A short walk from the city centre, Barcelona’s Port Vell harbour is one of the most beautiful areas of the city. Popular with visitors and locals alike, and with plenty of things to see and do, it’s a great place to relax with friends and family.
Here’s our list of the ten best things to do at the Port Vell.
1. Enjoy the Panoramic Views
Surrounded by the narrow streets of the Gothic Quarter and with a pedestrianised waterfront dotted with palm trees and public art, the Port Vell is one of the most picturesque parts of Barcelona.
The view from the harbour wall is pretty magnificent but to get a truly panoramic view you should check out the following locations.
The Barcelona Port Cable Car
Built in 1929, The Port Cable Car connects the Barceloneta beach to Montjuïc and crosses the port diagonally at a height of between 70 and 90 metres.
The journey lasts approximately eight minutes and the tiny red and white cabins can accommodate up to twenty passengers.
The Columbus Monument
A lift in the base of the Columbus Monument takes visitors up to a glassed-in viewing platform just below Columbus’ feet. In addition to views of the harbour, the 60m high column also affords good views of the Gothic Quarter and La Rambla.
Museum of the History of Catalonia
The museum’s fourth-story terrace and restaurant are a good vantage point with views across the port.
2. Take a Boat Tour
Another fun way to see Barcelona is from the sea and there’s no shortage of boat trips to choose from.
The longest established boat tours in Barcelona are Las Golondrinas which have been operating since 1888. The company runs small, traditional styled boats which do a forty-minute tour of the harbour. They also have modern glass-bottom boats that leave the port and cruise along the coast as far as El Forum and back.
There are numerous other boat tours available ranging from electrically powered Eco Tours to catamaran cruises, sunset sailing cruises and Party Boats.
3. Check out the Public Art
There are so many statues and monuments at the harbour that the area is sometimes compared to an open-air art gallery.
The oldest and best-known monument is the statue of Columbus which was inaugurated during the nineteenth century.
Other more contemporary statues were added as part of the regeneration project which transformed the harbour from rundown industrial quarter to the attractive leisure area that it is today.
Statues at Barcelona’s Port Vell Harbour
- Columbus Monument
- Stargazers (Miraestels)
- Monument to US Servicemen
- Monument to Romul Bosch i Alsina
- Monument to Joan Salvat Papaseit
- La Parella
- Monument to Sportspeople of the Sea
- Barcelona’s Face
- Evocació Marinera
4. Shop ’till You Drop
Located in the centre of the harbour, the ultra-modern Maremagnum shopping centre houses a wide range of stores from major high street brands as well as restaurants, bars, coffee shops and a cinema.
Unlike other shopping centres in Barcelona which don’t open on Sundays, the fact that the Maremagnum is located in the port means that it can open 365 days of the year.
If you are looking for an FC Barcelona shirt or last-minute souvenir on a Sunday, this is the place to come.
5. Visit a Museum
There are two excellent museums at the Port Vell Harbour:
Barcelona Maritime Museum
Housed in Barcelona’s medieval shipyards, the Maritime Museum contains a collection of more than a hundred model ships of all shapes and sizes plus a full-sized replica of a sixteenth-century galley used at the battle of Lepanto.
The museum’s extensive collection also includes charts, navigational aids, figureheads and shipbuilding tools. There are even a couple of tall ships which belong to the museum moored in the harbour itself.
Museum of the History of Catalonia
As its name suggests, the museum traces the history of Catalonia from the Palaeolithic period to the present day. Housed in an old nineteenth-century warehouse, you can get great views of the harbour from the museum’s roof terrace restaurant which sometimes stages concerts in the evenings.
The museum can be visited free of charge on the first Sunday of each month.
6. Catch the Cable Car up to Montjuïc
Planning to visit Montjuïc Castle? The most scenic and fun way to get there is by cable car.
Take the Port Cable Car from the beach, across the harbour to half way up the mountain. Then catch a second cable car up to the top.
7. Gawp at the Yachts
Hardly surprisingly, the port is a paradise for boat lovers with all type of watercraft ranging from historic tall ships to fishing boats, dinghies to super yachts and everything in between.
The innermost part of the harbour has hundreds of berths for sailing boats.
Barceloneta wharf caters for the luxury motor yachts of the super-rich. It’s not uncommon to see giant motor yachts with helicopters on deck and built-in garages for jet skis and speedboats.
Smaller cruise ships and the occasional Navy vessel dock at the Moll de Barcelona wharf, next to the World Trade Centre. Larger cruise liners and ferries to the Balearic Islands dock in the newer outer section of the harbour.
8. Visit the Aquarium
One of the city’s many family-oriented attractions, Barcelona Aquarium houses twenty large tanks, most of which recreate different Mediterranean habitats.
The aquarium’s star attraction is the Oceanarium; a huge five metre deep tank with an eighty metre long glass tunnel that lets you get close up and personal with sharks and manta rays.
There’s also a children’s area with touch pools and a submarine.
The aquarium is open seven days a week from 10:00 to 19:30
9. Buy Some Antiques
One of the best-known antiques and collectables markets in Barcelona takes place every weekend next to the Columbus Monument.
The Fira de Brocanters is open from Friday to Sunday from 11:00 to 21:00. The market’s small stalls are set up in the open and sell a mixture of antique and vintage items including coins, medals, posters, postcards, ornaments and bric-a-brac.
10. Marvel at the Architecture
The harbour is located in the Gothic Quarter and is surrounded by emblematic buildings from the thirteenth century to the present day.
The earliest building is the Royal Shipyards which is the oldest remaining shipyard of its kind in Europe.
When the harbour was refurbished, several interesting modern buildings were added including the World Trade Center and the Rambla Del Mar walkway.
Architecture at Barcelona’s Port Vell
- The Royal Shipyards (13th century)
- La Llotja del Mar (14th century)
- El Palau de Mar (1880)
- The Port Customs Building (19th century)
- Casa Xifré (1840)
- Barcelona Port Authority Building (1903)
- Barcelona Central Post Office (1927)
- La Rambla del Mar (1994)
- Maremagnum (1995)
- The World Trade Center (1999)
Barcelona harbour is located near the city centre at the end of the famous Las Ramblas boulevard.
How to Get To the Port Vell Harbour
The nearest metro stations are Drassanes (L1) and Barceloneta (L4).
The Hop On Hop Off bus tour stops at four different locations within the harbour area.
Estació de França train station is located nearby.