A brief guide for travellers, both seasoned and inexperienced, on where to stay in Barcelona
For many globetrotters, Barcelona easily makes it into the proverbial bucket list as a must-visit destination. With the sun always seemingly shining on the vibrant Catalonian capital; there’s a never-ending list of things to do; places to visit; and sights to see in this picturesque city. Barcelona consistently ranks as one of the top cities in the world visited by tourists, routinely topping its record of visitors each year. In fact, since 2012 to 2016, it has experienced an increase of over 25 per cent; which represents a swell of 7 million visitors during that time frame.
However, this influx of tourists also brings about certain difficulties. A growing tourism industry also brings about a multitude of choices that can leave travellers with a feeling of uncertainty and indecisiveness on basic options such as where the best place to stay in Barcelona is. Divided into several neighborhoods offering their own distinct charm, there is no simple answer on where the best area to stay in Barcelona could be. Planning the ideal trip depends entirely on personal preferences coupled with a well thought-out itinerary.
For this reason, we have compiled a brief summary of the various Barcelona; what makes it interesting; special sites to look out for, hotels and apartments to stay in, in order to present a basic idea of what to expect from this amazing city.
Before sharing where to stay in Barcelona we want to let you know that you can gain access to a Barcelona interior and graphic designer handpicked list of hidden restaurants, cafés, shops, nightlife, activities, hotels and apartments by downloading our Barcelona App : City Guide & Map from the App Store. Your guide for this trip will be Mery Garriga, who is a local authority on all that is elegant and underground. Let her take you on a personal tour of beautiful design, original concepts, and amazing products.
Somewhere Old, Somewhere New, and Somewhere in Between…
The Gothic Quarter
Barcelona is a medieval city that has grown and expanded outwardly throughout the years. If you’re someone who would like to soak up a city’s rich history, then the Gothic Quarter might be the best area to stay in Barcelona.
Translating into “Barrio Gotico” in Spanish, the distinction of being Barcelona’s oldest neighborhood belongs to the Gothic Quarter. It’s worth noting however, that most of its streets, alleyways, and buildings have benefitted from a large-scale overhaul to restore its old-world charm. Regardless of how you might feel about this play on nostalgia, the end result has undoubtedly succeeded in bringing about a medieval feel combined with the convenience of modern-day amenities.
There is definitely no shortage of places to stay in this neighborhood of Barcelona. For those who don’t mind shelling out money for luxury, you can book a night in the upscale Soho House (a luxurious hotel located in the Plaça del Duc de Medinaceli). Conversely, a group of four or more people on a thrift budget can chip in to rent an entire apartment complex such as Casa Yök ( Carrer de Trafalgar).
Comprised mainly of neo-gothic architectural attractions such as cathedrals, museums, and plazas, a day of sightseeing can be capped off with a visit to the contemporary nightlife hotspot Ocaña; a club that plays live music (located in Plaça Reial) which was recently established in 2012.
Lying in direct contrast to the old-world appeal Gothic Quarter is the seaside neighborhood of Barceloneta. If beaches are your thing and you’re visiting during the summer months, then perhaps this is the best area to stay in Barcelona for you. Once a place meant for fishermen and supplanted residents of the city, La Barceloneta has become a vibrant part of the Barcelona filled with restaurants, bars, clubs, and marketplaces centered around a sunny beach setting.
Aside from its coastal Mediterranean location, one of the main advantages of this Barceloneta is its proximity to other Barcelona neighborhoods. Arguably the area that sees the highest concentration of tourists, be forewarned that this occurrence has also been a main source of friction for locals.
As mentioned, this neighborhood was originally intended to house simple fisherfolk, as evidenced by the “rustic” facade of Barceloneta. Nevertheless, this area boasts the finest seafood in town as well as some of the most spirited nightlife-catering establishments in Barcelona. Should the high-energy atmosphere begin to wear on you, we recommend that you drop by La Roseta, a coffee shop and cafe (located in Carrer de Meer), for a change of pace.
