See also: Things to Do in Barcelona
Barcelona, the cultural and literal capital of Catalonia is an exuberant and absorbing city, if you know the neighborhoods well. One of the largest metropolitan areas in all of Europe, the city is multifaceted and it is best to know what area suits your ideal vacation plan the best. And we are here to help you with just that.
The coastal city of Barcelona obviously has a number of must-visit spots such as the iconic La Rambla street, the Arc de Triomf, the Museu Picasso de Barcelona among others, but the deeper you delve into history and culture to the smaller neighborhoods in the city, the better your experience is bound to get. With the extensive Barcelona Metro covering most parts of the city and offering a seamless experience, travelling within the city should not be an issue.
With that part sorted, let's dive right into discovering where to stay in Barcelona. Vamos!
Barri Gòthic (Gothic Quarter) and El Call (Jewish Quarter)
The historic La Rambla's boundary walls are in effect the neighborhoods of Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter) and El Raval. The former forms the eastern side of the avenue and is both literally and figuratively the centre of the old city of Barcelona. Apart from the easy access to La Rambla, the neighborhood has a lot to offer within its medieval age streets and alleyways.
A simple walk in the area can turn into a rewarding as it is close to vehicular traffic altogether. You can marvel at the dream-like Roman architecture (the remains of the Roman temple, the Cathedral of Santa Eulàlia, and the Plaça del Rei to name a few glorious examples), maneuver through the labyrinth streets that open into public squares (which are perfect meeting points), go to a nearby bar or better still, the oldest restaurant in all of Barcelona, the Can Culleretes at the La Rambla.
The Bari Gòtic also has some of the most iconic marketplaces in Barcelona. The busy Portal d’Angela and one of Europe's oldest market streets, La Boqueria are not to be missed. If you still have time to spare from all of that, immerse yourself in the rich history of the El Call (Jewish Quarter), or discover the works of Catalan great architect Antonio Gaudi, or simply take in the culture of the neighborhood, which inspired the works of Pablo Picasso, who was also a resident.
Finding a hotel room, be it of any price range, should not be a problem in the neighborhood. Also, because of its central location Bari Gòtic is serviceable by multiple transit lines of the Barcelona (L1 L3, and L6 included).
On the western side of the La Rambla lies the neighborhood of El Raval. Best known for its gentrification over the recent past, Raval is now a hub for the lovers of art and history. The Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art and Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona lead the list of the best museums and art galleries of Barcelona. Both the galleries have brilliant exhibits of modern art and urban culture that few others match. It is a testament to the development and urbanisation of the neighborhood which was for long only known for sleazy bars and a red light district.
Raval has become a hub for tourists from all over the world because of its central location and has developed a culture that can be best enjoyed by taking a walk around the neighborhood, discovering the local bars and pubs, the modern cafes, and local stores. While on the streets, be on a lookout for the skateboarders, extravagant murals, graffiti, and street exhibits. The neighborhood's overall vibe can be best described as bohemian yet very modern and urbane, which makes it perfect for a group hangout or backpackers looking for shorter stays.
Raval is centrally located and reaching here should not be a problem. The metro lines 2 and 3 of the Barcelona Metro have stations in the neighborhood. Hotels are in plenty and reasonably priced, with some even offering rooftop restaurants and bars with a fantastic view of the city.
The cultural capital of Catalonia, La Gracia is one of Barcelona's most vibrant and diverse neighborhoods. It is also the most significant in terms of tourist arrivals and rightly so. An alternative artsy village town, if there ever was one, Gracia is the perfect area for a quaint stay. The village-like construction of the neighborhood means that everything is at a walking distance. What makes the stay even more hassle free is the lack of vehicular traffic in the area, the picturesque walkways, street art, and green public squares which are perfect for an afternoon stroll.
The neighborhood also has a lot of eating options, and while not all of them may not be as sophisticated as some of the bigger brands in Barcelona, they offer a unique experience of local cuisine that cannot be matched elsewhere. While in Gracia you may as well ditch the big brands in the clothing industry and try some of the independent boutiques and smaller stores which are in plenty. And while the alternative artsy neighborhood is unique in itself, it is still Barcelona and Antonio Gaudi's Park Guell will remind you of that.
Centrally located, Gracia is accessible through metro lines L6 and L7. La Casta Del Sol, Palacete, and Casa Fuster are some of the best luxury hotels, but more affordable options should not be too difficult to find in Gracia.
