Ash
Written by Ash

Find The Best Area to Stay in Barcelona (+ Star Guide)

| 288 comments

If you don’t know the best area to stay in Barcelona you’re not alone.

When I came to this city I had to live in about 5 or 6 of them before I even got my bearings.

All these years later and I’m still not sure myself.

Don’t worry though. From drink districts to peaceful precincts and everything in between you’ll find them on my list – so let’s take a quick tour around the city.

Where Should I Stay in Barcelona?

Whether you’re a first-timer or seasoned veteran this is always a great question.

Tourists usually only stick to about nine or ten neighbourhoods (barrios) due to an area’s:

I’ll be breaking down the areas to stay using this criteria.

Keep in mind there are no rankings here. This is simply a review of the areas based on my long experience of living in the city and talking with tons of tourists on the blog.

If after reading you’re looking for any combination of the above and still aren’t sure then write me in the comments below or check my accommodation finder for some custom advice.

Once you’ve found the best area you can also check my Airbnb discount homestay, hostel and holiday apartments pages.

Make sure you click the blue buttons to find the best deals on accommodation in each area.

The Best Area to Stay in Barcelona

Las Ramblas

Attractions: ★★☆☆  Central: ★★★★  Nightlife: ★★★★  Relax: ☆☆☆☆

It’s not a neighbourhood but Barcelona’s most famous street is tourist central.

Pros

Nearly every form of airport transport gets you here in a hurry. There are three metro stops along the street including Liceu and Drassanes plus the legendary Plaça Catalunya.

If there’s any street that doesn’t sleep in Barcelona then this one is it.

The Boqueria Market is one of the best markets in the city.

Cons

A ton of hotels line the street made up of tourist traps of any kind from tapas bars to clubs to souvenirs. If you’ve got a room facing the street expect a ton of noise until early hours.

Nights bring pickpockets and pesky drug dealers and prostitutes.

Stay here only if you want a short walk home from partying or have found a great deal.

LAS RAMBLAS
Book the top hotels now!

El Born/La Ribera

Attractions: ★★☆☆  Central: ★★★☆  Nightlife: ★★☆☆  Relax: ★★★☆

If you like boutique shopping and cool bars then book a hotel in El Born.

Pros

The charm of this safe and central neighbourhood comes from its pedestrian only streets and tasteful street art which creates arguably the prettiest barrio in the city.

It’s in this neighbourhood that you’ll find the Picasso Museum as well as the Santa Maria del Mar Cathedral. You’ll also be just minutes away from a great picnic spot at Ciutadella Park.

From here you’re also just a 20 minute walk to the beach. If you’re travelling with energetic kids this is in my opinion the best area to stay in Barcelona with family.

Also, if you’re looking for a party the nightlife isn’t far away if you need it.

Cons

If there are any downsides it would be that bars and restaurants tend to be pricey – but keep in mind this means quality too.

EL BORN
Book the top hotels now!

Gracia

Attractions: ★★☆☆  Central: ★★★☆  Nightlife: ★☆☆☆  Relax: ★★★★

Gracia used to be a separate town from Barcelona and retains some of its independent feel.

Pros

What will strike you about this very safe area is the never-ending supply of beautiful squares and its complete lack of chain restaurants and shops. This may be the only true Catalan neighbourhood left.

It’s the best neighbourhood to grab a morning coffee at a good local cafe or unwind with a cold beer or artisan gelato in a square straight out of a postcard. You can also get to Park Guell walking if you don’t mind a bit uphill.

You’ll get great rest here since it’s an area devoid of noisy nightlife – not to mention it’s pedestrian-only. I’d recommend this area for couples looking for a low-key weekend.

Cons

Downsides? If you’re deep into Gracia it’s not very accessible except on foot. If you’re looking for a party as well this won’t be the wisest choice.

GRACIA
Book the top hotels now!

El Gotico

Attractions: ★★☆☆  Central: ★★★★  Nightlife: ★★★★  Relax: ★☆☆☆

Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter is a maze of bars and restaurants without end.

Pros

Locals go here for big nights at quirky bars or bumping clubs. If you’re looking for the best area to stay in Barcelona for nightlife or on a stag do/bachelor party then this is it.

