Where to Stay in Barcelona: A Complete Guide

Barcelona is a beautiful city that has been one of the most visited places in Europe for decades at this point. Beaches, perpetual sun (though on my last trip it did rain about two inches in 24 hours), and a great food scene – what, exactly, is not to love?

However, if you’re willing to dive a little deeper, Barcelona and the broader region of Catalonia have an interesting history and culture that is unique within Spain. 

We first visited Barcelona together (though we had each been before, separately) in the fall of 2021, and we spent a week exploring the city and getting beneath the surface level. We spent hours at the Museu d’Història de Catalunya, walked miles and miles all over the city, and discovered the beautiful drink that is Spanish vermouth (vermut).

In 2024, I (Matt here) made a return trip to Barcelona for a nice springtime trip full of gluten free food, deeper dives into Barcelona’s history and culture, and modernist architecture. I was there at the end of April and it was VERY BUSY, so it’s important to book your place to stay well in advance.

I made some wholesale changes to this guide based on that more recent experience, doing my best to streamline it and give you all the information you need to figure out where to stay.

In this guide, we’re going to use our experiences across multiple trips to Barcelona to walk you through all the information you need to figure out where to stay in Barcelona for your particular style, budget, and preferences. 

Each neighborhood offers a different blend of vibes, prices, and pros and cons, and we’ll cover it all below.

Our intention is that, by the end of this guide, you have everything you need to choose the right place to stay in Barcelona for you and your travel companions. 

Sound good to you? Let’s get into it. 

Important note: This is a long guide with lots of detail (it got longer and longer as we put it together), but we’ve done our best to structure it with headings, a helpful summary at the top, and a table of contents to help you navigate it without reading literally every word. 

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post, like hotel links, are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, we make a little bit of money if you click through and book. That being said, we would never recommend something to you that we don’t stand behind 100%.

A Quick Primer on Barcelona’s Geography (+ Map)

Before we get into this guide, it makes sense to take a step back and (briefly) cover the geography of Barcelona, because it will help you visualize what we’re talking about as we get into the individual neighborhoods below. 

The easiest place to start is the Old City, or Ciutat Vella in Catalan. This is the core of the oldest part of Barcelona, where the Romans first settled, and is made up of four distinct neighborhoods: the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic), El Raval, El Born, and Barceloneta. 

La Rambla, the most famous (and also worst) street in Barcelona, runs right down the middle of it, separating the Gothic Quarter from El Raval. To the east, you’ll find El Born and La Barceloneta (the latter is along the water and home to the city’s most popular beach). 

That old core of the city is surrounded by a couple of other neighborhoods that, at one point in the city’s history, were actually completely separate towns. Today, places like Gràcia, Poble Sec, and Poblenou have been swallowed up by the city limits. 

The area between the Ciutat Vella and those further out neighborhoods was developed in the 19th Century, and is called “l’Eixample” which literally means “the expansion” in Catalan. It’s modern, gridded, and a little fancy, and connects the different parts of the city both literally and figuratively with its excellent transit connections. 

Here’s a map to help you visualize what we’re talking about, which you can refer back to as you read through this guide. 

Where to Stay in Barcelona: A Complete Guide to 5 Great Neighborhoods

And now, on to the main event!

Our philosophy when it comes to deciding on a place to stay is to first choose the neighborhood, then move on to finding a great hotel, hostel, or apartment in that area.

The reality is that, depending on what you’re looking for, there are other neighborhoods not included in this guide that might meet your needs. But these are the five that we think are the best for 99% of travelers, and we’ve shown our work, doing our best to explain why we think that. 

For each of the five neighborhoods, we’ve created a structure to help you figure out if it’s the right home base for you. Here’s what we’ll cover: 

  • An overview of the neighborhood and our experience with it. We’ve personally been to and explored (more than once) all of the areas on this list, so we’ll try to give you a little bit of our perspective on what makes each area special. 

  • Pros and cons of staying in this area. The things you need to know to make your decision. 

  • Highlights of the neighborhood. Coffee shops, restaurants, parks, etc that we enjoyed, and think you probably will too.

Now, we’re well aware that a few of you are currently ready to throw your left shoe at the screen, saying “I don’t have time to read all of that, JUST TELL ME THE BEST PLACE TO STAY!” 

Well, here’s a quick summary of this guide if you’re short on time (though we’d recommend reading the section of the place you end up staying for tips and places to add to your list!). 

