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:
- Proximity to Barcelona’s top attractions.
- Accessibility to the city’s transport.
- Nightlife options nearby.
- Beach convenience.
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.
Make sure you click the blue buttons to find the best deals on accommodation in each area.
The Best Area to Stay in Barcelona
Attractions: ★★☆☆ Central: ★★★★ Nightlife: ★★★★ Relax: ☆☆☆☆
It’s not a neighbourhood but Barcelona’s most famous street is tourist central.
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.
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.
El Born/La Ribera
Attractions: ★★☆☆ Central: ★★★☆ Nightlife: ★★☆☆ Relax: ★★★☆
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.
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.
If there are any downsides it would be that bars and restaurants tend to be pricey – but keep in mind this means quality too.
Attractions: ★★☆☆ Central: ★★★☆ Nightlife: ★☆☆☆ Relax: ★★★★
Gracia used to be a separate town from Barcelona and retains some of its independent feel.
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.
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.
Attractions: ★★☆☆ Central: ★★★★ Nightlife: ★★★★ Relax: ★☆☆☆
Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter is a maze of bars and restaurants without end.
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.
For solo travelers this will be your best bet to meet people.
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!
Attractions: ★★☆☆ Central: ★★★★ Nightlife: ★★★☆ Relax: ★☆☆☆
Barcelona’s most multi-cultural area may be the most divisive area to stay.
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.
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.
Attractions: ★☆☆☆ Central: ★★★☆ Nightlife: ★☆☆☆ Relax: ★★☆☆
This seaside neighbourhood is the best area to stay in Barcelona near the beach.
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.
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.
Attractions: ★★★★ Central: ★★★☆ Nightlife: ★★★☆ Relax: ★★☆☆
This fashionable area is known for its fascinating grids that make great aerial photography.
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.
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.
Attractions: ★★☆☆ Central: ★★☆☆ Nightlife: ★☆☆☆ Relax: ★★★★
This underrated neighbourhood finds itself in a picturesque area under Montjuic Hill.
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.
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.
Attractions: ★☆☆☆ Central: ★☆☆☆ Nightlife: ★☆☆☆ Relax: ★★★★
This up and coming area used to be the industrial heart of the city.
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.
Some prominent downsides are that it’s not walking distance to any main attractions. There are also very few nightlife and shopping opportunities.
Attractions: ★★☆☆ Central: ★★☆☆ Nightlife: ★★☆☆ Relax: ★★★★
You’ll find this neighbourhood right outside Barcelona’s main train station Sants Estacio.
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.
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.
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 in my new Facebook group called I’m Off to Barcelona – here you can ask any questions, air out grievances, chat with fellow travelers, and more – anything goes!
As always, happy travels 🙂