A little while ago a couple from Canada asked me to take their picture at one of the tourist attractions here in Barcelona. Initially she asked using very basic English with lots of hand gestures.
I laughed a bit, because she thought I was from here, and obviously didn’t speak English. I don’t blame her. Not many people here do, so I actually sound like she did most of the time. The only difference is I’m speaking broken Spanish to the people I’m gesturing at.
I told her sure I’d be happy to take their picture, and she carried on with the gesturing of what she wanted, still not realizing that I’d responded to her in English.
After a few sentences, it dawned on her that I was speaking the same language she was, and she started making small talk asking how long we were staying. When she found out that we had in fact been here for a little over a month for work, she wanted to pick our brains for the best things to see and do.
I was so excited! We were actually helping tourists, because we were (kind of) locals! We were able to give them a ton of tips until they asked about where the best spots were for nightlife. Uh…bars? Clubs? Dancing? What are these things you speak of? We have a toddling tyrant who requires us to be home in the evenings. Therefore we are completely useless in that category.
The one thing that they were most interested in were the best beaches to see. I figured since I have also had requests from friends, who will be visiting in the near future, on where to go and what to see, that I should do a beach roundup of our favorites. Here is my inordinately detailed list of the best beaches in and around Barcelona:
If you are looking for a beach with all the action, Barcelona is the place to be. There are literally stretches of semicircle beaches as far as the eye can see, jam-packed with people looking to have some fun. There’s beach volleyball, soccer, tons of restaurants and bars (huge plus for Americans like us, who generally bring coolers with our own libations to enjoy), and, if you’re brave enough, there are nude beaches for those hoping to get rid of tan lines. Or maybe they just like to strut their stuff? Flaunt it if you’ve got it? I don’t know. I’m certainly not that brave. Working in a dermatology office makes you afraid of the sun.
These beaches are also very easy to get to if you’re only staying in Barcelona for a short while and don’t have the time to drive an hour away to the other beaches listed here. You can also rent umbrellas and lounge chairs, which is handy as I don’t think many people travel with one.
The beaches in Barcelona are also very kid-friendly. People who have strollers to worry about needn’t worry too much because there is a wide, paved area for pedestrians and bicyclists the whole way down the beach. The sand is also a little bit finer, similar to that on the coasts in the States, so if your toddler is into eating sand/dirt and sand immersion (see above), it’s easier to digest than beaches I’ll talk about in a moment.
The thing that we didn’t like about the beaches here were that they were very crowded. It kind of feels like people soup when you go to take a dip in the ocean, and the water is a little murky because there are so many people there kicking up the sand. We like to have a little bit of breathing room, particularly when swimming with our little one.
I love love love this city! I think it may partly be due to the fact that it was the first smaller ‘Europeanish’ town that I saw, but I absolutely fell in love with it. This place is a little over half an hour away south from Barcelona, and the drive can be quite lovely if you take the highway near the coast. The beaches here are still busy, but the one we saw was smaller, so it wasn’t the huge crowds that you would see in Barcelona.
The thing that I love most is that there are all these white-washed homes with bright colored doors and windows that lead up to the beach. I haven’t been to Greece yet, but that’s kind of the feeling I got. Lots of narrow, winding streets, where you’ll turn a corner and be completely surprised by some new charming detail.
This is also a very good place to go if you are looking to do some shopping. While Barcelona does have limitless opportunities for shopping, it is still a little expensive, particularly if you are visiting when they aren’t having sales. Sitges offers numerous little shops tucked away in between restaurants and homes that are much more affordable. So if you’re going for a beach day, be sure and check out the shops while you’re there, as you’re bound to find something you’ll love.
Lloret De Mar
The beaches here are an hours drive north from Barcelona. They are near the beginning of Costa Brava, as such is quite a sight to see. It’s a rocky coastline that has several beach areas to choose from. If you bring your snorkeling gear you can swim out among the rocks shown above to see the brilliant colors of the water. We did a beach day here and my husband did just that, and he absolutely loved it.
If you decide to make this location your destination for a beach day, you have to check out the ‘Jardins De Santa Clotilde.’ Even if you are not a beach person and you’re visiting Barcelona, it’s worth the drive just to see the gardens. The fact that it is #2 on Tripadvisor of things to do in this city should tell you something.
Finding the gardens was a little tricky for us because if you search for it on google maps, it will route you to an Oficine de Turisme, which is not close to where the gardens are. I would use Apple maps if you have it( it took us to the right place), or look for Avinguda Santa Clotilde, which will become Passeig Jardins. The entrance to the gardens is at the front of the traffic circle, where Av. Santa Clotilde becomes Passeig Jardins, and there are signs that show you where to go.
We also thought that you could get to the gardens from the beach, or vice versa, because some of the photos on Tripadvisor appear as though it leads out to the sea, but it does not. It does offer you amazing views of the sea, and you can see a smaller beach that’s tucked away behind the gardens (in picture above), which was the beach we chose for our beach day!
This beach does not have the fine, Barcelona sand though. Instead it is lots of very small pebbles, so when your toddler tries to eat it, be prepared to hear a much more pronounced crunching sound. There is also little shade available, so if you are sun-phobic, or have a fair-skinned child as I do, you should bring an umbrella, or sun-tent if you plan to be there all day.
This is also the place to be if you are looking for fun-filled night life. Driving around the city we saw countless clubs, bars, and casinos everywhere. You could drink, lay out at the beach day all day (please use sunscreen), walk back to your hotel, have a nice little siesta, and then boom! Ready to party! Again, not really our thing, so can’t recommend specific places, but there were many, many young people wandering around the streets there, so that tells me that’s where the parties at. I can’t believe I just said young people. Now I feel and sound old.
What we didn’t like, again, was the fact that there were so many people in the water with us. If you go to the smaller beach near the gardens like us, there are less people than over on the main beaches, but it does mean that everyone there is squashed into a much smaller area of water. Also for families traveling to this beach, it is a bit of a hike to get to the one behind the gardens, so it is a little cumbersome with all the baby things.
Tossa De Mar
We thought that Lloret De Mar was pretty amazing, until we saw this place. I mean who doesn’t want to see a castle on the beach? Tossa De Mar is only 20 minutes north of Lloret De Mar, so it’s an hour and 20 minutes north from Barcelona. If I had to choose between the two of them I would choose this one. I felt like it was a little less party-central than Lloret De Mar.
The castle is actually called Vila Vella and the original structure dates all the way back to the 13th century! Inside the walls there is what they call the Old Town, which is a village where all the buildings and streets are cobbled. It is such a charming place to see.
If you walk all the way up the hill inside Vila Vella, you will not only get gorgeous views of Costa Brava, but also see the remains of a late Gothic church that was built during the 15th century. I think that may be one of the reasons why I prefer this beach to Lloret De Mar. There’s a little more history and personality to this location… lots of places that make you stop and wonder what life was like for people when all of this was built.
History aside, there are also more shops and restaurants to wander around and peruse as opposed to Lloret, which was focused more on bars and clubs. It’s a really great place for families with young children, or anyone looking for a more peaceful retreat.
The only downside was getting around Vila Vella with a stroller. You either need one that is pretty good for off-roading with all the cobblestones, or one that is light enough (like an umbrella stroller) to carry around. Ours was the latter, so Daddy carried around the baby, and Mommy carried the stroller. Totally worth it.
Camino De Ronda- S’Agaro
If you can only choose one of the places I’ve mentioned so far for your beach day, this is it. It’s only an hour and 15 minutes north from Barcelona and is a must see. I have never in my life been to a place that just keeps unfolding into postcard perfect views. I felt like I was walking through someone’s Pinterest travel board.
Camino De Ronda is a path that runs right along the coastline of Costa Brava. It offers view, after view of sparkling clear water in rich blues that blend into bright greens. As you walk along the path, you will notice stairs that lead down to the sea nestled in the rocks.
If you find that you are perspiring from walking too vigorously, fear not! Simply take one of the many paths down to the sea, enjoy a quick dip, carry on with your walk, and repeat as necessary.
There is also a nice wide stretch of beach towards the end that actually has a little bit of shade! We were very excited. As you can see, even though it was busy, the water is not overcrowded as it was in some of the other beaches, and we were there on a Saturday. You definitely have plenty of room to stretch out and relax.
The only bad thing about this place is that it was a little difficult with a stroller. The worst part was getting down to, and up from the beach. There were many, many stairs. Once you make it to the Camino De Ronda, you’ll find that it alternates between stretches of path and 3-4 stairs up or down; so you definitely need to prepare yourself for carrying the stroller around. It really was a mission, but we are already planning our next trip here because it’s absolutely the prettiest beach that we have ever seen.