The Race to Explore Barcelona This Summer

Jun 10, 2024 by Gemma Harris

Barcelona has long been a popular yachting hangout. With its maritime history and scenic coastline, the city will roll out the red carpet for the world’s most iconic sailing event this summer. 

In the Mediterranean yachting season, Barcelona provides visitors an array of sights, sounds, and flavors through its diverse activities and attractions. Eyes in the industry have turned even quicker toward the Catalonian capital and Spain’s second-biggest city as Barcelona prepares to take center stage as host of the 37th edition of the prestigious America’s Cup. This is Spain’s  second time hosting after the 32nd edition was held in 2007 in Valencia. The Cup, amongst a host of other reasons, is the ideal excuse to visit this bustling, vibrant coastal city in northeastern Spain.

Steeped in history and culture, brimming with renowned art and architecture, a full-flavored menu, and a buzzing nightlife, Barcelona offers plenty for all visitors. Easily explored on foot, it comprises various unique neighborhoods, from the well-trodden tourist paths to the yet-to-be-discovered hidden gems.

Today, thanks to its marina infrastructure, leading refit and repair centers, and international transport links, Barcelona has become a popular superyacht hub, ready for yachts, crew, and Cup challengers to descend on it. 

A World-Class Host


Superyachts flock to Marina Port Vell — the prime waterfront setting originally built for the 1992 Olympic Games — and berth in its centralized location beside the city’s maze-like Gothic quarter.

This summer, the marina will be the heart of the world’s most recognized sailing competition, giving yachts and crew front-row seats to the action. The shoreside facilities here will include team bases, the event village, and an exhibition center with an official merchandising store where you can learn more about each team.

The competition for the oldest trophy officially begins on Aug. 22, with the opening ceremony kick starting the Cup buildup. This is followed by the third and final Challenger Selection series. These preliminary regattas determine which teams will earn the right to challenge Emirates Team New Zealand, the current defending America’s Cup champion. The finals are slated for Oct. 12, when spectators will admire the sleek AC75 fleet out on the water.

 These cutting-edge boats are some of the fastest in the world, featuring revolutionary foiling technology and clocking eye-watering speeds of more than 50 knots. Depending on conditions, the course will run from Port Vell to Port Olimpic, just a few hundred meters off the coastline with various spots perfect for viewing the action. Spectators can head to the beach or one of the city’s many rooftop bars, such as the W Hotel bar, to watch the fun unfurl. This year, the city will also stage the inaugural Women’s America’s Cup and the youth events at Port Olimpic.

Primed to make history as the first venue worldwide to facilitate both an Olympic Games and an America’s Cup, this high-octane event, alongside Barcelona’s already exciting atmosphere, will be one to remember. 


Epicurean Treats 

The thrilling race schedules will certainly whet appetites, and luckily so, as Barcelona offers a culinary scene that promises a gastronomic journey for all food lovers. From numerous Michelin venues to tucked-away classic tapas eateries, trendy hotspots, fresh streetside seafood, beachside cafes, and vegan restaurants, there is plenty to taste when in the city.

No Barcelona itinerary should begin before indulging in its brunch culture. Thanks to the city’s global influence, brunch spots are popular here. Whether fueling for a day of adventure or soaking up the vermouth from the night before, Barcelona does brunch well. Head to Eat My Trip, where friendly staff serve creative dishes alongside the classic American stack pancakes. 

The culinary scene continues throughout the city. After brunch, spend time winding your way through the multiple food markets, from the oldest and most famous La Boqueria on Las Ramblas to the Mercat de la Barceloneta — a particular favorite for yacht chefs who source the city’s freshest fish. The markets are great places to grab a takeaway snack, admire the Mediterranean produce, or sample some of the world’s best-cured meat.

There is plenty of time to digest as the locals head to dinner around 9 p.m. Barcelona is home to some of the world’s best chefs who execute contemporary twists on traditional regional cuisine, like in the seafood restaurant Batea. Splurging out on dining here is easy, especially at the two-star Disfrutar, where the El-Bulli-trained chefs serve both a classic and a seasonal menu. If your budget is tighter, enjoy a tapas crawl, best done in Poble Sec throughout the Gothic Quarter; check out Quimet I Quimet — find a space in this tiny, historic venue to perch and enjoy its local charm and tasty creative dishes.

