Ash
Written by Ash

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

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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

a ton of tourists looking for things to do on the rambla 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
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tourists shopping in the born barcelona

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
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the view of placa del sol in gracia barcelona

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
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a pedestrian bridge in the barrio gotico barcelona

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
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a skateboarder takes a jump at macba in raval neighbourhood barcelona

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
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the leaning homentage a la barceloneta monument at barcelona beach neighbourhood

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
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casa batllo in eixample neighbourhood barcelona

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
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a nighttime showing of the magic fountain barcelona

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
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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
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the view over plaza espanya barcelona

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
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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
  • June 22, 2019 at 5:27 pm
    Carol
    Thank you so much for all of the great info. My husband and I will be in Barcelona for 6 nights during the Mercè festival (we think) and I am trying to decide between 2 hotels both in the Exiample area but far from each other. We love walking and plan to do that more than using the metro if possible but are unsure which hotel makes the most sense. We will actually be doing several day trips so only be in Barcelona for 3 Full days but all of the evenings. Any recommendations re the differences between hotel well and come and h10 uriquinaona plaza? There is a significant price difference and friends have said to stay at the one closer to la rambles but given the festival am unsure. We love the feel of local vibes and non tourist places but also want to be able to see things happening. TIA
    • June 23, 2019 at 10:27 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Carol, Thank you for the very kind words :) My gut reaction is that closer to Las Ramblas is not necessarily better, and in fact you could make the arguement for the exact opposite! At night it gets pretty seedy and it's just tourist trap central. If you're looking for local vibes La Rambla is about as far away as you can get from that. Also, keep in mind that Hotel Well and Come finds itself right on the border of the Gracia neighbourhood which is probably the most authentic area in the city. I naturally haven't stayed in either but based on what you said I think Hotel Well and Come sounds much better... especially if it's the cheaper one! ;) Ash
  • June 18, 2019 at 8:00 pm
    Sharon
    Is it is easy to get to centre from H10 Marina ? we are coming new years eve but do not want to go to crowds as we have two children prefer family type fireworks any suggestions if this hotel would be good
    • June 19, 2019 at 11:10 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Sharon, You can be central by taking the red line of the metro (Marina) to Urquinaona or Catalunya... it's a matter of 3-4 stops. Or you could walk 30 minutes. It's really easy. Unfortunately there are no fireworks shows without crowds... the Plaça Espanya one is child-friendly but lots of people go! Outside of this I am not sure what to suggest :( Ash
      • June 21, 2019 at 8:59 am
        Sharon
        thank you and how do we get to Placa Espanya ? is it ok to pre book taxi so not to be squashed on metro?
        • June 21, 2019 at 11:54 am
          ashley
          Team Member
          Ash
          Hello Sharon, You'd take the red line of the metro from Marina to Espanya. As for the taxis for sure it would be a good option... you can ask your hotel to call one for you :) Ash
          • June 22, 2019 at 11:47 am
            Sharon
            thank you
  • May 3, 2019 at 1:44 pm
    BT
    Hello, We (2 of us) will be going to Barcelona next month and will be staying at Sant Marti, right next to Parc Central del Poblenou. I was just wondering what the least expensive, yet convenient way would be to travel to and from the airport? Should we buy the Hola BCN or does it make more sense to buy two Aerobus passes plus the Hola BCN? Thanks so much.
  • May 3, 2019 at 9:57 am
    Sophia Potts
    Hi There, I have found your blog so useful!! So thank you. I am going to Barca with my mam on 14th May for 3 nights. We are staying at the Gran Havana Hotel Do you have any suggestions for close by bars/tapas? And the best breakfast bar? Thanks Sophia
    • May 3, 2019 at 12:41 pm
