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