This neighbourhood of contrasts gives us the famous Barcelona Cathedral and the classic square Plaça Reial. You’ll also be right in the thick of Barcelona’s best shopping street Portal de L’Angel.

For solo travelers this will be your best bet to meet people.

Cons

For downsides the beach is about a 40 minute walk, things can get noisy at night, and you’ll have to dodge some tourist traps – but that’s all in a days work in Barcelona!

I suggest taking the Secrets of the Old City tour of the Gothic Quarter to learn the real history of the city, but if you’re not partying or taking a cruise I’d look elsewhere.

EL GOTICO
Book the top hotels now!

El Raval

Attractions: ★★☆☆  Central: ★★★★  Nightlife: ★★★☆  Relax: ★☆☆☆

Barcelona’s most multi-cultural area may be the most divisive area to stay.

Pros

On one hand you’re at the doorstep of the best ethnic food in the city and some of the best value bars in Europe. Dive bar and street food lovers should pay attention here. You’re also super-central.

The area is filled with students and home to great museums like MACBA and the CCCB.

Here it’s all about value and it’s easily the best area for adventure.

Cons

On the other hand there’s a bit of a nasty reputation with locals for being the site of a lot of petty crime – be aware of ‘friendly’ people you may meet in the street after dark.

I don’t recommend it for parents travelling with kids.

EL RAVAL
Book your top hotel now!

Barceloneta

Attractions: ★☆☆☆  Central: ★★★☆  Nightlife: ★☆☆☆  Relax: ★★☆☆

This seaside neighbourhood is the best area to stay in Barcelona near the beach.

Pros

The old fisherman’s village still retains some of its charm of yesteryear with old women sitting on stoops chatting afternoons away while children kick balls around narrow streets. Look for the turquoise neighborhood flag hanging from the balconies.

If any neighbourhood hasn’t been completely taken over by mass tourism this is it – you’ll have a great choice of local bars plus the best seafood restaurants in the city. And it’s only 5 minutes from the beach.

Cons

What you won’t like is the enormous amount of foot traffic (and noise) moving through – try to get a hotel not facing one of the main streets.

With only one metro station in the area trains get crowded especially during summer.

There are also hardly any tourist attractions and little hotel variety.

BARCELONETA
Book the top hotels now!

Eixample

Attractions: ★★★★  Central: ★★★☆  Nightlife: ★★★☆  Relax: ★★☆☆

This fashionable area is known for its fascinating grids that make great aerial photography.

Pros

While you may be confused as it is divided into 7 sub-neighbourhoods keep in mind the easily navigable streets of the area are consistently littered with trendy bars and cafes. It is also remarkably safe.

It’s home to some of Barcelona’s top attractions like the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo, and Casa Mila. It offers a ton of stops on the Bus Turistic – if you’re here to soak up the culture this is the area for you.

The ‘Gayxample’ district of the area also offers some great gay nightlife opportunities.

It’s easily the best area to stay in Barcelona for sightseeing.

You also can’t beat the high-end shopping on Passeig de Gracia.

Cons

If there are any cons to this area it’s that it’s not as picturesque as areas in the Old City.

You won’t be able to get to the beach so quickly and there are not many great squares to relax and have a drink.

EIXAMPLE
Book the top hotels now!

Poble Sec

Attractions: ★★☆☆  Central: ★★☆☆  Nightlife: ★☆☆☆  Relax: ★★★★

This underrated neighbourhood finds itself in a picturesque area under Montjuic Hill.

Pros

What you’ll notice here are narrow streets following a gentle slope upward. Foodies will love the restaurant scene in this area and Calle Blai is a great street to get €1.00 pintxos and bottled beer.

It’s also a great neighbourhood to stay if you’re in Barcelona for a conference at the Fira de Monjuic. You’ll be close to the Magic Fountain show.

In all it’s in my view the best neighbourhood in Barcelona to stay for tranquility.

Cons

The downsides are that nightlife doesn’t really get going here – except the legendary Sala Apolo. You’re also quite far from the beach and may have to walk a bit uphill from the metro station after a long day.

POBLE SEC
Book the top hotels now!

