The best area to stay in Barcelona
Looking for accommodation in Catalonia for your stay in Barcelona? Here’s a mini-guide to Barcelona’s various districts to help make your holiday one to remember.
At 100 km², Barcelona is similar in size to Paris. The second-largest city in Spain, the Catalan capital benefits from a strategic location and a strong economy, and it is also one of the most-visited tourist cities in Europe: in 2015, 9 million people visited Barcelona.
This is your first trip to Barcelona? Finding a place to stay in Barcelona shouldn’t be too much of a hassle. Hotels, apartments, Airbnb rentals… The city offers a wide array of accommodation, and for good reason: thanks to its Mediterranean climate and rich cultural heritage, Barcelona is one of Europe’s most-visited cities. Whether you decide to stay in the historic centre around Las Ramblas, on the seafront in Barceloneta, in the El Born district known for its tapas bars and trendy hotspots, or in the bohemian, alternative district of Gràcia, a different and enticing atmosphere awaits you every time. What follows is a brief description of the best areas to stay in Barcelona.
Las Ramblas: the Barri Gòtic and El Raval
Photo credit: Flickr – Valerie Hinojosa
This is the city’s historic centre, the oldest part of Barcelona. This is where you will find the Spanish remnants of ancient Rome, including the Temple of Augustus, and the famous medieval Cathedral of Saint Eulalia. With its cobblestone streets and innumerable landmarks, the historic centre offers a unique blend of heritage and modernity for visitors and locals to enjoy as they roam Barcelona’s liveliest streets.
In this district, a stroll along the emblematic La Rambla – a wide pedestrian street 1.2 km long – will take you to the famous Plaça de Catalunya at the old port, boasting an imposing statue of Christopher Columbus. At its western end, the El Raval district is multicultural. Once ill-famed, it is now home to many restaurants, tapas bars, and offers an array of cultural outings, making it an ideal place to stay in Barcelona. The Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art or the Boqueria Market are definitely worth the visit.
Accommodation rates can be high, especially in the summer. If you decide to stay here, expect a noisy atmosphere: overcrowding with tourists, the area is not immune to late-night music, shouting, and various noises. After all, it’s no secret that the Spaniards like to roam the streets until very late at night.
El Born and La Ribera
Photo credit: Flickr – Carlos Lorenzo
Discover El Born, a neighborhood filled with historic pedestrian streets, terraces, tapas bars nestled in small shaded squares, museums (such as the famous Picasso Museum), shops, the Santa Caterina Market, the Santa Maria del Mar church, and more. This district is quite central and is a favorite tourist haunt as it offers something for everyone. In this part of the city, the hotels are rather chic and expensive.
In the heart of the city, enjoy the Barcelona Zoo and the Parc de la Ciutadella, a vast green area spreading across 60 acres within the city centre. This vibrant district boasts sunny terraces, lively narrow streets, trendy bars, and a bustling nightlife. Needless to say, this hive of activity is not a place to find some peace and quiet.
Photo credit: Flickr – Bert Kaufmann
Renowned for being home to the famous Park Güell – built under the auspices of Gaudí – Gràcia is a neighbourhood nestled in the southern part of the city. It feels like a small village within the Catalan megalopolis. Far from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, the district lives at the pace of the locals, and features traditional bars and lovely crafts shops. Many visitors and expats consider Gràcia to be the best area to stay in Barcelona.
A relatively young and dynamic area, Gràcia is home to the city’s bohemian, alternative, even libertarian youth. Boasting an array of tapas bars, the district is known for hosting the Gràcia street festival (Fiesta Major de Gràcia) after the 15th of August, a huge annual party and a local favorite.
Due to its rather remote location, accommodation rates are much lower than in the city centre, and the district is also quite a pleasant place to stay. However, if your main aim is cultural sightseeing, don’t stay more than one night, as the area offers few cultural attractions besides Park Güell.
Photo credit: Flickr – Mireia Saenz de Buruaga
The city’s largest administrative area, Eixample is divided in two by the Passeig de Gràcia, a major avenue. It represents a time when Barcelona had to undergo extensive restructuring, an expansion masterminded by the engineer Cerda, reminiscent of Haussmann’s grand renovation of Paris.
You will find many well-known buildings in this district, including the world-famous Basilica de la Sagrada Família. If you like modernist architecture, Eixample is an excellent place to stay in Barcelona. In addition to the Sagrada Família, the area is home to most of Gaudí’s creations, including the Casa Milà and the Casa Batlló. This part of Barcelona is called the « Illa de la Discòrdia », the Block of Discord, where the city’s modernist architects competing against each other to design for the most extravagant building on the block.
Despite being densely populated, the area does not offer cheap accommodation. If you want to stay in this area of Barcelona, ensure you have a fairly sizeable budget.
Barceloneta and Vila Olímpica del Poblenou
Photo credit: Flickr – Moyan Brenn
This is one of the city’s seafront districts, located south of the Barri Gòtic, Barcelona’s old fishing and sailing quarter. Renowned for its popular festivals, the districts attracts tourists and locals who come and enjoy its Mediterranean atmosphere, and the small tapas bars where you can snack until the small hours. If you’re looking to sit back and relax on a terrace – and feel the warm sand under your feet – while enjoying a nice pint on the seafront, or savour a mouth-watering seafood platter, this is where you should stay in Barcelona.
Situated between Barcelona’s northern maritime harbour and the Olympic Harbour, Barceloneta Beach offers the opportunity to visit the Barcelona Aquarium – the world’s largest aquarium dedicated to the Mediterranean seabed – and the Museum of the History of Catalonia. A little word of warning: this district is next to the city centre, so it is also very busy. The influx of visitors in summer is likely to increase the already-high accommodation prices.
Photo credit: Flickr – Joan
Poblenou is a district located northeast of the city centre, on the seafront. A former working-class district packed with factories, and mostly unattractive for tourists, Poblenou was once Catalonia’s most important industrial area, no less! Renovated since, the district has undeniable charm. There’s a striking contrast between the squares, their narrow streets typical of Spain, and the modern buildings.
Though there are less things for tourists to see compared to the other districts, the area is pleasant nonetheless, especially if you enjoy riding bikes along the waterfront or head to the Diagonal Mar shopping centre to indulge in retail therapy.
A comment ? Write there !
Leave a Reply