Barcelona is one of those rare European destinations where you can have the best of both worlds—a bustling city experience as well as gorgeous stretches of sand. Here are some of our favorite beaches in town.

By Stephanie Wu
February 09, 2016
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The city of Barcelona is a perennially popular vacation spot, and for a good reason—it’s got some of the prettiest shorelines in Europe, plus the added bonus of its proximity to architectural wonders, attractions, and fantastic shopping. Crowds tend to descend between mid-April and early October—when the water is an ideal temperature for swimming. There are only seven beaches within the city proper, so here’s how to prioritize to get the most out of Barcelona’s shore. No matter where you end up, you’ll find lively, friendly people, as well as plenty of chiringuitos—the local term for beach shacks that serve casual food and drinks.

Best for People Watching: Barceloneta Beach

Barcelona’s most well-known beach is nearly a mile long, but it’s almost always packed to the gills (pictured above). It’s easily accessible by public transit, which means it’s great for a quick, sandy break from the city. There are places to rent bikes, as well as a palm tree-lined promenade for strolling and outdoor cafes to people watch at. For a fancier spot, head to Hotel Arts Barcelona for a cocktail, which has views that overlook the famous Frank Gehry fish sculpture at the end of the beach.

Best for an Urban Escape: Bogatell Beach

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During the summer, you’re much more likely to find locals at Bogatell, which is less packed than Barceloneta. There’s a slightly older crowd here, but that’s why it’s so beloved and has a reputation as the go-to beach for tranquility. Created for the 1992 Olympic Games, its facilities include lifeguard service, showers, and accessible ramps.

Best for Families: Nova Icaria

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This kid-friendly beach right next to the Olympic Port has tons of great water activities and space for sports. There are also many restaurants nearby, with options for even the pickiest of eaters. Reservations are recommended for El Xiringuito Escriba, an airy, modern restaurant that’s known for its paella and seafood.

Best for Letting It All Hang Out: Nova Mar Bella

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This ultra-private beach is one of the city’s two nude beaches. You’ll find a relatively young crowd here, as well as residents who live in nearby Sant Marti. It’s a bit far from the city center, but also the retreat of choice for the gay community. Five minutes away, in nearby Rambla del Poblenou, there are lots of great cafes and restaurants to choose from, such as Els Pescadors, a charming spot that serves catches from local fishermen.

Best for a True Beach Experience: Castelldefels

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The truth is, if you ask any local where the best beach around is, they’ll tell you it’s outside the actual city. For those who want to spend a day away from the hustle and bustle of the city, head to Castelldefels, which is 20 minutes away by train and walking distance from the station. It’s great for activities like windsurfing and kitesurfing, and the water is ideal for swimming. And for food, there are plenty of tapas joints and beach shacks worth popping in to, like the fun Iguana Chiringuito.