Shhhh; it’s a secret. It’s hard to keep a lid on anything in Barcelona, but Barceloneta has just about succeeded. And maybe I should keep it that way? After all, it’s my neighborhood, and I don’t want it to be over-run with hotels and cheesy souvenir shops. You’ll keep it between you and me, right?
Let’s take a look at the typical visitor to Barcelona; they stay on or near La Rambla, they tour the Gothic barrio, they eat tapas and drink sangria. If well-informed, said visitors will wander down to the Mediterranean Sea and have a look at Barceloneta and its port. But will they eat in Barceloneta’s authentic seafood restaurants such as Can Ramonet? Will they sample delectable tapas at La Bombeta’s noisy tables or El Vaso de Oro’s crowded bar? Probably not. Those who are in the know come to Barceloneta to eat, drink, spend the day, and if they’re wise, spend the night.
Wait. I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me fill you in on Barceloneta, the neighborhood which consists of some of Barcelona’s most developed seaside property. A small barrio, Barceloneta is bordered on one side by the city’s port, with darling houseboats and a view of Montjuic’s cliffs. On another side sits the hip neighborhood El Born, and to the east are the sea and an expansive boardwalk perfect for strolling, roller-blading, biking, jogging and walking Fido while viewing the Med. Indeed, just down the boardwalk from Barceloneta one encounters Fank Gehry’s Fish sculpture and the five-star Hotel Arts.
In contrast with Hotel Arts, Barceloneta apartment buildings are not grand, nor are they decorated with ornate cherub statues or fanciful iron-clad terraces. They are tall and thin with potted plants and drying socks, shirts, jeans and skirts flapping from small French balconies most days of the year. The neighborhood was set up in 1750 by the city for blue-collar workers and has long been a fisherman’s barrio. Why would the city give the lowest-paid residents the beach-front property? Simply because there wasn’t a beach in Barcelona before the 1992 Olympic games. Prior to lighting the torch, Baceloneta was a dreary, seedy portside neighborhood, and no one who didn’t have to wanted to live there. But things change. Nowadays, the barrio has a new image and buildings are being fixed up and many foreigners are moving into the area because of its beachside positioning. While Barceloneta is becoming popular, it will never be ritzy, which will keep it diverse, unique, affordable and inviting.
For the same reasons, it is one of the best places to stay in Barcelona for those visitors who want to have a more bona fide experience in a real neighborhood on the Med. If you want postcards, overpriced hotels, tourists and tourist prices, stay in the center of the city. If you really want to get to know Barcelona, stay in Barceloneta. That said there are just a few hotels in the area and virtually no hotels within the barrio proper. Enter Akaza apartment rentals. I love this idea because it really gives visitors the full experience. Instead of staying for a week in a hotel, travelers can rent a vacation apartment in Barceloneta from Akaza rental agency and live like the locals do. Renting an apartment is about the same price as a hotel but better for families and plus allows guests the chance to cook and have a cozy ‘home base’ for exploring the city. There are many agencies who offer short term vacation rentals around the city but Akaza is the only one which specializes in Barceloneta, with virtually all of its rentals in the eclectic little district.
So there you have it, the big secret, the inside scoop, the cat in the bag. Take it from this local and pay a visit to Barceloneta on your next visit to Barcelona before they stick in a McDonalds or a cheapo shop selling Mexican sombreros and dumb t-shirts. As we all know too well, the good stuff never lasts long, with authentic individuality ever fleeting in a more and more homogenized world. In other words, get it before it’s gone.