, including Oriol Bohigas, Josep Martorell, David Mackay and Albert Puigdomenech. There is also a sports marina which was built for the 1992 Olympics sailing competition and features 740 berths for yachts and other pleasure boats. The marina’s entrance is visible from anywhere in Barcelona.
Vila Olimpica’s main boulevards are the Passeig Maritim de la Nova Icaria and the Passeig Maritim del Port Olimpic. Those who choose to stroll along the Passeig Maritim del Port Olimpic will find that they can stop at – and enjoy – any one of a dazzling array of restaurants and cafes, all of which feature open-air terraces which are available to diners throughout the spring and summer seasons.
These restaurants and cafes offer visitors a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a delicious seafood dinner and the chance to enjoy views of the sea and the passing pedestrian scene. It’s an experience you have to include in your itinerary.
Vila Olimpica is the right destination for your holidays if you like the beach. It is where you will find one of Barcelona’s best beaches – Nova Icaria. Located right next to Barceloneta beach, Nova Icaria is generally less crowded, cleaner and much more comfortable. It is also very popular with beach volleyball players.
Here’s something to make your stay at the beach even more pleasant: Nova Icaria beach is dotted with chiringuitos (typical small Spanish bars). They can be found right on the beach so that you can walk up to one, order a cool, refreshing drink … a light snack … or even sit at a table and enjoy lunch. Chiringuitos are open daily from 9 A.M. to 2 o´clock at night beginning in April – when Barcelona’s weather warms up.
Of course, this beach area also has lots to do at night. In fact, Vila Olimpica is home to some of the city’s best and most popular discos – Catwalk, Shoko, Opium Mar and many others. The streets near the beach also have many pubs and lounges, some of which can be found right in front of the Port Olimpic and the Grand Casino of Barcelona.
Here’s a money-saving tip: chiringuitos frequently have discount tickets or even Free Passes to many of the discos and bars in Vila Olimpica. If you’re planning to visit a disco or bar, ask for the pass during the day, while you’re at the beach.
It’s Easy to Get To Vila Olimpica.
Vila Olimpica is easily accessible by metro. All you need do is take the Yellow Line 4 to Ciutadella Vila Olimpica. It’s a short trip and when you exit the metro you need only walk about 10 minutes to reach Port Olimpic and the beach.
In a word if you enjoy the sun, the surf, the warm sand under your feet, great seafood restaurants and lots of fun in the evening, there’s one thing you need to do. Make Vila Olimpica your next stop on your visit to Barcelona.
Barcelona is a big, fascinating city with lots of interesting, diverse neighborhoods. One is certainly going to be right for you. The question is: which one?
Here’s the help you need to make the right choice …
Consider Ciutat Vella if you like the idea of “being in the middle of everything.” Ciutat Vella is the very heart of the city, the part of town where you can capture the spirit and essence of Barcelona’s distinct Mediterranean roots. The streets here are packed with noisy and lively crowds of both visitors and locals. This is Barcelona’s historic hub and the ambience is remarkably dynamic, vibrant and memorable.
Importantly, Ciutat Vella is a pedestrian-friendly area. There are few large roads, very little noisy traffic and streets that are made for strolling. However, while vehicles won’t disturb you with honking horns, the area is known for the noise that emanates each evening from the many discos and bars that line the streets.
Here are several more great choices for you to consider …
You Can Select One of These
Four Uniquely Different Districts …
All in the Center of Barcelona.
Barrio Gotico and Born both border Las Ramblas to the left and face the sea. Each is desirable for many reasons. For instance: both neighborhoods are relatively safe … mostly quiet … and provide easy access to public transportation, including the metro (Green Line L3) and numerous buses. An enticing variety of chic, trendy restaurants and bars, as well as less expensive establishments are all within easy walking distance.
If you like the beach, you’ll probably want to stay in Barceloneta. This is the area where a “neighborhood beach” is easily accessible from most hotels and vacation apartments. But a word of caution: its accessibility can sometimes be a problem because, in summer, the beach is almost always overcrowded and not always well-maintained.
Barceloneta, however, is convenient to most other sections of the city. Visitors who stay here will be able to use the metro (L4 Yellow Line) and many buses. Additionally, Estaçio de França, one of Barcelona’s largest railway hubs, is also located here. This provides travelers with an added advantage: the ability to get to and from Barcelona airport easily and inexpensively.
One more interesting thought about Barceloneta: it was once a fishing village. Even today, restaurants and bars in the area serve freshly-caught seafood and fish daily. The smell of the sea — and the seafood – often greets strollers as they pass by the restaurants.
Finally, there is Raval. Similar to Barrio Gotico, but not quite as fashionable, it is home to many of Barcelona’s best-known “must-see” sights and museums. Raval also features a sizeable immigrant population which results in an ambience that is both multinational and fascinating.