  • Our top recommendation is to find a charming hotel or guesthouse in Gràcia, which is far and away our favorite part of Barcelona. Cobblestone streets, energetic plazas, and some of the best bars and restaurants in the city? Sign us up. If you want a nice affordable hotel, stay at Hotel Barcelona 1882. If you want to stay in an apartment for a little more space, look at Be Mate Paseo de Gràcia.

  • If it’s your first time in Barcelona, you can’t go wrong with staying centrally in l’Eixample. It’s right in the center of the city, conveniently located between the Old City and Gràcia, and it’s well connected to just about every place you’ll want to visit over the course of your Barcelona itinerary. This part of the city is full of great hotels – we’ve stayed at and would recommend Casa Bonay​ (a beautiful boutique hotel) and Praktik Essens (a nice mid-range option).

  • If you want to stay in the Cituat Vella, we’d choose El Born, a hip part of Barcelona that’s near the Gothic Quarter and waterfront, and is packed full of bars, restaurants, cafes, and more. It’s a good central location, and generally feels much more authentic than, say, the Gothic Quarter. For an affordable guesthouse, look at Casa Consell. For a more upscale hotel, look at the Mercer Hotel​.

While you’re in Barcelona, you’re probably going to want to see some of the main Gaudí sights, like the Sagrada Familia and Casa Batlló.

Don’t miss our favorite tour company in Europe, Walks, who has an excellent extended Gaudí tour that covers most of those main sights, and a tour of the Sagrada Familia at closing time.

I (Matt here!) did the Gaudí tour (linked above) on my trip this year because I was looking for a deeper understanding of his influence on the city, and the tour did not disappoint (despite the fact that I had done the main sights before, sometimes multiple times). 

I truly love the Sagrada Familia despite the fact that I’m not a huge “see all the churches” person. That basilica is on a different level – the level of care and craft that has gone into every single detail is truly mind blowing. 

If you only have time for one tour in Barcelona, I’d choose a tour of the Sagrada Familia so that you have the context and understanding of the details to truly appreciate it. 

We’ve now done at least seven tours with Walks over our travels the past few years, and have always been impressed with both their itineraries and their guides. You can read about our experience on their Colosseum Tour in Rome here

Where We’ve Stayed in Barcelona

We always like to start these guides with our own personal experiences in terms of places we’ve stayed. 

We’ve now been to Barcelona twice together over the past few years (we’ve both been before that, but separately), with the second trip being a solo trip for Matt earlier this year. We’ve stayed in a couple of different places over those trips. 

On that first trip to Barcelona, we stayed in two separate neighborhoods over the course of our week in the city – in Gràcia, which we loved and highly recommend – and in l’Eixample, which is about as central as it gets. 

Gràcia is at the northern edge of the city center, but is well-connected to the main sights in Barcelona via the metro (there are two metro stops nearby that connect you to the Old City and La Sagrada Familia as well as the airport/train station).

This is our top pick in terms of places to stay in Barcelona because it has the best combination of bars, restaurants, and coffee shops, location and connections to the rest of the city, and a feeling like locals ACTUALLY live here. 

We stayed at Casa Gràcia, which we have mixed feelings about. It was a great location, just a short walk to everything in Gràcia and literally one minute from both great coffee and a metro stop.

But the rooms and common areas feel like they’ve been slowly deteriorating for years, and the room we stayed in was a little… dirty. It has SO MUCH POTENTIAL, but it really doesn’t live up to expectations based on the pictures, which must have been taken immediately after a super deep clean.

Overall, we’d definitely stay in Gràcia again, but we’d find a different place to stay. And we’d probably choose Be Mate Paseo de Gràcia, an aparthotel right across the street from Casa Gràcia with modern rooms (including spacious apartments with kitchens). 

L’Eixample is another great location, though it’s not nearly as charming as Gràcia or, say, the Gothic Quarter. It’s the modern section of Barcelona, built as the city expanded past the original walls, and it looks more like Paris or another modern city than other parts of Barcelona’s center. 

We’ve stayed in l’Eixample on both of our collective Barcelona trips recently, and on this latest trip, I (Matt) spent my trip in l’Eixample split between two different hotels (I couldn’t choose, so I decided to try them both!), and it changed the way I thought about the neighborhood. 

In prior versions of this guide, I described l’Eixample as utilitarian and somewhat boring, which is sort of true to some extent. It is convenient in terms of location and transit connections, and it isn’t the most exciting neighborhood in terms of bars and restaurants. 

