One of Barcelona’s biggest assets is its variety. It seems like several cities in one. Additionally, the city has top notch infrastructure, thus everything is easily accessible. The metro is impressive, reaching almost every single neighborhood. However, the city is ideal for walking and biking. Local people are very polite, there are miles of bike lanes everywhere and if you get lost someone will always be more than happy to help you.
Tolerance is another huge thing in Barcelona. Maybe my American friends will understand. Unlike in the US where each community has its own neighborhood, in Barcelona we all mix! For instance, L’Eixample may be the gay quarters but we LGBT+ can be seen everywhere and there is not a single bar in the city where we can’t have fun together with everyone. The same thing applies to looks and origins. Again, the Old Town most likely has the biggest percentage of foreigners but we migrants live all over the city and we move around without a single glitch. No segregation here!
Finally, and allow me to boost about my city, the offer of restaurants, bars, bookstores, coffee houses and shops is simply astonishing. I can assure you that here you will find whatever kicks yours fancy. Even more, you will for sure find someone to share your interests with.
The following are Barcelona neighborhoods we like the most. All of them are in the centre, easily accessible by metro or bike, offer fantastic architecture and loads of things to do. This post will also help you find the best place to stay during your visit to Barcelona.
Perhaps Poble Sec represents Barcelona the most. All different kinds of Barcelonans live here: Spanish, Catalan, Pakistani, Filipino, Dominican, Serbian, Argentinean, Italian and a very long etc. The neighborhood has an astonishing number of bars, restaurants and places to be discovered. The pedestrian Blai Street is at the centre of all the action, lined with tapas bars. Poble Sec is where most theatres, clubs and concert venues are. And the best is yet to come: Montjuic Hill and the port!
Montjuic Hill is Eitan’s favorite place in the city. It’s huge, with iconic buildings such as the Miró Museum and the National Stadium, a Botanical Garden, a very old cemetery and of top of it all, a Castle. This oasis can be visited at any time since it’s very safe. You can move around the hill by bus, cable car, biking or walking. The views to the entire city, the port, and the sea are stunning.
During the day El Raval never stops. Several communities have been working and living here for ages in perfect harmony. It is such a pleasure to walk about its narrow streets and hear so many different languages. Additionally, here you will find the Barcelona Contemporary Museum MACBA and its Cultural Centre CCCB, both with a world class cultural agenda.
I believe the best place to party at night is El Raval. There are hundreds of bars, all very different and fun. The idea here is to hop from bar to bar, meeting people. I suggest beginning in the pedestrian Street Joaquin Costa and to continue walking all the way to the Rambla del Raval, where Botero’s famous cat is. My favorite bars are Madame Jasmine and El Cangrejo.
World famous Rambla divide El Raval from Gótic, the epicenter of tourism. The neighborhood is home to a plethora of shops, bars and restaurants. Additionally, this small place has an impressive number of architectural masterpieces, including the Gothic Cathedral, the Plaça Reial and the Plaça San Jaume, where the city’s municipality and Catalan government are.
Barri Gòtic is ideal for shopping. Its streets are lined with shops. The Portal del Àngel begins in Plaça Catalunya and is for sure a shopper’s paradise. The Portal is a wide pedestrian street full of palaces converted into stores. Therefore, you shop while enjoying great architecture.
Gòtic and Born are divided by Vía Laietana, a wide avenue with tall buildings. Amongst Born’s treasures, the Santa María del Mar Church, the Picasso Museum and the old market turned into the Born Cultural Centre stand out. Of course there are all sorts of shops and restaurants. The neighborhood is perfect to get lost amongst its streets, since like in El Raval and Gòtic, most streets are pedestrian.
The neighborhood ends at the Ciutadella Park, the only big green area downtown. Other than loads of trees and plants, the park is home to a lagoon, a museum, and the majestic Monumental Fountain. The only thing we do not like about the park is the zoo. Caging animals for our entertainment isn’t fun!
Barceloneta is across the Passeig Marítim, where França Train Station is. Barcelona’s most famous beach is here. It used to be a fisherman borough so streets are narrow; it has a pretty market and a couple of interesting squares. Surprisingly enough and spite of the invasion of tourists the neighborhood still maintains its local atmosphere.
Indeed, Barceloneta is overcrowded during summer. Who wouldn’t want to visit this beautiful fun beach, located downtown? Actually, the neighborhood has two beaches. The closest to the old neighborhood is Barceloneta proper and the one closest to the W Hotel is Sant Sebastià.
In the 19th Century, the old city walls were demolished to make room for the extension (Eixample) of the city. Therefore, L’Eixample is where Catalan Modernism reached its peak. The list of architectural jewls is endless. The most famous buildings are La Pedrera, Casa Batlló, and obviously La Sagrada Família, Gaudi’s surreal dream.
