When temperatures in Barcelona soar above the comfort zone, a plunge into cool water is an appealing way to escape the heat. Luckily, this sort of relief is provided not just by the Mediterranean, but also by a large network of public and private swimming pools, both covered and under open sky.
In addition to being a preferred activity in warm seasons, swimming is among the most recommended activities by doctors and wellness instructors alike, for its many health benefits. Building endurance, muscle strength and cardiovascular stability are only some of the paybacks of regular swimming. More recently, researchers have recognised its indirect benefits, which include the development of skills like time-management, self-discipline and goal-setting, as well as an increased sense of self-worth.
Clearly, the most outstanding of the city’s swimming pools is the outdoor Olympic pool, the Piscina Municipal de Montjuïc, looking over the city from the top of Montjuïc. Designed in 1992 for the diving events of the Barcelona Olympics, the facility has a seating capacity of 4,100 spectators, and a superb panoramic view of Barcelona. Because the pool was designed as a competition facility, there are no deckchairs or Jacuzzi tubs offered, and the changing rooms are no longer as classy as they were for the Olympic games, but the stunning view and the top-notch design compensate for that. This outdoor pool is generally open to the public in July and August, between 11am and 6.30pm. Convenient public transportation includes metro lines one and three to Plaça Espanya, and then a 50 or 61 bus ride up the hill and past the Fundació Miró. The same buses will bring you to another Olympic pool, also outdoor and open to the public, at the Bernat Picornell complex on Avenida de l’Estadi 30. The facility was built in the Seventies for the European swimming championships, and redone for the Olympics. The third Montjuïc pool is a members-only sports club, Natació Montjuïc, offering a gym and outdoor pool that is covered in the winter.
If a family swim day is on the books and the kids are coming, there is no better place in Barcelona than the Jardins de la Torre de Les Aigües, also called the Eixample beach. Located in central Barcelona, this park offers a knee-high children’s pool equipped with a tower and a bridge, a sandy play area and gardens for family picnics. The complex is open from late June to early September, and the cost this season is €1.40 per person. Entrance is free for children under one and for seniors. Weekly and monthly passes are offered at €5.50 and €18.60 respectively. The park is open daily between 10am-8pm except for Sundays when the complex closes at 3pm. To get there, take metro line four to Girona station.
Another great possibility for a day splashing in water with the whole family is Parc Creueta del Coll, a sheltered park on the outer rim of Gràcia–Vallcarca. The Creueta del Coll is an urban oasis, home to a large lake, a small island with palm trees, fountains, table tennis, picnic area and children’s games. In the summer, the lake is transformed into a large, public swimming pool. Although typically dry and sandy, the park also fosters leafy vegetation and wooded and grass areas. Visitors can rest in the shade of acacias, pine and palm trees. There is also a smaller pond in the park. Take the green metro line to Vallcarca and find the park at Passeig Mare de Déu del Coll 77. General admission is €4.40, but for those between three and 25 years of age there are discounted entrance fees between 75 cents and €3.30. Parc Creueta del Coll is open from June 20th to September 14th, every day except for Sunday, from 10am to 8pm.
Another pool worth a visit in the Eixample is the Piscina Sant Jordi, a 50-metre-long pool on the corner of Paris and Viladomat streets, near the metro stop at Hospital Clinic. There are two pools, one for members and one open to the public for a fee of €4.20. The pool has 10 lanes and is usually not crowded. The facilities are comfortable without being fancy, with high-pressure showers.
For those with limited financial and time resources, the best option remains swimming in one of the many municipal pools within the city limits. They are usually low-cost (between €4 and €10) and are conveniently located in various neighbourhoods, usually accessible by public transportation, offering around-the clock schedules, classes and well-maintained facilities.
One of these hidden neighbourhood jewels is the Complex Esportiu Municipal Pau Negre in Gràcia. Tucked away on one of the smaller streets, at Ramiro de Maeztu 25-27, above the noisy Travessera de Dalt, this facility is open in the spring and summer months, and covered for the rest of the year. The pool is large, well-maintained and can be enjoyed swimming under open sky without being disturbed by crowds of other swimmers. A single use of the pool and the facilities is a little under €7, but monthly passes are available for as low as €33. The pool’s helpful and friendly staff are happy to take newcomers around, introduce them to the different facilities and recommend yoga, aerobics and dance classes (that have a small additional price). Clean and comfortable changing rooms and well-controlled water temperature also make for a great swimming experience.
To locate other public pools by neighbourhood, aspiring swimmers may call the Servei d’Informació Esportiva line at 93 402 3000. Another great recourse for finding a nearby pool and reading swimmers’ reviews is the international swimmer website www.swimmersguide.com, searchable by continents and cities.
For an out-of-town and adrenaline-packed water experience, a great destination is the Aquabrava water-slide park situated near Roses in the north of Catalunya. It is easily accessible from Girona and a free bus service is offered in the summer months from l’Estartit to the park. Europe’s biggest wave pool is found there, as well as a variety of slides and climbing walls above some of the pools. The price of a daily pass depends on one’s height: for those over 1.2 metres tall, the cost is €21 and for those below that line, it goes down to €12.
So to sum it all up, there’s no excuse for sweltering this summer, even for those who will spend most of it city-bound. Jump in, make a splash and enjoy the wet.
Call the pools for updated summer hours:
- Piscina Municipal de Montjuïc, 93 443 0046.
- Bernat Picornell complex, 93 423 4041; www.picornell.cat
- Natació Montjuïc, 93 331 8288
- Jardins de la Torre de Les Aigües, 93 423 4350
- Complex Esportiu Pau Negré; 93 213 4344
- Piscina Sant Jordi, 93 410 9261
- Aquabrava water-slide park, 972 25 43 44; www.aquabrava.com