However, there are definitely pockets full of good places to eat and drink (some of my favorite coffee shops in Barcelona were in l’Eixample), and it is now a close second to Gràcia in my mind in terms of the best neighborhoods for first timers in Barcelona

The first hotel I stayed at was Praktik Essens, which is right on Passeig de Gràcia at the northern edge of the neighborhood (basically on the border of Gràcia). 

My comfortable seating area in my room
Some rooms at Praktik Essens have private terraces + hot tubs
The common area at Praktik Essens

If you don’t already know Praktik from your initial searches on places to stay in Barcelona, they’re a hotel group that has several hotels scattered around the city (most in l’Eixample), and their properties are all themed – wine, bakery, garden, etc. 

I had wanted to stay at one of their hotels for a few years now, and I chose this one because it’s the most modern hotel of the bunch (in terms of look and feel), it’s a phenomenal location, and it gets the best reviews. 

This particular hotel has a scent theme, and as you walk through the sliding doors you’re greeted with a waft of floral smells that follow you throughout your stay. The soaps in the rooms (both shower products and hand soap) all smell lovely, though I’m not sure if that’s different from any of their other properties. 

The room was spacious, stylish, and comfortable, with plenty of room for me to sit down and write without feeling like I had to sit on the bed (which I very much appreciate). 

The second place I stayed on that trip was Casa Bonay, a lovely boutique hotel on the opposite side of l’Eixample closer to the Gothic Quarter and El Born. 

My room at Casa Bonay

This hotel is GORGEOUS, though it’s not the cheapest option in the city (still, by Barcelona standards it’s somewhere around mid-range).

My room had a lovely little sun room that had a view out over the city, and I spent my mornings there enjoying a cup of coffee and writing before heading out to explore. 

They have a nice rooftop deck too, and it’s exclusive to people staying at the hotel (they also have a rooftop bar, which is not). There is also a cocktail bar and a coffee shop on the ground floor. 

The lovely rooftop terrace at Casa Bonay (only for hotel guests)

On that first trip, we stayed at TOC Hostel Barcelona, which is a “boutique hostel” that is essentially a hotel with a few dorm rooms and a common kitchen. It’s plenty nice (and relatively affordable), but don’t expect much space in your room. 

Gràcia: Our Favorite Neighborhood in Barcelona

We stayed in Gràcia for the majority of our foray into Barcelona a couple of years ago, and loved it. It will 100% be the place we stay the next time we find ourselves in the Catalonian capital, which is about as good an endorsement as we can give. 

At one point, Gràcia used to be a completely separate village from Barcelona, and it’s easy to imagine that being the case as you stroll the streets early in the morning, before the hustle and bustle of Barcelona really gets going. 

I’ve seen the word “bohemian” used a lot to describe Gràcia, and I’m still not quite sure exactly what the word means.

I think Gràcia is a little hipster, a little family-oriented with plenty of plazas and green spaces full of locals (and their kids and/or dogs) going about their days, and a lot charming and packed full of amazing food, drinks, and shops. 

Gràcia is hip without falling into hipster cliches, managing to be both quiet and pedestrian friendly, yet also atmospheric and lively.

In short, we loved Gràcia, and think it would be a great home base for exploring Barcelona, especially if you want to stay somewhere that isn’t exclusively for tourists (though there are plenty of those around pretty much everywhere in Barcelona). 

Pros and Cons of Staying in Gràcia

Pros of Staying in Gràcia: 
  • Great Transit Connections. There are two metro stops – Diagonal and Gràcia – that connect you to the L3 and L5 metro lines, which take you both downtown and to some of Barcelona’s main sights.

  • Community Feeling. Obviously, as a tourist, you’re not really going to ever be a part of a community when you’re traveling. But it is very pleasant to sit on a plaza and watch as people go about their daily lives and feel like you’re immersed in local life, even if it’s just for a few minutes. The key is being respectful of that community – here’s how you can be a respectful tourist in Barcelona.

  • Great Food and Drinks. Whether you’re looking for a morning cup of coffee or a nightcap, Gràcia has a pretty incredible array of places to eat and drink at all hours. It’s particularly energetic on warm summer evenings, when the outdoor terraces of nearly every bar and restaurant in the neighborhood are packed from 9:00 pm on. 
Cons of Staying in Gràcia: 
  • Not Walkable to Ciutat Vella. While it’s walkable in terms of walking within the neighborhood, it does require a metro trip (or 30+ minute walk) to get to the Gothic Quarter and El Born.

