Although better known for its unrivalled cultural credentials, colourful cuisine and all-night fiestas, Barcelona has a very different side to it that many tourists rarely experience. As the Catalans say: “Barcelona és molt més” – Barcelona is much more.
With the Mediterranean Sea flanking the front-end of the city and the mighty Collserola mountain range boxing in the back, visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to getting active outdoors in Barcelona. And let us forget not the 1992 Olympic sports facilities, which remain loved, polished and accessible for all to enjoy today.
But most importantly of all, because Barcelona packs it all in so tightly, you can experience much of it in just a few metro stops. In fact, you could be chomping down delicious paella one minute, mountain biking through mountain forests the next and still have time for a quick watersports session before dinner time. What better way to gear yourself up for a night of fiestas de la noche?!
So here are a few of my personal recommendations on where to start.
This wicked dance between wind and water has become one of Barcelona’s most popular ocean activities. With reliable onshore winds, an eternity of beaches and tranquil open waters to play in, Barcelona is perfectly suited for both learning and developing your kitesurfing skills. And let’s not forget the warm-water conditions that make even the most severe of dunkings a pleasure.
There are schools that operate out of the city’s main beaches, but the majority offer lessons at Castelldefels beach, where the conditions are gentle and ideal for learning. Castelldefels is a quick 20-minute train ride away and most of the schools will send someone to meet you at the train station.
Check out these local kitesurfing schools to make it happen
www.global-kite.com – Kitesurfing and SUP School in Castelldefels
www.kitesurfbarcelona.com – Kitesurfing School in Castelldefels
www.barcelonakitesurf.com – Kitesurfing School with Multiple Locations
Mountain Biking in the Collserola Hills
Most visitors to Barcelona spend their time at sea level, but trust me, they’re missing out. The city slopes gently at first and then steeply up to the lush green, pine-scented mountains of Collserola. The views over the colourful city below and the glowing Mediterranean are staggeringly beautiful, and yet, as you find yourself deeper in the wilderness, you’ll find it hard to believe that you’re anywhere near a big city.
The trails are dry and dusty and bordered with soft ferns and sun-bleached cactus trees. The occasional canopied sections quickly become escapes from the heat of the sun. Stop to refuel on tapas and vino at Tibidabo before gunning it back down to the city for a feast of botifarra and pa amb tomàquet with views over the ocean. Now that’s what I call extreme.
Check out these local mountain bike tour companies to make it happen
Running and Hiking in Montjuic
Montjuic is a large hill/small mountain that provides breath-taking views over the harbour and city. But Its true beauty is that it offers so much to stumble-upon, which makes it perfect for hiking and running. There’s the 17th century Castle of Montjuic, the 1992 Olympic stadium, which includes the famous swimming pools and diving boards, and the iconic telecommunications tower that looks like a futuristic space rocket.
Make it happen
Take the metro to Plaça Espanya and warm your legs up with a stroll up to the imposing Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. From there, take to the dirt paths or follow the winding roads and get your heart pounding as you snake your way up to the top of this spectacularly dynamic mountain. And don’t forget to wave to (less active) people riding the cable car that swings overhead.
Surfing and SUPing (Stand-Up-Paddle)
The warm cobalt blue waters, the gentle Mediterranean waves lapping softly over your board and toes – there’s no better way to work out! Admittedly, Barcelona’s surf conditions aren’t the best, but the winter months do bring some head-high beach breaks, and the summer months can be great for longboarding. But try a spot of SUPing and you won’t need waves to skim across the water.
Check out these local Surf & SUP schools to make it happen
With a strip of smooth and delicious concrete that hugs the shoreline for an eternity, Barcelona is the perfect place to strap on a pair of skates or pick up a board and go for a cruise. Start by the giant goldfish sculpture next to the Hotel Arts and skate all the way to the other end of the beach to the W Hotel, where you’ll find a secret patio area that’s great for skating and taking envy-inducing photos over the beach.
Check out www.ungravityboard.com for Skate Rentals (Boards and Blades)