If you're struggling with the same questions then this article is what you're looking for. We're going to explain you everything you need to know about the Catalan capital. Every secret, every detail, the official and the 'under the scene' knowledge. We'll take you for a free virtual trip to Barcelona in this blog. After reading this post you will feel as a local on your first time in Barcelona.
As lots of foreigners, when I was my first time in Barcelona I was a little bit lost. It took me a few months to find my way in the city and the different districts, what's normal of course. I enjoyed discorvering it, don't get me wrong. But there a few this that I think are easy to know before and I found out some really interesting things that I want to share with you. There are uncountable quartiers, lots of little narrow streets where you get lost really easily (specially when you're a bit drunk or in crazy nights) and city is hugh. The important thing to do to avoid getting lost every day is remember some refference points, as Ramblas, Plaza Catalunya, Via Laietana, principal steets and monuments.
The moment when you are searching for a room in Barcelona or I think also in another big city, you should consider looking for a room nearby your work or university. Although Barcelona has a perfect network of public transport it will save you money and a lot of time travilling. If you are thinking about staying long term in Barcelona (more than six months) then I recommend you to take a ho(s)tel for one week or ten days. This way you can plan some visitings before you arrive in Barcelona and disvover the different neighbours a little so that you can take a better decision.
The quartiers that are most populair in the city are Raval, Gothic and Born. Erasmus students and young people love this neighbours thanks to their party atmosphere, so if your idea about your life in Barcelona is party a lot, meet a lot of intenational people and you're looking for have a lot of fun then I recommend you to live in one of this quartiers, or in Barceloneta if you come in summer.
This one is the most centric and famous quartier in the city. The Ramblas of Catalunya, Boqueria Market, the Monasterio, the MACBA (The Museum of Art Contemporary) and Guell Palace are it's main turistic attractions. Old fashioned buildings and narrows dazzle every day lots of locals and tourists that walk around the neighborhood. Besides, has a great connexion with metro and bus system, so is really easy to move from Raval to another points of the city or to the airport.
Ramblas is main steet of the city. It size 1,3 kilometers and connect Plaza Catalunya with the Puerto Antiguo. Besides, Las Ramblas is the border between Raval and Gothic quartier. Official version shows Ramblas as a charming and busy walk, full of locals, tourists, street artists and musicians. There is lots of restaurants with terraces where you can enjoy a cold beer and homemade sangrias and vermouths. You can also find some little local stores where you can buy some groseries or gifts.
The under scene version? Ramblas can be a real nightmare, specially if you visit it in summer. More than 30 degrees and lots of tourists make walking the Rambla realy akward and annoying. If you want to sit and have a drink or buy presents in the markets you will realize that price are really high for Spainish standards, so you won't see any locals, only tourists. Besides, lot of ilegal sellers have problems with cops, so I recommend you just go and make a quick tour but no more than that. Barcelona has so much more you should see and I my opinion the Ramblas isn't the best thing Barcelona has.
Sant José market, better known as Boqueria Market is one of the "must go" of the neighborhood. Have a lunch in the market is quite expensive because it is really touristic, but it is definitaly you want make some groseries and buy fresh and quality products the you're in the right place. Prices of the products are fine, not specially expensive, so a lot of local people still pick Boqueria Market, mainly to buy fresh fish, fresh fruits, seafood and spices.
Other interesting thing to do is chill on the Monastery. It's one of the Roman buildings best preseved of the city. The good thing is that this one is not as famous as the before mentioned attractions, so there are not as much tourists inside. On the other hand, you will find a lot of local people and students spending their time there relaxing or reading. If you want to have a "romantic dinner" maybe you should consider that inside there's a charming restaurant, a little bit expensive, but it is a lovely experience.
At Raval you will find uncountable little restaurants, pubs and bars, so is the perfect place to enjoy a dinner or relax after work while drinking good cocktails. My tip is: do it in Raval but walk far from Ramblas. Get into the neighbourhoud and you will feel like a local and no like a tourist. You will realize that doing that you'll eat cheaper and better.
