The best beaches from Barcelona


Eloise Barker

Title photography by Poike

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August 2018

Catalonia has a fantastic coastline – nudging France to the north and heating up around every headline as it plunges south to Tarragona. Barcelona is slap-bang in the middle, making it the best place to start your beach holiday.

For a city break: Barcelona’s beaches

Of course, you don’t actually have to travel out of Barcelona to hit the seaside. The city has its own urban beach, the Barceloneta – a busy strip that runs a gauntlet of fancy city hotels, outdoor gyms and shops festooned with strings of inflatables. Three miles long, it’s massive, great fun, and has high people-watching potential. Look out for El Peiz, a golden fish sculpture by the famous Frank Gehry, which dazzles passing beach bums.

Where to stay: The W Barcelona

Frank Gehry’s fish isn’t the only landmark on the seafront. The sail-shaped W Barcelona is instantly recognisable as it rises above the south end of La Barceloneta’s beaches. When it comes to Barcelona beach hotels, nowhere else comes close to this five-star marvel. The glass design means all rooms have fantastic views, whilst the pool areas are seriously sleek. Dine at Bravo24 for Michelin-starred Catalan cooking – and tapas that you won’t want to share.

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Look out for El Peiz, a golden fish sculpture by the famous Frank Gehry, which dazzles passing beach bums.

  • Barceloneta beach at sunset. © Arseniy Krasnevsky.

    City beach

    The closest beach to the city is the Barceloneta. Visit here for a mini beach holiday without having to hire a car.£344 pp

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For sunny beaches: The Costa Dorada

Head south west down the coast from Barcelona and you’ll find yourself on the Costa Dorada. Its name means ‘the golden coast’, and you only have to see the blonde sand when the sun is shining to figure out why. Here you can explore Sitges, Salou and the neighbouring town of Cambrils.

Salou

Known for PortAdventura theme park, the port town of Salou is a family-friendly tourist area near the region’s main town of Tarragona, and an hour and a half’s drive from Barcelona. Well-accustomed to English holidaymakers, there are all manner of restaurants and bars here, and supermarkets selling English produce. Salou has something for everyone, with enough nightlife to attract a lively evening crowd. Llevant Beach, right below the town’s main promenade, is the busiest sunbathing spot. If you base yourself in Salou, pop down to Cambrils for a beautiful day trip.

Where to stay: H10 Salauris Palace

H10 Salauris Palace is a great family hotel that’s only 800 metres from PortAventura and near the beach. You might have come here for the theme park, but the hotel’s dedicated animation team will make you glad you stayed.

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Cambrils

Consider Cambrils if you’re keen to make a day of PortAventura but want a relaxed beach resort for the rest of your stay. Many of the visitors to Cambrils are Spanish, making it feel more authentic than neighbouring Salou. The town is quieter, but you’re still a walkable distance from Salou old town along the beachfront promenade. Wander over to the marina and you’ll stumble upon not one, but two Michelin-starred restaurants: Can Bosch and Rincon de Diego. These restaurants have helped establish Cambrils as a gastronomic hub. Look for authentic Catalan cuisine and delve into the wine list, for when Salou’s burger bars just won’t do.

Where to stay: Estival Eldorado Resort

Estival Eldorado Resort is a smart four star laid out directly next to the beach. There are two swimming pools for kids – including one with a splash area. Rooms are modern and comfortable, with bare wood and blue and white fabric creating harmonious, welcoming spaces. Estival Eldorado is bicycle friendly, which doesn’t just mean you can hire bikes – though you can, for a lovely cycle along the promenade. The hotel’s specialist cycling facilities include a workshop, bike room and bike cleaning space.

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Sitges

Just half an hour from Barcelona airport, the artistic, cosmopolitan town of Sitges might be smaller than Barcelona, but if anything, this just makes its culture and charm more concentrated. Besides being famous as an LGBT haven, Sitges has a St Tropez-esque quality – with winding cobbled streets, whitewashed walls and chic, cosmopolitan visitors. Its seventeen sandy beaches are another major selling point – the best ones run west of town – including gay-friendly Platja de la Bossa Rodona. Need any more proof that you should stay in Sitges? Look up the festivals. They are plentiful, ranging from the October film festival, through a carnival (look out for satiric giant puppets in the parade) and LGBT-centric gatherings in the summer.

