I’ve been exploring and living in Barcelona’s best neighbourhoods since 2009 and this is my honest guide to each, including recommendations on hostels, hotels and apartments to suit all budgets, tastes and styles…
Whether you’re a couple, family, group, backpacker, business or solo traveller trying to decide where to stay during your time in Barcelona, this is your complete and essential inside guide.
Gothic Quarter ~ The Heart and Soul of the Old City
Old City Charm / Medieval Architecture / Romantic / Family Friendly / Nightlife / Home to Las Ramblas / A Bit Touristy / Shopping / Museums & Art Galleries / Cultural Sites / Convenient Central Location / Traditional Tapas / Restaurants and Cool Bars / Luxury Hotels / Budget Hostels & Hotels / Apartments
Perfect for: Anyone who wants to stay right in the heart of the city – it’s all here! Couples will enjoy the romantic squares and abundance of cultural sites and families will love its central and convenient location. If shopping is at the top of your to-do list then you’ll be enchanted by the never-ending streets of both high-end fashion stores and small boutiques. There’s plenty of nightlife for groups (dare I say stag and hen groups) and solo travellers too.
About the Gothic Quarter: The oldest neighbourhood in Barcelona, the Gothic Quarter dates all the way back to the Roman Empire and is unquestionably the city’s cultural and physical heart. It’s overflowing with Medieval remnants, Baroque churches and Gothic cathedrals and it feels like travelling through time as you stroll the ancient labyrinthine streets.
As the most central point of the city – this is where you’ll find the iconic Plaça de Catalunya and boulevard of Las Ramblas – you’ll find a little bit of everything here in the Barri Gòtic, including tourist traps, over-priced restaurants and tacky souvenir shops. Saying that, it’s impossible to deny the Gothic’s convenience, and you’ll find plenty of hidden gems if you aren’t afraid to get stuck in.
If you’re only staying in Barcelona for a weekend or a few days, staying in Gótico is a good idea as it will enable you to do and see more.
Where to Stay in the Gothic Quarter
Best Hostels in the Gothic Quarter
Cheap Budget 1 and 2 Star Hotels in the Gothic Quarter
Mid-range & Family Friendly 3 and 4 Star Hotels in Gotico
Apartment Rentals in the Gothic Quarter
5 Star Luxury Hotels in the Gothic Quarter
Essential streets to explore in the Gothic Quarter: Avinguda del Portal de l’Àngel and Las Ramblas are obvious choices for high-street fashion shopping, whilst you’ll find smaller boutiques on and around the narrower streets like Carrer de la Portaferrissa, Carrer dels Banys Nous and Carrer de la Canuda.
Don’t miss Carrer Bisbe, where you’ll find the famous Pont Gòtic, as well as the stunning Placa Reial and magical Plaça de Sant Felip Neri. Gótico is a barrio that rewards wanderers!
Why stay in the Gothic Quarter: It’s as central as you can possibly be and within walking distance of Barcelona’s best shops, restaurants and cultural sites. There’s also an excellent choice of accommodation, with everything from luxury 5-star hotels housed in old palaces to apartments and budget-friendly hostels – just click the links above to see my recommendations.
Why not to stay in Gothic Quarter: It’s very busy and has a higher concentration of touristy places, though you can normally escape it all by darting off down one of the side streets.
El Born ~ Boutique Shopping and Gourmet Dining in the City Centre
Boutique Shopping / Chic and Traditional Old City Vibes / Romantic/ Artsy / Near the Beach / Central and Convenient Location / Family Friendly / Excellent Dining Options / Architecture / Romantic / Lively / Boutique Hotels / Stylish Apartments
Perfect for: Couples looking for romance, culture and excellent dining options. Foodies, fashionistas and shopaholics will also be dazzled at every turn. It’s also a bit quieter than the Gothic Quarter but still in an extremely central location, which I think makes it an ideal choice for families and anyone who wants to enjoy both the beach and the city.