Dose of Culture

Beyond its strong food culture that welcomes various chefs, the city has also long inspired artists and sculptors, giving rise to plenty of cultural experiences.

While exploring the city, architectural aficionados will recognize the wonders courtesy of Antoni Gaudi. Various guided tours will take you on a tour of his masterpieces. His famously unfinished La Sagrada Familia church is the crown jewel, an ode to Gothic and Art Nouveau forms. After undergoing 140 years of perpetual construction work, it now has a new completion date of 2026. Equally iconic is the mosaic-adorned Park Guell. The terraced greenspace designed by Gaudi was built atop a hill, perfect as a lookout point for some of the city’s best views. On a smaller but by no means less impressive scale is Casa Batllo, a UNESCO site that was once a private home. Today, you can tour the fascinating interiors within its fairytale façade. 

From architecture to art, Barcelona is home to some of Spain’s finest paintings. Picasso spent his teenage years here; you can visit the Picasso Museum, which showcases the most important artworks from his early days. To follow in his footsteps, head to Bar Marsella, a watering hole frequented by Picasso himself. 

Sports fans can revel in modern-day sporting culture here alongside this summer’s sailing events. The Camp Nou stadium is a must-visit. It is home to FC Barcelona, one of the world’s most beloved football teams. This sprawling stadium, the largest in Europe, offers a tour that includes the FC Barcelona Museum and a walk through the player’s tunnel.


Cosmopolitan Chic

Many people love Barcelona because it exudes cosmopolitan charm, blending its rich Catalan heritage with contemporary and international influences.

 There are various shopping options. On the tourist track, head to the revamped Las Ramblas. Splitting the city’s old town, this long boulevard is full of markets, shops, and stalls at every turn. The prestigious Passeig de Gracia steers away from the souvenirs, and is lined with designer boutiques. Near here is also the chic Eixample district, which boasts contemporary galleries, design studios, and sleek bars.

Wash down the culinary delights at one of Barcelona’s many bars, from the legendary vermouth bars to the sophisticated speakeasy cocktail jaunts. A popular spot for cocktail lovers is SIPS, which made the world’s top 50 list in 2023. If it’s wine you are searching for, head to El Diset, which has a Spanish bottle list in the hundreds.

Beach Days

The city has a bit of everything, including beaches perfect for lazy beach days. Just a short hop from the marina is the famous Barceloneta Beach, which was redeveloped just before the 1992 Olympic Games. This four-kilometer sandy strip begins at the W Hotel and is backed by plenty of restaurants, cafes, and bars.

To cool off in the summer heat, head to Mar Bella beach for a more relaxed atmosphere and take a dip in the designated swimming areas. For a busier vibe, spend the day and evening at Somorrostro Beach, just down from Barceloneta, which has plenty of bars and clubs that stay open until the early hours. The city’s beaches are ideal destinations to keep an eye on the Cup races, which will be held within viewing distance of the shoreline. 

While the city has its fair share, farther down the coast, the Costa Brava has some of the country’s best beaches. Whether you are looking for hidden inlets or picturesque coves, this region delivers the perfect beach setup.


Beyond Barcelona

Barcelona is never boring. With the America’s Cup events and numerous areas to explore in and around the city, there is enough to do to fill an entire summer. 

Those who want to venture out of the city for outdoor adventures can head to the Pyrenees mountains, which are only two hours away and offer plenty of hiking and mountain biking opportunities. Closer still is the city’s green lung, the Parc de Collserola, which is just 15 minutes away. It has various hiking trails and picturesque views of Barcelona.

Extending a Spain itinerary is easy from here. Farther afield, there are various locations to tag on. Head up the coast to Tarragona, a popular destination to explore Roman historical sites. Continuing down the coast is the city of Valencia, which combines its historical port status with its innovative redeveloped sites. A stone’s throw from the mainland lies the Balearic Islands, with stunning scenery, sandy beaches, and quaint towns. Each island has a distinct personality, from the diverse yachting hub of Mallorca, the quaint and peaceful Menorca, to the partying isle of Ibiza.