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Sophia, You're in a really great place for restaurants, super central, so I've got quite a few. I would start with El Nacional, Bodega Joan, Ciudad Condal, and maybe even El Louro even though it's a bit further down La Rambla - I went there myself for a sampling and it was so good and so central (usually what my readers want) that I asked them to set up a no money down reservation form for my readers. They’re open Easter Sunday. I have more info about it in this Facebook post. For breakfast you can't go wrong with Brunch and Cake or Alsur Cafe :) Ash
  • April 12, 2019 at 5:01 am
    MJ
    Yes, Great Site! My wife & I will be in Barcelona the 3rd week of June. (This Year). A couple of questions: Is this a particular heavy rainy time? We are just wanting to have a good time. We're OK with the touristy sites. We want to see all the legendary and famous shopping, markets, buildings, arts, and architecture. What would be the SAFFEST most centralized area for a hotel? Thanks for all you do!
    • April 12, 2019 at 8:57 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi MJ, Luckily Barcelona isn't like SE Asia s there isn't a rainy season... in fact, summer is just stunning all around and rain is rare. I wouldn't worry about this. I have an article on Barcelona weather here if you need more clarification. For safe and central I would recommend either El Born or Eixample... keep in mind Eixample is very big so some parts of it are not very central... though the sub areas of Eixample that I'd recommend are 'Dreta Eixample' and 'Sant Antoni) as it'll allow you to do more sightseeing via walking. That said, El Born is probably the nicer of the two due to its amazing shopping, cafes, and more tight knit neighbourhood feel with less traffic than the former. Ash
      • April 12, 2019 at 4:10 pm
        MJ
        Well Ash I hope we'll be OK. Didn't see your recommendation until now and booked the trip about 2hrs prior. Staying (sort of) in the Eixample area. So--I guess we'd better have our walking shoes??? We're a bit different than the usual tourist. We actually LIKE riding a new cities metro subway, or walking thru a overly touristy area. It's OK. We are not in that city every day, or month or year!! I thank you for your site and help. !!Can't Wait!!
        • April 12, 2019 at 4:14 pm
          ashley
          Team Member
          Ash
          Hi MJ, No worries... you'll be fine! In fact in some areas of Eixample it's very walkable for the sites so if you want that then you've got it. That said, you may have to take the metro etc. but that's ok... it's safe and efficient and even interesting for some people like me ;) Please let me know if you have any more questions, Ash
  • April 11, 2019 at 3:34 am
    Ali
    Hi. Our family (2xadults 3xchildren) are coming to Barcelona for 2 weeks arriving July 14th. 2 of our kids will be in residential camp but my husband, myself and my youngest (6 yrs old) will need accommodation for the 2 weeks. My youngest is attending the camp but not staying overnight. The camp is in Castelldefels. We’ve never been to Spain. We originally thought we’d stay in Castelldefels but we found out their is a camp shuttle daily from Barcelona, so now we’re looking at Barcelona. We like to walk. We love museums. We love the beach. We love architecture. We don't do nightlife. We are a vegan family. Our budget is flexible but $4k for the 2 weeks is pretty hefty. I’ve looked at apartments (Paseo de Gracias Bas), hotels (Mercer) and Airbnb.
    • April 11, 2019 at 9:08 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Ali, Unfortunately you're they're at the most expensive time of the year and so $4000 for a couple of weeks for something decent is quite normal :( Given your needs (near beach, museums, architecture) I am thinking you would probably be best served staying in a neighbourhood like El Born. I have run a search for your dates and needs and found some apartments (not many hotels) for around $2000-$2800 like Friendly Rentals Hopper or Born Pop Arts Loft. Hope this helps, Ash
  • March 30, 2019 at 1:34 am
    Francine
    Your website is incredibly informative, but I see many others have made this same comment as well. The way you present information and the way you write is so informative, inviting and casual. Feels like you are a friend! I have been struggling trying to find a 2 bedroom apartment at a decent price. We will be in Barcelona the second and third week of June and I am finding the prices extremely expensive ($3000-5000/14 nights). At this point I've given up on focusing on location. I did find something in Terrassa and wanted to get your opinion on that location. Seems to be a bit far from a lot of the main attractions in Barcelona. We would prefer to not have a car, so is it doable by transit? Would love your input.
    • March 30, 2019 at 10:41 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Francine, Thanks so much for the kind words, I am glad to help! :) I've been out to Terrassa and wouldn't call it optimal for a sightseeing holiday... depending on how far you are from the train station it could take you up to an hour each way for the transport. That said, it is an incredibly well serviced suburb with tons of trains heading into the city. If it means you can save $500-$1000 I wouldn't see any issue, as long as you know what you're getting into transport-wise.... I would say it's great for 3-4 days but over multiple weeks I worry you'd get bored of doing the commute or being 'stuck' a bit far from civilization. It's unfortunate but in high season the price gouging really starts in the city :( Have you taken a look at Airbnb? Ash
      • March 31, 2019 at 12:03 am
        Francine