Where to stay: ME Sitges Terramar

There’s a lot of buzz about the newly-opened ME Sitges Terramar. The hotel might pretend it's in Ibiza: a DJ plays chilled beats in the lobby – but it's set right on the Paseo Maritimo, which runs along Sitges seafront. The rooms channel Scandi modernism, with soothing pastel colours and bleached wood throughout.

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  • Colourful boats on Salou beach. © LUNAMARINA.

    On the beach

    Run aground on the beaches at Salou. Sandy, safe and sunny, these coves are great for visiting families.

  • Michelin-starred since 2005, Rincon de Diego is a restaurant in Cambrils. © Rincon de Diego.

    Finishing touches

    What could round off a perfect day in the sun better than a Michelin-starred dinner afterwards? Rincon de Diego is set just behind the port and serves seasonal seafood dishes.£56 return

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  • Church of Sant Bertomeu and Santa Tecla in Sitges. © Carlos_bcn.

    Stairway to heaven

    Walk up to the church of Sant Bertomeu. The traditional buildings in Sitges make it a pretty place to stay, and you can take your time wandering the winding streets.

For wild beauty: The Costa Brava

Known as the ‘wild coast’, the Costa Brava has chiselled cliffs threaded by old smuggler’s paths. Nowadays, the smugglers would have little luck hiding here in July and August, when even the so-called secret beaches get busy. The rest of the year you can enjoy lovely coves, the GR92 walking trail, and follow the footsteps of Salvador Dalí.

Tossa de Mar

Tossa de Mar is a pocket-sized town right on the beach. The historic old town is still hidden behind Medieval stone walls, so the encroaching tourist district to the north feels like an invading force. Despite the new tourist developments, the ancient cobbled streets are still particularly lovely, and the town’s main beach is watched over by a proper castle out on the headland. Marc Chagall, the French painter, visited and loved it here – painting the picture ‘Blue Paradise’ to celebrate his time in the town. Find your own blue paradise: there are three beaches in and around the bay, all with lovely views along the cragged coast and the castle’s crenelated walls.

Where to stay: Golden Bahia de Tossa

Golden Bahia de Tossa is set back behind the old town, and the beach is a short walk away. (Families can take the road train from outside the hotel.) Speaking of families, it’s perfect for kids, with multiple pools, a pirate ship and a heap of daytime activities. Adults will enjoy the grown-ups only areas, including a piano bar.

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Lloret de Mar

Lloret de Mar is one of the most important resort towns on the Costa Brava. It has drawn crowds for an unpretentious, sand-and-sea type holiday since the seventies. There are plenty of hotels, bars and restaurants, so you’ll never want for ice cream and Estrella on the sand. Best of all, Lloret de Mar claims to be the birthplace of the Daiquiri. ‘Isn’t that Cuban?’ we hear you cry. Yes, yes it is, but it was an émigré from Lloret de Mar who started making it in Havana. It might be a tenuous claim, but with a tapas and Daiquiri trail in town, who’s going to complain? Off the Daiquiri trail, you’ll find an attractive parish church with colourful domes and a tranquil botanical garden at Santa Clotilde, which makes for a peaceful promenade. From Lloret de Mar you can walk all the way to Blanes along the coast path, via the lovely beach at Fenals. If you fancy a boat trip, take an excursion round the coast to Santa Cristina Hermitage beach.

Where to stay: Hotel Santa Marta

To save yourself a boat trip to Santa Cristina beach, why not stay in a five-star hotel just above it? Hotel Santa Marta has an amazing location in the bay, set between Lloret de Mar and Blanes. It has direct access to the beautiful sand below. On the hotel grounds you’ll find manicured lawns and tennis courts; inside, you’ll find comfortable rooms.

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