  • Not Many Places to Stay. There aren’t that many choices in terms of places to stay. There are a few hotels and aparthotels, but the vast majority of the area is residential (and we think that you shouldn’t stay in an Airbnb in cities). 

Gràcia Highlights

  • Vermut at Las Vermudas: If you didn’t already know, the Spanish love vermut (vermouth, in English). And their vermut is very different from, say, French or Italian vermouth. It’s sweeter and more complex, we think. We went in knowing literally nothing about vermouth, which is a fortified wine, and told the server so. He immediately lit up with a broad smile and gave us a 10 minute lesson on Spanish vermouth, then we tried their two flagship vermouths (which won them best vermuteria in Barcelona in 2020), and he even brought us mini samples of some other styles they had to compare and contrast. Overall, an exceedingly lovely experience, and we’d highly recommend it. 

  • Viblioteca: A cozy spot for a wide range of Spanish wines and cheeses, which happen to be two of our favorite things on planet Earth. 

  • Parc Güell: At the northern edge of the neighborhood, this popular tourist destination is one of the main Gaudi sights in Barcelona. It was created in the early 20th Century, and has since been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

  • A Paella Cooking Class: We wanted to learn how to make paella while we were in this part of Spain, and stumbled across Clara’s cooking class, which stood out because of the unique setting in an urban garden. Turns out, it’s her family’s house, and she grew up in Barcelona! We spent three hours trying different tapas, learning the ins and outs of cooking paella, and connecting with Clara and the like-minded travelers along for the ride. Highly, highly recommended. Click here to check prices, reviews, and availability

L’Eixample: A Close Second Due to Its Excellent Location

Compared to Gràcia, which feels very much like a small village within a big city with its narrow single lane streets, l’Eixample is the modern part of Barcelona. L’Eixample was built as Barcelona expanded beyond the old city to connect the suburbs (at the time) like Gràcia to the core of the city.

The name literally means “the expansion” in Catalan because that’s exactly what it was. 

It was designed to be modern, and is characterized by wide, multi-lane boulevards lined with tall buildings with commerce on the ground floor and housing on top floors. Which is, well, very Parisian of them (don’t tell them I said that, though). 

It’s on a tight grid, too, which can’t be said of the narrow alleyways of the Ciutat Vella (where I’ve definitely gotten lost before and had to pull out my phone to see exactly where I was). 

It’s much, much more leafy than the Gothic Quarter, but not as much as Gràcia. It’s much more relaxed and laid back than the Gothic Quarter, but not as much as Gràcia. It has more of a mix of tourists and locals, but not as much as Gràcia. See a pattern here?

In other words, it’s a compromise between the more laid back feeling you’ll find in Gràcia and the convenience you’ll get by staying more central. Its superpower is being smack dab in the middle of the action. Which makes it an excellent base for exploring Barcelona.

It is worth noting that this particular neighborhood spans a wide area, basically all the way from Parc Ciutadella at its eastern end to the base of Montjuïc and Plaça d’Espanya to the west. 

In general, we much prefer the area in the center of the neighborhood, just south of Gràcia and west towards Place de Catalunya.

This part of l’Eixample is full of tree-lined streets, places to eat and drink, and leans more towards Gràcia than the Gothic Quarter in terms of its feeling. 

Pros and Cons of Staying in l’Eixample

Pros of Staying in l’Eixample: 
  • Central and Well Connected. There’s probably no better place to stay in terms of walkability and transit connections. You could walk almost anywhere from your hotel, though most people will prefer to save time and energy by taking the metro, which has multiple lines running through the area.

  • Great Food and Drink Offerings. Coffee and food, in particular, are the winners here. Nightlife is a little lacking, but you can make the short journey to El Born for that.

  • Tons of Places to Stay. Whether you’re looking for a luxury hotel or a charming, affordable guesthouse, this neighborhood has a plethora of choices for you to choose from. All styles and budgets can find the perfect place to stay here. 
Cons of Staying in l’Eixample: 
  • It Can Be Expensive. Who could have guessed that the area where you’ll find the Prada store in Barcelona would also be an expensive area to stay? Lots of high-end hotels and shops here, which means you’ll likely be paying a little more than other places in Barcelona, though it’s arguably worth it for the central location. 

Highlights of l’Eixample

Here are some places that we enjoyed in l’Eixample that we think you might like too.

  • The Sagrada Familia: Tucked away in the northeast corner of the neighborhood is the best church we went to on our entire three month European adventure through Portugal, Italy, and Spain. Every single little detail is so well thought-out – it’s a masterpiece. Head there in the morning, and book your tickets well in advance (especially in the summer, when tickets regularly sell out). If tickets are sold out for your dates, join a guided tour. We’d recommend going on the Sagrada Familia tour with Walks, one of our favorite tour companies in Europe. 

  • Cremeria Toscana: Great gelato in the heart of a very leafy part of the neighborhood. 

  • Casa Milà and Casa Batlló: Two of Gaudi’s less famous (though, still pretty famous) sites, these are a few blocks away from each other on Passeig de Gràcia. We’d choose one to visit the interior, and the more interesting of the two is Casa Batlló. 

  • D’Origen Coffee Roasters: This modern, beautiful coffee shop was basically brand new when I visited, and they made me one of the best cups of coffee I had in Barcelona. It’s a big space with high ceilings, and they have a range of coffee options from espresso-based drinks to fancy pour over (and everything in between). 

El Born: The Best Part of the Cituat Vella

As we mentioned above in the geography section, the main part of the Ciutat Vella is made up of three distinct areas (plus Barceloneta, which looks and feels very different).

El Born is the easternmost section, and is a little corner of the old city tucked alongside Parc de la Ciutadella that is actually made up of three different sub-neighborhoods (La Ribera, Sant Pere, and Santa Caterina – otherwise known as Sant Pere, Santa Caterina i la Ribera). 

But everybody calls in El Born, so that’s what we’re going to go with too. 

El Born is an interesting combination. 

On one hand, it feels pretty similar to the Gothic Quarter in terms of the narrow streets and alleys (with surprise churches!). But for whatever reason, it has suffered less from the overtourism that plagues the Gothic Quarter, and there are still local businesses that occupy El Born. 

That’s not to say there aren’t tourists in El Born – there very much are – but the lack of local businesses in the Gothic Quarter is really what makes it feel a little hollowed out (at least to us), and El Born has plenty of those. 

At the center of the neighborhood, you’ll find the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, which comes out of nowhere as you emerge from the narrow streets at its base. 

It’s about as central as it gets without staying on La Rambla itself. To the east, you have Parc Ciutadella. To the west is the Gothic Quarter, the historic center of Barcelona.

South is Barceloneta, and if you head north you’ll run into Gaudi’s masterpiece and one of the most intricate and fascinating religious places in the world – the Sagrada Familia. 

Pros and Cons of Staying in El Born

Pros of Staying in El Born: 
  • Great Nightlife. If you’re looking for cozy cocktail bars or places to go dancing until the early hours of the morning, El Born has what you’re looking for. Go after dark to see it at its most energetic.

  • Super Central. You’ll be within walking distance of just about everywhere in Barcelona, and for the places you can’t walk (Parc Güell, for example) you can hop on the metro, which is an easy walk from most points in El Born.

  • Romantic and Charming. Narrow streets, bustling plazas, and towering churches. It feels like you’re in a medieval city, mostly because… you sort of are. 
Cons of Staying in El Born: 
  • Expensive. As you might imagine, staying in a place that’s both central and trendy often comes with a high price tag.

  • Limited Options in Terms of Places to Stay. Which exacerbates the “expensive” point above. Not that many hotels, and you should stay away from renting an Airbnb in Barcelona.

Highlights of El Born 

Here are some places in El Born that we like, and think you might too. 

  • Nomad Coffee Lab: My pick for the best coffee in Barcelona, this particular location is magical for coffee lovers. Nomad is one of the original coffee roasters in Barcelona, opening their doors just under a decade ago, and they remain one of the biggest and most well-known roasters in Spain. Go here and you’ll choose from a list of five to six different types of coffee from all over the world, prepared either as an espresso-based drink, or as filter coffee. 

  • Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar: We’d recommend going inside this church over the Barcelona Cathedral. Bonus: it’s free after 5:00 pm (and before noon). 

  • Mercado Santa Caterina: We love Spain’s hyperlocal neighborhood markets, and this is El Born’s version. Decidedly more local than the more famous La Boqueria, this market is full of locals shopping for groceries like cured meats and cheeses, fresh produce, and pungent seafood. Plus, a couple of nice places to drink a beer or glass of wine, and a collection of good places to grab tapas and other light bites. 