        Thanks Ash. I think you are right and it's not ideal for a sightseeing holiday - too far. I'm continuing the search. Hope you don't mind if I ask you any further questions.
        • March 31, 2019 at 12:20 pm
          ashley
          Team Member
          Ash
          No problem at all, please fire away when ready ;)
          • April 4, 2019 at 12:45 am
            Francine
            We finally found a nice apartment - a lot more than we were planning to spend but hey I'll be in Barcelona! Can you tell me the best way to get from the airport to Via Augusta and Avinguda Diagnal. Doesn't have to be the cheapest but the most convenient and direct. Also what do you think of that area? I believe it's considered Gracia? Thanks for any input
            • April 4, 2019 at 9:01 am
              ashley
              Team Member
              Ash
              Hi Francine, With budget in mind I would take the airport train to Passeig de Gracia and then switch for the green line of the metro up to Diagonal. From here it's just a 6-7 minute walk. Of course, the most convenient and direct would be a taxi which would run you around €30.00. The area is great... I worked right there for a year when I was teaching English... it's really well served by transport, close to the attractions, and just a short walk up into Gracia and its amazing squares and cafes. Ash
  • March 14, 2019 at 8:04 pm
    Tony Payne
    Last October we stayed in Badalona at Rafaelhoteles Badalona. The hotel was fairly cheap, but very good and they served a good breakfast. Badalona itself is interesting to walk around, with some good restaurants, and a nice beach. The downside is that the hotel is about 10 minutes walk from Pompeu Fabra Metro station, which is the eastern end of L2 (Para Lel). The upside though is that the Metro service is frequent, and 11 stops from Sagrada Familia station.
    • March 15, 2019 at 7:59 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Tony, Thanks a lot for the suggestion... I've also found Badalona to be quite pleasant and also deceptively close to the city centre using the purple line. It's a good shout for those wanting to save a bit of money while maintaining some decent quality standards. Cheers, Ash
  • March 7, 2019 at 3:52 am
    Rebecca Dupuis
    Hello! Thanks for such an informative blog! My husband and I are traveling there 2nd week of May, staying 5 nights. I will be 5 months pregnant. I would like to stay somewhere relatively safe and we don't mind being away from the nightlife. My goals for this trip (as it's our first time) is to see all the great sites and eat lots of great food. If we get to the beach then great, but we will also be traveling to Mallorca and San Sebastian so if we don't I wouldn't mind. Seeing as we will be traveling on foot or public transit, what would you suggest that would meet the above "wants", but also relatively easy to travel to and from the airport, and to the various sites? At 5 months pregnant I think my energy will be pretty good; but I also want to move at a leisurely pace! Thanks so much!
    • March 7, 2019 at 9:15 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Rebecca, Thanks for compliments and also for the very specific information, I think I'll be able to help! You're right that the beaches in Mallorca or San Sebastian will be much nicer than the ones in Barcelona so it's good intuition not to plan the holiday around it... cut away the nightlife and add some centrality and a touch of class and I'm leaning towards EL Born. The area is filled with great restaurants and shopping, is very safe, and picturesque. My second suggestion would be Gracia for the same reasons (minus the shopping)... it's got such a local feel and super good for couples looking to relax. If it was a toss up for you I'd simply bet on whatever hotel offers the most value or amenities. Ash
  • February 20, 2019 at 5:16 am
    Laurie Rands
    HI Ash Youv'e given us all so much information I am embarassed to confess I am still unsure which area I should be looking at staying at. We are travelling in July and we are a family of 4. We are pretty much planning to explore Casa Battlo & Sagrada Familia & Park Guell and also love the sound of the Las Rambals area which was where I was thinking of trying to stay but am not sure now. We are only in Barcelona for 3 days and enjoy shopping, cafes, good food, hustle and bustle etc but we have young girls (13 and 14 years old so won't be going out late at night). Would love it if you could please narrow it down for us. We would have just had a week at a beach location so am not fussed on spending any time at the beach while in Barcelona. So grateful for your suggestions.
    • February 20, 2019 at 9:30 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Laurie, Thanks so much for the detailed info, it helps a lot in figuring these things out! If you're not fussed about the beach and looking for hustle and bustle (but maybe not that kind of hustle and bustle like La Rambla) I would look at El Born. You'll have lots of shopping opportunities there, will be close to the action but not right on top of it... I lived on La Rambla for 4 months when I first arrived, thinking it would be a cool idea, but being kept awake at night hearing full on conversations between prostitutes and prospective clients, screams, the sounds of bird whistle sellers (I don't understand why these exist!), drunk people, and all sorts... it wasn't for me ;) I'd take a look at El Born or maybe Eixample which isn't as endearing but still has a lot going on. Ash
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