Part of the enduring appeal of Barcelona is the ease with which travelers can wander between neighborhoods.
From a string of golden-sand beaches to fashionable shopping districts, Spain’s second-largest city is a joy to uncover. In one area you'll find Modernist masterpieces by Antoni Gaudí. In another Las Ramblas or a cool Japanese patisserie. With honeycomb-colored cobblestones and century-old shops, there is plenty to discover.
Here's our guide to the best neighborhoods to visit in Barcelona.
A former standalone municipality, Barcelona has long since swallowed Gràcia whole – and it then had the gall to become the city's coolest district. With local design workshops, vegan restaurants, and even Japanese patisseries, the neighborhood is a tick-list of trendy spots.
Besides the organic food stores and yoga studios, there's plenty of traditional Catalan culture here too. Not least the language and the popular events that regularly take place in the neighborhood. In the daytime, Gràcia's squares fill with market stalls which are then removed in the evening as locals gather for drinks from 7 pm.
Packed with all types of restaurants, from local tapas joints to Michelin-star restaurants, Gràcia is also a great neighborhood for strolling, bar-hopping, and soaking in the atmosphere. You can also find architectural gems here designed by Modernist architect Antoni Gaudí. Seek out Casa Vicens and Park Güell. Well-connected with downtown, Gràcia is ideal for those wanting to be close to the city center without being part of the hustle and bustle.
Best neighborhood for beaches
A year-round vacation spot, Barceloneta ('Little Barcelona') is the preferred neighborhood for tourists thanks to its glorious necklace of beaches. Originally a traditional fishing neighborhood founded in the 18th century, Barceloneta later became a working-class district as industrial expansion around the city harbor grew. You still get a sense of the industrial roots as you stroll along the narrow lanes of this historic neighborhood.
While the area's buildings lack the patrician facades that characterize other parts of Barcelona, they have kept their own unique character and today house a wide array of tapas bars and nightclubs. Though most stay in Barceloneta for late-night parties or beach action, Barceloneta has plenty of spots for families to enjoy. Stroll around Port Vell (Old Harbor) and along the animated promenade. Kids will also like L’Aquàrium and the Museu d’Història de Catalunya.
3. El Born
Best neighborhood for sightseeing
El Born competes with Gràcia for the title of Barcelona's trendiest neighborhood, but instead of vegan restaurants and urban gardens, El Born is home to concept stores, art studios and a distinctly international vibe. Formerly a craftsmen’s district, El Born is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Barcelona. There's lots to do for free here. Look for century-old shops such as Casa Perris (a grocery store that sells in bulk) and some of the most important landmarks in the city, including Basílica de Santa Maria del Mar, a Gothic church from the 14th century, and Palau de la Música, a music hall and one of the best examples of Modernist architecture.
If your budget allows, El Born has a wide range of fine-dining restaurants, mostly offering Mediterranean and Spanish cuisine. For those on a budget, you can also find plenty of international fast-food eateries and an endless supply of bars. El Born enjoys a prime location between Barceloneta and the city center and is within walking distance of most city landmarks, making it one of the most popular neighborhoods for accommodations.
Best neighborhood for Gaudí architecture
L'Eixample ('expansion district' in Catalan) is a neighborhood built between the 19th and 20th centuries that was constructed as Barcelona expanded beyond the Old City. Its strict street grid pattern that's crossed by wide avenues makes it easy to navigate – and popular for aerial photos. L’Eixample is typically divided into Left Eixample and Right Eixample, which are separated by Passeig de Gràcia, Barcelona's most exclusive avenue. Here you will find Gaudí-designed buildings such as La Pedrera and Casa Batlló.
Concentrated in Right Eixample are important historic sites, such as Gaudí's still unfinished masterpiece, La Sagrada Família, and the Modernist Hospital Sant Pau, a Unesco World Heritage site. The neighborhood is well-connected and has the most extensive range of accommodation options in the city.
5. El Raval
Best neighborhood for bars
El Raval is the most vibrant of Barcelona’s neighborhoods, and it's where everything is happening. Part of the Old City and located southwest of La Rambla, this neighborhood is home to the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona, as well as Mercat de la Boqueria, the busiest local market in Barcelona, where stall-holders cook with some of the best quality ingredients in the city.
El Raval is also the most multicultural neighborhood in Barcelona, making it an area of huge contrasts. If you fancy a more local party vibe than in Barceloneta, check the nightlife here is great. Stop into Bar Marsella, a late-night institution known for being the oldest continuously open bar in the city.
6. Barri Gòtic
Best neighborhood for history
The historic center of Barcelona is Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter). Featuring the oldest buildings in the city, most are neo-Gothic, the result of a massive 19th-century restoration project. Fine examples of original architecture to seek out include the interiors of La Catedral and La Llotja de Mar. For history buffs and first-time visitors to Barcelona, the Gothic Quarter is a must-visit.
Even if you've been to Barcelona before, you're bound to find new-to-you bars, restaurants and historic squares hidden down the narrow alleyways. Rambling the labyrinthine lanes is a delight. Being right in the city center, Barri Gòtic is within walking distance from most tourist attractions. Some parts of the Gothic Quarter are known for late-night parties, so keep this in mind when looking for the right neighborhood to stay in.