About El Born Barrio: Dating back to the 1200s, the Born barrio is part of the Ciutat Vella (old city) and is a rabbit warren of trendy tapas bars, restaurants and coffee shops. Though chic and traditional, there’s a distinct streak of bohemian irreverence pulsating through the ancient streets, where you’ll find many of the city’s most revered vintage fashion boutiques and ateliers stocking everything from handcrafted jewellery to high-end prêt-à-porter pieces.
Born is also home to the awe-inspiring Santa Maria del Mar church and a number of important museums (including the Museu Picasso), as well as the 70-acre green lung of Parc Ciutadella.
Where to Stay in El Born
Best Hostels in the El Born
Cheap Budget 1 and 2 Star Hotels in El Born
Mid-range & Family Friendly 3 and 4 Star Hotels in El Born
Apartment Rentals in Born
Essential streets to explore in El Born: Carrer del Comerç and Carrer del Rec for vintage fashion boutiques. Passeig del Born, Plaça de Santa Maria and Carrer de Montcada for traditional Spanish restaurants and tapas bars, as well as Plaça Comercial and the surrounding streets for more contemporary dining options.
Why stay in Born: It’s the complete package: plenty of cultural attractions, an endless supply of great places to eat and drink and sensational shopping opportunities. It’s also within working distance of the beach and the rest of the city centre. This would probably my personal pick if I were coming to Barcelona for a holiday.
Why not to stay in Born: Its prime location and debonaire demeanour mean prices are not always suited to the budget-conscious traveller, though I wouldn’t go so far as saying that it’s an expensive area.
Raval ~ Bohemian Arts & Culture District
Ethnically Diverse / Edgy / Bohemian / Artistic / Foodie Heaven / Dynamic / Budget-Friendly / Independent Shopping / Alternative / Budget-Hostels and Hotels / Michelin-Starred Dining / Boutique Sleeps / Old City Vibes / Art Galleries and Musuems
Perfect for: Bohemian types, creative thinkers, art lovers, indie shoppers, skateboarders, culture vultures and foodies. Raval is also home to some of the best vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Barcelona.
About Raval: A little rough around the edges, this cosmopolitan barrio is a melting pot of different ethnicities and the heart of Barcelona’s counter cultures. The council have invested a lot in their effort to rebrand it as the city’s arts and culture district, successfully shaking it from the shackles of its notorious past – think drugs, petty crime and prostitution. It’s now home to Barcelona’s most important cultural institutions, including the MACBA contemporary art museum and CCCB cultural centre.
Cheap rents have attracted creative entrepreneurs traders and it’s here that you will find the best vintage fashion emporiums, record stores, arts and crafts shops and quirky bazaars. Raval has also become a foodie hotspot, with authentic cuisine from all four corners of the world and plenty on offer for vegans and vegetarians. Soak up the culture, eat well and shop for something special. Raval is one of a kind.
Where to Stay in Raval
Best Hostels in Raval
Cheap Budget 1 and 2 Star Hotels in Raval
Mid-range & Family Friendly 3 and 4 Star Hotels in Raval
Gaudi Hotel / Arc La Rambla / Chic & Basic Ramblas / Andante Hotel / Hotel Serhs del Port / Hotel España Ramblas / Royal Ramblas / Catalonia Ramblas Sup / Barceló Raval / Casa Camper / Hotel 1898 / Universal
Apartment Rentals in Raval
5 Star Luxury Hotels in Raval
Essential streets in Raval: Check out Carrer de la Riera Baixa and Carrer Tallers for vintage fashion boutiques and quirky shops, or seek out global gastronomy, trendy bars and foodie spots on and around Carrer Joaquin Costa, Carrer Pintor Fortuny and Carrer del Dr. Dou.
Why stay in Raval: It’s young, trendy and packed with Barcelona’s best museums, restaurants, bars and alternative shops. It’s also very central and probably the cheapest neighbourhood to stay in in the centre of Barcelona, so it’s a great place to stay if you’re on a budget.
