The Skater Tribe Flourishing on the Streets of Barcelona
MACBA square is the skaters' realm | © Adrian Morris / Culture Trip
Smooth floors, amazing weather, superb architecture and street culture – Barcelona is a skater’s dream come true. We dive into the daily life of the vibrant MACBA skater square, revered by skateboarders from all over the world, and review the best skating spots in Barcelona.
The skater square at MACBA
Plaça dels Àngels is known as ‘skater square’ © Adrian Morris / Culture Trip
If you ask for directions, locals will tell you that the smooth esplanade is located in El Raval, the most multicultural neighbourhood in the oldest part of the city known as Old Town. But you can also get here by following the sound emanating from this public space: a rolling, wave-like whoosh, and then a knock.
Álex Braza is one of the skaters who uses the square © Adrian Morris / Culture Trip
MACBA square is the skaters’ realm. Despite the multiple open-air skate parks in the city, one day, mysteriously, riders started flocking here like idle storks, and never left. They gather, dressed in similar loose-fitting garments and caps, chatting in a colourful Spanish sprinkled with many different accents. They start practising jumps and tricks as early as 8.30am, seek refuge from the glaring noon sun under the cool shadow of the MACBA’s main entrance and linger here through the night, often with a beer in hand. Street beer sellers, skater brands’ PR and talent scouts, carefree tourists and amused pedestrians all gather to watch this lively sport.
MACBA square is the skaters’ realm © Adrian Morris / Culture Trip
“There’s a lot of creativity – MACBA Square is like an open-air street museum,” says Álex Braza, a skater, photographer and social-media strategist. Braza started the MACBA Life Instagram, YouTube and Facebook channels, where he gathers all of the photos and videos taken in the area. His initial idea has now grown into a network that promotes sponsored brand events, prized giveaways for Go Skateboarding Day and temporary installations. They also create new video content about everything that’s happening at MACBA, and have even launched a clothing line.
One day, mysteriously, riders started flocking here © Adrian Morris / Culture Trip
“Skaters, photographers, graffiti artists… they are curious and they come from all over the world,” Braza says. “They gather and talk and exchange tricks, and they come up with new things. Many trends have started here at the plaça.”
Beyond designated parks: skating amid Barcelona’s creative architecture
Julian Lorenzo is one of the most renowned skaters in the city – he’s featured in magazines and sponsored tours – and agrees that skaters identify themselves as creatives.
They start practising jumps and tricks as early as 8.30am © Adrian Morris / Culture Trip
“Many skateboarders are also musicians, artists, actors,” he says. “Skating is an art and so skaters tend to be attracted to other kinds of artistic expression. We are also drawn to flexible schedules so we can juggle work and play and find time for our passions.” Lorenzo himself is also a professional visual artist and is fond of playing flamenco-style guitar.
“Skateboarders don’t like skating just in skateparks” © Adrian Morris / Culture Trip
That free-spirited nature might be the reason why the community prefers skating in the MACBA surroundings and other public spaces, rather than in the many well-equipped skate parks the city council has opened.
“We were born in the street” © Adrian Morris / Culture Trip
“Skateboarders don’t like skating just in skateparks,” Lorenzo adds. “We were born in the street. We want to skate the city as it truly is. In Plaça dels Àngels there isn’t just the perfect, polished skating floor. There are also stairs, curbs, gaps, a huge ledge, slanting surfaces… It’s like that perfect surfing spot for surfers where they can enjoy all kinds of quality waves.”
Artistic expression and athletic feats go hand in hand © Adrian Morris / Culture Trip
Skaters also flock to places like Plaça Universitat and Barcelona Sants Station for similar reasons. At Universitat, three long, wide metal ledges at times provide additional seating for passersby and at other times serve as optimal grinding and trick blocks. But the iconic Sants Estació train station is where the original skating aficionados started it all. Just behind the station building, an amphitheatre of white stone steps leads down to a pool of water, flanked on one side by an abstract metal dragon sculpture that acts as an ideal slide for boards. In these spaces, artistic expression and athletic feats go hand in hand.
