Looking for the best area to stay in Barcelona for your trip? It’s a tough decision, because there are so many neighbourhoods to choose from. Barcelona is a beautiful city, but the area you choose to stay will make a big difference to how you experience it. Are you visiting for a romantic couple weekend? A family holiday? Here for the beach, or the art, or the food? In this guide, we uncover ten of Barcelona’s top neighbourhoods to help you make the right choice for your trip, including our recommendations on hotels and hostels.
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Where is the best area to stay in Barcelona?
In a hurry? Here’s a quick description of each of the Barcelona neighbourhoods we cover in this guide. For more detailed information, you can skip to the relevant sections below.
- Gothic Quarter. Central medieval neighbourhood. Perfect for romantic couple weekends.
- Eixample. Huge area full of tourist attractions, including La Sagrada Familia. Ideal for sightseeing.
- Gràcia. Quieter neighbourhood with laidback cafés, parks and squares. Perfect for families.
- El Born. Historic neighbourhood known for its museums and nightlife. Great for outgoing travellers.
- El Raval. Edgy, culturally diverse neighbourhood with a thriving art scene. Perfect for art lovers.
- Sant Antoni. Up-and-coming foodie district with many coworking spaces. Great for remote workers.
- Poble Sec. Large area around the hill of Montjuïc, with a top live music scene. Nice for getting outdoors.
- Barceloneta. The main beachfront and promenade, with great seafood restaurants. Ideal for beaches.
- Poblenou. Seaside neighbourhood popular with entrepreneurs and startups. Perfect for quieter beaches.
- Vila Olimpica. Built for 1992 Olympic athletes. Think modern hotels, offbeat beaches and watersports.
Want to stay in self-catered accommodation for your trip? Check out our article on the 25 best Vrbo apartments in Barcelona for inspiration.
How big is Barcelona?
Barcelona is a very big city, home to more than a million and a half people. Stretching between the shores of the Mediterranean and the Serra de Collserola mountains, the city’s downtown districts and quieter suburbs are very spread out.
The ten neighbourhoods we explore in this guide cover a combined area of more than 75 square kilometres!
Unlike some cities, not all of Barcelona’s most popular sites and attractions are concentrated in one particular area. Lots of the most famous icons are situated in the Gothic Quarter and Eixample, but many more are dotted across a huge space, which is too big to navigate by walking.
When it comes to your time to visit, our first-timer’s guide to getting around Barcelona will help you navigate your way around the city.
Now, let’s take a dive into each of the best neighbourhoods in Barcelona and what you can expect to find in them.
Best area to stay in Barcelona for couples: Gothic Quarter
We always love exploring Barri Gòtic, Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, the medieval heart of the city. It is a maze of narrow alleys and cobbled plazas, where you can discover some of the city’s most famous historic buildings.
On Thursdays, the weekly Gothic Antiques Market is in full swing on the square in front of Barcelona Cathedral, while cosy bars and tapas eateries are packed with a convivial mixture of locals and tourists.
This is the most romantic part of the city, and a place you will definitely want to explore on a couple’s getaway. You can get lost among its alleys and stumble upon Gothic palaces and stunning basilicas. There’s also a lot of history to explore here, for example at MUHBA, the Barcelona history museum.
The Gothic Quarter is among the more expensive areas to stay in Barcelona, but if you love being at the centre of it all, then it’s worth paying the premium.
Best places to stay in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter
Here are our top picks for the best hotels in the Gothic Quarter and other accommodation:
- Best hotel: Mercer Hotel Barcelona
- Best mid-range hotel: Maldà Singular Hotel
- Best hostel: Itaca Hostel
- Best self-catered apartment for couples: Gotic Vibes
Other good neighbourhoods for couples
Other Barcelona neighbourhoods offer a different vibe for couples. Here are some more to consider staying for that romantic weekend:
- Eixample, to be within reach of Gaudí’s greatest masterpieces.
- Gràcia, for a more laidback vibe and some wonderful city views uphill.
- Poble Sec, to experience its foodie scene and morning walks on Montjuïc.
- Poblenou, great for couples who love a quieter spot near the beach.
Best area to stay in Barcelona for sightseeing: Eixample
Eixample is an expansive inland neighbourhood that covers a huge area, encompassing many of the city’s top sightseeing attractions. It connects the lower central districts of Barri Gòtic, Raval and El Born with uphill Gràcia.
The eastern part of Eixample is where you will find Barcelona’s most recognisable icons. Gaudí masterpieces La Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló and are all situated here.
Eixample is dissected by Passeig de Gràcia, one of Barcelona’s most famous avenues. The broad, tree-lined boulevard and its surrounding streets are the ideal base for exploring the area’s iconic architecture, and it is also just a short walk away from the Gothic Quarter and El Born.
This is one of the busiest parts of Barcelona, so it isn’t the best option if you want to escape the crowds and noise. But if you like to embrace the busyness, Eixample is a great choice for staying in Barcelona on a sightseeing weekend.
Looking for activity ideas while you’re here? Check out our itinerary for 3 days in Barcelona.
Best places to stay in Eixample
Eixample has a huge choice of accommodation for all budgets and styles. These are our top picks for the best hotels and other accommodation options:
- Best hotel: Hotel El Palace Barcelona
- Best mid-range hotel: Hotel Astoria
- Best hostel: Hostel One Batlló
- Best self-catered: Charming Princesita Apartment
Other great neighbourhoods for sightseeing
Eixample is our neighbourhood of choice for sightseeing, but you might also want to consider these alternatives:
- Gothic Quarter, for Barcelona Cathedral, palaces, old churches and historic streets.
- El Born, to explore great museums like the Picasso Museum and the Chocolate Museum.
- Gràcia, the home of some breathtaking Gaudí works like Park Güell and Casa Vicens.
- Poble Sec, ideal for seeing Montjuïc and its castle, cemetery and daily light shows.
Best area to stay in Barcelona for nightlife: El Born
I have a good old friend who lives in Barcelona, and we go out for drinks at some local bars whenever I visit. The neighbourhood he usually takes us is El Born.
At night, this picturesque neighbourhood comes to life with its scattering of cocktail bars, trendy pubs and late-night tapas restaurants. It’s particularly buzzing between around 10pm to 2am, as people flock here for pre-drinks before heading beachside to the club scene in Poblenou or Vila Olimpica.
El Born is not just about nightlife. Like the neighbouring Gothic Quarter, its quaint streets are lined with historic buildings, and there is much to discover. While it’s a lively place at night, in the daytime it’s a little quieter than the hotspots of Eixample and the Gothic Quarter – so you get the best of both worlds.
This is one of the best areas in Barcelona for museums. It’s home to the Picasso Museum and Chocolate Museum, and is also right next to Parc de la Ciutadella for Barcelona Zoo, the Zoological Museum and the Castle of the Three Dragons.
Best places to stay in El Born
El Born is one of Barcelona’s smaller districts, but there are still various hotels and hostels to choose from. These are our choices for the best accommodation in El Born:
- Best hotel: The Barcelona EDITION
- Best mid-range hotel: chic&basic Habana Hoose
- Best hostel: Safestay Barcelona Gothic
- Best apartment for couples: studio with private terrace
Other great neighbourhoods for nightlife
El Born is one of many Barcelona areas with buzzing nightlife. You may prefer others depending on what you’re into. Here’s a quick taste of what you can find elsewhere:
- Vila Olimpica and Poblenou, the heart of the big beachside club scene.
- Gràcia, especially around Joanic for some great hipster and retro bars.
- Poble Sec, the place to be for local live music bars.
- Eixample, the epicentre of Barcelona’s craft beer scene.
Best area to stay in Barcelona for the art scene: El Raval
El Raval is separated from the Gothic Quarter by the long and legendary La Rambla boulevard. The neighbourhood has historically been seen as the dodgier side of the tracks, but this former rough and seedy district is now a thriving hub of art and culture.
Barcelona is rife with street art pretty much everywhere, but in El Raval it is particularly prevalent. We love to just wander its backstreets and see what we can spot (although you still need to be a little careful at night around some of these parts).
It’s fitting that El Raval is home to the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, as this is where the creative younger generations tend to gravitate. The university is right next door, and the neighbourhood is also the setting for the fabulous Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB), a coming-together place for talented creators of many kinds.
El Raval has a convenient central location and is typically a little cheaper than the neighbouring Gothic Quarter. Away from La Rambla, you’ll find some real hidden gems of local eateries at a fraction of the price.
Best places to stay in El Raval
In El Raval you will find some of Barcelona’s most characterful accommodation. These are our recommendations on El Raval’s best hotels and other places to stay:
- Best hotel: Sonder Casa Luz
- Best mid-range hotel: Acta BCN 40
- Best hostel: St Christopher’s Barcelona
- Best self-catered accommodation: bright studio apartment
Read more: see our personal review of Sonder Casa Luz, situated on the threshold of El Raval and Eixample.
Other good neighbourhoods for art
Looking for an alternative base to explore art in Barcelona? You could also consider these:
- El Born, for great galleries like the Picasso Museum and the European Museum of Modern Art.
- Gothic Quarter, where you will find many smaller and specialist galleries.
- Poble Sec, for the wonderful CaixaForum cultural centre set in an old textile factory.
- Eixample and Gràcia, to explore the heartlands of Gaudí’s creations.
Best area to stay in Barcelona for backpackers: Poble Sec
Poble Sec is a trendy but more laidback district to the west side of downtown Barcelona. Its lively core is focused around the arterial thoroughfare of Avinguda del Paral·lel, but the area also incorporates the hill of Montjuïc and its sprawling green spaces.
The young, outgoing scene in Poble Sec and its scattering of trendy bars and live music venues make this a popular spot for backpackers. It’s an affluent neighbourhood, but accommodation prices are usually lower than the more central areas, so you get the double benefit of it being a safe area and good value for money.
Montjuïc is a must-visit in Barcelona, and Poble Sec is the best place to stay to make the most of it. When my Barcelona friend lived on this side of the city he used to go on frequent morning runs up the hill and around its woodland. What a way to start the day, with those city views from 178 metres high!
Best places to stay in Poble Sec
Most of the best places to stay in Poble Sec are situated just off Avinguda del Paral·lel. These are our top choices for hotels in Poble Sec and other options:
- Best hotel: Hotel Brummell
- Best mid-range hotel: Paral·lel
- Best hostel: Hostel One Paralelo
- Best apartment for groups: beautiful Poble Sec apartment
Other good neighbourhoods for backpackers
Backpackers in Barcelona are really spoilt for choice. Here are some more of the best places for backpackers to stay in the city:
- El Raval, probably the cheapest area to stay centrally, with a compelling cultural vibe.
- Eixample, with the highest concentration of hostels, and proximity to explore many sites on foot.
- Sant Antoni, for its great foodie scene and easy access to sightseeing areas.
Best area to stay in Barcelona for families: Gràcia
Barcelona has so much to offer for travelling families. There are endless activities to entertain kids and adults of all ages, whether it’s the golden beaches, fun museums, or a theme park on top of a hill.
We’ve picked out Gràcia as an ideal neighbourhood to stay with kids in Barcelona, as it provides a great balance. It’s quiet and chilled out, but there is still plenty to see and do.
There’s a lot of outdoor open space here, with streets intermingled with parks and plazas. Picturesque streets are dotted with laidback cafés and quirky restaurants, and at night there’s a lively bar scene (but not much noise pollution).
Most famous is Park Güell, Gaudí’s spectacular sculpted outdoor space that overlooks the city like a balcony. At the far north of Gràcia, you can take the legendary Tramvia Blau (blue tram) up to Tibidabo and spend a fun day out at one of the world’s oldest amusement parks, half a kilometre above sea level.
Best places to stay in Gràcia
The accommodation options in Gràcia are ideal for families. There is a great choice self-catered apartments, typically a bit more spacious than in downtown areas, and various good value hotels. These are our picks:
- Best hotel: Be Mate Paseo de Gracia
- Best mid-range hotel: BCN Urbaness Hotels Bonavista
- Best hostel: Sant Jordi Hostels Gracia
- Best apartment for families: cosy renovated Gracia apartment
Other great neighbourhoods for families
Here are some more neighbourhoods in Barcelona that are suitable for families with kids to stay:
- Eixample, for the convenience of being close walking distance to sightseeing attractions.
- El Born, for fun at the Chocolate Museum, Ciutadella Park and Barcelona Zoo.
- Poble Sec, to be close to Montjuïc, which is brilliant for exploring with children.
- Barceloneta, ideal for families who want to be near the beach and entertainment.
Best areas to stay in Barcelona near the beach
Barceloneta: the main beach area
Barcelona has some 4.5 kilometres of beaches along its shoreline. The most central and popular of these is Barceloneta, where a wide seafront promenade stretches along a vast expanse of golden sand.
The neighbourhood is also well placed to explore attractions further inland. Located at the foot of La Rambla, it is within walking distance of the Gothic Quarter, El Raval and El Born. There are interesting places to explore within Barceloneta too, such as Barcelona Aquarium and the Museum of the History of Catalonia at the marina.
Barceloneta was once a fishing village, but is now a hotspot for beach revellers. This is also where you will find many of Barcelona’s best seafood restaurants. You may do well to avoid the more expensive restaurants that face out onto the sea; instead, look for the more local eateries sprinkled among the rows of narrow gridded streets just inland from the beach.
Best places to stay in Barceloneta
Accommodation in Barceloneta is quite limited as its a mostly residential area, but these are are picks among what’s available:
- Best hotel: Sofitel Barcelona Skipper
- Best mid-range hotel: Hotel 54 Barceloneta
- Best hostel: Sea Hostel Barcelona
- Best apartment for groups or families: directly at the beach
Poblenou: best for quieter beaches
The one-time industrial heartland of Poblenou has been undergoing a renaissance in recent years. A massive urban regeneration has brought new life to the neighbourhood, and it is now an entrepreneurial hub that is attracting young businesspeople and startups.
This change has been reflected in the emergence of places like Aticco Med, one of our favourite coworking spaces in Barcelona, with a swimming pool terrace that looks out to the sea.
Poblenou has also become a focal point of Barcelona’s late-night club scene, home to various trendy cocktail bars and big mega-clubs like Razzmatazz.
But in the daytime, people come to Poblenou for the beach. This is where you can find some of the city’s quieter, off-the-beaten-path beaches, with pristine clean sand and a relaxed vibe. As a general rule in Barcelona, the further north you go, the quieter the beaches are.
Best places to stay in Poblenou
Accommodation in Poblenou often reflects the neighbourhood’s rejuvenated atmosphere. Here are are favourite picks among the best places to stay in Poblenou:
- Best hotel: Hotel Paxton Barcelona
- Best mid-range hotel: Hotel Best 4 Barcelona
- Best hostel: Zero Barcelona
- Best apartment for groups or families: beach apartment Barcelona
Vila Olimpica: best for watersports
Nestled between Barceloneta and Poblenou, Vila Olimpica is a purpose-built seaside village that was created for athletes at the 1992 Olympic Games. Before that, it was a crumbling industrial wasteland and rundown residential quarter.
In many ways, Vila Olimpica is an extension of Poblenou; its beach, Nova Icària, is one of the city’s most idyllic and clean, and there’s also a pumping club scene here to match.