The diversity is evident in the many food shops and boutiques offering a vast array of national foods and souvenirs representative of many different countries. Importantly, the crime rate in Raval is high. Those who go out for an evening stroll need to be extra cautious and careful.
Prices throughout Ciutat Vella, and its four main districts fluctuate from inexpensive and very affordable to very expensive (for luxury apartment rentals). Overall, this area of the city is ideally-suited for young people … for couples … for small groups of friends … and for families with children.
Here’s What You Need to Know NOW …
· Be Aware of Pickpockets … Las Ramblas, at the Plaza Cataluna, and in other crowded sections is a “pickpocket’s paradise.” You need to be careful when you are out in these areas. It’s important to take good care of your personal belongings. If you stop to watch street performers in Las Ramblas, be sure to hold on to your bag tightly. In fact, keep it in front of you and close to you. If you’re wearing a rucksack, remove it and hold it in your hands, as well.
· Prepare to Walk Up Steps … Lots of Them … Many buildings in Ciutat Vella are older and do not have elevators. If you are staying in an apartment at such a building, you will possibly have to walk up steps daily. Many staircases in these buildings may be narrow, so walking up and down these steps can sometimes be tricky. It can also add to the experience of your trip … because you will be “living like a local” and you will get to know Barcelona a little bit better than your fellow travelers.
· Accessible and Useful Tourism Office … Plaza Cataluna is home to the largest Tourism Office in all of Barcelona. It’s a treasure waiting to be discovered. Go there the day you arrive. You’ll find many helpful flyers and brochures that will make your stay more enjoyable. You’ll also get Discount Tickets, with savings from 5% - 15%, that are accepted at a select group of restaurants, bars, concerts, exhibitions and museums throughout the city.
If you want to get away from the usual tourist places and the noise, consider Eixample, one of Barcelona’s better neighborhoods.
Eixample caters to the well-to-do, especially in the sections around Passeig de Gracia, Rambla de Cataluna and in the Avenue Gaudi/Sagrada Familia area. This is a relatively safe and clean part of town. It’s almost always tranquil because few tourists venture here. However, there are still many fine restaurants, bars and open air cafes. And some of the best shopping in all of Barcelona is available along the Avenue Passeig de Gracia.
If you are staying in Eixample, you will be able to get to the center of the city in as little as 5-15 minutes, depending on where you are in Eixample. In fact, if you are staying near the Avenue Passeig de Gracia or Gran Via Avenue, you will enjoy easy access to the metro or many buses. You can also use taxis, which are surprisingly affordable.
Here’s What You Need to Know NOW …
· Avoid Staying on a Large Street … and you’ll avoid the discomfort of having to endure too much noise. Streets such as Gran Via, Passeig de Gracia, Avinguda Diagonal and Avinguda Paralel are busy throughout the day … and always noisy. Windows with double panes of glass can shut out the noise, but only if you are willing to keep them closed all the time.
· Eixample is suitable for everyone … It doesn’t matter if you’re traveling alone or in a group, you’ll find vacation apartment rental opportunities that meet your budget … and buildings that have enough apartments available so that your entire group can remain together.
Eixample is also well-suited to the needs of seniors because it is safe, quiet and very upscale.
Here Are More Neighborhoods
For You To Consider…
Sants and Les Corts are quiet residential neighborhoods generally avoided by tourists because there are no sights or attractions to enjoy. However, this area has many newly-constructed buildings packed with modern facilities and lots of amenities.
Public transportation is readily available and a trip to the center of Barcelona normally takes about 15 minutes by metro, slightly longer by bus.
Tranquility and comfort are the keys here. And, because tourists stay away, first class accommodation is often available at bargain prices.
Sants and Les Corts are also perfect for exhibitors and business travelers because of their proximity to the Fira Barcelona Fair and the Congress Center. In fact, you can take the metro to the Plaza Espana which will literally leave you at the doorstep of Barcelona’s main exhibition center.
Finally, you may wish to consider Vila Olimpica. Constructed for the 1992 Olympic Games, it is now a well-to-do district that features new luxury buildings with posh, comfortable apartments. Ideal for those who want to relax, it is still just 15-20 minutes away from Las Ramblas by metro (L4 Yellow Line) … no more than thirty minutes away for those who prefer to walk.
Vila Olimpica has two beaches – Bogatell and Nova Icaria – which compare quite favorably to the beach at Barceloneta because they are much less crowded and much cleaner. Windsurfing is popular at both beaches.
Luxury is evident throughout Vila Olimpica. And that is why you can expect to pay a bit more if you stay here.
There are, of course, many more neighborhoods throughout Barcelona, but the ones mentioned here are among the most popular and best-suited for vacation and business travelers.
Visitors to Barcelona have an almost limitless choice of neighborhoods in which to stay. Whether you like to be “in the middle of the action” or you prefer it “quiet and relaxed” there is a neighborhood that fits your needs … and your budget.
Pick “your home away from home” right now – before your next visit.