Poble Nou

Attractions: ★☆☆☆  Central: ★☆☆☆  Nightlife: ★☆☆☆  Relax: ★★★★

This up and coming area used to be the industrial heart of the city.

Pros

What we have now is bustling area full of warehouse apartments and new hotels. Having a walk through this area even in summer gives a sense of near-abandonment – but in a good way. Here you’re only metres from the beach and the streets are quiet as a mouse.

Taking a stroll down car-free Rambla del Poble Nou and its cafes and ice cream shops is almost like a small town.

Cons

Some prominent downsides are that it’s not walking distance to any main attractions. There are also very few nightlife and shopping opportunities.

POBLE NOU
Book the top hotels now!

Sants

Attractions: ★★☆☆  Central: ★★☆☆  Nightlife: ★★☆☆  Relax: ★★★★

You’ll find this neighbourhood right outside Barcelona’s main train station Sants Estacio.

Pros

This is easily the most accessible area to the airport and another great area for those attending conferences at La Fira or any attraction near Plaça Espanya. This very utilitarian area has everything you need but won’t offer anything too special – if you get a good deal pull the trigger.

If you’re coming for football matches and want to stay near Camp Nou book here.

Cons

The downsides here are obvious as you won’t get much of a ‘go downstairs and wander’ feel – if you love discovering a city on foot then avoid at all costs. If you’ve got no problem taking transport to the centre then don’t be shy.

SANTS
Book the top hotels now!

Follow Up in the Comments Below

Again, if for some reason you haven’t found the best area to stay in Barcelona for you then make sure you get in touch using the comment box below.

I am more than happy to find you a place to stay if you tell me the kind of holiday you’re looking for, what you want to see most etc.

Also don’t be afraid to join the area discussion by first giving me a like on Facebook and then joining my group I’m Off to Barcelona – here you can ask any questions, air out grievances, and chat with thousands of Barcelona travelers.

Anything goes!

