Beautiful, historic and a lot of fun, Barcelona is one of the top destinations in Europe. A popular city for first time visitors, there is a never-ending list of activities to keep you busy, whether it be taking in the iconic Gaudi architecture, taking a stroll down Las Ramblas, shopping in the city’s best boutiques – or just hanging out at the beach, relaxing and sampling the sea-view bars. Not only does Barcelona has all the sights, it has all of the food too. Be ready to have your tastebuds taken to heaven, thanks to the tapas, the fresh fish, and the delicious fruits.
As one of Europe’s best-connected cities, you can arrive by plane, car, train or even boat, and then spend your time in the city – either by hopping on the easy to navigate metro, or on foot; plus it comes packed with great hotels to suit everyone’s wallet. All of that and Barcelona is on the cheap side when compared to other major European cities such as Paris and London. Barcelona gets more than its fair share of sunshine too. We’ve rounded up the best areas for you to stay in Barcelona so you can get the most out of your trip to the the Catalan capital.
The oldest part of Barcelona is the majestic Gothic Quarter and is where most tourists visiting the city head first. An exciting network of alleyways and intriguing turns make this area a top destination in the Catalan capital. History is everywhere in the small squares and picturesque cafes and the architecture is almost dripping in decadent style. This also is the spot where the festivals take place at the end of September, so if you visit at this time of year expect to see fire breathers and hoards of devils dancing through the lanes to the beat of the festival music.
If you are after fast-paced fun in the old city then this the part of Barcelona is for you. There are some fantastic spots to try out tapas among the medieval architecture and many of the top sites that Barcelona has to offer are in walking distance. Accommodation in this area offers sumptuous rooftop terraces with swimming pools, Michelin star dining and incredible views of the cathedral.
With neighborhoods rich in architecture dating back to the 14th century, fantastic shopping, and delicious food, La Ribera is a great spot for your Barcelona holiday. Some of the main attractions in the area are the Santa Maria del Mar Basilica and the Palau de la Musica Catalana but it’s also easy to reach more quiet spots such as Ciutadella Park from here. The lower section of the La Ribera district is referred to as El Born after the 19th century market on carrer del Comerç that dominates the area. If you like strolling around and soaking up the atmosphere, La Ribera is a pedestrian-friendly area and so is especially great for children. Another big tourist draw here is the Picasso Museum which houses the influential painter’s most significant works displayed in a stunning Renaissance building.
The La Ribera district has become a bit of a hotspot in recent years; it has a burgeoning dining scene and also is great for a spot of retail therapy in the boutiques. Hotels along the main street are mid-range chains which offer good value and are an easy walking distance to the top attractions, but alternatively the Estación de Francia is an excellent transport hub close by.
Once home to Barcelona’s fishing community, a triangle of land makes up the Barceloneta district, which cuts across the sea with the old harbor on one side and the city’s famous sandy beaches on the other. This area is built up in a grid system in order to accommodate those who were working on the construction of the old citadel. The area was completely modernized in the 1980s and now Barceloneta is a thriving popular district that attracts thousands of people to its sandy Sant Sebastiàn Beach each year.
A really attractive neighborhood to stay in, there are endless restaurants serving fresh seafood and bars to try out the Catalan cuisine. There’s a laid back local feel too, as people live out their lives in apartments and sitting on benches watching the world go by. There is a glamorous side to the area: in the marinas, shiny yachts worth millions are shown off in the sunshine and buff-bodied people parade along the palm-lined promenade. Although it’s not the most central location for sightseeing, there’s a metro station at the base of the triangle and an excellent bus service. So if you want beaches and bars with a splattering of sightseeing, then this is the area for you.
An old district with a distinct mix of art and creativity combined with an edgy vibe, El Raval attracts a cosmopolitan crowd looking for a wild night out in the city. There is development happening in the neighborhood and the revelry of the nightlife is being softened to help it become more of a cultural hub. Museums are beginning to spring up where clubs might have been before as the area is being redefined by those who live and play there.