Between the first two Barcelona neighborhoods presented previously: What if you’re torn between staying in a historical neighborhood or a more dynamic location? Great news! A combination of old and new exists; which brings us to the medieval-looking yet present-day spirited neighborhood of El Born. Imbued with the antiquated ambience of the Gothic Quarter, El Born houses most of the city’s up-to-date establishments. If taking a slice of the beaten path is your kind of thing, then this might be where the best place to stay in Barcelona is.
With just a handful of principal tourist attractions (the Picasso Museum, the Mammoth Museum, the Ciutadella Park, the Santa Maria del Mar Church, to name the most prominent) El Born is a natural eddy amidst the torrential influx of visitors. In place of traditional diversions, there a numerous restaurants, bars, and cafes with a selection of in vogue offerings.
A prime example of these avant-garde enterprises, we recommend that you happen by Cocteleria Paradiso. This unassuming nightclubs calling card — its “cool factor”, so to speak — is that it’s a secret location hidden inside another secret location. Sound confusing? It definitely is; and only a visit to this venue will be able to do it justice.
Hipster Havens and Hedonistic Hotspots
Once existing as a simple link to a rapidly growing city, this neighborhood is the best place to stay in Barcelona if you’re in the mood for partaking in a predominantly hipster vibe with an unmistakable mix of a wholly separate culture. Annexed to become a part of Barcelona in 1987, Gràcia is predominantly inhabited by locals who have fully embraced the spirit of change and progress while successfully managing to hold on to the soul of their past heritage. An embodiment of this characteristic is best symbolized by a harmonious coexistence between old-fashioned shops with trend-setting establishments.
There is no shortage of evidence with regards to this neighborhood’s acceptance of past and present. Mediterranean and modern architecture can be found side-by-side; spatterings of street art and graffiti are in almost every corner; and shoppers can choose between world-renowned brands and curiosities produced by independent artists.
A minimal presence of international chains has resulted in the flourishing of the local food scene, with an abundance of cafes and restaurants that serve cuisine ranging from local dishes to international fare. As night descends on Gràcia, the neighborhood buzzes to life thanks to free-flowing alcohol and music provided by countless venues.
While it is almost unavoidable to partake of the late-night carousing, we recommend that you visit Bermont, an unassuming coffee shop Carrer de Bretón de los Herreros. Specializing in artisan craft coffee, Bermont serves high-quality brews that belies its coarse decorations.
The seaside neighborhood of El Poblenou boasts access to some of the best beaches in the city while being in close proximity to the general area of Barcelona. This circumstance generates the convenience of experiencing city life, and at the same time being only a stone’s throw away from enjoying an idyllic day by the beach. If this idea greatly appeals to your sense of relaxation and practicality, then this neighborhood might be the best area to stay in Barcelona.
Finding a place to stay in El Poblenou is relatively easy, considering that this location is filled aplenty with brand new hotels and apartments. There is also a bounty of shops and restaurants to fulfill your most basic and extravagant needs. Much like Gràcia, El Poblenou is replete with diversity; with a visible divergence resulting from a concerted effort to include aged structures towards a path of modernization. As a result many old buildings have been repurposed to serve a different function from its intended design, all the while going hand-in-hand with the same intention as much newer buildings. With all that being said this area is less frequented by tourists; so if you’re one to shy away from fellow travelers, this is definitely where you should stay in Barcelona.
Once an area of atrophy and decay, the impetus for the neighborhood’s revitalization can be attributed to the historic 1982 Barcelona Olympics. With the beach obviously being the center of activity, we can recommend a few areas that feature other activities. For a vibrant hub away from the shore; where you can experience food, art, music, and more; visit Palo Alto Market ( Carrer dels Pellaires). If you’re a fan of the vibe brought about by Palo Market, but would like to experience it on a more toned-down scale, then drop by Espai Joliu ( Carrer de Badajoz); a novelty shop, cafe, art gallery, and more; all rolled into a single homely venue. Finally, there’s Skye Coffee Co. ( Carrer Pamplona), a coffee shop — which is actually food truck — parked inside an industrial space.
Although a majority of Barcelona neighborhoods feature bars, cafes, and restaurants — you name it— offering world-class food; the crown jewel among this treasure trove of the city’s culinary class belongs to the neighborhood of El Poble-Sec. If you’re serious about fulfilling the “foodie” within, then this neighborhood should be at the top of your list on where to stay in Barcelona.