Cover photo credit: Jorge Franganillo via Visualhunt.com / CC BY

288 comments
  • August 23, 2019 at 3:35 pm
    Kim Metje
    Hello. What a great site you have going. Very helpful. That said, my husband and I are taking a Viking cruise that will end the last two days in Barcelona. We are staying an extra night in Barcelona after we get off the ship. My questions are: Should we skip the cruise tours and get the Travel Pass and go on our own? What should we do the afternoon and evening once we disembark from the ship and where should we stay while there on our one night? Appreciate your help and your site! Kim
    • August 24, 2019 at 1:01 pm
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Kim, Thanks so much for the kind words :) Unfortunately I'm quite ignorant about the cruise tours... what exactly is involved there? Without knowing it's hard for me to suggest an alternative plan. If you prefer independent travel I would definitely just do the first two days of my 3 day itinerary as it would cover the main sights and sounds of the city. I even have an article for cruise passengers with a tailored tour with the Bus Turistic and some hotel suggestions. I would check that out as I couldn't have worded it any better than there :) Cheers, Ash
  • August 19, 2019 at 9:32 pm
    Moumita
    we are traveling with 2 kids 4 & 8 and we have 4 nights in Barcelona. Which area would you suggest?
    • August 20, 2019 at 9:18 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Moumita, With kids I usually recommend El Born (for beach and park proximity) or Gracia for its tranquility, lack of cars, and plethora of squares :) Cheers, Ash
      • August 20, 2019 at 7:14 pm
        Moumita
        we will be traveling in december, so not sure how much of the beach we can use Thanks for your response
        • August 21, 2019 at 2:08 pm
          ashley
          Team Member
          Ash
          Ah yes! In this case it's good for an afternoon stroll but not much else :) You're welcome.
  • August 12, 2019 at 11:35 pm
    Sija
    Hello Ash! Thanks for the really useful and detailed article! My friend and I would be taking a short trip down to Barcelona in Dec. We only have 4 days in Barcelona and we have a early morning flight. Which area do you suggest which is closest to the attractions but also safe? It will be nice if this place is well connected to the airport so that its easy for us to travel out of Barcelona. Also is there something special that you would suggest for us to see during Christmas period in Barcelona? Thanks so much for your help
    • August 13, 2019 at 10:14 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Sija, Thanks for your very kind words :) The neighbourhood that comes to mind for me is El Born since you'll be able to walk up to the Aerobus in the early morning (or grab the city bus if it's really really early) and it's really convenient for sightseeing and has tons of cafes and bars. I would also recommend as a second choice the area of Gracia, though it'll be slightly less convenient for the airport transport. During Christmas the events haven't been announced yet but you can get some good ideas from my post on visiting Barcelona over Christmas holiday. Cheers, Ash
  • August 9, 2019 at 2:19 am
    Adele
    Hi Ash, i felt so lucky to have found your website!! It is so helpful and informative!! Thank you for providing us with such detailed information!! I will be travelling to Barcelona with husband, my dad and our 11 years old daughter but we will only be here for 4 days. We would like to make good use of these 4 days. We are looking for a hotel with spa facilities (hopefully can have adjoining rooms) or an apartment if we cant find the right hotel. Can you recommend a place to stay that is easy to get to tourist attraction places, not too far from the beach, lots of good food to eat and a more decent place (like not partying but more of family type) please? Please advice how we can make the most of the 4 days. Which beach has snorkelling for both adult and child please? Thank you very much for you help!!
    • August 9, 2019 at 8:45 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      As for specific places I've run a search for you given your criteria (minus the spa, since there are few) in El Born so you may want to use this as a jumping off point.
    • August 9, 2019 at 8:41 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Adele, Thank you so much for your very kind words! :) For beach proximity and not valuing nightlife but wanting amazing food the first two things that come to mind are Barceloneta or El Born. El Born is much nicer and less chaotic so I'd lean towards that neighbourhood. Honestly Barcelona isn't really a place for snorkeling, in fact I haven't heard of anybody doing it... there are usually consistent waves and most sea life probably stays clear of the crowds and subsequent rubbish that tends to accumulate, especially in summer. You'll need to go elsewhere to places like the Medes Islands or Vilanova which are both quite a trek. For how to take full advantage of the city I'd recommend reading my 3 day itinerary article, which is actually 4 days ;) If you need anything a little more custom though please don't hesitate to write back! Cheers, Ash
  • August 7, 2019 at 3:05 am
    Joanne
    Hi We r staying at Iiunion Almirate for 2 days before getting onto cruise. We have book to see the Sagrada Familia on the 2nd day at 2pm. We were wondering what order should we see Casa Mila, La Bogueria, Park Guell & Barcelona City History Museum. Also wondering what place is good to go to at night - heard about Flamengo & Tapas (is this place ok)
    • August 7, 2019 at 10:03 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Joanne, I would walk over to La Boqueria first thing in the morning on day 2... then move up to see Park Guell around 10:00 or 11:00 before moving onto Sagrada. That should be a decent core of that day. You could then see Casa Mila and the City History Museum on the other day... this would be a good spacing out of time without getting too busy. I highly recommend seeing a flamenco show but you could also go to one of the city's rooftop bars or even check out the Magic Nights rooftop series at Casa Batllo. Cheers, Ash
  • July 31, 2019 at 2:32 pm
    Diva
