A Traveller’s Guide to Barcelona's Best Barrios

April 19, 2016

Bold with Catalan pride and creativity, Barcelona is one of Europe's great cultural hubs. And with a host of beautiful beaches, bohemian bars and Baroque buildings, Barcelona has a fit for almost every mood.

Yet as Spain’s second most populous city, with 1.5 million locals across ten districts, the choice of where to stay and what to do can be a daunting one for tourists. That is, it could have been daunting if you weren’t about to get the scoop on the best places to stay, shop, party and explore in all of Barcelona.

This being said, we at Travioor know that it’s our differences that give life its vigour, and that one person’s heaven is another’s hell. However, we’ve put that to one side for the moment and compiled this handy list of Barcelona’s best barrios.

Eixample

Eixample in Barcelona at night.

Pronounced Aye-Shamp-La, this gridded district is the city’s largest barrio, and the city’s centre for culture, shopping and business, making it a great place to head-up this list.

Home to much of the city’s great modenista architecture, Eixample is bursting with a classy collection of galleries and boutiques. It’s characteristically broad streets also make for a brilliant day’s roaming for anyone seeking out a cultural excursion – the modernist Casa Batlló designed by Antoni Gaudi is a particular highlight.

Yet, don’t mistake the polished exterior for a lack of personality, as come sun-down Exiample takes a party vibe that’s almost impossible to resist and runs deep into the night.

Barceloneta

The coastline in Barceloneta and a view of the city.

With the yawning coastal promenade and sparkling crystal-blue waters, there are no prizes for guessing the main attraction in Barceloneta. Ever-popular with locals and tourists alike, this breezy district is the perfect bolthole to soak up the sunshine. And with the patrolling vendors selling snacks, water and other essentials, serious sun-worshippers will rarely have much reason to move!

Given the close-by harbour and its long history as a fishing village, it’s no surprise that Barceloneta is also home to some of the finest seafood in the region. Trust us, there’s no better way to cap off your day’s relaxation than by dropping by one of the fantastically fishy restaurants lining the promenade and peripheral streets.

El Raval

A giant cat monument in El Raval, Barcelona.

Edgy, authentic, and raw, El Raval is where you’ll find the true nature of this fascinating city. Situated on the other side of Las Ramblas to the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter – more on that later), El Raval maintains the essence of Barcelona’s Old Town. After all, this historic district was located within the city walls until it was knocked down in 1859 to give a rapidly growing population some more room to breathe.

El Ravel was once a no-go area for tourists, but this much-maligned barrio has undergone a cultural transformation in recent years. Home to Richard Meier's mammoth MACBA (Museum of Modern Art) since 1995, which hosts the city's main collection of modern art. This culture has subsequently spilled out through the winding lanes of El Raval, with the area now boasting a range of art studios, galleries and trendy bookshops without dulling any of this gritty barrio’s endearing rough edges.

If you’re still not convinced, there’s a giant bronze cat statue – doesn’t get much better.

Gràcia

A view across Barcelona towards the sea on a sunny day.

An independent small town up until 100 years ago, the well-heeled Gracia has managed to keep its small town charm intact. Located just 1km north of the city centre at the north end of the Passeig de Gràcia, the salubrious neighbourhood of Gràcia nonetheless has more of a local than cosmopolitan feel to it, with much of life lived on the numerous public squares.

The verdant Güell Park is undoubtedly a highlight, in every sense of the word. The park is patched across a steep hill overlooking Barcelona, so if you can brave the inline (and we strongly recommend you do) to the top, you will be rewarded with a panoramic view of the city in all its glory. Best enjoyed at dusk.

El Gotic

A narrow stone lined street in El Gotic, Barcelona.

As known as Barri Gotic or Barrio Gotico, El Gotic is the oldest and arguably the most visually compelling part of the city. With a breath-taking architectural marvel at almost every turn, this barrio is the cynosure of Barcelona’s fabled history.

Even a simple stroll through the Gothic quarters is transformed into something otherworldly by the meandering cobblestone streets, ornate churches and elegant museums. This is the perfect place to get your culture fix and a must-see for any self-respecting aesthete.

Taking a tour is always a great option for a gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation of your surroundings, but if we were to limit ourselves to one while in Barcelona, the mythical El Gotic would get our vote.

El Born

Picasso Museum in El Born, Barcelona.

Chic, trendy and brimming with character, El Born is a creative hub for Barcelona’s quirkiest residents. This hip undercurrent is refreshingly offset by the magnificent medieval architecture alongside the most welcoming streets in Barcelona.

Home to popular tourist spots such as the Picasso Museum, Barcelona Zoo and the barrio’s most distinctive building, the Santa Maria de Mar Church, El Born has done well to maintain its local personality. The district’s many quaint courtyards and breezy cafés also make for a calming tonic to the sometimes frenetic pace of Catalan life during the day.

This place doesn’t want for nightlife either, coming alive as the young and trendy flock to the many natty bars lining the winding streets from the late evening onwards.

Graham McEnroe Four words to sum up Graham? Bad At Writing Bios. Luckily, a suitcase full of publishing experience, a battered passport and an eye for a flowery metaphor make him an adept travel writer.