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
  • February 4, 2019 at 11:38 am
    moon
    We are looking forward to spending Thanksgiving in beautiful Barcelona getting away from the stresses of graduate studies and the current politics. Will be bringing our hiking shoes for the hike up Montjuic with a picnic lunch. So glad I don’t have to bring my kryptonite bicycle lock. It weighs down the luggage a lot. Will look for a mountain bicycle shop or if you could recommend one and a hybrid bicycle shop that would be great.
  • February 3, 2019 at 10:26 pm
    Patricia jimenez
    Hi Ash, My family and I are going to Barcelona in april, there is my husband my 11 year old daugther and My sister in-law with her 12 year old daughter, As u can see we don't want too much of nightlife but be in a good neighborgood not too far from the majors tourist places or at least close to transportation to those places. I would like to be close to good cafes also. what do you recommend? hotels, apartments, cafes and tranportation are key for us. of course safe neighborhood for our kids is very important. Thank you Patty
    • April 21, 2019 at 5:48 pm
      Jennifer
      Hi! My husband and I will be travelling to Barcelona at the end of September. We will be there for a few days. Do you have any suggestions on AFFORDABLE places to stay? Hoping to stay fairly central for attractions but do need something affordable ($150 Canadian and under). I know that may be tough. Any suggestions?
    • February 4, 2019 at 1:11 pm
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Patricia, Given your needs I'm leaning towards either Gracia or El Born... slightly better perhaps in El Born since it'll give you better walking access to the city's biggest park and also the beach. It's also super accessible for transport, walkable to many attractions, and of course is probably one of the best places for nice cafes. Both are completely safe as well :) Ash
  • January 31, 2019 at 11:11 pm
    Patricia Mejia
    I'm going to Barcelona solo this June. I'm looking for an area that's central to the sites, the nightlife and the beach. After doing some research and reading this article, I realized that El Born seems to be the perfect place for me since all three are within equal distance. What other areas can you suggest?
    • February 1, 2019 at 11:01 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Patricia, El Born would definitely be the one given your criteria but also don't be afraid of the Gothic Quarter if you're looking to really get out there and meet people etc. It's still quite close to the beach, about 30 minutes walking. The wild card would be Barceloneta, which won't offer a lot of nightlife but it's easily accesible with some short metro trips... plus you're at the beach in just a few minutes! Ash
  • January 26, 2019 at 12:26 am
    Andy
    Hi Ash, Great page, found it very useful! Me and my Girlfriend are looking to book 3 days in Barcelona, after searching around for the best area we think we've decided on Via Laietana, there seems to be a few hotels on there. Purely because it borders Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter, so we imagine it would have a few restaurants that are decent in the fairly close vicinity for breakfast/dinner and bars for a few drinks whilst being a bit quieter not being in the heart of Ramblas are we right on this? Plus we see there is a metro nearby as we'll hop on and off round the city. Thanks!!
    • January 26, 2019 at 1:31 pm
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Andy, Thanks for the kind words! You’re right on the money and really can’t find a better street to stay, it’s served by multiple metro lines and puts you right in between my favorite two neighbhourhoods in El Born and El Gotico. The bars and restaurants will be virtually endless here! Walk down into the Gotico on Calle Ample and you’ll have a lot of options. And of course Passeig del Born in El Born. Ash
  • January 13, 2019 at 11:16 am
    Niki
    Hi Ash, What an excellent website. Makes all planning so much easier. I am going to keep posting questions till everything is finalised (if you don't mind). I have decided on Eixample but struggling to find AirBnb's in my price range. So I have a few questions. How far is Eixample exactly from the city centre. Both in terms of public transport and by foot. And is it safe to walk around (you mentioned one could get a little lost). One of the places I did find which seems to meet my requirements is in an area which is described as follows : " Les Corts is an ideal place to stay in Barcelona. It is very well connected, with two metro stations (line 3) nearby, several bus lines and, most importantly, a 6-minute walk from Sants Station, and 20 minutes from Plaza España." I wanted to ask you what that would mean for me. In terms of travelling each day to city centre..and also safety from pickpocketing etc. I am still looking for a place in Eixample based on how you described it..so I guess that should give you an idea about what kind of atmosphere I am looking for. Thanks Ash!
