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Parks vs. Beaches (resized)
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Image by Tracy Gilbert
Beaches (July 10)
Two of our writers battle it out over whether the beach or the park is the perfect spot to avoid those oppressive temperatures of July:
Grass over sand by Sara Blaylock
Waking to blue skies with a warm summer breeze tickling the curtains is a seductive pull to the out of doors. And in a city as summer-perfect as Barcelona, these draws are irresistible. Though Barcelona’s ocean-side locales may seem the obvious destination for your summer sunning, I implore you to choose grass over sand, fountain over ocean, which is to say, park over beach.
Teeming with green spaces, whether romantic and old-world or 21st century and urban, Barcelona has parks that create an ideal backdrop to a lazy, hot Mediterranean summer. Softly shaded pathways, supple grassy beds and sun worshipping plaças fill the city’s dozens of flower-filled, sculpture-peppered and well-groomed gardens and parks.
Of the myriad advantages of park over beach, space undeniably takes the biscuit. Bring your book, your dog or your sweetie to any of Barcelona’s public parks and you’re likely to have your pick of the perfect spot for a lounge. Barcelona’s beach property, 4.5 kilometres of sand (with interruptions) linking the Fòrum Barcelona with the W Hotel, cannot and does not accommodate the throngs of people who make daily pilgrimages to lie by the seaside under the summer sun.
The city’s eight designated beaches (realistically, six) are crowded, and that means towel-sized spaces, overflowing rubbish bins, and the occasional sand kick in the face. Whereas I agree that the e1 beers and refreshments, coconuts and massages offered by beachside vendors holds definite appeal, if you’re looking for some privacy or some quiet or even an uninterrupted conversation, head for the parks. And, if you’re seeking a snack, many of the city parks have well-priced cafés complete with beer, coffee and other refreshments.
Undeterred by crowds and still craving access to the waterfront? Why not consider a beach-side park—Parc del Poblenou abuts the boardwalk at Platja del Bogatell and just across the road from Platja de la Nova Mar Bella (and a handy car park) sits Parc de Diagonal Mar, a super-modern park complete with space-age sculptural elements and a mega-slide (see it to believe it!).
In fact, basically every park in Barcelona is well situated—a hop, skip and a jump from public transportation, an important city monument (or a monument itself—Parc de la Ciutadella—Parc Güell—Jardins del Palau de Pedrables or, better still, just around your corner). What’s more, many of these parks offer incredible views of the city and its surroundings (try Jardins Turó del Putget or Parc Turó de la Peira).
Of particular note is a system of parks across Gràcia and Horta Guinardó that interconnects Parc Güell, Parc del Carmel and Parc del Guinardó. In fact, Parc del Guinardó is my absolute favourite park in all of Barcelona. I’m a woods-seeker, and nowhere else in the city itself have I found such a magical and distinct feeling as in Guinardó. Look for outstanding views of the Pyrenees as you wander along the circuitous, even lengthy, paths of this gem of a park. Fans of Parc de Collserola will especially delight in Guinardó.
Let this be your summer to investigate what happens off the platja. Because, trust me, you’re not going to find yourself sniffing 2000 species of roses (Parc de Cervantes), stumbling upon the fireplace of a long-gone dignitary (Parc de l’Oreneta) or lost in a labyrinth (Parc del Laberint) anywhere near the sand.
Poblenou - Carrer de Carmen Amaya.
Estació de França
Diagonal Mar - Arrer Llull, 362 Llacuna
Ciutadella - Passeig Picasso, 1
Cuitadella - Vila Olimpica
Parc Guell - Carrer d’Olot, 1-13 Lesseps
Jardins del Palau de Pedrables - Diagonal, 686 Palau Reial
Turó del Putget - Manacot Davant
Turó de la Peira - Passeig Fabra i Puig
Parc del Guinardó - Carrer de Garriga i Roca, 1-13 Maragall
Parc de Cervantes - Avenida Diagonal, 708-716 Zona Univeritària
Parc del Castell de l’Oreneta - C. Manteudeo, 45. FGC. Reina Elisenda
Parc del Laberint d’Horta - Passeig dels Castanyers, 1-17 Mundet
Beaches are best by Tracy Gilbert
As an Aussie, I’m beach-biased—we are practically born with the beach in our blood. From tropical to metropolitan, pristine to wild, our coastline almost doubles the size of the European continent.
Barcelona’s city beaches can be described as full, but they’re not simply full of people; they’re full of diversity. Anywhere between the structures of the W Hotel and the Fòrum, your towel is very likely to be touching your neighbours. Here you’re not just taking in the sun; you’re taking in liveliness, conversations and human relations.
The way I see it is Barcelona’s beaches are segmented not unlike the city centre into different barrios. La Barceloneta likens itself to Las Ramblas for its high volume of tourists and Borat-style swimsuit clad stag parties. Bogatell kicks back more into the vibes of El Born and Gótico. Whilst the nudist section at Mar Bella demonstrates the open-minded freedom that comes with this city. Anywhere in between is usually just convenient or available space.
The summer of 1992 brought the Olympics and thousands of tonnes of sand to Barcelona, which has evolved into well-equipped and easily accessible areas. There are readily available showers and toilets, kids playgrounds, DJ fuelled chiringuitos, cheap massages, various knick-knacks and sunglasses for sale amongst the wares. Sure, the repeated “agua, cola, cerveza” beer chant may be enough to drive you momentarily mental but apart from the occasional cool off, there’s not too many other reasons to stray far from your towel.
An afternoon at the beach in Barcelona for me is usually more interesting than a new-release blockbuster at the cinema. And, it’s real.
Sunbathing on Barcelona’s central beaches is like the quick-fix chupito to get you going. However, if you’ve got the time, getting outside of the city will be like rewarding yourself with something off the bar’s top shelf.
A train ride of between 20 minutes to one hour will reward you with more space, less people and clearer water at spots such as Sant Pol de Mar in the north to Casteldefells and Sitges moving south.
Those who have more time and the willingness to spend a few hours by bus or car going further afield will be the most rewarded. Beautiful medieval villages spilling down picturesque hillsides to sun-drenched coves dotted with quaint fishing boats. All of this reminds you, you really are on the Mediterranean. Approximately two and a half hours drive north of Barcelona, the coves of Calella de Palafrugell, Aiguablava and Tamariu are some of the gems amongst the pickings. A few days here refresh you to the point of feeling like you’ve been on holiday for a week.
Whichever square metre of sand you decide to set yourself down on, near or farther afield, pack your umbrella and sunscreen, music, a good book, perhaps even a picnic and enjoy what this city and its surroundings have to offer.
Wherever you go, be attentive at all times to your worldly belongings. I find tucking them safely under my head as a makeshift pillow works. Kick back and relax. Allow the sun to seep warmly into your skin and your worries to seep slowly away into the sand below.
Barceloneta - Cuitat Vella. Line 4, Barceloneta
Bogatell - Santi Martí. Line 4,
Mar Bella - Santi Martí. Line 4,
Selva de Mar
Out of town
Sant Pol de Mar - santpol.org
Calella de Palafugell/Aiguablava/ Tamariu - ajpalafrugell.org