Why not to stay in Raval: It can get a bit rowdy at night and it still feels a bit rough and ready. Though there are some excellent hotels, if you’re looking for fashion-forward boutiques, “classic style” and elegance, Raval is not your best bet.
Eixample ~ Style & Glamour in the Opulent “Golden Square”
Chic and Exclusive / Boutique Shopping / Gaudi Masterpieces / Modernist Architecture / Fine Dining / Luxury Rooftop Bars & Pools / Romanctic / Family Friendly / Museums & Galleries / Double-Deluxe Hotels / High-end Apartments / Lots of Hostels / Craft Beer Utopia (Beerxample) / Central Location
Perfect for: Those with a taste for the finer things in life, from luxury hotels to fine dining and exclusive shopping. Craft beer lovers will also be blown away by the abundance of brewpubs and specialist bars – it didn’t earn its other nickname of “Beerxample” for nothing!
About Eixample: Elegant, exclusive and refined, Eixample, or “the extension”, is a triumph of urban planning. Everything about the bright and airy boulevards looks and feels different to the dark labyrinthine streets of the old town.
It instantly attracted the city’s rich and famous, many of whom hired architects such as Antoni Gaudi and Lluís Domènech i Montaner to build them ostentatious trophy homes and it was here that the Modernist architecture movement really found its feet.
This concentration of wealth also led to the neighbourhood’s nickname, the ”Quadrat d’Or” (Golden Square) and saw high-end retailers move in to keep the locals well-heeled. Today it’s as glamorous as ever, home to flagship stores for the world’s leading fashion brands, with plenty of high-end dining options to match.
Gaudi’s masterpieces – think La Padrera and Casa Batlló – are open to the public, and many of the wealthy family residents have been converted into luxury boutique hotels, making it the perfect place for a fix of decadence and self indulgence.
Where to Stay in Eixample
Best Hostels in Eixample
Yeah Barcelona Hostel / Barcelona and Your Boutique Hostel / Primavera Hostel / St. Christopher’s Inn / Rodamón Barcelona Centre / Alternative Creative Youth Hostel / Casa Kessler / Free Hostels / Black Swan / 360 Arts & Culture / Sant Jordi Alberg / Fabrizzio’s Petit
Cheap Budget 1 and 2 Star Hotels in Eixample
Mid-range & Family Friendly 3 and 4 Star Hotels in Eixample
Boutique Hotel H10 Catalunya Plaza / Granvia / Room Mate Emma / Room Mate Pau / Hotel Soho / B Hotel / Hotel Actual / Praktik Bakery / H10 Urquinaona Plaza / Ayre Hotel Rosellón / Hotel Pulitzer / Olivia Balmes / Casa Bonay / Margot House / Hotel Well and Come / Catalonia Passeig de Gràcia Sup / H10 Metropolitan
Apartment Rentals in Eixample
Aparthotel Atenea Calabria / Splendom Suites Pau Claris / DestinationBCN Apartment Suites / Vale Apartments by Aspasios / Paseo de Gracia Bas Apartments / Casa Valeta / Eric Vökel Boutique Apartments / Barcelona Apartment Viladomat / APBCN Eixample Fira (Perfect for Families)
5 Star Luxury Hotels in Eixample
Essential streets: Passeig de Gracia and Rambla Catalunya are the main boulevards, home to high-end fashion boutiques and hotels. Don’t miss my favourite streets of Carrer del Consell de Cent, Carrer d’Enric Granados and Carrer de Muntaner, where you’ll find an abundance of restaurants, cafes and, most importantly, Barcelona’s best craft beer bars!
Why stay in Eixample: It’s home to many of Barcelona’s most iconic Modernist masterpieces, as well as world-class shopping and dining opportunities. The hotels, hostels and apartments are among the best in the city and you can access the other barrios on foot due to its prime central location.
Why not to stay in Eixample: I can’t honestly think of a single reason why you wouldn’t want to stay in Eixample. It’s perfect.