  • La Masala Café: The best chai that we had in Barcelona was here, and it was a little bit of an accident that we stumbled upon it as we were wandering El Born. 

  • Vila Viniteca: A cool little modern deli / wine store on a corner in El Born that would be a great place to grab some cheese, meat, and wine for a picnic. 

  • El Xampanyet: A traditional tapas bar that is full of tourists, but is still revered by locals too. We stopped outside this cava bar – which basically means they’re a tapas bar that serves cava, Catalonia’s sparkling wine of choice – and a woman walking by (ostensibly a local?) said “that’s the best local place in this part of the city”. Go for lunch to split a few tapas and a couple of glasses of cava. Pro-tip: they will make you order food with your cava. 

The Gothic Quarter: Narrow Alleyways and Lots of Tourists

The Gothic Quarter, home to the famous La Rambla, is the most heavily-visited area in the city. Of the words you hear spoken in the Gothic Quarter, the majority are likely to be in a language other than Spanish or Catalan. 

Still, despite the fact that this entire area is built specifically to cater to tourists with shops selling knick-knacks and souvenirs that only tourists buy (and only a very specific type of tourists, usually, the ones who come on the giant cruise ships that dock nearby), there’s something very romantic about the narrow alleys and pedestrian-only streets of the Gothic Quarter. 

The former Jewish Quarter (“El Call”), in particular, is one of our favorite parts of the city. 

We’d highly recommend staying at least a block or two off of La Rambla if you do choose to stay here. 

You’re going to pay a bit more than your room is worth anywhere in this part of the city since it’s so central and charming, but that issue is particularly bad around La Rambla, where hotels (and restaurants, for that matter) don’t even have to try to be good because of the location. 

For what it’s worth, we’d much prefer the charm and ambiance of El Born, if you’re set on staying in the old city. 

Pros and Cons of Staying in the Gothic Quarter

Pros of Staying in the Gothic Quarter: 
  • Romantic and Charming. Narrow alleys. Cobblestone streets. Plazas that emerge from seemingly out of nowhere. Once you leave La Rambla, it feels like you’re in a medieval town.

  • THE Most Central Neighborhood. As you might imagine, the Gothic Quarter, which is the center of the Old Town, is the most central part of the city. Within about 15 minutes you can walk to El Raval, L’Eixample, and El Born, along with Barceloneta. 
Cons of Staying in the Gothic Quarter: 
  • It’s Basically Exclusively Tourists. Around every corner, you’ll find a pack of tourists. Sometimes hundreds all shuffling along listening to a guide on a headset, if there’s a cruise ship in town (spoiler: there probably is). Everything in the Gothic Quarter caters to tourists, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing – it’s just a specific vibe that’s worth knowing ahead of time. 

  • La Rambla. Is this the most famous street in all of Spain? It’s at the top of the list for sure. We also think it’s the worst street in the country. It’s worth strolling once, from Placa de Catalunya to the Columbus statue with a stop at La Boqueria, but we wouldn’t eat, drink, or spend much time at all within a block or two of this heavily-trafficked, highly overrated boulevard. 

Gothic Quarter Highlights

Here are some places in the Gothic Quarter that we like, and think you might too. 

  • La Boqueria: The most famous and touristy of Barcelona’s food markets is still a fun experience. A seemingly endless number of stalls selling everything from fresh produce to cheese, meats, chocolates, and seafood. It’s at its best (and most manageable) in the morning, before the bulk of tourists show up. Get a fruit juice and a pre-sliced mango for breakfast and wander. Technically, this is on the border between El Raval and the Gothic Quarter, leaning into El Raval on the west side of La Rambla. 

  • Salterio (and Caj Chai): Legit the best tea I’ve ever had. And they’re less than a block away from each other! Salterio was the clear favorite for us, and it’s a tiny, dark, moody place that we went into at noon and were surprised it was still light out when we emerged a few hours later. Their Yogi tea – only served for two or more people – is an absolute delight full of spices (no caffeine!), and the family that runs the place is super friendly too. In contrast, Caj Chai has a lovely outdoor patio that is the perfect place for an afternoon cup of tea in the sun.

  • Placa Nova and Barcelona Cathedral: We found ourselves sitting outside the Barcelona Cathedral multiple times over the course of our time in Barcelona, and it’s home to some of the best people watching in the city. Plus, an endless stream of very talented street performers adds a dynamism to the area. 