In the light of day El Raval is rich in history: many beautiful historic buildings line its streets and it is home to the city’s most popular market as well as galleries and museums. There is a seedier side to this area compared to others and not such a huge range of hotels to choose from, but don’t let that put you off; this is the area to stay if you like to party late in to the night. If you stay in El Raval you’ll still be in walking distance to some of the most iconic streets in Barcelona, such as the iconic Las Ramblas, a street which is always bustling with street performers and vendors, and Placa de Catalunya, the city center square.
Built as a solution to the city’s housing crisis Eixample, meaning Extension in Catalan, is one of the city’s more modern neighborhoods in Barcelona and is easily recognizable due to its symmetrical grid system layout. This is where lovers of modernist architecture should come and soak in the lines and shapes of the city. Designer shopping is big in this district, so if you are into your luxury high-end brands then Eixample should be where you stay in Barcelona. You can also shop until you drop at the more mid-range, high-street brands that also have stores in this district.
Eixample is a meeting point in the center of the city for uptown neighborhoods and the historic old town and is easy to navigate due to the grid system, which can easily be traversed by bus or by metro. Almost all of Barcelona’s metro lines go through the Eixample district, and a lot of them are integral changeover points, so it’s a great place to stay for people who want to use the metro to fully explore all over the city. There is a wide range of hotels ranging from affordable and the more luxury.
Hip and exquisite, Gracia attracts those with a more laid back lifestyle. Once entirely separate from the city, Gracia still remains a cultural outlaw. Hillside cafes with stunning views, leafy lanes and green parks combine with restaurants serving food from all over the world and cafe terraces to make this place feel like an independent village.
Gracia is Barcelona’s bohemian hangout for those on a budget, it has a high concentration of really good hostels drawing in the backpacking crowds as well as budget and solo travelers. It’s also a really enticing spot for couples wanting to spend a quiet holiday exploring quiet lanes and boutiques together, and for the global hippie looking to kick back. If you are into a spot of partying then this might not be the district for you, but a quick ten minute ride on the metro and you will be in the center of Barcelona.
Sat up high on a hill overlooking Barcelona is Montjuic. Once used as a strategic defense point it is home to Montjuic castle, a fort layered with years of interesting history. There are many attractions in the Montjuic area such as the Olympic Station and the spectacle of the Magic Fountain. There is even the Montjuic cable car which offers an entertaining ride with fantastic views across the rooftops of the city.
The closest neighborhoods to base yourself in up here are Sants and Plaza España. Both are residential and offer a quiet and safe place for families to feel at home on their trip to the city. The area, although not in the heart of the action, is well connected by Sants train station which is in walking distance. On the other side there is the Plaza España which is well connected with the airport bus.
This traditional area that once resided here was completely redesigned for the 1992 Olympics and now, where there once stood warehouses and docks, you will find grandiose 20th century architecture. Echoing the Barcelona coastline, Vila Olimpica is popular with the younger fashion-focused crowds looking to recline on the golden beaches, sip cocktails in the classy bars and dance the night away in the exclusive clubs. If you want days spent in the sunshine and nights dancing the night away, then this is the spot for you in Barcelona.
The Vila Olimpia district is further out of the center of the city, but a great base for those who want to explore the greater Barcelona area. There is a plethora of hotels to choose from to suit all different budgets. If getting around Barcelona via public transport is important to you then choose a hotel close to the Ciutadella-Vila Olimpica Station; if you are just looking for bars and beaches then the options are endless.
Poblenou has undergone an intense transformation over the last few decades. Once a neighborhood that most people would not want to spend their holiday in, it has been rejuvenated to become an interesting district with a huge array of bars and eateries, hotels, highrises, shopping and restaurants. The old warehouses and factories have now been reimagined and with this dynamic reinvention a trendy local district that successfully mixes the old and new has emerged. A sign of this new creative mix is the opening of Barcelona’s design hub in the district, a long esplanade which is a welcoming spot for visitors to enjoy.
There is also now an abundance of five star hotels for visitors to choose from and the area is well connected by metro, bus and tram lines. Take an afternoon stroll down the historic Rambla del Poblenou – this busy street is close to the beach, and its festive atmosphere makes it a great spot to stop and sample local tapas along with a glass of refreshing wine.