Which is the best Barcelona district for accommodation?
Though Barcelona is a smaller city than Madrid, the interesting areas are more spread out. The kind of experience you will have staying on the Ramblas or in the Gothic Quarter are very different from what you would experience staying, say, Gracia or Poble Sec.
My Top Recommendations for Staying Barcelona
- Poble Sec/Sant Antoni
The advice on this page comes from my particular bias when it comes to going on vacation. I like to sleep and have breakfast where local people sleep and have breakfast. For me, the only way to experience another country is to see how they have breakfast in the mornings.
Unfortunately, precisely what makes an area feel like it is 'local' is its lack of tourist accommodation. Which means there are few hotels - you'll usually need to use AirBNB to get accommodation in these areas.
If you are not interested in these slightly off-the-beaten path areas, I've given my advice on every major area of the city. Read on to discover what is right for you.
Other Areas of Barcelona I Would Recommend Staying In
- El Born
All of these areas combine being in the heart of the action while also staying somewhere where people actually live. However, these places (with the exception of Poblenou) are more touristy than Gracia and Poble Sec.
Areas of Barcelona I Would NOT Recommend Staying In
- Gothic Quarter
The Ramblas is just too much. Just don't. The Gothic Quarter is also so full of tourists that it feels more like DisneyWorld than a real city (plus you might have trouble finding your hotel in the night!). Montjuic is a mountain that is good for the sights but not really to stay in.
Should You Book Accommodation in Gracia?
Vibe Hipster village
Every insider tip from a local in Barcelona tends to be about somewhere in Gracia. Whether it's the rediscovery of its vintage vermouth bars or a new local fashion boutique, it's all happening in Gracia.
But the best thing about Gracia for me is that it doesn't actually feel like you're in a city (think Montmartre in Paris). You could spend an entire weekend break in Gracia, with just a short 'day trip' into Barcelona itself!
Sights in Gracia (and Within Walking Distance)
Where to Eat and Drink in Gracia
For a great lunchtime menu, check out La Pubilla (you'll need to reserve or sit at the bar to eat).
Can Codina (Torrent de L’Olla, 20. Barcelona) is good for vermut and traditional tapas (as well as some craft beers).
(Thanks to Food Lovers Company Barcelona Tapas Tours for recommending these two places to me.)
The best Spanish-style Gin and Tonics are served at Bobby Gin (it's probably the best place in the world for a gin and tonic). And don't forget to check out the vintage vermuterias, classic old bars where Spanish vermouth is the order of the day.
Good Hotels in Gracia
The most famous hotel in Gracia is the Casa Fuster.
But for more of a neighbourhood feel, you need to go deeper into the Gracia district. Espais Blaus Apartments is a good choice and is much cheaper than Casa Fuster.
What's it Like Staying in the Gothic Quarter?
Barcelona's oldest neighborhood is also its most beautiful... and the most popular with tourists. The Gothic Quarter, or Barrio Gotico in Spanish, is not the place to 'get away from it all'.
It's a good idea to stay in the Gothic Quarter if you're on a very short trip and want to be in the heart of the action without needing to spend much time on public transport. But for any stay longer than a couple of days you might get tired of the sheer number of selfie sticks.
Sights in the Gothic Quarter
The Gothic Quarter is an attraction in itself! The ancient, narrow streets, a mixture of history and modern Barcelona (the washing hanging from the balconies shows people still live here) are great to get lost in (in the daytime at least - at night it can be frustrating).
The cathedral is also here (no, the Sagrada Familia is not the cathedral).
See also: Things to Do in the Gothic Quarter
Where to Eat and Drink in the Gothic Quarter
Go for fried fish at La Plata (Carrer de la Mercé, 28), a modest but classic establishment with its own exclusive vermouth. But in general, the Gothic Quarter is a difficult place to get good food in. (Thanks to Food Lovers Company Barcelona Tapas Tours for their recommendation.)
Where to Stay in the Gothic Quarter
The H10 Raco del Pi is surprisingly good value for such a central location. A little more upmarket is the nearby Hotel Neri.
What's it Like to Stay in El Born?
Squeezed out of the Gothic Quarter, a lot of Barcelona's more modern bars, cafes and restaurants opened up in the El Born area. Many of the city's best craft beer bars can be found in this area.
However, though the bar and restaurant scene is more modern than in the Gothic Quarter, the architecture is still vintage Barcelona.
El Born is also known as La Ribera.
Sights in El Born (and Within Walking Distance)
Two of Barcelona's most famous sights, the Picasso Museum and the Palau de la Musica, can both be found in El Born.
Where to Eat and Drink in El Born
El Born's craft beer bars are also great places to eat. In Mosquito you get 'Asian tapas' to go with their fine local cask beers, while both Cat Bar and Ale and Hop serve vegetarian and vegan food with their wide selection of Spanish and international beers.
