Barcelona is a city by the sea, the Mediterranean Sea to be exact. Like most coastal towns its history and ambiance are affected by that fact. For centuries the harbor was the scene of seafarers and townspeople bustling about on the traditional business that takes place at any port.
But Port Vell fell into disuse over the generations. Its warehouses fell empty, its railroads less traveled, its industrial buildings grew quiet. Fortunately, like many coastal towns such as San Francisco and Boston, Barcelona saw an opportunity to revitalize its seaside area.
In an ambitious urban renewal effort lasting years, the wharf became a yacht basin, the buildings transformed into shops, an IMAX, and an aquarium. Its rail lines became walkways for the thousands that now throng the area every year. A coastal road was even moved underground to enable visitors to walk safely from one exciting offering to another.
The Maremagnum is one major attraction. This new wooden pedestrian bridge is more than just a walkway over space and water. It is itself a thing of beauty. It is an artistic and practical connection between the Rambla de Mar and many of the shops, theaters, and restaurants that dot the area. Behind it lies the IMAX and the outstanding aquarium.
Like many in larger cities, the IMAX offers an enormous 3-D screen. But there is also a flat-screen IMAX and an Omnimax. Here, visitors can take advantage of any of the three different shows that play continuously. There are discount tickets available that will get you into all three events.
The aquarium is the largest attraction in the area and its popularity is well deserved. With 8,000 aquatic animals, including a dozen sharks, this 1.5 million gallon facility will delight animal lovers of all ages. One section offers an 80m/262ft long observation tunnel. Along the glass walls, you can see hundreds of native deep-sea species, as well as sharks.
South of the Maremagnum lies the Aduana building. The structure was erected in 1902 and served as the customs house. It now provides an outstanding sight for visitors who want to get a feeling for the turn of 20th-century architecture in Barcelona. Nearby, stretched along the pier, is Barcelona’s World Trade Center.
Even the sea sights will be of interest to many visitors. The upscale yachts and sailing ships are a delight to the eye. One can often see them moving gracefully around the sea just offshore. Take a boat tour and enjoy a view of Barcelona available nowhere else in the city. The peaceful cruise provides a nice contrast to the bustling waterfront.
Then take a stroll up the road a short way and spend some time viewing the Monument a Colon (Columbus Monument). The explorer is memorialized on top of a 60m/197ft column in the form of a statue that points toward the sea.
The monument, erected in 1888, resides at the site where the great man landed in 1493 after his discovery of the direct sea route to America. It is located in the center of the Placa del Portal de la Pau (Square of the Gate of Peace).
Enjoy an afternoon of sunbathing and dining or catch a show. Go cycling or rollerblading then have a cool drink at one of the many bars. Port Vell is easy to find. Just walk east until you hit a very large expanse of blue-green water topped by an azure sky, or take the Metro to Drassanes.