Gothic is the oldest core of the city and one the most beautiful parts of Barcelona. It has a lots of intresting buildings, as Cathedral of Santa Eulalia, Plaza Reial, Plaza of Saint Jaume and "El Portal del Angel".
It was born on the remains of Barcino Romana (Barcelona was called like that when it was a Roman Colony) but in the dark age they were builded a lot of gothic churchs and palaces that make disappear all the Roman reminds. Now a days medieval narrows are now one of the mains attraction of the quartier.
Santa Eulalia Cathedral was builded between XIII and XV centuries but the imposing facade was builded on XIX century. Is one of the more visited buildings of the city, so it is packed of tourists since morning until afternoon. If you want to visit the Cathedral we recommend you go there on the nights or in the low season.
The Plaza Reial is located exactly next to las Ramblas and it's a meeting point, as much for tourists as locals. There are a lot of restaurants they're a good choice if you want to have a drink or eat there and they're not as expensive as the restaurants on Las Ramblas. Besides, there are some nightclubs which are visited a lot by locals, as Jamboree, so the nightlife you should definitly discover here.
"El Portal del Angel" is other main turistic attraction of the neighbourhood. It is a big and wide street where you can find international and famous brandstores, as El Corte Ingles. This street is one of the most crowded in Barcelona.
Gothic atmosphere, it nightlife, its streets, it charms and it great connexion with metro and bus makes of this neighbourhood one of the favourite place in the city to live for local and tourists. It is maybe the most beautiful quartier in the city and even if it's very busy.
This famous and quite expensive quartier border with Mediterranean Sea and beachs, so is one of the most crowded places in summer. You will recognize it because you will find lots of fish and seafood restaurants packed, people chilling on terraces and you feel the sea breeze. There are also a lot of bars they mainly open from April to August.
It was unocupied until 1750 but then the sailers started to settle down because of the sea proximity.
The beach is the main neighbourhood attracion and they're the busiest of Barcelona. Barceloneta's beach is beautiful but there's a big problem: in summer they're really crowded so they're dirty and there's not a lot of "empty space". That's why we recommend you do the same as local people: avoid Barceloneta and go to the beaches of Nou Icaria, Bogatell and Marbella.
Just a few steps next to Port Vell you will find Maregmagnum. A luxury and imposing shoppingcenter. If you want to enjoy a unforgottable dinner you may visit last floor restaurants and eat fresh seafruits and Mediterreanen sea amazing views. It is a good option if you want to enjoy a romantic dinner next to the sea but it could be a little bit expensive.
If you want to live a crazy and limitless summer you should pick this quartier without any doubt, because is close to Port Olimplic where you can reach the best nightclubs in Barcelona, as Pacha, Shoko and Opium. Young tourism propose a usual problem with neighbours that ask to live in a peacefull and quiet place, so you'll see lots of white flags asking for silence and respect.
If you ask me which is the best quartier in Barcelona, I wouldn't even think about it. Born, for sure. It's the more artistic neighborhood in the city, is a laberint of narrows where is easy and funny to get lost. Local and tourist people spend their days and nights in bars and restaurants enjoying of the best atmosphere in Barcelona.
At the dark age Born was the place for executions and witch burning. In 1329 the started the build of "Iglesia de Santa Maria del Mar" which is today one of the main attractions in the quartier. Besides this church became even more famous since the publishing of the best-seller "La Catedral del Mar" (If you like literature, history and you're coming soon to Barcelona you shouldn't miss it).
Passeig del Born is one of the most intresting walks on the neighborhood. It's a big and wide street full of pubs, cocktail bars and restaurants. Lots of tourists and locals meet there every night. Exactly as in Ramblas, there is a lot of beer sellers on the streets and is quite normal buy and drink beers on the street.
