Want to visit Barcelona but haven’t got a clue where to stay? Let me tell you about the ins and outs of the most popular areas to stay in the city. I hope this helps when you are choosing accommodation in Barcelona.
Once the fishermen’s area of the city it slowly grew upwards. Narrow streets would make for darker rooms and sound carries so be ready for noisy neighbours. It still retains some of its lively character and it has an abundance of seafood restaurants. Centrally located and with the added bonus of a beach, you can watch some lovely sunsets with a glass of wine in hand.
Cross over Passeig d’Isabel II to the neighbourhood of El Born which has definitely become more gentrified over the years. The 14th century church of Santa Maria del Mar is a good place to start an exploration of the area. Expect to pay tourist prices in the many nice restaurants and designer shops located here. A mix of beautiful winding medieval streets and small bars, noise levels on busier streets can get quite high at weekends.
Via Laietana separates the Gothic Quarter form El Born. The old Cathedral of Barcelona is located here so, of course, close by you would have the important church members houses and royal palaces. This is the area that attracts a lot of visitors and you will get your fill of amazing Gothic architecture. With many tourist bars and restaurants, you will pay more for your drinks and meals in this neighbourhood. There are lots of small streets to explore and plazas to stumble across so the Gothic Quarter is worth the extra cost. Also, this is where the Runner Bean meeting point for the free Barcelona tours is located.
Cross over from La Rambla from the Gothic area to El Raval is like walking into another dimension. This is a more colourful part of town and is definitely the cheaper. A mix of different cultures and characters, El Raval has never really been tamed. There are trendy bars and vintage shops beside cheap Pakistani supermarkets and kebab bars. Prostitution and drug dealing are in plain view on some seedier streets and very small areas require a bit of caution at night (stick to the livelier streets). In saying that, a lot of great bars are located where the younger crowd hang out for a more reasonably priced evening. Hotels and hostels are usually located on safe streets.
In between Montjüic Hill and El Raval, Poble Sec is a great choice for bargain beers and cheap accommodation. It certainly misses the trendy edge and lively atmosphere of El Raval and the beautiful architecture of El Born, but it is a small walk to get to any of these locations.
This area was developed in the 1850s to relive the population pressure of the old town. It was the bourgeois of the city that commissioned breathtaking houses, creating a neighbourhood of over the top urban palaces. Streets are wide and it is impossible to get lost due to its grid shape planning. Apartments were designed to allow in light and rooms were spacious. Full of great restaurants, bars, designer shops… local mingle with tourists here. One draw back could be the level of the noise from the traffic on exterior rooms.
Located at the top of Passeig de Gràcia, this old town is the trendy part of the city. Once its own separate village that was enveloped into Barcelona’s growing landscape, Gràcia still retains a character of a town within a city. Trendy shops, delis, bars, restaurants, galleries, Art studios and original version cinemas, this neighbourhood is a very desirable place to live for the young professionals. Prices are middle of the road and businesses don’t rely on tourism. You pay a higher price because it is cool. It can get pretty noisy on Friday and Saturday night so choose accommodation on a quiet street.
That’s all from the Runner Bean team. I hope you find the area that suits you and have a great stay here in Barcelona.