Bar Pla (Calle Montcada 2) is popular with the locals, particularly for its patatas bravas and croquetas. (Thanks to Food Lovers Company Barcelona Tapas Tours for this recommendation.)
Good Hotels in El Born
There are several hotels on Via Laetana, the busy thoroughfare that separates El Born from the Gothic Quarter. These include Ohla Hotel (which also has a great cocktail bar) and Hotel Barcelona Colonial.
But for a more neighborly feel, you'll need to stay within El Born. In which case, you have Catalonia El Born Hotel or AirBNB options.
Should You Book a Hotel in Eixample, Barcelona?
Vibe Tree-Studded Modernist Metropolis
The Eixample is the late-19th century 'extension' of Barcelona that connected the old town to the village of Gracia. The streets are wide and tree-lined and arranged on an easy grid system.
Sights in the Eixample (and Within Walking Distance)
This is where most of the modernist architecture Barcelona is famous for can be found.
Passeig de Gracia is where you'll find the La Manzana de la Discordia, a collection of modernist buildings, one of which is Gaudi's Casa Batllo. Further up the same street you have Gaudi's La Pedrera. Lots of smaller shops, bars and pharmacies also have modernist facades.
Where to Eat and Drink in the Eixample
Taktica Berri (Carrer de València, 169, 08011 Barcelona) is a Basque restaurant and tapas bar. Food Lovers Company Barcelona Tapas Tours tells me to avoid the restaurant and just stick to the bar.
Close to Sagrada Familia is the classic wine bodega-bar Celler Miquel (Castillejos, 345. Barcelona).
Also, Restaurante Igueldo in the Eixample district has an excellent tasting menu for two people for just 36€.
Good Hotels in the Eixample
The Eixample is a big part of Barcelona, so where you stay will say a lot about the vacation you'll have.
If you want to stay close to Gracia, pick somewhere like 987 Barcelona Hotel. But if you'd prefer to be close to the Ramblas or the Gothic Quarter, you might prefer Hotel Roger de Lluria or (a little cheaper) Hotel Caledonian.
Should You Book a Hotel on the Ramblas in Barcelona?
Vibe Tourist-riddled, treelined avenue
The Ramblas is Spain's most famous street and every visitor to Barcelona will walk down it at least once.
The restaurants are all terrible, the street sellers are at best pesky and at worst disruptive and whole place should be avoided at night.
Should you stay here? Most definitely not.
Should you visit it? Sure! Many of the buildings are beautiful and some of the street performers can be quite good. Just don't expect too much and don't treat it as the focus of your trip to Barcelona.
Sights on the Ramblas (and Within Walking Distance)
The Boqueria market is on the Rambla, while at the bottom of the street you have the Colon monument, that affords my favourite view of the city. Go and see an exhibition at the Palau de la Virreina or a show at the Liceu.
Where to Eat and Drink on the Ramblas
But hey, I get it if you want to soak up the atmosphere and people watch with a drink or a bite to eat. In which case, my main advice would be to eat breakfast. The tourist-trap restaurants can't mess up a coffee and a slice of toast, and even if the whole thing is double the price it should be, that'll still mean you're only paying a surcharge of around 2 or 3 euros to enjoy your views (better than paying 15 or 20 euros for something that is only worth 10).
The nearest good bar to the Ramblas is Kaelderkold (Calle Cardenal Casañas 7), just a few meters inside the Gothic Quarter a Scandinavian craft beer bar with fantastic IPAs and stouts at lower prices than you'll get at the breweries themselves.
Good Hotels on the Ramblas
If you really want to stay here, the Hotel SERHS Rivoli Ramblas or Las Ramblas Pasaje Bacardi are worth checking out.
What's it Like to Stay in Poble Sec/Sant Antoni, Barcelona?
Vibe Off-the-beaten path local hang-out
Poble Sec has seen such a rapid rejuvenation that we did our 100 Things to Do in Barcelona a few years ago, we didn't even consider Poble Sec!
It still doesn't have sights as such, but it is a great place to eat or drink and is well located close to many excellent sights.
After Gracia, this would be my favorite place to stay in Barcelona.
Sights in Poble Sec/Sant Antoni (and Within Walking Distance)
Poble Sec isn't about the sights (though there is the Funicular train to Montjuic at the Parralel metro stop in Poble Sec). It's about the hip, young crowd and the bars and cafes they've started up in this area.
Where to Eat and Drink in Poble Sec
Quimet Quimet (Carrer del Poeta Cabanyes, 25) is the essential restaurant in Poble Sec. They only serve cheeses and conserves, an element of Spanish cuisine that most visitors to Spain make the error of avoiding.
