Though Barcelona has a close relationship with the sea, it wasn’t always like this. Its current seaside status began in 1992, right after the Olympic games, when the city started expanding toward their waterfront, finally opening up to it.
San Sebastian, El Bogatell, San Miguel, Somorrostro, and La Barceloneta became popular beaches and restaurants and bars soon began sprouting everywhere. There are ten different areas on the seafront—from San Sebastian to Forum—with more than three miles of fine waters to enjoy. The ones I prefer are the ones that were “built” for the Olympics: Mar Bella and the already mentioned Bogatell. Due to soft sand and the popular chiringuitos, small bars on the beach, the waterfront is now packed all summer long. If you visit the city in the spring or autumn, enjoy a stroll on the beach before or after a seafood meal overlooking the ocean.
The food (of course) is excellent everywhere, but these are my five favorites at the moment.
Merendero de la Mari
This waterfront classic has managed to remain strong through difficult times and is guaranteed to serve you good food at a very affordable price. El Merendero carries every kind of seafood you can imagine; I recommend any fish cooked in the oven (sea bass is my favorite). If you go there with friends, it’s a good idea to share a few entrées; the clams and the anchovies are always good.
I love this chiringuito set in La Barceloneta—a fishermen’s neighborhood that’s especially stunning in autumn or spring (the sunset is really something to remember). The rice dishes at Pez Vela are splendid; my favorite is the black rice, but if it’s your first visit, go for the seafood paella. Just remember not to order too much; paella can be a heavy dish!
This brand-new place has a beautiful location on one of the city’s best beaches: Bogatell beach. It also has a distinctive menu, which includes very good fresh juices, salads, small dishes, and excellent sandwiches. The café is the latest venture from Carles Abellan, one of Barcelona's best-known chefs (who runs Tapas 24 and Comerç 24, two restaurants that became popular over the past five years).
This pleasant brasserie also serves very good cocktails—so it’s a great choice if you want to have both dinner and drinks at the same spot. The waterfront views here are pretty good (lunch or early evening are best); and the suquet de rap (monkfish soup) is the best dish in the house.
La Fonda del Port Olimpic
If it’s a night when you feel like dancing, this is the place to come for dinner. It’s noisy, funny and crowded (not recommended for romantic dates), and the food is good. You’ll see lots of young locals here enjoying seafood at excellent prices; follow their example and try the prawns or the clams with a bottle of Penedes, and your night will be perfect.