Long considered to be among the most captivating cities in the world, Barcelona continues to draw travelers from around the globe. Are you planning a visit and wondering where to stay in Barcelona? Let me help you to figure out which neighborhood is best for you!
Initially founded by the Romans and the second largest city in Spain, Barcelona’s rich and often heady history makes it the ideal travel destination for history lovers, with fans of art and architecture finding no shortage of inspiration.
Once home to the likes of Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, and Antoni Gaudí, Barcelona embodies both the Catalan spirit and cosmopolitan sophistication.
Today Barcelona is an active multicultural and economic hub, with the Barcelona-El Prat Airport serving over 50 million passengers each year.
Exploring Barcelona is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and one you’ll surely want to get the most out of. Here are 12 of the best places to stay in Barcelona, as well as the local sights and activities worth seeking out during your holiday.
12 Best Areas Where to Stay in Barcelona
1. Plaça de Catalunya, the best area to stay in Barcelona
Known in English as the Catalonia Square, this city center is both the beating heart and nerve center of Barcelona.
Separating the Ciutat, Vella, and Eixample districts, Plaça de Catalunya has come to be regarded as a crossroads of history, Catalan culture, and ever-evolving modern life.
With its large shopping malls and unique array of shops, restaurants, and museums, first-time visitors are often directed to Plaça de Catalunya as a starting point for their stay in Barcelona.
Originally an open expanse of land that ran along the city’s protective walls, Plaça de Catalunya would eventually be incorporated into Barcelona’s city plan by King Alfonso XIII in 1927.
With the help of architects Francesc de Paula Nebot, Pere Falqués, and Puig i Cadafalch, as well as sculptors Clarà and Llimona, the plaza would become one of Barcelona’s crowning achievements.
While the sumptuous hotels and apartments featured in the city’s 1929 International Exhibition have not survived, guests can still enjoy a luxurious stay in one of the center’s updated residencies.
Due to its close proximity to such famed areas as the Passeig de Gracia, Gothic Quarter, Las Ramblas and nearby port, Plaça de Catalunya is ideal for walkers and cyclists, with a year-round roster of exciting events, outdoor markets, and festivals such as the world-famous Setmana del Llibre en Català book fair, which takes place in September.
Far from seeped in the past, Plaça de Catalunya boasts its own share of popular fashion and media outlets, as well as trendy bars, eateries, and coffee shops.
2. Barri Gotic, where to stay in Barcelona for sightseeing
True to its name, the Gothic Quarter is one of the most atmospheric areas to stay in Barcelona.
With its mysterious winding streets dating back to the Middle Ages and enticing niche of shops and restaurants, the Gothic Quarter is where the intriguing old meets the up-and-coming new.
Some of the most popular attractions are the impressive Gothic Cathedral, charming plazas, such as Plaça Reial, and beautiful landmarks such as the Pont Gòtic on Carrer Bisbe.
Visitors can glimpse the quarter’s fascinating past at the Museu d’Història de Barcelona, where artifacts predating the Roman settlement can be viewed on display.
Visitors can additionally browse the shops and stalls of local artisans, as well as sample popular Catalan street food from one of the many vendors along the Avenue La Rambla, Barcelona’s most famous boulevard.
There are many hotels, hostels, and privately owned bed & breakfast lodgings to choose from in the Gothic Quarter, ranging from the austere to intimate.
3. El Raval, close to everything, multicultural, and nightlife
Often regarded as the city’s most colorful district, The Raval is a multicultural neighborhood that features some of Barcelona’s most popular bars, clubs, and live music venues.
During your stay in Barcelona, make sure to stop by the Museo d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), which showcases the works of some of the 20th century’s greatest artists.
Also recommended is the Gran Teatre del Liceu, which has weathered its fair share of catastrophes since the 19th century but still stands resplendent. The nearby Maritime Museum (Museu Marítim de Barcelona) offers an especially thrilling experience for nautical lovers and novices alike.
The Raval’s cultural center will no doubt be a point of interest for visitors wishing to learn more about the Catalan culture, with the El Rincón de Aragón restaurant featuring authentic, mouthwatering Aragonese dishes such as lamb with fried potatoes and clams with borage, as well as a specially curated wine list.
