To answer those all important questions: “What’s Barcelona like in September? Is it still crowded? What’s the weather like?” And a few other things…
Thoughts and images gathered on Sunday 20 September, 2015 by your local beach bum of a guide, Ben Holbrook
Plumes of purple marijuana smoke hang still in the air, so sweet my mouth begins to water. I thought it would be quiet – it’s nearing the end of September after all – but I’ve never seen the beach so packed. There’s a flea market today and the sun is burning holes into the tops of pink parasols, where bearded salesmen flog Hawaiian-print shirts and old vinyl.
The clave of Cuban music ebbs and flows in the breeze, slow and smooth and filled with joy. It’s the perfect soundtrack and interrupted only by hawkers’ cries – “Mojitos, mojitos. Fresh mojitos!” They leave behind them wisps of mint and lime that remain in your nostrils, a warm glow in your chest. Perhaps everything really is going to be OK.
There are hipsters in waist-high hot-pants, too vain to do anything but hold their shiny plastic skateboards as they watch on, posing from the sidelines. I feel like a pro in their presence and carve purposefully in front of them, sipping from a can of cold beer in a act of misplaced bravado. Still, I stay upright for long enough to feel at one with my board, its coarse con-cave glued to my feet as I lean hard into arcing turns that take up the entire path. This is my kind of sport.
There are steroid studs with their Tinkerbell brides lining up to use the portaloos, which swell and leak and hum with the funk of a million Spanish tummies. Glamorous, it is not. There are sixty-four year old men with stubby cigars and botox blondes walking in silence, dreaming, I imagine, of their youths and simpler times.
There are sunburnt couples arguing on benches and groups of boat-shoe-beach-boys with pastel-hued chinos huddling outside the deluxe W Hotel. Sucker punch skate punks terrorise them with failed kick flips and adrenalised lunacy. I’m not sure whose side I’m on anymore.
Sand crackles beneath my wheels like popping space dust as I discover a group of roller-skating girls with gold-sparkle hula hoops and candy floss afros. I take off my shirt and soak up the last of the summer rays, the air thick and cooling as it hits the shimmer of my milk white skin. I carve a little more, I roll, I lean. These are the good old days, they just have to be. I breathe in deep and desperately try to soak it all up, to be in the moment.
One last glance over my shoulder as I leave and I feel both enraptured and repulsed by it all, by the decadence and frivolity, the pretentiousness and narcism of the crowd. It’s not a beach, not a real beach. And it’s no circus. I wouldn’t even call it a freak show. But a stage, a catwalk, a garish hodgepodge of clashing subcultures… It’s both creator and muse. Delinquent yet divine. The wildest place on earth.
Want to stay near Barceloneta beach?
I do recommend staying near Barceloneta beach and actually lived right in the thick of it for three months myself. As the old fisherman’s quarter, the narrow back streets are vibrant and offer an excellent insight into local life (as long as you filter off the main drags and into the backstreets), and it’s all within walking distance of the the city centre.
Rental apartments near Barceloneta beach: I suggest renting an apartment and living as a local for the duration of your stay. I recommend locally-based company WaytoStay for renting apartments in Barcelona. Barceloneta Ramblas Apartments are also ideally-situated and perfect for those travelling on a modest budget.
Luxury hotels near Barceloneta beach
As you’re probably already aware, some of Barcelona’s most luxurious hotels can be found right by Barceloneta beach. The obvious choice would be the Dubai-esque W Hotel, which juts out into the Mediterranean Sea like some kind of shimmering glass sail. If I had the money, this is where I’d stay. And equally as exclusive is the mighty Hotel Arts Barcelona, which is a gourmet’s dream and about as glamorous as life gets.
Budget hotels near Barceloneta beach
If you’re looking for a cheap place to lay your head after hitting the beach, I recommend Hotel Oasis, which is an excellent budget hotel within stumbling distance of the beach and cheap the city centre. Hotel Canton is another good option for those who would rather spend their euros on paella and vino than lavish hotel suites.
Cheap hostels near Barceloneta beach
If you’re after sun, sea and… surf, you’re in luck. There are a number of excellent (clean, well-located, safe, cheap) hostels near Barceloneta beach. I recommend Amistat Beach Hostel, which is probably one of the best beach hostel experiences you’ll ever have. And Equity Point Sea couldn’t be any closer to the action – literally on the boardwalk!