El Poble-Sec and Montjuïc
A little South-West of Raval is the small district of Poble-Sec, which shares a similar history with its bordering district. Known for its lively drinking scene, tapas bars, and musical and cabaret theatres. Once inhabited by the working class of Barcelona, Poble-Sec underwent its own unique brand of gentrification and developed an alternative artsy vibe following the construction of the theatres and the growing attraction for the tapas bars.
If you can find time from the bars and theatres (the Teatre Lliure and the Mercat de les Flors to name a few) in Poble-Sec, you can take a stroll to Montjuïc, a hillock on the periphery of the neighborhood. Montjuïc has several small green spaces and gardens which make for a perfect setting for a day out. Also on the hill is the Palau Nacional, a performance hall that has since been converted to a museum to accommodate national artefacts. Finish your day with a live music or performance at one of the nearby bars with the beverage of your choice.
Poble-Sec is serviceable through the metro station of the same name on L3 of the Barcelona Metro. Luxury hotel options in the neighborhood might be limited, but there are still many affordable homestays and hotels to choose from.
Beaches in Barcelona are as enticing a tourist spot as any other historic neighborhood of the city. And the most popular amongst them all is the Barcelona beach in La Barceloneta, just a quick walk from the city centre and the Bari Gòtic. The biggest of the sandy beaches in the neighborhood offers a wide variety of sporting activities to indulge in. It is a walking distance from the metro station and walk along the broad avenues is worth your time.
A cable car tour of the neighborhood that has been active since the late 1920s offers breathtaking scenery of Barcelona. Do not miss out on the ride while in La Barceloneta. Food options are in plenty as you can enjoy a fine dining experience at one of the many trendy restaurants or relish the seafood in offing. Barceloneta is also home to the Museum Of Catalan History and a stunning aquarium that should definitely be on your to-do list.
The area is serviceable through the L4 station of the Barcelona Metro from the neighborhood's eponymous station. The W Hotel and the Miramar are some of the most iconic hotels in all of Barcelona, but there are plenty more options to choose from.
Covered flea markets, shopping districts, and trendy boutiques have all become synonymous with the district of Eixample in central Barcelona. Located just north of Raval and Gothic Quarter, Eixample is the neighborhood for the shopaholics. With seemingly endless straight roads lined with chic stores and boutiques, cafes and restaurants, Eixample is the epitome of modern lifestyle within Barcelona and has something for everyone.
That is not to say that it is not distinctly Barcelona. The neighborhood is home to some of Gaudi's and other modern designers' and architects' best known accomplishments: Gaudi's Sagrada Familia and Casa Milà-La Pedrera, and Puig i Cadafalch's Casa de les Punxes to name a few. Barcelona's iconic Arc de Triomf is located in Eixample and is a sight to behold, especially during the mornings and dawn.
Eixample is centrally located and is the buffer zone between uptown Barcelona and parts of the old city. It has hotels and homestays in plenty and is serviceable through almost all transit lines of the Barcelona Metro.
In the eastern part of Barcelona lies another neighborhood that attracts the beach-goers. Known for its beaches and the Rambla de Poblenou, the neighborhood has become a centre for social activity in Barcelona. A walk through the street would take you through an area surrounded by hillocks, bustling crowds, and the beachside. That is if you can make your way through it in one go as you're bound to be attracted to the blend of modernity and tradition offered by stores and boutiques, cafes and restaurants built in both modern and classic fashion.
Going back to the beach, Poblenou's popular beaches include the Bogatell beach, where you can enjoy a quick game of beach volleyball or simply laze around for an evening walk and the sandy Mar Bella beach, known to have been gay friendly for long. Poblenou also hosts an annual cultural festival Festa Major del Poblenou, where the residents participate in huge numbers to showcase the spirit and culture of Barcelona.
Poblenou is accessible through stations on L1 and L4 of the Barcelona Metro and is home to many hotels with a fantastical view of the city.
Artworks by Picasso, medieval streets and a Basilica, and an archaeological site and you have yourself a historian's dream destination. But the central neighborhood of El Born is much more than just that. But first things first, while in El Born, you cannot miss out on the exhibits at display in the Museu Picasso de Barcelona and the stained glass windows at the Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar and the archaeological site open for public at theBorn Centre de Cultura i Memòria.
Once you are done with that, take a stroll in the very picturesque streets of the neighborhood and relish a bite at a nearby bodega (cellar) or cafe. Born is serviceable through lines L1 and L4 of the Barcelona Metro. Some of Barcelona's best hotels are also in the neighborhood. You can enjoy a luxurious stay at the Grand Hotel Central or the Mercer Hotel, or find a more affordable option in a nearby street, which are no less impressive in terms of offering an overall Barcelona experience.