How did Barcelona become a skateboarding city?
“In an orographic sense, Barcelona is optimally suited to be skated,” says Lorenzo. “You can move around and skate to almost anywhere. You can visit up to eight or nine different skating spots in a single day.” He explains how the downtown area of the city was renovated for the Barcelona ’92 Olympic Games, so the ground is mostly flat and smooth. Plus, the city has amazing weather year-round, so skaters don’t have to settle for indoor parks.
“Barcelona is optimally suited to be skated” © Adrian Morris / Culture Trip
Lorenzo was one of the many skaters who fell under Barcelona’s spell. After a short visit to take part in the X Games hosted by the city in 2005, he decided to stay for good. “When you are a skater and you travel somewhere, you already have something in common with someone in that city,” he says. “ You belong to a greater community.”
A culture at risk
But not everyone in the city has been as happy with this (noisy) status quo.
“I admit that there was a time when things went a little bit overboard,” recounts Lorenzo. “Tourist buses flocked to the area, dropping 50 German kids eager to skate in the square. I understand why the neighbours were complaining about the noise.”
The skating community resisted the banning of the sport by the council © Adrian Morris / Culture Trip
Barcelona City Council was even considering banning skating on the spot for good, but some prominent members of the community took action to set a better example. To this day, the local community checks the area to make sure that nobody leaves empty beer cans behind or rides through the nearby side streets too late in the evening. They also post videos to spread the word, so everyone can participate and pull together.
“Civility is the key” © Adrian Morris / Culture Trip
Braza says that his proudest moment for the self-created network was the #SAVEMACBA campaign, which promotes the peaceful accord between skaters and Plaça Dels Àngels neighbours and shop owners. “Civility is the key,” he says.
The city council has now issued a decree banning skating between 10pm and 7am, and both sides have adjusted to the compromise. Things seem to be finally running more smoothly, at the moment – or rather ‘on wheels’, as they say in Spanish.
The five best skating spots in Barcelona (other than MACBA square)
Skate Park de La Mar Bella
This park is suitable for skaters of all levels and is located right off Mar Bella Beach at the end of Barceloneta seafront promenade. Designed to host the 2014 X Games, it features three bowls, a snake run, a volcano and a small street area. The vibe is friendly and easy-going but can get very busy at weekends. It’s located next to Poblenou L4 underground station.
Parc del Fòrum and Forum Skate Park
A bit further up from Skatepark de la Marbella, at the northern edge of Barcelona, this massive plaza was built for the 2004 Fòrum Universal de las Cultures expo. It features vast esplanades, metal ledges and stairs. Today, the park hosts some of Barcelona’s biggest festivals and events, such as Primavera Sound, so check what’s going on here before coming. Within the park there is also a small skatepark hosting a bowl, ramps and both circular and rectangular rails. You’ll find it next to Maresme Fòrum L4 underground station.
Sants Estació (Plaça dels Països Catalans)
Right outside Sants main train station, Plaça dels Països Catalans is a huge, FAD Design-awarded square. This is where the original local skater community started out, and where they still most frequently gather today. Some of its features, such as long stairs and granite benches, allow the practising of showy tricks. Partially covered, it also offers protection from the sun on the hottest days.
SkatePark La Guinaueta (Canyelles – Favència)
Near several green areas, la Guinauteta Skate Park is one of the most well equipped in Barcelona. Located in the upper part of the city, it hosts three bowls of different shapes and depths suitable for different levels, and a snake run that allows for transfers. You’ll also see rails, a street area, a pyramid and boxes in different shapes. This skatepark is next to Canyelles L3 underground station.
Skate Park de Les Corts
Located under an overpass, this urban skatepark features ramps and stairs, boxes, a pyramid and wall rides. Several green and shadowed areas offer some relief from the sun during the summer. You’ll find it by going to Pubilla Cases L5 underground station or T1, T2 or T3 tram lines, Ernest Lluch stop.