    Hello! Thank you for this and offering to help people out individually! I am travelling with my family to Barcelona for 6 days. While we want to have accessibility and public transport options (as my grandmother is joining as well) we don't want to stay where a lot of tourists convene. Our sightseeing is probably going to be limited to one day and walking around, eating good food and getting a more chill local feel of the city is more important to us. Ive found most apartments in Eixample or Gracia. I am leaning more towards Gracia just because of the Eixample apartments proximity to Sagrada Familia assuming its going to be swarming with tourists. Any thoughts, suggestions? Also found a nice sweet apartment in Sants Montjuic- is this part of the Sants area that you posted about and what are your thoughts? Thanks a bunch!
    • August 1, 2019 at 7:40 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Diva, Eixample is a massive area so it's actually hard for me to comment without knowing exactly what part of Eixample your potential hotel is in. That said, if you're looking for less crowds but still being central and having a local feel then Gracia is just the perfect spot, especially if they're within short walking distance to either Fontana or Joanic metro stations. Sants is indeed the Sants I mentioned above. I lived there for 4 years and must say it was super convenient for transport and getting to the airport. Again though, its would depend on exactly where you find yourself. If you had some specific streets or even numbers I could probably comment better. Cheers, Ash
  • July 25, 2019 at 7:58 pm
    Lorena Zevallos
    Hello, Thank you so much for this detailed information. I am planning to a trip solo to Spain (I am 28 years old) (and will want to travel to Italy and France too) I am planning to go for 3-4 weeks in November. Do you have any recommendations to the best place to stay where you see that is safe, sightseeing/attractions, and close to the airport as well?
    • July 26, 2019 at 9:48 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Lorena, Thanks so much for your very kind words :) The unfortunate thing, with most cities, is that the major sightseeing neighbourhoods are nowhere near the airport. If you're looking for safety and proximity to the airport you'll sacrifice a bit on the attractions but keep in mind the Barcelona transport system is so efficient and covers a lot of ground that you'll still be 20 minutes from anywhere! I would look into the Les Corts or Sants neighbourhoods as they're well connected and much safer than the other central areas :) Ash
  • July 22, 2019 at 4:57 pm
    Jaybcnhacks
    Nice review but I’d urge a little more caution with regards to the safety of El Born @ night. 3 years ago I lived there for a spell and on a number of occasions I seen small groups of youths targeting individuals for robbery, often just with threats of violence but also on occasion actual violence was administered. Said youths were of North African origin, at times drunk but not always. Anyone who lives in El Born will be fully aware of exactly what and whom I’m referring to, as will some tourists who have stayed there for extended spells. Enjoy your time in BCN but Stay Vigilant & Stay Safe people. Best Wishes (Ps Ben ULTRA cautious if you have a non Spanish registered vehicle in city, it’s practislly a certainty to be targets of left unattended, no matter where you leave it in central BCN.)
    • July 23, 2019 at 12:47 pm
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Jay, Thanks a lot for your input... it's always good to have more information and from locals who have lived it. In my 8 years in the city I only saw one incident in El Born and it was two groups of tourists fighting. I always feel very safe but yes, as always people should exercise caution wherever they are in the city! I fear things are getting worse :( Ash
  • July 21, 2019 at 3:49 pm
    Georgie
    Hi, I am planning a trip to Barcelona in September with my Mom but I am finding the large choice of hotels quite confusing. It would be great if you could suggest a few good hotels that are not too expensive, but in a safe, fairly quiet and central location to all the main attractions in Barcelona. Also, would you say it is worth buying the Hola BCN travel card or is walking most places a viable option? Thank you! :)
    • July 22, 2019 at 10:13 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Georgie, I couldn't have worded it any better than in my post on the best budget hotels in Barcelona :) The majority are central and fairly quiet. As for the Hola BCN... if you're planning on doing some heavy sightseeing I would recommend this completely. If you just want to walk around and take in a few sights though, that wouldn't be a problem either. Ash
  • July 20, 2019 at 9:11 pm
    Marie P.
    Hi there! So glad I found your website, so much great information! My husband and I are going to be spending about 24hrs in Barcelona on NYE. We're flying into BCN in the morning. Looking at your NYE information, we are really interested in the Plaza de Espanya party. So we're probably going to hit that up. We're both in our 30s and not planning on doing any major partying. Just hoping to find some good food and drink. Since we only have the day, our thought is to spend the rest of our time just walking around the city and seeing as much as we can. Wondering if we should stay near the Plaza de Espanya so we can crash right after the festivities are done (I'm sure we will be jet-lagged). Is it easy to get public transport into the Gothic Quarter and other areas? Then just take transport back to Plaza Espanya for the show and such? I'm just trying to figure out the best way to make use of our (short) time. We're taking a train out the morning of Jan1st. Thanks for your help!!
    • July 21, 2019 at 10:31 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Marie, Thanks so much for the kind words, I am glad to help :) I would definitely stay in the Plaça Espanya area as your train out will like be at Sants Estacio, which is right in the area. Would make things super easy for you if you're jet lagged. The square is actually about 35 minutes walking from the Gothic Quarter if all else fails, though do keep in mind it is super accesible by metro and bus as well. I wouldn't worry about the transport at all... the only problem may be that it'll be rammed with partygoers, but that's normal for any NYE in a bit city :) Cheers, Ash
Load more comments
Leave a comment
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *