Where to Stay in Barcelona — Best Neighborhoods and Accommodation

Where’s the best place to stay in Barcelona? I called in the experts! After writing my Where to Stay in Paris post, I was inundated with requests to do one for Barcelona, too. At the time, I grumbled, “I’m only one woman — I’m not an expert on every city in the world!”

But you know what? You really want to know. And while I’ve been to Barcelona several times, I don’t know it like I know Paris (and I can’t stand when travel bloggers write ultimate guides to places they barely know). So I hired two Barcelona experts to write the best, most detailed Barcelona accommodation guide possible: Ashley and Alex from the blog In Pursuit of Adventure.

And for the record — my personal favorite Barcelona neighborhood to stay in is Gràcia!

Take it away, guys!

Kate

The enchanting city of Barcelona is our favorite city in Europe to explore, and we love indulging in its unique culture. We’re not alone — tourists around the globe flock to this coastal Mediterranean city year-round, seeking out beautiful beaches, a vibrant culinary scene, and lively nightlife.

Barcelona is part of the region of Catalonia in northeast Spain, and the independence flag hanging off balconies reminds us that they are Catalan, not Spanish. The Catalan residents are proud of their city, their culture, their heritage, and of course their fútbol team, FC Barcelona! Their spirit of independence is contagious and gives the city so much character.

But choosing where to stay in Barcelona can be overwhelming, as it’s a large city broken into many different neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has its own distinct feel, charm, and loyal locals. So what do you do? That’s where we come in!

We know each of these Barcelona neighborhoods like we know the stamps in our passports. So here are our favorite neighborhoods to make your trip memorable. Just remember, no matter where you end up staying in Barcelona, be sure to venture out and sample the charms of each neighborhood from the touristy yet hipster neighborhood of El Born to the gritty and diverse El Raval.

Best Neighborhood Overall: El Born

El Born is the neighborhood to stay in if you are looking to be in the heart of the old city with fantastic artisan shops and hip restaurants. While it can be touristy, El Born is one of our favorite neighborhoods.

El Born is also perfect for anyone looking to be in the heart of Barcelona, as it’s walking distance to Barceloneta, the beach, the Gothic Quarter, and several metro stops that can connect you to all the different major sites in the city.

This neighborhood is perfect for exploring little local shops full of amazing products from handmade ceramics to custom leather aprons (which every trendy restaurant seems to have their waiters wear!) to art galleries. The alleyways are filled with street art, especially la bomba (the bomb), which represents Barcelona’s anarchist spirit, and flags and buntings for the perfect photo opportunities.

Be sure to pop into the Picasso Museum, which showcases the artist’s work from an early age to some of his most famous paintings. Try to visit on the first Sunday of the month when it’s free! Then grab a coffee or a vermouth at one of the many outdoor patios and soak in the relaxed lifestyle here.

Lower El Born is the more touristy side of the neighborhood with the church of Santa Maria Del Mar dominating the area and a large pedestrian area lined with hip restaurants, cocktails bars that go all night and boutique shops.

Upper El Born is quieter, filled with more residential apartments, local bar, and the famous Mercat Santa Caterina where you can go for the best local menú del día, or lunch special, at Bar Joan, which we think is the best lunch deal in town.

Check out hotels in El Born here.

Best Neighborhood for Beach Lovers: Barceloneta

Barceloneta is probably the proudest Catalan neighborhood in Barcelona and you’re never further than five minutes from the beach. The independence flag of Catalonia flies proudly from almost every balcony here.

Barceloneta is also the neighborhood where you will see the most backlash on tourism. Residents want to keep the neighborhood local and have fought ardently to keep it that way.

That doesn’t mean you should stay away, though. Thoughtful tourists who respect the locals are welcome. That means that when you leave the beach, put on some clothes before you pop into a shop or grab a bite to eat. If you are out until the early hours of the morning (which happens easily here), keep your voices down to avoid disturbing people who are asleep.

Also, make an effort to support local businesses here. Head to small, family-run restaurants like La Cova Fumada, where la bomba (not the street art — in this case, a glorious ball of fried mashed potatoes stuffed with minced meat and topped with aioli and bravas sauce) was first invented back during the Civil War. Or head to Vaso del Oro, where they have been brewing their own beer and serving it up in flautas, or beer flutes, for over fifty years.

