IDENTIFY THE BEST PLACE TO STAY IN BARCELONA FOR YOUR NEXT TRIP
When I’m exchanging e-mails with my clients during the booking process for their guided tours, I often get asked for recommendations about where to stay in Barcelona.
And while this is a very personal choice, there are a few things you need to take into account when you chose what area to stay.
What is the best area to stay in Barcelona by neighborhood
Old Town: Gothic Quarter, Born, Raval & Ramblas
The district is divided in four different parts. Here is a short description of them, to help you choosing what area to stay in (and links to our recommended hotels there):
The Barri Gotic or Gothic Quarter is the monumental area around the Cathedral and the Jewish Section. To make it easier, consider the section in a map between Las Ramblas and Via Laietana – the center of the medieval ara.
This is a wonderful area to stay if you love history and narrow alleys. You’ll feel like being in Italy, have lots of historical sites nearby, cool small little shops and cafes, and it’s pretty safe if you learn how to spot and avoid pickpockets during daytime and can find your way around backstreets at night.
You won’t find here large international chains like Sheraton or Ritz, but there are small local ones such as H10, lots of cute boutique hotels such as the Neri or the Mercer, and some hostels and cheap hotels.
The only downside is that some hotels in narrow side alleys are pedestrian only and you might have to carry your luggage a couple of blocks to the hotel from where your taxi drops you off. If you are considering to stay there, check out our post about our favorite hotels in Gothic Quarter of Barcelona.
El Born District (La Ribera)
El Born, sometimes called La Ribera, is a hype district with plenty of shops and tapas bars but in a medieval setting. On a map, you’ll find it East of the Barri Gotic, between Via Laietana and the Ciutadella Park.
There aren’t a lot of hotels in the area, but the ones there are quite new, small and boutiquey such as Banys Orientals or Boria. Again, the problem can be having to carry your luggage to get to your hotel if it’s located in a pedestrian street.
If you are considering this area to stay, check out our post about El Born Hotels (Barcelona).
I have mixed feelings about this vibrant street: in one hand, there are some nice hotels and it’s a lively area (and I love being close to the Boqueria Market!), but in the other hand it can get too busy specially at night, it’s a quite touristy area and pickpockets might be around. The lowest part of la Rambla (closest to the Port) at night gets an unpleasant atmosphere.
The district West of La Rambla is the dark side of the Old Town… Although some areas have improved a lot these last years, there are still many streets that are not at all recommendable. Check my Raval Googlemap for more info. I’d rather avoid to stay around here.
The accommodation prices are lower than in other areas of the Old Town, but the reason is that it isn’t as safe. I only recommend it for young well traveled people, but never for families. And these are the El Raval hotels we recommend, if you want to stay there.
Eixample district: City Center, Passeig de Gràcia
The Eixample district is the section of Barcelona that looks like a chess game when you look at a map. It was the area designed by Ildefons Cerda when the medieval walls were knocked down in 1854.
It is the area where most Gaudi sites and modernist buildings are located, and it should definitely be a place to consider when deciding where to stay in Barcelona. To me, it’s it’s probably the best neighborhood to stay in Barcelona.
City Centre – Plaça Catalunya
Locals consider Plaça Catalunya the city center of Barcelona. We could also add two adjacent squares, Plaça Universitat and Plaça Urquinaona, and the streets connecting them.
It’s the perfect choice if your priority is to be as centrally located as possible. Close to Passeig de Gracia, close to la Rambla and the Gothic Quarter, close to the shopping area, close to restaurants and with good public transportation connections with Montjuic, the Waterfront, Park Guell and Sagrada Familia.
It’s just quite busy with people and traffic, and the three squares I mentioned have little charm compared with what’s just a bit further away within walking distance. But if that sounds like the perfect location for you, check out where to stay on barcelona center in our blog.
Passeig de Gracia
The old road connecting Old Town Barcelona with the village of Gracia eventually became the city Champs Elysées. Fancy buildings, high end shops, exclusive hotels, great restaurants…
You’ll be walking distance from the Gaudí apartment buildings, right in the heart of the best shopping area, and you’ll have lots of food options nearby. In my opinion, if you are staying more than 4-5 blocks from Passeig de Gracia… it’s already too far to be considered the city center!
Check out our post about the best hotels near Passeig de Gràcia and Rambla Catalunya.
Other Eixample sections
Besides the area around the Sagrada Familia Church, that deserves its own chapter, there aren’t many reasons to want to stay somewhere else in Eixample.
Except that you are staying more than one week, so travel time doesn’t impact your sightseeing. Or that you’ve already been to Barcelona and want to see a more local side of it. Or that price is a top priority. In any case, these are some Eixample areas you’ll want to consider:
- Sant Antoni. Popular for its hipster restaurants and tapas bars. Located between the Raval district and the Hill of Montjuic, and connected by subway with Passeig de Gracia and Sagrada Familia. Stay at the Hotel Market for the best feel of the neighborhood.
