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Barcelona, along with places like Los Angeles, Sydney, and Rio de Janiero, ranks amongst the best and most highly populated beach cities in the world. National Geographic even ranks it as number one choice for its Top 10 Beach Cities list. With many architectural influences that are unique to the Catalonian city, coupled with a rambunctious nightlife and one of the original foodie cultures, Barcelona has a lot to brag about. To help guide you on your pursuit of pristine stretches of sand, check out this list of the best beaches in Barcelona.
North of the busy Barceloneta Beach, Nova Icaria is a bit less visited but has just as much to do as any other beach in Barcelona. With a nice boardwalk and a number of seaside cafes and bars, it’s a great destination. Nova Icaria is most talked about as one of the best beaches in Barcelona because of its volleyball courts. The beach volleyball scene is very popular for both serious and leisurely players.
Looking for a good book to get stuck into while you tan? Check out our list of the Best Beach Reads for Your Next Vacation.
Nova Icaria and Barceloneta’s neighbor, Bogatell, despite having close-by access to two metro stops, does not have the same number of crowds as the beaches surrounding it. Bogatell is a good place for families since the waters are relatively clean and shallow for many meters, making it an ideal swimming spot for little ones and less confident swimmers. For the more adventurous, there are tour operators that will give paddleboard and kite surfing lessons farther out to sea.
Now the most popular beach in the city, Barceloneta Beach got a face-lift for the 1992 Olympic Games, which launched it into the minds of tourists worldwide. Easily accessible from the city center, as well as to many of the beach bars and clubs that make Barcelona’s nightlife well known, Barceloneta is bustling day and night. While this is not the beach for untouched white sand and crystal clear waters, it is a fun place to experience tourist culture or a good landing spot for stumbling out of one of the popular bars. Barceloneta’s border is famously marked by Frank Gehry’s large fish statue, known as El Peix.
The somewhat hidden Mar Bella is accessible from the Llacuna metro stop. From the station, the beach is about a 15-minute walk behind a sand dune. Because of its location away from the casual passerby, Mar Bella is the most nude-friendly beach in Barcelona. While there will be an eclectic group of people enjoying a full body bronzing, there will be just as many electing for speedos, bikinis, and boardshorts, so no pressure on the more modest folks. Mar Bella is also traditionally known to be the gay-friendliest beach in the area.
Sitting in the shadows of the illustrious W Hotel, the most iconic architectural feature on the shoreline for its sail shape, Sant Sebastia enjoys a fun mixture of people. The combination of fancy guests of nearby luxury hotels, along with the group of locals who still embrace the beach’s bohemian nudist past, makes for very entertaining people watching. Lacking the Barceloneta level crowds means that taking a bike ride along Sant Sebastia’s promenade is enjoyable rather than a constant bobbing and weaving through absent-minded hoards.
Nova Mar is our pick for the most tranquil beach that still falls within the city limits of Barcelona. It may take longer to get there but for those hoping to lie in the sand and have some quiet moments to read a page-turner, this is the place to go. Twenty minutes from the Selva de Mar stop, Nova Mar is also within walking distance of the Diagonal Mar shopping center, widely regarded as some of the best shopping in the city, and a good place to grab food and drinks.