Approaching the Port Olímpic along the Passeig Marítim, the shimmering golden mirage above the promenade slowly reveals itself to be a huge copper fish (courtesy of Frank O. Gehry, architect of the Bilbao Guggenheim). It’s the emblem of the huge seafront development constructed for the 1992 Olympics, and is backed by the city’s two tallest buildings – the Torre Mapfre and the steel-framed Hotel Arts Barcelona – while the surrounding area has filled up with restaurants, cafés and bars. The whole zone turns into a full-on resort in summer, backed by a series of class-conscious clubs along Passeig Marítim that appeal to the local rich kids and A-list celebs.
Beyond the Port Olímpic, the city beaches are split into separate named sections (Nova Icària, Bogatell, Mar Bella, Nova Mar Bella and Llevant), each with showers, playgrounds and open-air café-bars. It’s a pretty extraordinary leisure facility to find so close to a city centre – the sands are regularly swept and replenished, while joggers, cyclists and bladers have one of the Med’s best views for company.