In 1992, the Olympics were held in Barcelona, Spain, exposing most of the world for the first time to the vibrant, wealthy city that had grown here over the years. Port Olimpic was built specifically to host the Olympics, and became the most successful and popular section of the Nova Icaria project. In this bright, modern area, it was almost too easy to forget how ancient Barcelona really is.
Today, well over a decade after the Olympics, Port Olimpic is still a beautiful place to visit when you’ve come to Barcelona. With a brilliant night life filled with bars, restaurants, dance clubs, and people, the evenings here can be magical. And during the day, the same restaurants are just up the street from excellent places to shop, visit, and stay. Port Olimpic is located beneath the twin skyscrapers Mapfre Tower and Hotel Arts Barcelona.
Where to Stay
The Hotel Arts Barcelona is one of the Ritz Carlton chain, and is by all accounts the best hotel in Barcelona. It has excellent views of the Mediterranean, Barcelona, and the mountains behind the city. Fine art, from Chillida drawings to Susana Solano sculptures, are everywhere, and excellent restaurants and amenities abound. If you stay here, you’ll be in walking distance of the beaches and marina, have access to The Spa by Six Senses, and you won’t even have to walk outside to get to the Casino de Barcelona. The one thing to remember: get a room facing away from the nightclubs or high up in the building. The discos get very loud at night.
Where to Eat
In the Hotel Arts Barcelona, you’ll find the Enoteca restaurant, featuring Mediterranean cuisine by Chef Jaime Perez and some of the finest wines produced in Spain. For more informal dining, try the Arola or the Bar Marina, also in the Hotel Arts.
Or you can walk down the Ramblas and choose from dozens of little restaurants. But be warned: many of the restaurants here are anything but authentic, and pickpockets do cruise the area.
What to Do
With a beautiful port looking out onto the Mediterranean, Port Olimpic is one of the more enjoyable places in Europe to rent a speedboat and just tool around for the day. Port Olimpic is perfect for most boating ventures; its marina was built specifically for Olympic sailing competitions, and you’ll find the flats where athletes were housed close by. Reclaimed beaches line the seaside, where you can swim or engage in a variety of water sports. Near the 700-berth marina, you’ll find dozens of places to eat.
Fronting the Marina adjacent to the Hotel Arts Barcelona you’ll find the Casino de Barcelona. In the casino itself you’ll find three hotels, a bar, and a disco as well as the gambling areas themselves.
The Ramblas, a long pedestrian boulevard from the seafront to the Placa catalunya, is a home for street vendors, artists, tourists, locals, con men, and pickpockets. It’s fascinating to explore the colorful area, but you should keep a firm grasp on your purse or wallet.
Consider picking up a Barcelona Card. At a reasonable price (currently 17 euros for one day, 30 for five days), you can access for free over a hundred different attractions all over Barcelona, as well as take advantage of public transportation for free. Included in the price are museums, nightclubs, shops, restaurants, entertainment, other services, and even unique means of transport. The Barcelona Card is available at any Turisme de Barcelona office as well as a few other places throughout the city.