Sant Antoni and Poblesec ~ Barcelona’s Foodie Utopia
Foodie Heaven / Theatres and Nightlife / Hip and Trendy / Excellent Tapas Bars / Pinchos / Bodegas ~ Wine and Vermouth / Brunch / Fine Dining / Chic and Affordable Apartments / Romantic
Perfect for: Foodie couples, theatre-goers and groups of friends/families looking for a little taste of what it would be like to actually live in Barcelona. It’s also within walking distance of the city centre.
About Sant Antoni and Poblesec: The handsome streets of Sant Antoni and Poblesec – two of Barcelona’s most exciting barrios – have united to become a mecca for food-focussed travellers. Young and trendy, life here revolves almost entirely around eating and drinking in the leafy streets, from boozy brunches to late night revelry.
It’s my personal favourite spot to take part in the city’s vermouth aperitivo ritual, and with everything from wallet-friendly pincho and tapas bars on Carrer Blai to Michelin-starred restaurants owned by the likes of Ferran Adrià, there’s literally no better place to eat. Poblesec is also is packed with theatres and live music venues, making it a very compact place to enjoy the local nightlife.
Where to Stay in Sant Antoni & Poblesec
Best Hostels in Sant Antoni and Poblesec
Cheap Budget 1 and 2 Star Hotels in Sant Antoni and Poblesec
Mid-range & Family Friendly 3 and 4 Star Hotels in Sant Antoni and Poblesec
Hotel Brummell / Hotel Serhs del Port / Hotel Azul / Crowne Plaza Barcelona – Fira Center / Catalonia Barcelona Plaza / Expo Hotel / Gran Hotel Torre Catalunya / Tryp Barcelona Apolo Hotel / Silken Concordia
Apartment Rentals in Sant Antoni and Poblesec
5 Star Luxury Hotels in Sant Antoni and Poblesec
Hotel Miramar (Probably my favourite hotel in Barcelona)
Essential streets to explore in Sant Antoni and Poblesec: Carrer del Parlament in Sant Antoni is Barcelona’s most famous foodie street and is perfect for everything from traditional tapas to hipster brunches. Carrer Blai in Poblesec is another great place to “tapeo” – hop from tapas bar to tapas bar (it’s just €2 for a small beer/wine and a pincho!).
And Avenida del Paral-lel is home to Albert and Ferran Adrià’s Michelin-starred “Tickets” restaurant, as well many of their other famous restaurants. You’ll also find theatres, such as El Molino and Apollo, nightclubs and late night bars here.
Why stay in Poblesec or Sant Antoni: Trendy and overflowing with amazing restaurants, cafes, bakeries and bars perfecting everything from Australian brunch to traditional tapas and macrobiotic vegan dinner, these neighbouring barrios are heaven for gourmets and food freaks.
It’s also walkable to the beach and city centre. Poblesec is also part of the great area of Sants-Montjuic, which makes it perfect for business trips as you will be close to the Fira Exhibition conference centres.
Why not to stay in Poblesec or Sant Antoni: If you dream of Medieval stone walls and ancient labyrinthine streets, you won’t find them here. It’s not exactly “modern”, but this area doesn’t have the historic majesty of the old city.
Barceloneta (the Beach) ~ The Old Fisherman’s Quarter
Beach Life / Tapas Bars and Seafood Restaurants / Family Holiday Heaven / Vermouth / Chiringuito Beach Bars / Volleyball / Bike, Skate, SUP and Surf Hire / Running / Nightlife / Billionaire Boats / Lively / Fun / Wild / Dynamic / Affordable Apartments / Luxury Hotels
Perfect for: Couples, families and groups looking for sun, sea and seduction as well as the cultural delights of the city. It’s walkable from the city centre too, so you can have your cake and eat it when you stay in Barceloneta!
About Barceloneta: Traditional but progressive, exotic yet down-to-earth, Barceloneta perfectly encapsulates the city’s contrast between new and old. As the old fishermen’s quarter, it has struggled (but succeeded) to retain its working-class seaside village vibes, whilst simultaneously becoming a hedonistic utopia of revelry and indulgence.