    • January 13, 2019 at 7:51 pm
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Niki, Eixample is a huge area but a lot of it is walking distance to the city centre (Plaça Catalunya), some of it is actually just a few minutes' walk. Some could be about 10-15 minutes' metro. Again, it would depend on the apartment you're looking at... if you could give me some more specific streets etc I could help a bit more. Eixample is completely safe and pretty much devoid of petty crime so I wouldn't worry. Les Corts, if near a metro station, is super convenient for getting to all the tourist stuff. I lived near Sants Estacio for about 4 years and it was really well connected. It won't have the glam or services like Eixample but in my mind if you find a good apartment there's nothing wrong with the area. Again, I find it hard to believe that any apartment in these neighbourhoods would be inconvenient for tourist stuff, unless of course they're completely lying about the location! Ash
      • January 24, 2019 at 11:29 am
        Niki
        Thanks so much Ash, Here some of the apartments (AirBnb) that I have found while searching in Eixample. Could you help me out as per each street? 1. Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes 2. Sant Antoni 3.apartment is located between the metro stations Clinic and Diagonal with the Ninot Market 4. homes located between Gracia and Sagrada! That's all for now.. Thanks for all your help. I plan to book in the next day or two. While looking for Eixample, a lot of the places that come up are in Gracia, Sagrada and Arc de Triomf. Are these places also centrally located and safe like Eixample?
        • January 25, 2019 at 9:18 am
          ashley
          Team Member
          Ash
          Hi Niki, All the places (having lived in all 3 of Gracia, Sagrada, and near Arc de Troimf) you mentioned are super safe and I wouldn't worry about them from this standpoint. They're all centrally located and 5-6 metro stops from everywhere you'll need to be. Gran Via however seems to me a bit vague... it is one of the longest streets in the city so not sure where that would be. If you could give me some more indication like metro stop that would help. Off the top of my head I would say that the best places would be Gracia or near Arc de Troimf, but that's my opinion. If you're looking for something more specific (nightlife, parks, whatever) let me know and I'll tell you my opinion. Ash
          • January 25, 2019 at 7:00 pm
            Niki
            Hey Ash, One last question. Can you please give me your opinion on the Sant Antoni neighbourhood. Connectivity. Safety. Vibe I promise. This was my last question. Thanks! Niki.
            • January 26, 2019 at 1:20 pm
              ashley
              Team Member
              Ash
              I lived in San Antoni for 6 months and it’s relatively safe... obviously it’s a bit closer to Raval and some of its seediness but there really are no problems during the day. If you found a really good place or price or whatever there’s no shame in staying there either.
          • January 25, 2019 at 6:03 pm
            Niki
            Hi Ash, The gran via place is near urgell metro. And another place is right next to hospital clinic metro. So are these two listings in nice parts of eixample then? What I'm looking for is the safety of eixample but also its liveliness in terms of cafes etc. A nice, chirpy area I guess. Lol. I don't care for night life but wouldn't want something super quiet. I like walking around and watching people and life. I'm an introvert who likes to enjoy the sights and sounds of daily life without being a part of it. I don't know if that makes sense. If the two places I just mentioned sound right to you, based on this, then I will go ahead and book. I want to be near the central areas but also want to enjoy walking around. But i dont want to be in a concrete suburban jungle situation. Hahaha..I am sorry if I'm making irrational and unreasonable specifications. Just let me know what you think of urgell station and hospital clinic. Thank you so much again.
            • January 26, 2019 at 1:18 pm
              ashley
              Team Member
              Ash
              Hi Niki, Thanks for the detailed explanation, I think I understand you more than any other reader in history now ;) But honestly it’s very helpful to know... based on this I would be leaning toward the Urgell option since it’s about 15-20 minutes closer by walking to all the action like Plaça Catalunya, La Rambla, Passeig de Gracia etc. That said Hospital Clinic is still nice and lively so if you have a superior option there I would have no problem booking. Ash
  • January 12, 2019 at 8:56 pm
    Aletha Chavez
    Such great information! After reading your article we have decided upon the neighborhood of El Born. We are going to Barcelona for the first time in May arriving on my birthday and spending 3 nights before catching a cruise ship to Venice. Looking at hotels, would you recommend Hotel K K Picasso or H 10. Are you familiar with these two?
    • January 13, 2019 at 8:19 pm
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Aletha, Thanks for the kind words, you've selected the right neighbourhood I am sure ;) Unfortunately not having spent many night in Barcelona hotels I can't make any direct comments on the properties, however I0've had readers talk highly of both hotels. Normally what I do to break the tie is read one of the many Tripadvisor reviews and make some comments on the locations. It appears both are highly rated, however it looks like H10 is much more central and in the heart of things (bars, restaurants etc)... on the other than Hotel K+K Picasso is a bit further out, possibly in a quieter area, and near the famous Parc de la Ciutadella. Perhaps depending on what kind of vibe/location you're looking for this could be the tie breaker? Ash
      • January 14, 2019 at 6:01 pm
        Aletha Chavez
        Thank you for the information on location. That helps! We are also going to Venice after our cruise. Do you also have information on Venice?
