Formerly an obsolete harbor, Port Vell is a modern yacht-basin and entertainment center. It’s a very touristy area, with the Barcelona Aquarium and the Catalonia History Museum as some of its main attractions.
Before the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, the Port Vell, the city’s old obsolete harbor, was only a run-down area with empty warehouses, industrial buildings, refuse dumps and railroad yards.
In one of the most drastic urban renewal projects, the area was transformed into a yacht basin and entertainment center, opening the city up to the sea. A coastal road was moved underground and a wide pedestrian promenade – the Moll de la Fusta – now stretches from the Columbus Monument to the Barceloneta neighborhood.
A wooden pedestrian bridge – the Rambla de Mar – connects Barcelona’s inner city via the Rambla with the Moll d’Espanya, where we find the Maremàgnum, a complex with shops, cinemas, discos, bars and restaurants. Behind the Maremàgnum are an IMAX theater and Barcelona’s aquarium. Maremàgnum can be quite lively at night, especially during summer months.
The biggest attraction of the Port Vell is the aquarium, one of the largest in Europe. The aquarium boasts eight thousand sea species, including sharks, rays and octopuses, in a total of twenty basins filled with six million liters (1.5 million gallons) of seawater. Basin 17 features an eighty-meter-long tunnel from where you can observe Mediterranean deep sea fish, including sharks.
Palau de Mar
Of all the warehouses along the Port Vell only one survived. Now known as the Palau de Mar, it was originally built at the end of the nineteenth century by Elies Rogent. Today it houses offices as well as several popular seafood restaurants and a museum: the Museu d’Historia de Catalunya (History Museum of Catalonia). The museum tells the story of Catalonia with chronologically organized exhibits, spanning an era from pre-history to the present day.
Other Notable Buildings
There are several other notable buildings in Port Vell besides the Palau de Mar. At the start of the Rambla de Mar stands the Old Port Authority building, an ornate structure built in 1907 as a maritime station. Today it houses the Port Authority of Barcelona.
Just south of the Old Port Authority building is the Aduana building, an old customs building constructed in 1902. The nearby pier – the Moll de Barcelona – leads towards the hulking mass of the modern World Trade Center.
In front of the WTC building stands the Torre de Jaume I. The tower supports a cable system – the Transbordador Aeri – that brings visitors from a similar tower – the Torre de San Sebastianá – at Barceloneta to the Montjuïc Hill.
Head of Barcelona
At the other, northeastern end of Port Vell is an eye-catching statue created by pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. The colorful, fourteen-meter-tall statue (46 ft.) is called ‘El cap de Barcelona’ (head of Barcelona).