But what sets Vila Olimpica apart is its striking slickness and modernity. Affluent families have moved into the area, and it has become one of the most highly coveted places to live in the city.
You won’t find a lot of history and authentic Barcelona culture in Vila Olimpica. But if you love the ocean, this is a base worth considering. Not only does it have one of the city’s best beaches, but the Olympic port is a hub for watersports; sailing boats, paddle surfers and kayakers are a daily sight on the waterfront.
Best places to stay in Vila Olimpica
Vila Olimpica’s accommodation options are mostly polished, modern constructions, where you will find sleekness and modern architectural prowess, but not so much heritage. These are our recommended hotels and other places to stay in the area:
- Best hotel: Hotel Arts Barcelona
- Best mid-range hotel: ibis Styles Barcelona City Bogatell
- Best hostel: Unite Hostel Barcelona
- Best apartment for groups or families: 1212 Olympic Ciutadella Apartment
Best area to stay in Barcelona for remote workers: Sant Antoni
Remote working has changed the world of travel. Barcelona has been further ahead of this evolution than most places, and has adapted its infrastructure quickly to cater for people who travel and work. Its modern, sustainable transport system is now complemented with around 100 vibrant coworking spaces and dozens of laptop-friendly cafés.
In our guide to taking a workation in Barcelona, we take an in-depth look at how to make the most of a short-term remote work trip to the city.
Sant Antoni is a neighbourhood where you can really feel this change. It’s a small place, but is home to some of the city’s most creative and welcoming coworking spaces. One example is Cahoot Coworking, set in a transformed industrial warehouse, and another is Coco Coffice, which caters for nomads with desks by the hour.
This is also one of the top neighbourhoods in Barcelona for foodies. The scene has burgeoned around Sant Antoni Market, a 19th century food hall, and the surrounding streets are now awash with tapas bars, street food yards and wine bodegas.
Best places to stay in Sant Antoni
Sant Antoni’s accommodation options have a little bit more of a local vibe. These are our chosen hotels and other places to stay in the neighbourhood:
- Best hotel: Casa Elliot
- Best mid-range hotel: HCC Lugano
- Best hostel: Pars Tailor’s Hostel
- Best apartment for coworkers: penthouse with large terrace
Other good neighbourhoods for remote workers
Here are some alternative ideas for neighbourhoods to stay in Barcelona on a remote working trip:
- Poblenou, to be around the buzzing community of young entrepreneurs and startups.
- Poble Sec, for its laidback vibe and interesting coworking spaces like La Vaca.
- El Raval, to immerse in the artistic vibe and stay in characterful hotels for working.
Safest neighbourhoods in Barcelona
What are the safest neighbourhoods in Barcelona? It’s a question that often comes up. There are a few things that are useful to know before you choose where to stay.
The good news is that Barcelona is generally a very safe city. But like any big city, Barcelona has some issues with petty crime. The most prevalent problem is pickpockets. This is most common on the metro, or in touristy areas like the Gothic Quarter, La Rambla, Passeig de Gràcia and Barceloneta. Check out this guide on how to avoid pickpockets in Barcelona for some useful tips.
The safest areas in Barcelona are typically the prosperous places like Gràcia, Eixample, Poblenou, Vila Olimpica and Poble Sec. But as long as you are streetwise and apply basic travel common sense, any of the areas we’ve covered above are safe to stay.
Are there any other areas you should avoid? While it’s cleaned up its image significantly, certain parts of El Raval are known to be a bit shifty at night. However, we’ve stayed there on more than one occasion and have never had any problems to speak of.
Wherever you go, the usual rules of travel safety should apply. Don’t go wandering around after dark in neighbourhoods you’re not familiar with, and stick to street-lit places.
Map of Barcelona neighbourhoods
We’ve put together this Barcelona neighbourhoods map so you can see the locations of the ten areas we’ve covered in this guide:
Have you spent time in Barcelona before? We’ve love to know your opinions on the best area to stay in Barcelona. Please pipe up in the comments below.