What to visit / Interesting districts / Ciutat Vella / Port Vell

Port Vell

The port of Barcelona stands between the mouth of the river Llobregat and the Barceloneta district. Its history can be traced back to the time of the Iberians in the 5th century BC and it has been a key enclave in the history of the Mediterranean in terms of migration and as a trading and industrial hub in Catalonia. It is currently one of the most important ports in Europe.

Port Vell commences at the end of Barcelona's La Rambla, by the Columbus monument, a major city landmark since 1886. At the top of the column, 50 metres above city, a viewing gallery boasts breathtaking views of the sea and the famous boulevard. On one side, the 14th-century medieval shipyards, the Drassanes Reials, provide the opportunity to visit Barcelona's Museu Marítim, and if you head for the waterfront, in the Portal de la Pau, you'll be able to see the historic schooner, the Pailebot Santa Eulàlia, which was built in 1918 and named after Barcelona's co-patron saint. This is the departure point for the traditional pleasure boats, the "Golondrinas", which operate harbour rides around the Port Vell.

Here, the wooden walkway, known as the Rambla de Mar, leads to the retail and leisure complex Maremagnum, Barcelona's L'Aquàrium. Art works also add a splash of colour to the Moll de la Fusta in the shape of a polychrome sculpture by the American pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, and, still in Port Vell but bordering Barceloneta, the building of the old harbour warehouse, Magatzems Generals de Comerç, reminds us of the area's mercantile past. Under the name Palau de Mar, the red-brick building now houses one of Barcelona's most interesting museums, the Museu d'Història de Catalunya.

Over the years, the port of Barcelona has undergone refurbishments that have improved its efficiency and fostered its growth. This probably prompted Einstein to request a vist to the port when he was visiting the city in 1923. In the second half of the 19th century, the inauguration of the slipway and the building of the floating dock and warehouses established Barcelona's reputation as a world-renowned port. On the morning of Wednesday 28th February 1923, Einstein visited the port of Barcelona in a canoe accompanied by the chief engineer who was overseeing the work being carried out. The southern sector of the port is currently home to the logistics and commercial offices and is adjacent to the Zona Franca industrial complex.

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