La Boquería, one of Europe’s largest and longest-running markets, is a must-see for all who wish to stay in Barcelona.
This market (sometimes referred to by its official name The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria) has roots that go all the way back to the 13th century, and features everything from seafood and freshly cured meats to fruits and sweet delicacies, with no shortage of places to eat and people watch.
4. El Born, the coolest place to stay in Barcelona
This lively and eclectic neighborhood was once home to Medieval Barcelona’s noble classes, and has retained much of its former splendor.
With its mesmerizing mix of historic buildings, churches, shops, galleries, and restaurants, El Born is an ideal place to stay in Barcelona for those looking to experience life as a local–albeit the privileged kind.
Some of the attractions you should not miss are Santa Maria del Mar Church, the modernist masterpiece of Palau de la Musica Catalana, the Parc Ciutadella, and museums such as the Picasso Museum, the Museum of World Cultures, the Chocolate Museum or the European Museum of Modern Art.
One of Picasso’s earliest stomping grounds, El Born features a number of public art installations, as well as several avant-garde theaters.
Shopping enthusiasts will want to stroll the Flassaders and Del Rec streets for local designer wares, as well as step into Casa Gispert, Barcelona’s oldest specialty store.
There is a local saying in El Born, ¨Roda el món i torna al Born¨, which loosely translates to “¨Travel the world then come back to El Born.”
This welcoming sentiment can be felt in the personable atmosphere of the barrio, and harkens back to a time when seafaring merchants and traveling businessmen traded their goods in the streets, often setting up permanent residence.
5. Eixample, elegant and lively neighborhood
L’Eixample is Catalan for ‘the widening,’ and owes its titular legacy to Ildefons Cerdà, who widened the original city wall to make room for the growing city center.
Centrally located off Plaça de Catalunya, Eixample is a bustling district where locals and visitors alike gather to shop, socialize, and savor the scenery.
The famous Mercat Els Encants flea market is a haven for antique lovers, while the Sagrada Familía basilica, designed by master architect Antoni Gaudi, is a stunning example of art nouveau design.
Visitors can stroll beneath Barcelona’s own Arc de Triomf, as well as take in the area’s notable modernist architecture.
Due to its proximity to Barcelona’s most popular tourist attractions, lodgings range from the 5 star to more budget-friendly, with special seasonal rates available prior to booking.
6. Passeig de Gracia, where to stay in Barcelona for an upscale experience
This majestic boulevard was once a frequented spot to see and be seen among the Gilded Age elites, and has since become one of the most elegant areas to stay in Barcelona.
It’s no understatement to say that visiting Paseo de Gracia is like stepping back in time, thanks to its “modernista” mansions and grand buildings that reflect an era of both opulence and advancement.
Here you can visit the modernist mansions Casa Milà, also known as La Pedrera, and the Casa Batlló
Paseo de Gracia features some of Barcelona’s most reputable shops and luxury brands, and guests enjoying a leisurely promenade will want to keep their eyes on the pavement for the stones designed by Barcelona’s famed Antoni Gaudí.
7. La Barceloneta, beach, tapas, and nightlife
The seaside neighborhood of La Barceloneta is where locals go to sunbathe and dine on fresh seafood tapas after a day of swimming and surfing.
The waterfront hotels make for a scenic stay in Barcelona, with the palm-lined promenade leading to the beach providing some of the city’s most photo-worthy views, especially along the route to Montjuïc hill.
With its multitude of beach clubs, La Barceloneta is the perfect destination for beachgoers, who in turn can choose from the area’s four main beaches: the hyper-modern Sant Sebastià, where Barcelona’s W Hotel is located, sporty Barceloneta beach, and the quieter Sant Miguel and Somorrostro beaches.
As with most seaside destinations, off-season periods are the best time to find significant deals on luxury hotels, with fewer overall beach traffic to contend with.
8. La Vila Olímpica, where to stay in Barcelona for beach time
The site of the 1992 Olympic Village, La Vila Olímpica lends a slower pace to Barcelona’s otherwise hurried tempo.