The centre of the neighborhood is Passeig de Gràcia, the city’s most sophisticated street. Pretty wide and dotted with glamorous shops and hotels the street begins in Plaça Catalunya. The Gayxample is to the east of Passeig the Gràcia. The city’s best restaurants, bars, and art galleries are around Enric Granados Street. The whole area is full of sidewalk terraces, perfect to sit down, relax and watch beautiful people walk by.
Even though San Antoni is not officially a neighborhood, this section of L’Eixample has its own character. San Antoni lies within the triangle made by Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, Ronda San Antoni and Paral.lel Avenue. At its centre stands erect the splendid San Antoni Market. Closed for years for a full reconstruction, it opened recently to unanimous acclaim.
Due to the high real estate prices of L’Eixample a lot of young people moved to live and open shops here. Thus the neighborhood has changed notoriously. Parlament Street is full of bars and hipster shops. On the other hand, Avinguda Mistral is a long green avenue that ends at the imposing Plaça Espanya.
The neighborhood was built to host the athletes competing in the 1992 Olympic Games. Unlike other Olympic cities, Barcelona did a great job in converting the latter into apartments for its residents. Additionally, the two tallest buildings in Barcelona are here: Mapfre and Arts Hotel, which includes a casino. In front of the hotel stands the world famous Olympic Fish designed by Frank Gehry and made entirely of iron.
During the day, and especially in summer, Vila Olímpica bustles with beach goers and sports lovers. At night, party people invade the neighborhood to dance the night away in some of Barcelona’s biggest clubs. Thus, if you are into clubs like Pacha and Opium you will end up here. We love to bike around Vila Olímpica. A bike lane beginning in Ciutadella Park, continues around the zoo and ends in Av d’Icària, full of gigantic metal sculptures.
A bit far and yet so close, Poble Nou combines new technology, the old and the beach. It used to be an industrial area. As industries moved out, the neighborhood kind of drifted into neglect. However, it was totally revamped when both technology and design hubs moved in. Consequently, the scene is quite varied.
Several of Barcelona’s most iconic buildings are in Poble Nou, such as the Agbar Tower and the MediaTIC. Nevertheless, the neighborhood is relaxed and not as densely populated as the rest of Barcelona. Since the streets are not overridden by cars, neighbors are able to enjoy some peace. The Rambla de Poble Nou is the main commercial street. Lined with bars and shops it ends at MarBella Beach. This is the beach we go to, far less crowded than Barceloneta.
La Vila de Gràcia was a different town separate from Barcelona up until 1897. Maybe that’s why it is one of most traditional Barcelona neighborhoods. Gràcia houses numerous local cultural and political associations, workshops and all sorts of community groups. Therefore, Gràcia’s yearly local party is arguably the best in town. For two weeks in late August, neighbors artistically decorate their streets. At night everybody dances to live music on the street till pretty late.
Gracia’s most famous landmark is the Guëll Park, one of Gaudi’s peak creations and easily accessible by metro and even mechanic escalators. However, Gràcia’s best is its vibe. Neighbors here are not into crowds and showing off, offering a chance to discover the real Barcelona.
Sants is home to the biggest train station in Cataluña, Sants Estació. Trains to the airport and to the entire country begin and end here. It seems contradictory, but the neighborhood is not overrun by tourists. I reckon that they arrive here but lodge somewhere else. Thus, neighbors know each other and move about at a different rhythm. Streets are narrow and though Sants’ bars may not be that elegant, they are for sure authentic. Creu Coberta, lined with all sorts of shops, is the centre of the neighborhood.
One of our favorite parks in the whole of Barcelona is here: Espanya Industrial. The park is huge, includes a lagoon and several big metal sculptures. Additionally, you can play ping pong and basketball in any of its several courts. A great place to chill and have a beer nearby is Plaça d’Osca.
Camp Nou, FC Barcelona’s football stadium, is here. The place is like a temple for all of those who love football. However, Les Corts has a lot to offer for those of us who couldn’t care less about the team. This Barcelona neighborhood is upper crust, full of parks and far less crowded than the rest of the city.
Av. Diagonal divides the neighborhood. To the south you will find the stadium, the polo courts and our favorite square in the whole of Barcelona: Plaça de la Concòrdia. North of the avenue lies Pedralbes Park, with the Royal Palace at its centre. Further north stands erect the world’s biggest gothic cloister: Pedralbes Monastery, a masterpiece fortunately a bit ignored by the masses of tourists. If you continue to the end of Av. Diagonal, you will reach the Cervantes Gardens, a park full of flowers with pretty cool views to the entire city and the sea.