Barcelona, the second largest city in Spain, is surprisingly compact and relatively easy to navigate. That’s all due to the neighbourhoods in Barcelona. Streets untangle into connected neighbourhoods, or barrios, all within walking distance of each other. Barcelona has several distinct neighbourhoods to explore. Each one with its own vibe and things to do. Use this guide to the best neighbourhoods in Barcelona to stay in and explore when you visit this amazing city.
Best Neighbourhoods in Barcelona
Here are the 6 best neighbourhoods in the Catalan capital.
Barri Gotic or The Gothic Quarter: the best neighbourhood for history
The historic centre of Barcelona where the city’s oldest buildings can be found in Barri Gotic, or The Gothic Quarter. It’s a wonderful maze of narrow, cobble-stoned streets with buildings with almost all of the buildings being neo-Gothic. For history lovers and first time visitors to Barcelona, this neighbourhood needs to be your first stop. It’s mostly pedestrian and is filled with bars, cafes and restaurants scattered in and around its many squares or Placa. And, it really comes alive at night. Keep that in mind as you look for accommodations.
Top things to do in Barri Gotic:
- wander the labyrinthine lanes and narrow alleyways
- grab a bite to eat in a tapas bar
- visit Barcelona Cathedral
- go to Placa Reial and Placa de Sant Felip Neri, two historic squares
El Born: the best neighbourhood for Barcelona landmarks
One of Barcelona’s trendiest neighbourhoods home to boutique shops and quality restaurants. As one of Barcelona’s oldest neighbourhoods, some top landmarks and century-old shops like Casa Perris can be found here.
Top things to do in El Born:
- visit the 14th century Gothic church, Santa Maria Basilica
- explore the Picasso museum with a guided tour
- admire the Palau de la Musica Catalana, a Modernist architecture music hall
- grab a bite at Mercat Santa Caterina, the second-largest market in Barcelona
- splurge on a fine dining experience at one of Barcelona’s top restaurants
El Raval: the best neighbourhood for activity
El Raval is one of the most vibrant neighbourhoods in Barcelona where there is always something happening. It is also considered the most multicultural neighbourhood and has a definite urban feel than the rest of Barcelona.
Things to d in El Raval:
- walk along Rambla del Raval
- marvel at Park Guell, one of Antoni Gaudi’s most spectacular pieces of architecture, and now a UNESCO World Heritage site
- grab a bite at Mercat de la Boqueria, one of Europe’s oldest, and best markets
- admire some street art
- go for the nightlife through its bars and restaurants
- and you will see that diversity come to life through its bars, restaurants
La Barceloneta: the best neighbourhood for beach lovers
Barceloneta, meaning little Barcelona, is considered one of Europe’s favourite vacation spots due to the beach. There are four beautiful beaches to enjoy Sant Sebastia, Barceloneta, Sant Miquel and Somorrostro. This neighbourhood is overrun with beach shops and amenities for beachgoers including cheaper accommodations, fast food and bars.
Things to do in La Barceloneta:
- visit the beach
- Take the cable car from La Barceloneta to Montjuic where you can take in the panoramic views of the city and water
- explore the old harbour or Port Vell
- visit the family friendly L’Aquàrium
Gracia: the best neighbourhood for trendsetters
Gracia neighbourhood has elegant squares and architecture, and boutique shops line the attractive boulevards. This is the meeting ground for pre-dinner drinks at 7 pm as people gather and then stay for a late-night dinner. Many of the top restaurants, from tapas to Michelin-star restaurants can be found here. This neighbourhood is close enough to the city centre but farther from the hustle and bustle.
Top things to do in Gracia:
- tour Casa Vicens, one of Antoni Gaudi’s architectural gems
- stroll the shopping streets and people watch over drinks
- dine at one of the city’s top restaurants
L’Eixample: the best neighbourhood for Gaudi architecture
Architecture is what brings everyone to this neighbourhood. L’Eixample was built in the 19th to 20th centuries and can be found in a grid pattern. With Passeig de Gracia at its core, this area is divided into a left and right side. With wide avenues, lined with trees and beautiful buildings, this area offers upscale shopping and dining. Placa Catalunya and Diagonal Avenue house the most exclusive shops.
Things to do in L’Eixample:
- tour some of the greatest works by Antoni Gaudi, Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila, La Pedrera and Casa Batllo, Hospital Sant Pau, named a UNESCO World Heritage site
- go shopping in some of the city’s most elegant designer shops
- dine in one of the city’s top restaurants
Where to Stay in Barcelona
With this guide to the neighbourhoods, do you have a favourite? We stayed in the L’Eixample neighbourhood, and our apartment was close to the Gracia neighbourhood. It made dining out the best and spending our neighbourhoods close to home. Here are some recommended apartments for each neighbourhood.
- Cathedral Song – 3-bed, 3 bath in Gothic Quarter
- Symmetry – 1-bed, 1 bath in El Born neighbourhood
- L’Anitguitat – 1-bed, 1 bath in El Raval neighbourhood
- Windclass – 1-bed, 1 bath in L’Barceloneta
- Draped Delight – 2-bed, 2 bath with outdoor space in Gracia
- The Selena – 1-bed, 1 bath in L’Eixample neighbourhood
- OR, choose do your own holiday home search here, or if you prefer a hotel, search here
As a holidaymaker…
After spending a week in Barcelona I felt at home walking from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. Exploring each of the distinct neighbourhoods slowly. Staying in the L’eixample was the best choice for us. It was close to the best architecture, restaurants and elegant shops. Exactly how I like to holiday. Which neighbourhood would be your favourite?