If you are looking for evidence that urban regeneration works, look no further than Barcelona's waterfront. A couple of decades ago... more » the idea of pointing visitors, particularly overseas visitors, to Barcelona's beaches would have been laughable. Sure, there was a beach around the old fishing quarter, where there were some worthwhile restaurants, but the beach itself was pretty uninviting and showed signs of its proximity to Barcelona's port and industry. Visitors who wanted a little R&R would be pointed south to the long beaches at Sitges (a short train ride away) or north to the delightful coves of the Costa Brava, particularly those between Tossa de Mar and the lovely coves at Tamariu and around Aiguablava.
Then came the 1992 Olympics and a project to re-envision the waterfront area as a leisure hub, with opportunities to eat, drink, cycle, sail, work out, play beach volleyball, shop, gently toast in the sun or pamper yourself in five-star luxury hotels. Today you can do all these things along a four-kilometer stretch of beach that provides locals and visitors alike with a whole new playground. And the beaches proudly fly the Blue Flag—the European Union hallmark of beach and water quality.
It wouldn't be Barcelona if art and design wasn't on the agenda, so as you wander along you'll find some pretty amazing public artworks and installations. As Olympic legacies go, it's pretty impressive stuff, so take a half day off from heavy-duty cultural sightseeing and recharge your batteries with this unexpected bonus in what the discreetly nationalistic tourist board describes as "the only European capital that has more than four kilometers of beaches." less «