Born became a non-stop quartier. It's a neighborhood full of art, music and street concerts. Its atmosphere is lively as much during the day as during the night. Its bars and restaurants are full of young people and they're not very exprensive. Nowadays Born is the heart of Barcelona and is the best option for young people.
Formerly it was a set of agricultural lands, a space mainly unnocupied until XIX century when firsts developements of a neighborhood that was known as "El Poblet" was made. Since 1882 the name of the quartier changed to Sagrada Familia because of the works on the church.
Obvioulsy, Sagrada Familia get the visit of thousends and thousends of tourists every single day. If you live on the neighborhood you will have to be careful and avoid the restaurants, markets and bars next to the temple because is quite expensive. You can also check Avenida Gaudi, a wide and famous street that contacts Sagrada Familia with Hospital de la Santa Cruz y San Pablo.
Even if during the day there's a lot of people and ambience next to Sagrada Familia, you'll quickly realize that in fact is a quiet place. Lot of local people lives there, so if you're looking for a calm neighborhood this is the perfect one for you. In the other hand, if you prefer a more active lifestyle you should consider Raval, Gothic or Born.
Its core is Sant Antoni Market, builded on XIX century and specially famous thanks to the thrift store where you can buy old books and collecting material. You can also eat and shop groseries because in fact Sant Antoni market could be consider like a turistless Boqueria.
Tapas fans and food lovers that has borned here or that are living in Barcelona years ago know that Sant Antoni is the perfect quartier for having dinner, "ir de tapas" or have drinks, because there is lots of restaurants with terrace and great non-expensive wineries.
I consider that this neighborhood is a great place to live, specially if you're looking for the middle point between the tranquility and the dynamic life at Barcelona. Sant Antoni is a local and quiet quartier but if you want enjoy the nightlife you're at 10 minuts walking from Ramblas and Born.
Villa de Gracia (Is not the same as Passeig de Gracia)
Villa de Gracia is one of the most attractives neighborhoods at Barcelona. Is specially famous because of "Fiesta Major", a festival produced in August where every house and street is garnished so it becomes one of the most popular places in Barcelona for the month.
At night their residents and guests used to go out and take some drinks at "Plaza del Sol", "Plaza Joanic" o "Carrer de Verdi".
Park Guell is it most famous and busy touristic attraccion. It was designed by Antonio Gaudi and builded between 1900 and 1914. At the beggining the idea was to make a high-society little neighborhood but it didn't work and now it belongs to the city and is a public park.
Even if the quartier is amazing and really beautiful, we don't recommend you live here because it's far from the center of the city and it can be a little bit akward and annoying to make that long journey almost all the days.
Other neighborhoods or cheaper places
We told you about the most famous and busy quartier of the city. Neverthelles there's other good options if you are looking for something more quiter or cheaper.
If you're a student, you should consider Sants quartier. Their core is the main train station of the city so it's perfectly connected with bus and metro system. The best thing is that it's really close to the universities.
If you're a beach and nightlife lover but you can't afford a flat in Barceloneta, or you prefer living in a less touritic place, we recommend you check Bogatell, Llacuna, Poblenou and Besos del Mar. They're local neighborhood, cheper and they're really close to beachs and Mediterranean sea. Besides if you take the metro you can reach Barceloneta in 5 or 10 minuts, so it's really a good option.
Other valable option is Carmel, Vall d'hebron and Horta. The bad side is that is quite far and takes like 15 or 20 minuts to reach the heart of the city. The good side is that is really cheaper. Besides this places has their own bar and restaurants so there is a good atmosphere.
To conclude if you are coming to Barcelona I recommend you don't rent a flat or room from you place and don't take quick decisions. The best you can do is coming a week and stay at a hotel or a backpacker and visit the neighborhoods for your own and check all the rooms or flats before take the right one.
So you know, when you reach Barcelona and you want to party check NightsApp.es, sign up in our Guest Lists for yourself and secure your spot on the best nightclubs on the city.