The salty backstreets are alive with charming market squares, bakeries, bodegas and the city’s best seafood restaurants and tapas bars, but if you explore the port and the bustling Passeig de Joan de Borbó, you’ll find billionaire mega yachts, five-star hotels and ritzy beachfront nightclubs that throng with the local glitterati.
Where to Stay in Barceloneta
Best Hostels in or near Barceloneta
Cheap Budget 1 and 2 Star Hotels in or near Barceloneta
Mid-range & Family Friendly 3 and 4 Star Hotels in/near Barceloneta
Apartment Rentals in and near Barceloneta
5 Star Luxury Hotels in Barceloneta
Essential streets to explore in Barceloneta: Roam Carrer de Ginebra and the other little streets that splinter off it for traditional tapas bars and seafood restaurants, as well as Plaça del Poeta Boscà for bars, restaurants and the local market. Passeig de Joan de Borbó is the main boulevard, packed with over-priced tourist shops, bars and restaurants, though you will find beach toys and essentials and fast food, which is great if you’ve got kids. Passeig Marítim is the beach boardwalk where you’ll find everything from seafood restaurants (Can Majó is your best bet for paella and seafood on the seafront), as well as bike/skate/surf hire.
~ Check out my guide to the “Best Tapas Bars and Seafood Restaurants in Barceloneta“
Why stay in Barceloneta: It’s close to Barcelona’s liveliest beaches and marinas and is walkable from the city centre. There are tons of traditional seafood restaurants and tapas bars to choose from, as well as plenty to keep kids (and adults) entertained.
Why not to stay in Barceloneta: It does get a bit hectic during the peak season and there aren’t a huge amount of hotels in the area, which means it can be tricky finding availability.
Poblenou ~ Barcelona’s “Barrio of the Future”
Urban Chic / Hip & Trendy / Foodie Hotpots / Not Touristy / Family Friendly / Modern Architecture / Mar Bella (Nudist) Beach and Bogatell ‘Sporty’ Beach / Tapas Bars / Palo Alto Foodie Market / Night Clubs and Concert Venues / Hostels / Budget Hotels / Luxury Beachfront Hotels
Perfect for: Sun-seeking couples, hipsters, families, architecture lovers and business travellers who want to stay by the beach but don’t necessarily want the hustle and bustle of Barceloneta.
About Poblenou “The New Town”: The old industrial district of Barcelona, Poblenou’s derelict apartment blocks and abandoned warehouses have been transformed into spectacular avant-garde office buildings and living spaces, as well as industrial-scale nightclubs.
Hip and forward thinking, this regeneration has seen it become a hub of technology, design and media, attracting creative types and the start-up generation. As well as the traditional restaurants, cafes, bakeries and shops that have lined these stoic streets for centuries, there are now countless hipster haunts, from “third wave” coffee shops to vegan restaurants and trendy cocktail bars.
It’s also bordered by many of the city’s best beaches (cleanest and least tourist), which are home to an impressive selection of high-design beachfront hotels.
Where to Stay in Poblenou
Best Hostels in or near Poblenou
Cheap Budget 1 and 2 Star Hotels in or near Poblenou
Mid-range & Family Friendly 3 and 4 Star Hotels in/near Poblenou
Novotel Barcelona City / Leonardo Boutique Hotel Sagrada Familia / Catalonia Albeniz / Four Points by Sheraton Barcelona Diagonal / Sallés Hotel Pere IV / Ilunion Barcelona / H10 Marina Barcelona / Catalonia Atenas / Vincci Maritimo / AC Hotel Barcelona Forum, A Marriott Luxury & Lifestyle Hotel / Silken Diagonal
Apartment Rentals in and near Poblenou
Lugaris Beach (perfect family choice) / Sealona Beach Lofts Apartments / BWH Poble Nou – Playa / Feelathome Poblenou Beach Apartments / Beach Apartment Barcelona / Poble Nou Design Apartment / Durlet Rambla Mar Apartments / Durlet Beach Apartments
5 Star Luxury Hotels in Poblenou
Essential streets: Rambla del Poblenou is a leafy, pedestrianised boulevard with lots of old-school eateries and shops, and the streets jutting off it, like Carrer de Pujades, are where you’ll find the hipster spots. Carrer dels Almogàvers and the surrounding streets are home to more trendy bars and nightclubs.
