Narrow streets, washing hung out to dry, the smell of the sea, and fishermen. Barceloneta is Barcelona's seaside quarter , in the area between the port and the beaches, out of the wind. With its working-class atmosphere, always lively and with an impressive number of restaurants and bars offering tapas and seafood, it always seems like summer in Barceloneta.
Barceloneta, Ciutat Vella's marine neighbourhood, has always been linked to the sea. Its history goes back to the 18th century, when it was established as a new, planned neighbourhood, with a Baroque grid layout that has been preserved almost intact. At that time it was a sandy area on the outskirts of the old walled city, which was reached through the Portal del Mar, the gate located approximately where the Museu d’Història de Catalunya is today, in the Palau del Mar.
Notable features from its early days are the long streets and terraced houses open to the sea, as well as the Baroque Sant Miquel church, which presides over the square of the same name, in the centre of the neighbourhood.
Barceloneta's houses were occupied by sailors, fishermen, tradespeople linked to the sea and others from all over that came looking for cheap rents. Citizens all, who gave a unique character to this neighbourhood designed around the sea.
In the mid-19th century, fishermen gave way to workers from the metallurgical trades. The Catalana de Gas tower, an impressive pre-Modernista structure, still remains from this era, as well as Barceloneta market, which has been remodelled by the team of the late architect Enric Miralles, renovating the wrought iron structure and combining it with modern features. A place that is destined to become a reference in the neighbourhood and the city.
Next to the beach
The beginning of the 20th century saw Barcelona opening up to the beaches. The bathing areas, which began appearing all along the coast, were particularly important to the Barceloneta neighbourhood, as they meant the start of a new and thriving trade: food and drink. Bars, inns and restaurants provided food for the thousands of bathers who came here in search of the sea.
The Barcelona Olympics in 1992 meant another revolution for Barceloneta. The construction of the Olympic Village surrounded the traditional fishermen's quarter with sculptures and modern buildings. Today, flanking the neighbourhood's coastline is the El Peix sculpture by Frank Gehry, an enormous golden fish that seems to float above the sea, while on the other side there is the huge sail-like silhouette of Hotel W. Two features that frame tradition with their modernity.
Barceloneta, in the middle, with chairs positioned outside doorways, washing hung out on balconies and the typical smell of fish in the air, is one of the most fascinating places where you will find authentic seaside life in Barcelona.