  • Chocolate Street! There’s a street in the Gothic Quarter, just off La Rambla, that is known for their chocolate. And churros. Here it is on Google Maps. We’d go to La Pallaresa for chocolate and churros if we were you, but personally chose Petritxol Xocoa because they explicitly told us their hot chocolate was gluten free (not the churros, though). 

Barceloneta: A Vibrant Neighborhood with an Overrated Beach

Originally, I thought of Barceloneta as exclusively an area for the beach, which is a wide, sandy affair on the Mediterranean. We’re not huge beach people, so we kind of dismissed it and completely neglected including it in an earlier version of this guide. 

However, after connecting with two locals on my latest trip during/after tours, I can firmly say that there’s A LOT more going on in Barceloneta than just the beach (spoiler: it’s mostly great food and drinks). 

I actually had the privilege of walking through Barceloneta with Elvira, my guide on my walking tour with With Locals (highly recommend both the tour and Elvira as a guide!), and that’s when it clicked for me that Barceloneta is more than the beach. 

We went to Mercat de la Barceloneta, which is a cornucopia of Catalan food (though I have Celiac Disease, which is a lot more complicated). To get there, we walked through the narrow streets lined by tall apartment buildings adorned with Catalan flags, and I realized that “oh yeah, people live here.” 

Barceloneta as a neighborhood is a triangular manmade peninsula that juts out into the Mediterranean, bordered by the sea, El Born, and Poblenou (and Parc de la Ciutadella).

Generally speaking, the closer you get to the beach at the southern tip, the more generic it becomes. This part of the city has a high concentration of vacation rental listings, and their presence is hollowing out the neighborhood, forcing locals out as landlords chase the tourist money. 

Like we’ve said before in this guide, we firmly believe that we as travelers should stay in hotels (or aparthotels), rather than individual vacation rentals, which hurt local communities by increasing housing prices and destroying the sense of community in the area with a revolving door of one to two day residents.

Which brings us to the biggest issue with Barceloneta: there’s really only one or two places to stay. Which is fine, that means it’s probably worth visiting during your trip, but staying elsewhere. 

Pros and Cons of Staying in Barceloneta

Pros of Staying in Barceloneta: 
  • The Beach. The main reason to stay here is probably the beach, though it’s not the best beach in the city, we’d say. If you want to soak up the beach vibes while still being within walking distance of a bunch of great places to eat and drink (and an easy ride to other parts of the city), Barceloneta is a good option. 

  • Good Food and Drinks. As we’ll cover in a second, this part of the city has retained some of the local residents and businesses that give it its character, and as a result there are some pretty good places to eat and drink here (more specifics in a second). 
Cons of Staying in Barceloneta: 
  • It’s Not Particularly Well Connected. There’s a metro stop on the border with El Born (called Barceloneta), but as you get deeper into the peninsula, the connections become a little more tenuous, and you’re going to have a short walk to access the metro and buses. 

  • The Beach is Madness in the Summer. It’s the busiest part of Barcelona come July and August, and we’d actually just completely avoid it during that period. Head out to Poblenou a little further up the coast for better beaches that are more relaxed. 

  • There Aren’t Many Places to Stay. While there are a bunch of short term vacation rentals here (but we’ve covered that you should avoid these in Barcelona), there are only a couple of hotels in Barceloneta, which means your choices are few and far between. The main hotel – the beautiful W Hotel at the tip of the peninsula – is also pretty far from the metro. 

Highlights in Barceloneta

Here are some places in Barceloneta that we like, and think you might too. 

  • Mercat de la Barceloneta: We love the idea of neighborhood markets, which you’ll find in basically every Spanish city, and this is one of the best in Barcelona. Come hungry, leave full. 

  • Tapas Bars and Paella: Despite its development, Barceloneta is full of old school tapas bars and great places to try paella. Look at La Cova Fumada (very old school, family owned since the 1940’s), Perikete (we went here for tapas and it’s right on the border with El Born), and Can Paixano (right across from Perikete – long lines around lunchtime!). One of my guides, who lives in the neighborhood, recommended La Barra del 7 Portes Pla de Palau for paella. 

  • The Museu d’Història de Catalunya: A sprawling museum dedicated to the history of Catalonia, the state that Barcelona is the capital of. It covers everything from its beginnings as a Roman colony allll the way to the present day, with plenty of English (especially with the audioguide) throughout. If you’re looking for an overview of Catalonia’s unique position within Spain, this is the place to go. Plan on spending a couple of hours here – there’s a lot to see. 