        • January 15, 2019 at 7:59 am
          ashley
          Team Member
          Ash
          Hi Aletha, No problem! :) As for Venice unfortunately I don't have much current information... I would however recommend to eat "cicchetti" which is a form of northern Italian tapas, and you should also try sardine in saor... which are marinated sardines with raisins. Doesn't sound too appetizing but believe me, they're delicious! Ash
  • January 3, 2019 at 8:45 pm
    Francesca
    Hi Ash, We (myself, husband & 3 yr old) are travelling to Barcelona in June and are looking to stay in a safe area that is walking distance to the sites. Would you be able to recommend an area and perhaps a few hotels that could suite our needs? thanks!
    • January 4, 2019 at 11:13 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Francesca, For couples and families looking to stay a bit away from the chaos but at the same time within striking distance to the sites I recommend either El Born or Gracia. Both have much more local flare, tend to stay away from heavy nightlife, and offer a great amount of walkability. Without knowing what amenities you're looking for and your price range it makes it hard for me to recommend something specific... but if I were you I'd simply click the buttons above and then use the many sorting mechanisms to the left of Booking's page to find what suits you best. If you have anything very specific in mind though please let me know and I'll do some digging for you :) Ash
  • December 7, 2018 at 3:14 pm
    Jenny O
    Great website, thank you! I am traveling to Barcelona in April with my husband and 10 year old daughter. We will be there for three days and would like to see the sights, eat good food, and get down to the water. We like to just wander around and explore as well. From your posts it seems like the best places for us to stay would be El Born/La Ribera, Gracia or Barcelonta. However in one of your replies, you said it could be 45-60 minute walk from Gracia to the sights. We like smaller hotels with charm. Where would you suggest? Thank you!
    • December 8, 2018 at 11:19 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Jenny, Thanks so much for the kind words :) Let's see, Gracia and Barceloneta have their charm and are great for a more local feel but the downside is indeed that a lot of the attractions are quite far walks. If you're looking just to see everything walking around your best bet would be El Born/La Ribera. Gracia actually is quite big and so it depends greatly on if you're in the upper area or in the village portion... what you can do, is if you find a really suitable place you could tell me where it is and I'll let you know how accessible it is. For access to the water though you are indeed looking at 45 minutes minimum walking... there are however places in Gracia which are just 15 minutes walking from Sagrada Familia. Again, it all depends! Based on your ideas I'm gonna stick with El Born/La Ribera but again... if you find anything else and aren't sure let me know. Ash
  • December 4, 2018 at 12:14 am
    Gaurav
    Hi Ash First of all, love your page and thanks for making the life easier for everyone! Me and my wife are planning to visit Barcelona for the first time in the mid of December for a week and we would love your advise to best utilize our time in Barca. We love to see culture, walk along the beautiful pedestrian streets, need some relax time only after midnight, so we would like to party a bit ;) would like to try best local food around the city. We would also like to hit the beach for a day but only if it not too cold and we are okay to take public transport even it is a bit far to walk. And of-course safety is a concern as your wrote about some of the places which are not safe. We were thinking of El Born/La Ribera or Eixample but we would like your views please. Thanks Gaurav
    • December 4, 2018 at 8:01 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Guarav, Thanks so much for the great compliments on the site, always great to hear :) First off let me say that between about November and March there isn't much beach weather to be had - and definitely no swimming. I wouldn't plan my holiday around the beaches though it is still certainly very nice to take a stroll along them and soak in the views of the Med. Staying near it though wouldn't be a priority for me. Based on your writeup my first instinct was also to suggest El Born/La Ribera... Eixample is a grid system with a lot of traffic and so if you're looking for pedestrian streets and charming squares it wouldn't be ideal. One other thing I would recommend is Gracia because you're still in striking distance to the centre, it's super safe, has great restaurants, and is pedestrian only in many stretches. Just a really cool local feel. It's between Born and Gracia for me! Ash
  • November 18, 2018 at 10:44 am
    Sani
    Hello Ash! Will be in Barcelona for the first time, with hubby, for new year! Which area would you offer to spend 4 days during new year in Barcelona, near attractions and festives, not far from good restaurents, but still quite to have good rest during the night? ( no worries for budget) Appreciate your reply Sani
    • November 18, 2018 at 1:17 pm
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Sani, The neighbourhoods of Gracia or El Born come to mind... both quite central but giving you a chance at peace and quiet as well ;) These are also areas with high concentrations of quality restaurants and less likely to be run down by tourists (as hard as that is in Barcelona!). For this reason I would also advise against El Gotico or Raval as that's where most of the chaos will be going down. Ash
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