Barcelona, Spain’s second-largest city, offers world class culture at an affordable price. The great climate keeps life comfortable, and city amenities and infrastructure make living here easy. If you are in the old city center, you can walk to most anything you need.
As you walk the streets, amazing architecture pops out everywhere. Gaudí’s influence is surreal, and the atmospheric Gothic Quarter will take you back to medieval times. If you get tired of the art, culture and music, there is always the beach where you can soak up some Mediterranean sunshine.
Best Neighborhood to stay in Barcelona
The best place to stay in Barcelona is hard to say, but we’ll try and tell you a little bit about our favorites. Plaza Catalunya (Plaça de Catalunya) is the most central area and well connected to everything by public transportation. It’s located at the top of Las Ramblas which is a tree-lined pedestrian street popular with tourists and locals alike. It stretches for 1.2 kilometers connecting Plaça de Catalunya in the centre with the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell. It runs through the middle of Ciutat Vella (Old City) with the bohemian and hip El Raval area on one side and the trendy and atmospheric Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter) on the other side. Just above the city center and Plaça Catalunya is the Eixample area with it’s high-end shopping and restaurants. Ciutat Vella and Eixample areas have most of the top sight-seeing destinations.
The city’s tourism centers around Plaça de Catalunya, which separates old Barcelona from the grid of streets that make up the late 19th century Eixample neighborhood. Barcelona's 10 city districts are safe as well as the city’s metro system. Violent crime is rare but Barcelona does have a problem with pickpockets, especially on Las Ramblas Street as well as the other popular tourist areas.
Best Area for a Short Stay
The Eixample district is famous for being home to most of Barcelona's best art nouveau (modernist) architecture such as Gaudí's Casa Batlló, Casa Mila and Sagrada Familia. In Eixample, you’ll find some of the best, and most expensive, restaurants in town. Most of Barcelona's international designer shops are here as well. For European design stop by Chanel,Santa Eulalia, Boo and Zara. If you are visiting Barcelona for a short time, staying near the Plaça de Catalunya will allow you easy access to public transportation that can get you around fast as well as the hop-on-hop-off tour busses.
Staying in Ciutat Vella
Ciutat Vella means Old City and is home of one of the largest medieval city areas in Europe. The streets in the Cuitat Vella are atmospheric, crooked and narrow. Barri Gòtic and El Born/La Ribera are the most popular area to stay in while El Raval is hip, seedy and street chic. The Cuitat Vella area is full of boutiques, cafes, restaurants, museums, markets and several gothic churches.
The Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic) is trendy and atmospheric. As you walk down the ancient narrow cobblestoned streets, it’s easy to spot an ancient building right next to a modern one. The restaurants are good and the night-life is lively. A maze like labyrinth of narrow streets will take you through many peaceful squares. The Plaça del Rei is one of the most beautiful squares; and at the highest point in the Gothic Quarter near the Picasso Museum, you’ll find the Catedral de Santa Eulalia.
El Born/La Ribera Posh and trendy, El Born has developed into a fashionable place. Calle Montcada was a medieval street, which is now home to the Picasso museum and the Textile Museum. Las Ramblas is just a 10 minute walk away and the city centre is just 15 minutes away. You can also walk to the beach in about 15 minutes. The Parc de la Ciutadella is a green oasis full of colorful people practicing circus arts and AcroYoga. The park is home to the zoo and the Museum of Nature and Science. You will also find bubble makers, African drummers and Spanish guitarist making it a great place for a picnic and people watching. Many artists have studios in La Ribera neighborhood, where Barcelona's artisans used to live. You’ll find streets named after the ancient trades like: Mirallers (mirror makers), dels Mirallers (glass workers), Sombrerers (hatters) and Argenters (silversmiths). It’s also home of the Basílica de Santa Maria del Mar, which is a Catalan gothic architecture masterpiece.
El Raval area is probably more suitable for seasoned travelers and bohemian hipsters. This area has a seedy side and may not be as safe after 1am, particularly in the area near the harbor. That being said, it’s a lively up-and-coming area with cheap eats, ethnic restaurants and eclectic shopping. El Raval has become fashionable for the creative crowd, being host to a wide variety of art studios, galleries, music stores and trendy bookshops, as well as the MACBA (museum of modern art). Unlike the major designer shopping of Eixample, street chic, one-off boutiques are scattered through the area selling clothes you can't find anywhere else.
Staying near the beach in Barcelona
Barceloneta Barrio is tourist-driven and packed all summer. This area is home to Barcelona's closest beach to the city centre and the beach is the main attraction. Restaurants and nightclubs line the boardwalk booming out music day and night. The real charm of Barceloneta is getting lost in the side streets and alleyways where you’ll find an old-village feel to the place. Things calm down after the summer, but it still offers a varied night-life and some of the best seafood and paella in Barcelona. Popular with families is the aquarium, said to be the biggest in Europe. It has a transparent tunnel by which one can pass through sharks. Barceloneta is good for people looking for a beach holiday, without being too far from the city. It’s only a 15 minute walk to Las Ramblas.
Most first time visitors and tourists choose to stay in one of the following areas:
1) The City center near the central square Plaça de Catalunya with easy access to public transportation
2) The 19th century modernist area called Eixample district, well situated for sightseeing, shopping and transport.
3) The medieval historic area called Ciutat Vella district, in Barri Gotic
4) The lively, edgy Raval
5) El Born/La Ribera, convenient for both the beach and city and close to Parc de la Ciutadella.
6) Barceloneta, good for people looking for a beach holiday, without being too far from the city.