Stretching from the Columbus Monument at the end of La Rambla to Barceloneta, it is the oldest and liveliest area in the Port of Barcelona. Formerly an obsolete harbor, it is now one of Barcelona´s greatest talking points after a drastic urban renewal project just before the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. With over 16 million visitors per year, this bustling area is one of the finest shopping, nightlife and entertainment spots in the city. Home to a variety of tourist attractions and some of Barcelona´s best seafood restaurants, Port Vell is a must-see place. We´ve done the hard bit for you and selected the top 5 things to do in the area, so what are you waiting for!
1) Palau de Mar
Originally built at the end of the 19th century by Elies Rogent, this impressive building was the only warehouse to survive the mass renovation of the area. Now known as the Palau de Mar, it houses the Department of Welfare of the Catalan Government and most famously, one of Barcelona’s most fascinating museums, the Museu d’Història de Catalunya. It explains the history of Catalonia with chronologically organised exhibits, spanning an era from the Stone Age to present day. Guided visits are available and other additional services including a shop, restaurant and library. Head to the cafe on the roof of the museum and enjoy a light bite to eat whilst overlooking the spectacular views of Port Vell. If a cafè doesn´t quite make the cut, beneath Palau de Mar´s characteristic arches, there are several popular restaurants including Cal Pinxo and La Gavina which offer a delicious selection of Mediterranean cuisine. With terraces spilling out onto the quay and the beach only minutes away, it provides the idyllic setting for a romantic meal with your loved one.
Popular amongst tourists and locals, it is a shopping lover’s haven and one of Barcelona’s favourite retail and leisure complexes, perfect for some much needed retail therapy. With a wide range of brands available from Desigual to Mango, take your pick from the latest trends and shop ‘til you drop. Let’s be honest, there´s always an excuse for new clothes. Recharge your batteries at one of the many restaurants and cafes with stunning sea views, open every day of the year. By night, Maremagnum transforms into an entirely different place, especially during the summer months. Its selection of bars and clubs known as the ‘The Village’ certainly knows how to show you a good time and keeps Barcelona’s partygoers entertained until the early hours of the morning.
3) The Aquarium
This is probably Port Vell’s biggest attraction and the largest aquarium in Europe. Delve into the depths of the Mediterranean Sea and discover underwater habitats from around the world with more than 11,000 water creatures, 450 different species and 6 million litres of water. From penguins, to seahorses, to the Sandbar Shark, you will not be short of things to do at the Barcelona Aquarium. The most spectacular feature is the immense Oceanarium, the only one in Europe, which is 5m deep and 36m wide. Walk through its 80m underwater tunnel for an unbeatable view of all things sea like and for an unforgettable experience. As you can imagine, people flock to this attraction daily, so be wise and beat the queues by buying your ticket in advance.
4) ‘Las Golondrinas’ Boat Trips
Travel in style around Barcelona’s coastline and yachting port on one of Barcelona’s iconic ‘Golondrinas’ for a fantastic and unique experience. Whether you prefer a shorter trip of 35 minutes or the full 18 mile stretch from Colón to the Forum of Sant Adrià de Besòs, there´s something for everyone. Sailing around the port since 1888, you can be sure that you are in safe hands, so sit back and relax with your choice of beverage from the on board café. Enjoy the fantastic sights of the Nueva Bocana, the Barceloneta beaches, Hotel W, the Villa Olímpica beaches and the new coast beaches of Poble Nou. There is a photographer to capture your boating memories so perhaps bring a hat to protect yourself from that feisty sea breeze. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
5) The Columbus Monument
Last but by no means least, the Columbus Monument. Standing at the end of La Rambla, it was established in honour of Christopher Columbus. It has been a major city landmark since 1886 with its stunning panoramic views of the city and port that it offers from its viewing gallery, 60m above the ground. With just about everything in sight from the Gothic Quarter with the bell towers of the cathedral to Mount Montjuïc, do make time to visit this monument whilst in Port Vell.