Take a stroll along the sand and notice all the locals out walking, rollerblading, biking, and soaking up the Mediterranean sun. Barceloneta will treat you well if you treat it well.

Check out hotels in Barceloneta here.

Best Neighborhood for a Cultural Mix: El Raval

El Raval is the infamous neighborhood once known for drinking establishments, cabaret shows, prostitution, crime and Hemingway — and that’s exactly why you should stay there.  This neighborhood embraces its gritty past while looking to a modern future. Centrally located near the main port in the historical district of Barcelona commonly known as Ciutat Vella, today El Raval is far more charming than seedy.

The neighborhood is known for its diversity and often referred to as Barri Xinès, or Chinatown, by the locals. Today Chinese, Pakistanis, Filipinos, South Americans, Eastern Europeans and Middle Easterners inhabit the neighborhood, creating a unique melting pot of cultures.

Here you will also find one of Gaudi’s earlier works, the Palau Güell, and the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, more affectionately called MACBA. Here you will find locals of El Raval on the steps drinking wine and watching the skateboarders do tricks in the streets.

Today El Raval has become a treat for young foodies and boozehounds. The neighborhood is filled with restaurants and bars like Bar Marsella (pictured above), an old absinthe bar stuck in the time of Hemingway (the writer himself used to drink here quite often), or Bar Cañete, a modern player in the Barcelona culinary scene using classic Catalan ingredients to make innovative, modern dishes. 

Check out hotels in El Raval here.

Best Neighborhood for Foodies: Poble Sec

Poble Sec is the perfect neighborhood to stay in if you are looking for a some peace and quiet but also want to eat like a local. The neighborhood is quiet during the day but really comes to life at night when all the tiny tapas bars along the pedestrian-only Carrer de Blai open up shop and fill with hungry locals. This is the neighborhood to drink vermouth, grab some cheap eats, and revel in being Catalan if only for the duration of your stay.

While there are no major tourist sites in Poble Sec, this neighborhood is well connected by metro and it’s just a hike up the hill to see the castle of Montjuic, the gardens, and to take the funicular down to the beach.

This is also the neighborhood to visit Quimet & Quimet, one of the most famous tapas bars in the city. Here they focus on high quality conservas, or canned food, and montaditos, small open-faced sandwiches.

Squeeze in here, order some cava, a couple montaditos and throw your napkins on the floor like a local — that’s what you do in Poble Sec!

Check out hotels in Poble Sec here.

Best Neighborhood for a Small Town Feel: Gràcia

Gràcia is the neighborhood to stay in if you are looking for that small town charm while still in the big city. One of the more unique neighborhoods, Gràcia was its own village until Barcelona’s expansion absorbed it into the city itself. The locals, however, still very much consider themselves separate to Barcelona and it’s noticeable as soon as you exit the metro. It feels like you’ve stepped into another world here in Gràcia.

We personally love Gràcia as it is lesser-known to tourists but has a wonderful bar and restaurant scene, especially for classic Catalan dishes. Cal Boter is one of those restaurants that features traditional dishes like snails and pig trotter. If that’s a little too old-fashioned for your taste, head over to Bar Bodega Quimet for tapas in their small, bustling, and decidedly local bodega. Don’t forget to grab a drink at La Festival, a modern wine shop focusing exclusively on organic and biodynamic wines.

During the late afternoon, head to Plaça del Sol, the main square, where everyone in Gràcia congregates to gossip, people-watch, and just enjoy their daily life. Grab a beer and join in!

Gràcia exemplifies what Barcelona is all about: individuality and independence against larger outside forces.  It’s quiet and quaint with traditional shops but leaves room for modern roots to be established. Gràcia comes as a highly recommended neighborhood to stay in especially if you enjoy that local vibe and you are visiting Barcelona for the second or third time, as it is not located in the old city.

That said, Gràcia is located just beneath Gaudi’s famous park, Parc Güell, and is close to lesser-known Gaudi architecture and Tibidabo, an amusement park from the early 1900s that is still operational.

Check out hotels in Gràcia here.

Best Neighborhood for Hipsters: Sant Antoni

Sant Antoni is the hipster neighborhood and is the perfect place to stay for those looking for a modern vibe in the old city. While still very residential, it is quickly becoming host to a number of hip establishments like Cafe Cometa and La Donutería (yes, you can even find fancy donuts in Barcelona!). You will also find locals of Sant Antoni congregating around the Carrer del Parlament which is host to several very chic restaurants, bodegas and bars.

Sant Antoni hasn’t totally abandoned its roots, however, and here you will also find the much loved old school La Bodega d’en Rafel. They’re also renovating the heart of the neighborhood, Mercat Sant Antoni, which has been around since 1882.

Sant Antoni is a neighborhood that is focused on residential life, making it a great neighborhood to live like a local. However, it is not as well-connected to the city for first time visitors and does not have any tourist attractions. It also doesn’t have any major hotels, so apartment rentals may be the way to go here.

However, with the expansion of restaurants and nightlife, this may change in the future; Sant Antoni is, after all, the chic neighborhood. 

Check out hotels in Sant Antoni here.

Best Barcelona Hotels

You can compare rates on hotels throughout Barcelona here. Here are some of our top recommendations:

Best Luxury Hotel: W Barcelona

The W is an icon and the place to stay for luxury in Barcelona. Located on the beach in Barceloneta, across the street from the Desigual headquarters, the W Hotel invites sunbathers with its glass sail-like facade, reflecting the city and the beach below. 

There is a pool with a bar located on the 26th floor, so you can soak in views of both the city and the Mediterranean. Plus, during the summer they host a series of parties with local and international DJs on their pool deck. The W is the epitome of Barcelona cool.

Rates from 230 EUR ($242) per night.

Best Mid-Range Hotel: Barceló Raval

Dominating the skyline at Rambla del Raval is the Barceló Raval. This imposing circular hotel offers the perfect place to stay in the heart of the city with 180-degree views. Prices are very reasonable for the quality you receive. Plus, there is a swimming pool and a 360-degree rooftop bar that is the perfect place to catch every gorgeous Barcelona sunset. (That photo above is from the roof!)

Rates from 90 EUR ($95) per night.

Best Hostel: Generator Barcelona

Located in Gràcia, Generator Barcelona is a fantastic hostel to stay in while visiting the city, especially if you’re not a hostel person. The design of this hostel alone makes it less like a hostel and more like a boutique hotel. They also have a range of rooms starting from dorm shares to privates with twin beds to even a penthouse with a terrace!

This hostel has it all — free wifi, a lounge, even a bar, and is the perfect place to decompress after a day of sightseeing or a wild night out. You can meet lots of fellow travelers if you wish or just relax and enjoy your solitude.

Dorm beds from 11 EUR ($12) per night, private rooms from 45 EUR ($47) per night.

Barcelona Travel Tips

Barcelona can be overwhelming at times, so here are some travel tips to ensure you have the best trip possible:

Don’t stay too far outside the city. Barcelona has a very large metropolitan area, which is more than just the downtown and tourist sites, and the easiest way to ruin your trip is to stay too far outside.

Instead, stay within the old city limits of Barcelona, or right outside like in Gràcia, because when you are out in the boonies it can be difficult to find transportation back and forth to downtown. Keep in mind that the metro closes around midnight — you don’t want to take expensive taxis or tear yourself away like Cinderella!

Avoid La Rambla. La Rambla, or Las Ramblas as it is more often called, is the most famous street in Barcelona and at one time would have been a wonderful place to stay. Over the years, however, its popularity has become its downfall with overpriced souvenir shops and tourist traps.

We suggest taking a walk down to see La Rambla for yourself, but avoid spending too much of your precious time there. Barcelona has a lot of amazing things to offer you, but La Rambla is not one of them. Go see it and then hightail it to El Raval or El Born.

Learn a little Catalan. Barcelona’s official language is Catalan, not Spanish. Locals will not expect you to know Catalan, but they will appreciate it. Say bon dia for hello, adéu for goodbye, and mercès for thank you. Learn these three simple phrases and the Catalans will be so appreciative of your respect of their language!

Barcelona is best seen on foot. Despite its large size, Barcelona is a walking city at heart. Most of Barcelona’s tourist sites are clustered around Ciutat Vella, the old city. The little windy streets are like treasures — and you’ll miss them when underground on the metro!

Soak up all the wonderful vibrant energy this city has by taking daily strolls in different neighborhoods. You never know what you may encounter. As a bonus, you will work off all that wonderful food you’ve been eating. Speaking of which…

Eat when the locals eat (yes, they eat late). To truly understand the Barcelona lifestyle, you have to eat when the locals eat, otherwise you’ll be sitting in empty restaurants that are only for tourists. Get up in the morning but not too early, as the Catalans are not early risers, and have a cafe con leche (coffee with milk) with some pan con tomate (bread rubbed with tomato and garlic).

And then between 12:30 and 3:00 PM, enjoy the menú del dia, daily cheap lunch specials that often get you three courses with wine for around 10-15 EUR ($11-16). Locals love the menú del dia!

Drinking and eating is crucial to Catalan life, so grab drinks and tapas between 6:00 and 9:00 PM. Hop from one tapas bar to the next while enjoy a drink and just grab a few tapas at each place. Stand up at the bar or outside as you enjoy the bustling atmosphere.

Next, head to dinner around 10:00 PM and take your time eating. There is no rush in Catalonia, especially when you stay centrally and don’t have to worry about the metro closing! This is what the locals do, so you might as well enjoy it while you’re there.

Don’t Visit Barcelona Without Travel Insurance

A lot of people think travel insurance is an unnecessary expense — that’s far from the truth. Travel insurance is vital. It’s saved Kate hundreds of dollars and for one of her friends, who slipped and broke his back while traveling, his travel insurance saved him literally hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If you get pickpocketed on Barcelona’s metro, travel insurance will refund you what you lost.

If you slip on the stairs at the Parc Güell and break your ankle, travel insurance will refund your medical costs and get you home for free.

If you get appendicitis while in Barcelona, travel insurance will cover your medical costs.

If an immediate family member dies while you’re in Spain, travel insurance will help you get home immediately.

These are unpleasant things to think about, but it’s so important to be prepared for the worst.

AdventurousKate.com uses and recommends World Nomads Travel Insurance. They’re a great fit for almost every traveler. Take a look at their policies before you buy to make sure they’re right for you.

Barcelona is waiting for you!

So there you have it — everything you need to know in order to set yourself up for the best trip to Barcelona.  Once you are settled in a neighborhood, just let the infectious energy of the city carry you away and we promise you will love Barcelona as much as we do!

Meet the Barcelona Experts

Ashley and Alex are two travelers from California who are addicted to living local. They run the travel blog In Pursuit of Adventure and focus on eating, drinking, and living locally across the globe. They are currently exploring the cuisine and drinks of Cuba before turning their sights to Peru. They also are the authors of Eat Local in Barcelona: A Guide to Catalan Cuisine, which will be published in March.  

Have you been to Barcelona? Where’s you favorite place to stay? Share away!

Some Days in Barcelona

With less than a week left in Spain, I was kind of left with a choice. I could head to Granada and Ronda and try to shoot both locations, or I could go to Barcelona and take things a little bit easier. And while I’d been to Barcelona before, and both Granada and Ronda are […]

Nightlife in Barcelona

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Photo: Gene Krasko

Barcelona is famous for its vibrant nightlife and which is why everyone who ever visits raves about it for months to come. The trick with experiencing the city’s nightlife is to do it from different perspectives and not spend all your late nights and money on the fancy beach clubs. From zombies to skaters and sexy nuns — check out these 20 places to spice up your nightlife experience.

Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.

Renaissance Barcelona Hotel

 Renaissance Barcelona HotelBarcelona, SpainFancy hotel with a great rooftop bar. I used to go to their weekly “after work” parties for a glass of wine (reasonably priced, nice surprise) and mingling with locals and expats in chill atmosphere with good music. Get there before sunset and watch the sun go down over our beautiful city. #drinks #casual

The George Payne

 The George Payne Irish barBarcelona, SpainA super popular expat spot, the George Payne is fun and has great drink deals. I mean, if you’re gonna buy a beer, might as well get a bucket of 5, right? I always say I’m not doing karaoke there, yet I cave every time and so should you. #bar #casual

Betty Fords

 Bar Betty FordBarcelona, SpainCozy American/ Irish pub in raval. #casual #food

Foxy Bar

 Foxy BarBarcelona, SpainInstead of drinking at the crowded bars along la rambla, stray to the right towards raval a bit and chill at Foxy. Good music, relaxed vibe and cheap snacks. Drop by every Monday at 8pm to catch the movie they’re showing for the week. #food #casual

Bar Marsella

 Bar MarsellaBarcelona, SpainOne of the oldest, if not the oldest bar in Barcelona. Absinthe is what everyone comes here for. Picasso and Dali #nightlife used to frequent this bar back in the day #history

Macarena Club

 Macarena ClubBarcelona, SpainA smaller nightclub not too many people know about, especially not tourists. DJs play electronic music and there is a small stage you can dance on that’s always fun. (Let me know if you find my credit card somewhere around there, ha). Be nice to the bouncer and keep quiet on the street to respect the neighbors- that’s a city-wide rule. Cover charge is €10. #dancing #club #casual #cover-charge

El Bombón

 El Bombón SalsaBarcelona, SpainAwesome salsa bar in gótic. Even if you can’t dance, do what I do and sway side to side with a mojito in hand. Always easy to find a dancing partner and meet locals and expats. #salsa #dancing #casual

Tasca El Corral

 Tasca El CorralBarcelona, SpainThis bar embodies everything visitors think about Spain – delicious food, friendly staff and cheap drinks. The €1 house vermouth is an absolute hit and I’ve got to say, very good. The ham…oh, man! Just look up and you’ll see the delicious goodness hanging from the ceiling. (Don’t try to jump and grab it, you’ll only make a fool of yourself, I did). Do order a sandwich from the menu – this one is a toasted piece of bread rubbed with tomato and olive oil with pieces of jamón Serrano on top. #cheap-eats #open-late #food #casual

Sala Apolo

 Sala ApoloBarcelona, SpainApolo is great if you’re truly a music connoisseur. It’s a 2-story venue, where the first plays electronic and techno while the second has more mainstream tunes. Apolo has a themed party every day of the week – Nasty Mondays being a popular one. Unlike the beach clubs which are super fancy and require smart dress code, here you can show up in hiking boots. There’s a cover charge.

Razzmatazz

 RazzmatazzBarcelona, SpainRazz always soothes my soul. Loud electronic music, few floors, good rooftop. It’s more casual than the beach clubs because the performers they bring are less mainstream, such as Joris Delacroix and Tube & Berger which are names you’d know if you’re really into deep house. #dancing #club #cover-charge

La Terrraza Atmospherical Fun Club

 La Terrrazza Atmospherical fun clubBarcelona, SpainArguably the best club in town, la terrazza is big, spacious and located in an old Spanish village setup up by Montjuïc. Music is electronic and whatever’s popular at the moment. Drinks are expensive, obviously. Dress fancy. Get your entry ticket online and pay €13 instead of full price at the door. #dancing #club #cover-charge

Paradiso

 Paradiso / Pastrami BarBarcelona, SpainIf you go to this spot expecting a super cool bar and only find a pastrami shop, don’t cry just yet. Paradiso is a speakeasy, so be cool and the secret door will be opened for you. Everyone knows you didn’t just come for the pastrami sandwich (or did you?). Cocktails are quite pricy here but are worth the atmosphere and the creative combinations. #speakeasy #open-late

Sor Rita

 Sor Rita BarBarcelona, SpainThere is something deliciously wrong about this whole bar’s style and this is why everyone loves it. Self-titled as a “kitsch” bar, Sor Rita beings to life naughty nuns, cabaret, leopard and Almodóvar’s imagination. Cocktails are good, location great and entertainment never lacks. (I like the cocktail + tarot Monday’s) #bar #funky #kitsch

Manchester

 ManchesterBarcelona, SpainManchester is everything you’d expect it to be based on the name – fun, loud and with ample supplies of booze. There are 2 locations, I prefer the one in Gothic because it’s located right on the circular plaza (only circular plaza in the city, I hear – super photogenic spot). The usual a of this bar are not only British (though a ton are) but also all sorts of beer enthusiasts from all over the place. #bar #food #casual

Nevermind

 NevermindBarcelona, SpainNevermind is one of the favorite skater bars in town. You can literally board indoors while sipping on a beer, I mean what’s better than that? It’s frequented by a really chill crowd and is perfect to start the night at. #skater #bar #casual

Bollocks

 The BollocksBarcelona, SpainTake a trip to the past and hang out with Eddie the Head, Guns’n’Roses and the old time rock classics while cheap beer flows. #beer #rock

Polaroid Bar

 Polaroid BarBarcelona, SpainSo. Much. Nostalgia. This bar brings you back to the time of paceman, Pearl Jam and 80’s movies. Cocktails are cheap and delicious so just go ahead and lose yourself in this retro-chill vibe. #cocktails #bar #rock #retro #casual

La Fianna

 La FiannaBarcelona, SpainYou know those nights when you can’t decide between hitting up the bar or indulging in the sweet comfort of your bed? I present you the solution. La Fianna has not only an awesome bar, but a great lounge area with comfy sofas where you can kick back and enjoy a cocktail and a delicious curry dinner. #food #casual #open-late

La República

 La República RestoBarBarcelona, SpainGrilled meat and potatoes! Let me back up, relaxed atmosphere, €2,50 mojitos and great food. Check out the walls painted in reference to pop culture, the city and food. #food #casual

The Lime House

 The Lime HouseBarcelona, SpainIf you’re a gin lover, you need to know this spot. Dozens of gin flavors at €7 per glass. (It’s a huge glass, too!) They are app house-made and delicious. I like the lemongrass, grapefruit and strawberry mint flavors. Ask the bartender for a recommendation. #bar

The Barcelona Heatmap: Where to Eat Right Now

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El 300 del Born, Barcelona, Spain. [Photo: MoritzBarcelona/Flickr]

hasmap.jpgToday, Eater returns to Barcelona, Spain to focus on 15 exciting, newish restaurants and bars heating up the city’s dining scene. It’s been about 10 months since the last update of the Eater Barcelona heatmap, and this time around freelance writer Isabel Conde kindly shares her picks for the hottest dining and drinking her city has to offer.

Among the map’s offerings are a couple of concepts from the one and only Albert Adrià, including a Nikkei restaurant that fuses Japanese and Peruvian cuisines (Pakta) as well as a re-creation of the classic 1950s vermut bar (Bodega 1900). There’s also a one-Michelin-star restaurant that started serving a haiku-inspired menu out on its terrace (Terraza del Dos Palillos), and a more affordable sibling restaurant to the famously tough door that is El Celler de Can Roca (Roca Moo). Not to mention beach bars with elevated snack foods (La Guingueta) and a hot new spot for beer and tapas inside a market and cultural center (El 300 del Born). Here now, the Eater Heatmap to Barcelona:

Tried any of the places on the list or feel there are any glaring omissions? You know what to do.

· All Barcelona Coverage on Eater [-E-]
· All Eater Heatmaps [-E-]

Map: Barcelona’s Hottest Restaurants

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Today we head to Spain, Barcelona to be exact, and focus on eight newish locales that have been garnering serious buzz. For this edition, local fixer, field producer, and translator Lucy Garcia has kindly shared with us her picks for the hottest dining her city currently has to offer (if the name sounds familiar, it’s likely because you’ve seen her collaborating with the likes of Ferran Adrià and Anthony Bourdain).

Among the map’s offerings are new projects from worldwide superstars (the Adrià brothers’ Tickets and 41 Degrees), a few restaurants from local chefs that are positioning themselves as Michelin contenders (Dos Cielos, Coure), two new entries in the Spanish “gastrobar” canon (Sagas, Ohla Gastronomic Bar), and the hotel restaurant of an admired local chef (Jean-Luc Figueras’ Blanc).

Here, now, Barcelona’s Restaurants of the Moment.