Sports & Leisure in Barcelona
Watching and playing sports in the Catalan capital
By Duncan Rhodes
Barcelona is a sporty city, and whether you’re an active sports fan, or you prefer to admire others sweat it out from the comfort of your stadium seat, you’ll find plenty to engage you here in Catalonia…
Few cities are as closely associated with sports as Barcelona. Indeed the fame of the Futbol Club Barcelona almost outshines the city itself, such is the worldwide admiration these soccer maestros inspire, and you’ll never be considered a real Barcelonian, no matter how long you live here, until you’ve made a pilgrimage to the temple known as Camp Nou Stadium.
Then there’s the not so small matter of the 1992 Summer Olympic Games. Rarely has a sporting event had such a positive impact on a city, or been recalled so long afterwards. Money from the Games paid for a citywide facelift, restoring scores of grand buildings, opening up the Barcelona to the sea and making it one of the world’s favourite tourist destinations.
Of course that’s not the limit of sports in Barcelona, and the aim of this page is to help you participate in and watch your favourite sports in the city. So whether you prefer gallivanting around a golf course, practicing your serve and volley at first class tennis courts, keeping fit on a football pitch or even ripping up some waves on a kiteboard then read on.
FC Barcelona, or Barça, for short are the all conquering people’s favourites with a trophy cabinet bursting at the hinges and an all star cast that every football manager in the world can be envious of. They also boast the biggest football stadium in the world, Camp Nou (aka The Nou Camp), with a capacity of 100,000. Soccer fans should make every effort to get tickets for a game, but if not you can always swing by the stadium during the day for a tour.
Although you’d be forgiven for not knowing it, Barcelona also has a second football team, Espanyol. Despite being overshadowed by their illustrious counterparts Espanyol are a regular force in La Liga, and have also won the Copa Del Rey on two occasions (plus were twice runners up in the UEFA Cup). They play in the Estadi Cornellà-El Prat which seats for 40,500 spectators.
Barcelona Water Sports
Yep, you may have noticed that there’s a large stretch of water parked up alongside Barcelona known as the Mediterranean sea. Suddenly a whole new host of sports and leisure pursuits open up! Nothing beats kicking back in a catamaran or sailing off in a yacht for the day, and whether you have your own boat or not you can get involved. A number of companies will happily sell you sailing lessons, or you can book a cruise up the coast. Keen anglers can even charter a ship for a spot of deep sea fishing and the chance to reel in one of Mother Nature’s bigguns.
For something a bit more adventurous you could try your hand at windsurfing – or even kitesurfing. The latter sport has really taken off in Barcelona recently, and just up the Costa Brava you’ll find perfect conditions for battling the elements…. it’s a bit tricky for beginners however, so you might want to think about booking kitesurfing lessons.
And whereas the Med is as calm as a mill pond during the summer, surfing fanatics should time their visit for winter when North Western winds send some hefty waves breaking in on Barcelona’s beaches. You can hire equipment at the Box 220 surf shop.
For more info on water sports in Barcelona and how to participate then read our article.
Barcelona Formula One
You won’t be asked to take part, but if being a spectator is fine by you then the Spanish Grand Prix takes place just outside Barcelona in Montmelo at the Circuit de Catalunya. Naturally the speedy Spaniard, Fernando Alonso, is the crowd favourite, although plenty of tourists come along to cheer on their respective heroes. For travel info and tickets head to our full-length article on the Spanish Grand Prix. For the closest you’ll ever get to being a podium prince then we can also thoroughly recommend this Ferrari driving experience – which does in fact take place at the very same Circuit de Catalunya as the F1 race!
Golf has become increasingly popular in Spain in recent times and Barcelona certainly boasts the climate for a good game. There are a number of great courses all within easy reach of the city, and a quick search on Google should reveal a number of tour operators happy to take the hassle out of organising a round. We’ll update this page with some concrete suggestions soon.
Sergi Bruguera and Arantxa Sánchez Vicario are amongst the tennis legends hailing from Catalonia, and no doubt the Barcelona Tennis Academy is busy moulding some rough diamonds into sporting gems as we speak. Sadly there are not as many casual public courts as one might hope for around the city, but for English speakers looking to play then undoubtedly www.barcelona-tennis.com is your best resource.
Surrounded by mountains and flat in the middle, Barcelona offers perfect biking conditions for both the city and off-road cyclist. There are scores of operators offering guided bike tours around the Gothic Quarter and beyond, whilst the steep hills of Collserola park that rear up on the West of the city mean that mountain bikers will find plenty of tracks to sink their tyres into as well. Those willing to go further afield will find plenty of other famous cycling spots, from the gentle undulating landscapes of the Penedes wine region, to the Catalan countryside around Girona (with volcanic parks and the famous “carril bici” a former railway line that takes bikers from Sant Feliu to Olot), and not forgetting of course the Pyrenees (just over 2 hours away). For more info check out our feature article on cycling and biking trips.
Barcelona American Football
Not as popular as its European cousin, American Football does nonetheless have a foothold in Barcelona. The city’s team is called the Barcelona Bufals. They play their home games at Estadi Joan Serrahima, up on Montjuic, and you can follow their progress on Twitter.
Barcelona Outdoor Sports
With the Serra de Collserola behind the city and the likes of El Garraf Park and Montserrat mountain nearby outdoorsy people will find plenty of sporting activities to be getting on with in and around BCN. Hiking, mountain biking, climbing and kayaking are all popular, whilst winter sports fiends can head up to the Pyrenees for skiing and snowboarding. There are regular buses and organised trips leaving from Barcelona every weekend, so you don’t even need your own transport. For more on outdoor sports and activities in Barcelona head to our main article on the subject.
Finally for watching sports in Barcelona you might want to read our article about sports bars. Alternatively most Irish pubs and bars also come armed with satellite TV and numerous screens for the big sporting occasion.
About the Author
Duncan established Barcelona Life in 2009, whilst freelancing for the likes of Conde Nast, The Guardian, Easyjet Magazine, CNN Traveller and many more. From interviews with Ferran Adria to revealing the secrets of the city’s poetry brothels, he knows the city inside out… and shares all his best tips right here.