A triangular shaped jut of land sticking out into the Med, Barceloneta was historically a poor barrio of fishermen and factory workers, a shanty town of slum housing on the beach. Then marshland was reclaimed and cheap two-story buildings put up to house sailors and dock workers.
These homes started small, and overcrowding meant they were divided over and over until the buildings became warrens of tiny apartments, with no running water ever right up until the 1960s. With cramped conditions indoors, the area's narrow streets became extensions of people's houses, with residents sitting out on the road and treating it like a living room. This street life tradition is continued by today's residents, who are now likely to be beach-loving expats and holidaymakers who turn the barrio into party central at the height of summer.
The main access point to the neighbourhood is the Passeig Joan de Borbo, a long boulevard with the marina on one side and a string of seafood restaurants of varying quality on the other side. This leads down to the beach, which is actually a long succession of eight beaches stretching from the edge of the commercial port all the way to the new Forum complex on the borders of neighbouring Badalona.
At the end of Passeig Joan de Borbo you come to Platja de Sant Miguel, a favorite with groups of young tourists showing off their tans and hanging out at the beach bar chiringuitos. The next beach along is the Barceloneta beach and is the one used as much by locals as visitors. Its beach-level walkway has new hip bars and restaurants such as the teak-decked Bestial under the boardwalk near the Hotel Arts. There's also a beach library, which lends out books and magazines during the busy summer months.