- Nova Esquerra de l’Eixample. The most western end of Eixample, between Numancia and Comte Urgell streets. It shares the sites of Plaça Espanya with the Hill of Montjuic. Other sites of interest are a couple of modernist buildings in the busy Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes avenue (Casa de la Lactància and Casa Golferichs), and the Parc de l’Escorxador with a giant sculpture by Joan Miro. Stay at the Villa Emilia for the best feel of the area.
- Antiga Esquerra de l’Eixample. Located between Comte Urgell and Balmes streets, in 2020 this Barcelona district was awarded the prize to the Best Neighborhood of the World, competing against Downtown LA, Sham Shui Po in Hong Kong or NYC Bedford-Stuyvesant. Its many public facilities including the University of Barcelona and its historical gardens, the Hospital Clinic and the Ninot market were some of the features valued by the jury. But also the tight neighbour connections and innitiaves during Covid lockdown, and its gay-friendly side known as Gayxample were also taken into consideration. The Axel is our recommendation for LGTBI travelers, and the Mirror for straight.
- Dreta de l’Eixample. While technically it goes between Balmes and Passeig de Sant Joan, to me anything between Balmes and Roger de Lluria qualifies as close enough to Passeig de Gràcia (that is, central). Some call it “Cor de l’Eixample”, the heart of Eixample. So the “dreta” or right of Eixample would be more like what’s between Bruc and Passeig de Sant Joan. This area features lots of gorgeous modernist buildings, the market of La Concepció, and many local shops and cafés. Stay in Praktik Garden for a great local experience in this district.
- Passeig de Sant Joan. In 2021 Time Out declared this avenue the Second Coolest Street in the World, only after Smith Street in Melbourne. They valued its local cafés and restaurants, cool shops, bike lanes, greenery and the old Arus Library. Unfortunately, there’s no hotels right in this avenue, so you’ll have to try your luck perusing short-term rental websites.
- Fort Pienc. The Triangle formed by Diagonal Avenue, Passeig de Sant Joan and Meridiana Avenue is the most recently built area of Eixample, and probably the least attractive except for being “real middle-class Barcelona”. You’ll find there the Estació del Nord bus station, and the cultural sites around Plaça de les Glories Catalanes in one of its corners: the TNC Theater, the Auditorium, the DissenyHub museum and the Encants flee market. The SM Hotel Teatre Auditori will allow you to stay near them.
Although technically located within the Eixample district (top of Fort Pienc), it deserves its own entry when considering where to stay in Barcelona. After all, this church is the most visited monument in Spain! However, I must say I wouldn’t chose to stay in this area if I was coming for a short stay, as it is not walking distance from any other site, the food options aren’t specially remarkable and shopping is poor (outside of souvenirs).
It’s only great if you are fascinated by Gaudi and are decided to spend time looking at the basilica over and over again. Well, it’s also a good choice if you want to get a feel of the “real Barcelona”: only 2 blocks from the church, the area stops being touristy and becomes really local. Here are some suggested hotels in the area.
Waterfront: Port Vell, Barceloneta and Olympic Village
That is, unless you have a strong preference for one of the international hotels located here… Chose from two different locations:
Old Port (Port Vell)
Port Vell is the oldest marina of Barcelona, located between the end of La Rambla and Via Laietana. That is, it’s the waterfront of the Gothic Quarter. You’ll also have quick access to the Raval, the Born district and the Barceloneta beaches just a bit further away. The subway and buses in La Rambla and Via Laietana will connect you with most of the rest of the city sites. Duquesa de Cardona is our favorite choice there.
La Barceloneta is the other bank of the Port Vell Marina, limiting with the Born District and the Olympic Village. It used to be the old fishermen area. It’s lively, there are lots of seafood restaurants and the beach starts here. However, it’s not so well communicated (specially the W hotel, at the very end of everything…) and you’ll end up using taxis all the time or walking a lot.
This area is quieter than Barceloneta, but it’s even further from the city center. The good point are the restaurants along the beach and the marina, as well as the beach nightclubs if you are planning to go out at night. The Arts Ritz Carlton is the paradigm of hotels there.
Poblenou / Diagonal Mar
There are some fun restaurants, though. Besides that, the only other remarkable points are a huge shopping mall and the award-winning contemporary architecture of the area. And for people that love the little things of life, Poblenou can also be a good place to go off the beaten path. Check out our list of favorite hotels in Poblenou (Barcelona).
Zona Alta & Pedralbes (end of Diagonal Avenue)
A high end choice if you are looking for big hotels from well-known international chains: you’ll be in the close to the best neighborhood in Barcelona, but take into account that you’ll be far from the city center and you’ll need to take cabs or a long subway ride every time you want to go sightseeing.
In the other hand, the area is quiet, safe and local, and you’ll be near two top shopping areas where the local high society goes: Corte Inglés (Maria Cristina) and L’Illa.
LOOKING FOR OTHER DISTRICTS TO STAY? HERE ARE SOME MORE IDEAS:
Have you chosen what area to stay during your Barcelona trip?
Marta is the founder of ForeverBarcelona. She is a passionate tour guide that loves Barcelona and loves writing too. She is the main author of our Blog, and is committed to sharing her knowledge about Barcelona and her best tips with our readers.
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