Why stay in Poblenou: It offers a lot of bang for your buck, with modern architecture, urban splendour and a ton of trendy dining options. It’s also home to some of Barcelona’s biggest nightclubs and live music venues – Razzmatazz is probably the most famous – as well as excellent beaches that most tourists never set foot on.
Why not to stay in Poblenou: Though the leafy Rambla del Poblenou has an old-world charm about it, most of the barrio could be described as edgy, urban or up-and-coming, so don’t stay here if you’re interested in a more traditional taste of Barcelona. You also need to use public transport to get into the city centre.
Gràcia ~ Barcelona’s Secret Inner-City Village
Bohemian and Alternative Vibes / Romantic / Old School Tapas Bars and Bodegas / Ethnic Cuisine / Leafy Squares with Sunny Cafe Terraces / Independent Fashion Stores / Hip and Trendy Foodie Spots / Not Touristy / August Street Festival / LOADS of Budget-Friendly Hotels and Hostels / Cosy Apartment Rentals
Perfect for: Hippies, couples and groups of friends interested in exploring Barcelona’s more bohemian charms. For some reason there is a high concentration of excellent hostels in Gracia, which makes it great for budget and solo travellers.
The month-long August Gràcia festival, which sees the barrio spring to life with street decorations, live music and all night revelry, is a real treat for everybody and anybody.
About Gràcia: Once upon a time, Gràcia was physically and culturally separate from the city. But even though it’s been grafted on to the city for decades now, this bohemian and proudly independent barrio still feels separate like an independent village, a world away from the rest of the city.
The colourful streets are lined with indie fashion stores and curious gift shops, and lead to leafy squares with cafe terraces, bars and ethnic restaurants serving authentic cuisine from around the world.
Where to Stay in Gràcia
Best Hostels in Gràcia
Cheap Budget 1 and 2 Star Hotels in Gràcia
Mid-range & Family Friendly 3 and 4 Star Hotels in Gràcia
Apartment Rentals in Gràcia
Smart Flats Passeig de Gracia / The Boutique Apartments / Sensation Authentic Gràcia / Urban Apartments / Gracia Bas Apartments / Feelathome Mozart Apartments / Espais Blaus Apartments / Gracia Terrace Design / Gracia Terrace Barcelona Views
5 Star Luxury Hotels in Gràcia
Essential streets and squares to explore in Gràcia: Carrer de Asturies was the first street I ever fell in love with in Barcelona and it’s now home to all sorts of indie stores, bars and restaurants. Streets that lead off it include the essential and burgeoningly trendy Carrer del Torrent de l’Olla and Carrer Verdi, where you’ll find all sorts of nice little bodegas and restaurants. Carrer de Bonavista has also become one of the hottest fashion shopping spots in BCN. But most importantly, don’t miss the “placas” (squares)! Plaça de la Virreina is my favourite, with its ancient imposing church and laid back cafe terraces, but Plaça del Sol and Plaça de la Revolució are normally good places to find la fiesta!
Why stay in Gràcia: It has something no other Barcelona barrio has, that warm and cosy village vibe. If you’re looking to rent an apartment for your family, group of friends or as a couple, there are some seriously excellent choices in Gràcia (follow links above), and there are excellent hostels too.
There’s tons to see in terms of culture and architecture – Gaudi’s famous Park Guell is located just north of Gràcia and his first commissioned house design, Casa Vicens, is here too – and the squares are perfect for sitting out in the sun with some tapas and a glass of wine, just watching the world go by.
Why not to stay in Gràcia: It can be a little bit sleepy at times and night owls will be tempted to head “into the centre” for more revelry, but it’s only a 10 minute metro ride away.
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