Port Vell: a must-do walk through Barcelona’s port with sea breeze included
Barcelona’s Port Vell, or Old Port, is one of the most appealing places to go to spend a relaxing day at the seaside. Completely remodelled for the 1992 Olympic Games, it is perfect for a stroll or for spending time together with your family or in the company of friends. The port offers a little bit of everything: sport, walks, shopping, enjoying an excellent lunch or dinner, visiting museums, and so on.
The perimeter of Port Vell meets the end of Les Rambles and the Columbus monument, which is why it is a great place to discover other places of interest, such as the Llotja del Mar [former Grain Exchange building], the aforementioned column in tribute to Columbus and the Royal Shipyards. Also within Port Vell is the Museum of Catalan History and the building of the Port Authority. However, if you want to explore the Port Vell recreation area, you will need to head towards the sea.
Entertainment is well catered for at Port Vell by the Maremàgnum shopping centre, inside of which are the Aquarium and the Imax cinema, along with an array of restaurants, cafés, cinemas, shops, bars and nightclubs. A simple stroll around the zone is equally appealing, as it boasts garden areas and spaces in which to relax and enjoy yourself.
Golondrinas boat in Port Vell
An interesting way to experience Port Vell is by hiring one of these unique boats which allow you to explore the port in a delightful and comfortable way, set to the soundtrack of the boat’s on-board music. The double-decker boats known as golondrinas are a key element of Barcelona’s identity. Each one has its own name and the excursion takes 40 minutes. The point of departure is the jetty behind the Columbus monument and tickets cost €7.70 for adults and €2.80 for children.
Along the tourist route you will be able to see Maremàgnum, the Porta d’Europa bascule bridge, the Clock Tower (an old lighthouse from the reign of Charles III) and the spectacular Sideroploide sculpture, all from a new perspective. The boat trip provides excellent views of Montjuïc hill and the castle, the famous W Hotel, and the marina, where small private boats are moored. You’ll also be able to see the luxury cruise liners that dock at the Port of Barcelona, considered world’s fourth busiest cruise port in terms of traffic.
From Llotja del Mar to the History Museum
After enjoying the sea breeze, it is time to take a stroll through Port Vell by foot to get a better feel for it. Starting at Passeig d’Isabel II, the first point of call is Llotja del Mar, a large Gothic nave that dates back to the fourteenth century. Over time, it has had many different uses, among them the School of Fine Arts where Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró studied, among others.
On the other side of the avenue is the porticoed building of Casa dels Porxos, on whose corner is the famous Set Portes restaurant. The rest of the colonnades are occupied by a range of different shops, which are known as the ‘galleries of the port’.
From there you will come to Plaça de Pau Vila, presided over by the Palau de Mar, an old building that was originally conceived as part of the main warehouse of the port. Built in 1901, it now houses the Museu d’Història de Catalunya [Catalonia History Museum], an institution that allows visitors to embark on an interactive tour of Catalan history from prehistory to the present day. Under the arches of the museum are a great deal of restaurants specialising in fish and Mediterranean cuisine and their outdoor seating areas are our recommendation for eating in Barcelona.
From the Moll de la Fusta to the Moll d’Espanya
Now it’s time to head towards the Moll de la Fusta [Wood Wharf], named as such because in its day it was used as a wood warehouse. Today, it is a pleasant tree-lined promenade that is home to a magnificent sculpture by the American artist Roy Lichtenstein: Barcelona Head, a composition made up of four vertical rectangles made from white concrete and glazed ceramic.
The restored Santa Eulália schooner, dating from 1918, is docked on the Moll de la Fusta and is open for visits to discover what the life of a seafarer was really like. General admission costs €3.
The Moll de la Fusta eventually meets the Rambla de Mar, a moving walkway that connects with the Moll d’Espanya, whilst allowing boats to enter the inner harbour where the marina is located. A short walk away is the iconic Columbus monument, the enormous iron column standing 87 metres tall that can be seen from anywhere in Port Vell. It is located at the point at which Columbus supposedly disembarked upon his return from his first journey to the Americas. Inside, there is a lift that takes you up to a lookout point with spectacular views of the city and the port. It costs €5.40.
Endless fun at the Maremàgnun shopping centre
From there, you can finally make your way to the recreation area par excellence of Barcelona’s Port Vell, the Maremàgnum shopping centre. Situated on the Moll d’Espanya, it is configured as a type of island connected to land by the wooden Rambla de Mar walkway, and a perfect place to go shopping or to just have a coffee or take a stroll, whilst enjoying its bustling, festive atmosphere. It is also a top destination for nightlife with a whole host of options.
Maremàgnum is also home to one of the most important aquariums in the world, specialising in Mediterranean ecosystems. Both children and adults will no doubt enjoy a visit to the Barcelona Aquarium. Its impressive central tank has a capacity of four million litres of water and houses several species of shark, which live alongside other aquatic species, such as the ocean sunfish and moray eel. Although the tank is the most astonishing feature of the Aquarium, others smaller tanks—in which other types of habitat are reproduced, among them a colourful coral reef—are also worth a visit. In total the Aquarium boasts up to 11,000 specimens.
The best preserved medieval shipyards in the world
A visit to Barcelona’s Port Vell wouldn’t be complete without discovering the Drassanes Reials, a magnificent building dating from the thirteenth century that once housed Barcelona’s Royal Shipyards, the best preserved medieval shipyards in the world. It is now home to the Maritime Museum, whose collection (boats, ship figureheads, instruments, maps, etc.) illustrates Barcelona’s centuries-old link with the sea.
When in Barcelona, don’t miss a walk through Port Vell, where you will find a multitude of options including culture, history, boat excursions, shopping, gastronomy and, above all, fun.