With its posh Port of Olímpic complex and its sizable selection of casual and high-end dining establishments, cocktail lounges, karaoke bars, and live music venues set just off Nova Icària Beach, this Sant Martí district is the perfect locale for a low-key getaway or romantic retreat.
Located on a former derelict industrial plot, the construction of La Vila Olímpica was an enormous undertaking at the time, bringing a great deal of attention to Barcelona.
Today the original factory chimneys can be seen among the housing blocks and designated Olympic buildings, with the skyscraper duo Torre Mapfre and Hotel Arts, which overlook the marina, making for an unforgettable view.
9. Gràcia, bohemian vibe
With its idyllic pedestrian lane, boutique galleries, and landmark 19th century cinema, Gràcia is a lovely place to stay in Barcelona. Once a separate village, it has retained a small town charm and a bohemian vibe that you will enjoy specially in squares like Plaça del Sol.
Traditional Catalan bistros and wine bars make for an authentic evening out, with the architecture of none other than Antoni Gaudí providing a picture-perfect backdrop.
Under the elegant clocktower, guests can walk from the grand neo-Moorish mansion Casa Vicens to the elaborate mosaic-adorned estate of Parc Güell, which sits atop a hill overlooking the city.
Much like La Vila Olímpica, Gràcia moves to a more serene rhythm, and visitors who appreciate a genuine “room with a view” experience will appreciate the area’s elegant hotels and palm-lined promenade.
10. Poblenou, alternative and laid-back area with affordable accommodation
The district of Poblenou is somewhat ahead of its time, offering a distinctive glimpse into the future of Barcelona. With its former factories-turned-tech offices, upscale showrooms, and hip tapas bars, here is where Barcelona’s trendsetters intermingle and show off their cutting edge talents.
Visitors will find no shortage of sights and to-dos along Plaça de les Glòries Catalan, most notably the Els Encants flea market and Barcelona Design Museum, as well as the Torre Agbar skyscraper, which was designed by Jean Nouvel.
If you are traveling with children, make sure to stop at one of the vendors and sample some of the best ice cream in Barcelona, perhaps followed by a trip to the nearby Bogatell Beach or Parc Central del Poblenou.
For lovers of the more macabre, the Cementiri de l’Est is both an historic and sculptural wonder. Guided tours offer a spine-tingling peek into some of Barcelona’s darkest tales, all under the watchful eyes of the gorgeously ghoulish statues that populate the oldest cemetery in the city.
11. Sants, where to stay in Barcelona close to the main train station
Located to the city’s south, Sants, like many of Barcelona’s districts, was once a working class industrial town, and is now a study in contrasts. The main train station of the city, Barcelona-Sants, is located in this neighborhood.
Sleek high-rise apartments stud the more rustic buildings, with community arts & cultural centers mingling among the tapas bars and no-frills eateries. For visitors looking for a decidedly un-tourist place to stay in Barcelona, Sants is it.
Guests can linger in the lobby of the ostentatious Sants Ajuntament (the town hall), then grab a craft beer off the Plaça d’ Osca.
Lovers of vintage cinema will find the perfect souvenir among the posters of Groucho y Yo, while the area’s traditional fishmongers offer up mouthwatering fish and chips to eat in or take away.
Thanks to its off-the-beaten-track appeal, Sants is ideal for visitors wishing to live like a local during their stay in Barcelona.
12. Poble Sec, varied dining options and vibrant nightlife
Nestled in the foothills of Montjuïc, the neighborhood of Poble Sec is among the oldest in Barcelona, and was populated by the city’s poorest citizens for many centuries. Today the area has enjoyed a well-deserved renaissance, bringing it a long way from its humble origins.
Poble Sec was once notorious for its cabarets and taverns, and visitors can still partake in the neighborhood’s vibrant nightlife thanks to its multitude of music venues, clubs, and alfresco-style cafes.
The 17th century military fortress is worth the climb to the top of Montjuïc, and now resides as a municipal facility.
Poble Sec offers an eclectic assortment of dining options, from traditional Catalan cuisine to ethnic fare from around the world. While lodging is scarce at the moment, the neighborhood’s rapid rise in popularity will likely see a similar surge in tourist-friendly hotels.