Mano Rota (Carrer de la Creu dels Molers, 4) does excellent Ceviche.
Good Hotels in Poble Sec
Right on the border between Sant Antoni and Poble Sec is the Silken Concordia Hotel. Alternatively, a little closer to the city center, in the heart of the Sant Antoni district, is the MH Apartments Center.
Should You Stay in Raval, Barcelona?
Vibe Gritty, shabby-chic, as welll as plain old shabby
The Raval is often referred to as 'Barcelona's Red Light District'. For better or worse, it is not this. It is neither as all-pervasive as one would expect of a place with such a label, nor is it as 'titillating' as the red light districts of, say, Amsterdam or Hamburg.
Stick to the busier streets at night (avoiding Carrer Sant Pau if you want to keep away from the sad stare of the area's street walkers) but don't let the area's largely-out-of-date reputation put you off.
Sights in Raval (and Within Walking Distance)
You are also close to the Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter, as well as the trendy Poble Sec barrio.
Read more about Things to Do in Raval
Where to Eat and Drink in Raval
El Cañete is a popular restaurant (there's often a line out of the door). Food Lovers Company Barcelona Tapas Tours recommends the tortitas de camarones (shrimp fritters).
Good Hotels in Raval
There is a lot of cheap accommodation in the Raval, sometimes on some pretty badly lit streets. The Barcelo Raval is on the Rambla de Raval, the most happening square in the area.
Should You Stay in Poblenou, Barcelona?
Vibe Gritty, industrial
Poblenou is the always 'up and coming' district of Barcelona. Many former warehouses here have been turned into apartments, nightclubs and more (Edge Brewing, one of the best breweries in Barcelona, is based here).
So, when will Poblenou actually arrive? Because it hasn't yet. Its gritty look hasn't yet captured the hearts of the locals (in this way it has both the visual appearance and the nearly-cool ambience of New York's Red Hook). It's a good place to stay for the Primavera Sound festival or for some of the less-busy Barcelona beaches.
Sights in Poblenou (and Within Walking Distance)
Not a great deal, apart from the aforementioned access to the beaches. Check out Edge Brewing for their locally produced beers, as well as the twin nightlife spots of studenty booze hall L'Ovella Negra and hip superclub Razzmatazz.
Where to Eat and Drink in Poblenou
La Pubilla del Taulat (Marià Aguiló, 131) is a good tapas place and classic bodega where you'll find virtually no tourists.
(Thanks to Food Lovers Company Barcelona Tapas Tours for recommending this place to me.)
Good Hotels in Poblenou
Stay close to the Rambla del Poblenou for the best experience in the area, such as at Lugaris Rambla Hotel. Or, to be closer to the Primavera Sound venue, check out the Vincci Maritimo Hotel.
What's It Like to Stay in Barceloneta?
Vibe Former fishing village by the beach
Barceloneta is half parking lot for rich people's shiny yachts and the rugged old village. Stay in the village area itself for a vibe quite apart from what you'll find in most of the city.
Sights in Barceloneta (and Within Walking Distance)
The nearest beach to the center of Barcelona is in Barceloneta. The area behind the beach is a great spot for fish and paella restaurants.
See also: Things to Do in Barceloneta
Where to Eat and Drink in Barceloneta
La Cova Fumada does classic Catalan dishes at a good price, with an excellent rough-and-ready ambience. Thanks to Food Lovers Company Barcelona Tapas Tours for taking me here!
Good Hotels in Barceloneta
There isn't really much accommodation in Barceloneta itself. Your best bet is to take a look at AirBNB or stay at the bottom end of El Born and the Gothic Quarter, such as at the Hotel Ciutadella Barcelona
Should You Stay in Montjuic, Barcelona?
Vibe Historically important mountain
Home to many events of the 1992 Summer Olympics, as well as the former site of the Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix. Some of Barcelona's best museums are also here.
But it's not really a place to stay and, as such, there are no hotels actually on the mountain itself.
Sights in Montjuic (and Within Walking Distance)
Art buffs should visit the Catalan National Art Museum (MNAC) and the Miro Foundation, while those interested in architecture should check out the Poble Espanyol, a showcase of architectural styles from around the country.
See also: Things to Do on Montjuic
Where to Eat and Drink on Montjuic
There is a great restaurant called Terraza Martinez and La Caseta del Migdia, with a terrace with nice views to the sea. Thanks to Food Lovers Company Barcelona Tapas Tours for recommending these places to me.
Good Hotels in Montjuic
There is very little call for staying on Montjuic. The main reason would be if you're visiting a trade fair, in which case you could choose the Crowne Plaza Barcelona Fira Center or the cheaper Fira Centric Apartments, though neither are technically on Montjuic.
You'll get a better Barcelona experience if you stay in nearby Poble Sec instead.