And while it’s all well and good to go on and on about how great the food is, the simple fact that the only way to pass judgment on taste is… well, is to sample it. So without further ado, we’ll just jump right in with our recommendations which establishments to visit. Whether you treat these suggestions as starting points, must-visit places, or highlights of your journey: these culinary marvels make the El Poble-Sec neighborhood a force to be reckoned in the world of gastronomy.
Xemei (located at Paseo de la Exposición) gets its name from the Venetian word for “twin”. Founded by (surprise, surprise) twins Stefano and Max Colombo, their brand of food puts a clear distinction between “Venetian” over the generalization known as “Italian” cuisine. As is the case; they serve food cooked in traditional Venetian fashion which further establishes character, while showing a glimpse of something that has truly survived the test of time.
Lando (located at Passatge de Pere Calders) is a Mediterranean-European fusion restaurant that embodies the hipster spirit of the El Poble-Sec neighborhood. Known for using only the freshest ingredients of the best quality, this restaurant is fittingly cocooned inside an atmosphere that emanates a hip, yet crisply executed, interior. Must-try items on their menu include the “Traditional coca bread with roasted pepper, eggplant, and smoked sardines” as well as the “Iberian pork cheek with potato parmentier, sweet potato chips, and walnut oil”.
Once you finish indulging yourself with the neighborhood’s finest cookery, you can treat your eyes to an ocular feast with a visit to the Pabellon Mies Van der Rohe (located at Av. de Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia). Also known as “The Barcelona Pavilion”, this building was designed by the celebrated German-American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to usher in the premier of the German section of the 1929 International exposition.
Midway through the 19th century, the neighborhood of El Raval became the site for a burgeoning industrial movement. However, this also resulted in a volatile concoction of socio-economic problems brought about by housing a relatively poor working class comprised mostly of immigrants. Consequently, this heterogeneous concoction paved the way for places of vice, lechery, and violence.
Facing this seemingly inescapable past, El Raval continued to be smothered up until the 1990’s. A collaborative movement, spearheaded by the Barcelona City Council, saw new construction to help alleviate the malaise engulfing the neighborhood which was once given the pejorative epithet “Barrio Chino”.
Today, El Raval is one of the best areas to stay in Barcelona. Once a neighborhood emblematic of illicit activities; El Raval has presently been transformed into a venue teeming with art and culture. In place of brothels, cabarets, and seedy bars; there are now museums, art galleries, shops, and hotels. Going full circle, its checkered past has also made it into one of the most open and diverse locales in the Barcelona.
El Raval has thrived on by not letting the past weigh it down. And with this, an imaginative and inventive energy has taken hold of the neighborhood. We recommend that you visit Chök (located at Carrer de Carme), a chocolate shop that’s symbolic of the newfound El Raval spirit.
Our Pick for the Best Place to Stay in Barcelona: Eixample
All in all, the many neighborhoods of within Barcelona have their many merits, flaws and characteristics that make them unique and a special place to visit in their own rite. We would be hard pressed to pick a certain neighborhood over another regarding where to stay in Barcelona. Nonetheless, with all things considered, we have decided to recommend Eixample among the other Barcelona neighborhoods due to its central location as well as its relatively large number of hotspots.
Among its numerous hotels, we greatly advice that you check out Casa Bonay (located at Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes) and Praktik Bakery (located at Carrer de Provença). Casa Bonay also houses Satan’s Coffee Corner, a specialty coffee shop. For an in-depth culinary satisfaction, there’s Artte (located at Carrer de Muntaner); which is one of the most highly-rated restaurants in Barcelona. Finally there’s Wer-Haus, a shop that carries curated brands focusing on “Fashion, Food, and Art”.
Barcelona City Guide & Map
Curated by an interior and graphic designer
Through our award-winning Barcelona City Guide & Map, you gain access to a Barcelona interior and graphic designer hand picked list of hidden restaurants, cafés, shops, nightlife, activities, hotels and apartments. Your guide for this trip will be Mery Garriga, who is a local authority on all that is elegant and underground. Let her take you on a personal tour of beautiful design, original concepts, and amazing products.