Where NOT to Stay in Barcelona

Before we end this guide, we wanted to quickly take a second to cover the areas we would definitely NOT recommend staying based on our own experiences. 

First of all, we wouldn’t stay anywhere within about two blocks of La Rambla (with a few exceptions). It’s loud, you’ll pay more than the room is worth, and it’s the most touristy part of the city (and you DEFINITELY shouldn’t eat in that area). 

Generally, if you have a short stay in the city – less than five days – we’d recommend that you don’t stay outside of the main center (which we’d call Cituat Vella, l’Eixample, and Gràcia). 

There’s a ton to do and see in Barcelona, and you’re definitely going to want to be as central and well-connected as possible. 

An important note for Barcelona: short term rentals, like Airbnb for example, are heavily restricted and many existing listings are actually illegal.

Do not stay in a short term rental through Airbnb. If you need an apartment (I do, given that I have Celiac Disease and need access to a kitchen), there are managed apartment complexes that are basically hotels that you can stay at.

Here are four other neighborhoods we’d also stay away from. 

Poblenou: Poblenou, which roughly translates to “new village” or “new town,” is a modern section of the city on the water to the east of the Ciutat Vella. While it sounds nice, I was really turned off by the “vibiness” of this part of the city, which sort of makes sense when you consider the proximity to the beach. It’s all brunch restaurants and nightclubs, at least along the water, and it feels like it could truly be in any city on the water in the world. The part of this area closer to the water is also not easy to get to – the metro stations are a 10-15 minute walk away. If you want to be near the beach, we’d recommend Barceloneta instead because it has a little more character, and it’s closer to the city center and transit options. It’s worth visiting, but we wouldn’t stay here. 

Poble Sec: While Poblenou translates to new town, Poble Sec roughly translates to “dry town” (the reason I know “sec” is because I use it to describe wine in Spain) and is a residential neighborhood right at the base of Montjuïc. It’s another place that, once you’re in the labyrinth of streets that start to climb the hill, feels like you’re in a village, not in one of the biggest cities in Europe. The reason we wouldn’t stay here is simple: there are basically zero hotels in the charming part of the neighborhood, and it’s fairly far from the main attractions in Barcelona. If you want that small town feeling, we’d stay in Gràcia instead, which is closer to almost everything. 

Montjuïc / Plaça d’Espanya: The tallest point in Barcelona, Montjuïc is the hill that sits to the southwest of Barcelona’s city center. Speaking from experience here, it is NOT easy to get to. It either involves a lot of walking (straight up or down a hill), or a combination of metro and funicular that, at peak times, can have long lines. Plaça d’Espanya is the plaza at the base of the hill, and while it’s close to the train station (Barcelona Sants), it’s  not particularly convenient for just about anything else. You’ll be adding 10-15 minutes to every journey around the city if you stay here, and it’s actually not meaningfully cheaper than other, closer-in parts of the city. 

El Raval: We have very mixed feelings on this one. You’ll know you’re in El Raval because you veer off of La Rambla and, all of a sudden, every other storefront is either a vintage clothing store, a record shop, or a tattoo artist’s studio. I’m exaggerating, but not by much. I’ve seen El Raval described as seedy or unsafe after dark, and while that might have been true several years ago (and is still true in small swaths of the neighborhood), I think it’s a bit exaggerated. Having walked straight through this neighborhood several times alone on my previous trip, including early morning and late evening, I didn’t find it particularly unsettling (though that might be different for less experienced travelers, families, and solo female travelers). However, while the risks are largely exaggerated, they also aren’t zero, and it is also true that it’s not super fun to be worried about your safety on vacation. We’d stay elsewhere, but visit for food and drinks because there are some great spots here. 


  1. Me, my husband and sister in law are planning a trip to Spain in May. I just want to comment that your travel blog is wonderful. I have read “14 days in Spain” and plan to follow your recommended itinerary. My sister in law also has celiac disease so it seems like it was meant to be that I found it! Plus I live in Portland! One question I have is : can I print out the info? I hope so!
    Thanks, Jill

    1. Hey Jill! You hit the trifecta – Portland, Celiac, and planning a trip to Spain. Cheers to that!

      Unfortunately, we don’t have a great way to print out the info, but you can hit “print” and save as a PDF (the only problem is that our guides are really long and have ads, which you can’t really remove using that technique.

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