No doubt one of the reasons you’re thinking of coming to Barcelona is the prospect of hitting the sands after a hard day’s sightseeing on the city’s streets. And who can blame you? Every day of the year Barcelona’s seven beaches draw tourists and locals alike to relax or exercise under the Mediterranean sun. The atmosphere is electric, eclectic and sometimes just plain manic.
The city is justly proud of its beaches and takes a lot of care to maintain them. The sands are cleaner than ever and well-equipped, with bars, restaurants, shops and other entertainment all on hand. The only problem is the secret’s out. Beaches like Sant Sebastià and Barceloneta can be overcrowded and noisy, especially in peak season. Not to mention the constant hustling of beer vendors and opportunism of pickpockets.
If you’re after an upbeat, dynamic scene, you’ll love the city’s beaches. But if pristine shores with crystal-clear water are more your thing, there are plenty options available just by taking a bus or train a short ride from the city. To the north you’ll find the rugged shores of the Costa Brava and to the south the golden sands of the Costa Dorada.
Beaches to the north – natural beauty
Stretching all the way up from Barcelona to the south of France, the Costa Brava (‘rugged coast’) is a captivating corner of Catalonia. You’ll find quite a range of beaches with varying features and characteristics. Generally speaking, beaches here tend to be quieter and less spoilt than in the city. It’s not unusual to see pinewoods growing close to the shore, their branches dipping into the rich blue shades of the sea.
Even better, getting there is easy and cheap. Take a Renfe train from stations Plaça de Catalunya, Sants, Arc de Triomf or Clot-Aragó in the direction of Maçenet-Massanes (Cercanías line 1).
Montgat – it takes just 20 minutes on the train to arrive at this beach, making it a perfect option to get away from the city for a day, or even a few hours. The beach is large (2.5km long), fairly quiet and has cleaner waters than in the city.
Ocata – the wide, flat stretch of sand at Ocata beach is something of a well-kept secret among locals. It’s rarely busy, the water is gorgeous and perfect for surfing, and it offers several handy facilities such as toilets, showers, hammock rental and disabled access. It should take about half an hour to reach Ocata from Barcelona – you may well end up wanting to stay the whole day.
Sant Pol de Mar – the beach belonging to this picturesque village is fringed by green hills, and is about one hour by train from the city. It’s worth the journey, though. Clean, clear waters and plenty of towel space make it an ideal day trip destination. The town itself makes a pleasant place to explore, with its 11th-century church, quaint fishermen’s houses and excellent seafood-based gastronomy.
Beaches to the south – going golden
Heading in the opposite direction, you have your pick of top spots when it comes to stretches of golden sand. The ‘golden coast’ of the Costa Dorada is the jewel in Catalonia’s crown, with its soft sandy beaches and sparkling waters. The beaches on this southern coast are very different in feel to those of the Costa Brava – the water is calmer, shallower, and the sands gradually slope down to the shore. This makes them a particular favourite with families holidaying in the area.
To head south, hop on a train from Barcelona’s Sants, Passeig de Gràcia or Clot-Aragó stations. Line R2 is the one you want.
Castelldefels – 25 minutes away on the train from Barcelona city centre, this huge beach has 5km of beautiful sand and a significant number of bars, cafes and restaurants on the main path. It’s known for being the place to go if you want to get away from the city but don’t want to stray too far. The beach can get pretty crowded, but just a short distance away you’ll find more secluded spots, such as Garraf five minutes along the coast by train.
Sitges – this fashionable seaside resort has a total of 17 beaches, from gay and nudist beaches to family-oriented areas. Sitges is a popular tourist destination in its own right, known for its gay carnival held in February each year, narrow streets and quaint, whitewashed little houses. Its nightlife is also legendary. A comfortable 40-minute train ride from Barcelona’s Sants station whisks you into this relaxed seaside town – the perfect place for a bit of hedonism.
Tarragona – further south down the coast from Sitges sits the beautiful Roman town of Tarragona. From Sants station expect to spend around 50 minutes on the train to get there. Tarragona is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its own Gothic quarter, Cathedral and various sets of Roman ruins. Its beaches are characterised by soft sand and that famous sunkissed look you typically see on postcards. The town has around 15km of beaches in total, bordered by cliffs and pine woods, and is a perennial favourite with both tourists and locals.