Like every big city, Barcelona has several distinctly unique neighborhoods that stand out amongst each other. Getting lost in the Gothic Quarter or roaming the hills of Gracia are just a few ways even locals enjoy the magic of this city. Here just a few insider tips with our Barcelona neighborhood guide !
The Gothic Quarter
Probably the most well-known neighborhood of Barcelona, the Gothic Quarter, or el barri Gotic, easily earns its status. This area stretching from Las Ramblas to Via Laietana was once the nucleus of the old city and its labyrinth of narrow, cobble-stoned streets house buildings from medieval and even Roman colony times. Mostly pedestrian, the Gothic is filled with bars, cafes and restaurants scattered in and around its many squares and famous monuments like the Gothic cathedral or the government and city halls. Nightlife here is rampant, and you’ll find most of it in and around the emblematic Plaça Reial.
La Ribera, more colloquially referred to as the Born, is a picturesque and trendy neighborhood sandwiched between the Gothic Quarter and the beautiful Ciudadela Park. Locals claim that they wouldn’t have stepped foot in the area after dark some 20 years ago, which is almost hard to believe nowadays with its hip restaurant scene and abundance of pricey independent designers. The Santa Maria Basilica and its rich history stand strong in the center of it all, despite the incredible change the neighborhood has undergone. Head to Calle Flassaders for shopping, and don’t miss out on the recently reopened Born Cultural Center, a stunning modernist building with extensive medieval ruins on display.
Once the old fisherman’s neighborhood of Barcelona, this little area between the Old Port and the sea is charming to say the least. Admittedly, with all the tourism that the beach attracts, you have to know where you’re going to make the most of it. We suggest starting in the Plaça del Mercat, where the lively local scene really shines. Beyond being known for seafood, la Barceloneta is also home to some fantastic tapas spots like L’Ostia (Plaça de la Barceloneta, 1) or La Bombeta (Carrer de la Maquinista, 3). And of course, a great sea-side paella never hurt anyone!
Though the Raval claims a certain notoriety for being dangerous and grimy, the neighborhood does have a very unique feel in comparison to the rest of Barcelona. A melting pot of different ethnicities mixed up with a gentrifying hipster vibe, there is definitely something to love about this part of town. Joaquin Costa is a great street for bar hopping, and nearby you’ll find the famed MACBA (Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona), possibly where the Barcelona skate culture came to life. Most locals agree that the Raval is hardly dangerous.
Sant Antoni is just a small triangular neighborhood in the enormous Eixample district, Barcelona’s 19th century city expansion project. Right on the border of el Raval, it’s a bit more cleaned up and a lot more welcoming to an unseasoned traveller. The modernist Sant Antoni market is a sight worth seeing, and Calle Parlament is little by little becoming one of the most important bar and restaurant scenes around.
If we continue heading south from the Gothic to the Raval to Sant Antoni, we will eventually cross the wide Avenida Parallel and find ourselves in the unassuming neighborhood of Poble Sec. A working class area with no real monuments to boast, it does have some lovely inclined streets (it sits at the foot of Montjuic) and the hopping restaurant lined Blai street. It’s also commonly known as one of the all-around cheaper neighborhoods, and just a five minute metro ride to the city center.
If you’re looking for authentic Catalan, look no further than the lovely Vila de Gracia, an old village that, although annexed into Barcelona in 1897, still maintains a very small-town feel. Sixty five percent of its inhabitants are from Catalonia (whereas thirty five in the city center), making for a very patriotic, unified and absolutely unique area of the big city.
We love exploring Barcelona’s neighborhoods! Our Gracia Neighborhood Tour explores this authentic Catalan neighbourhood , and our Tastes, Tapas & Traditions of Barcelona Tour explores the historic neighborhoods of Born and Barceloneta. Join us and discover Barcelona’s incredible gastronomy!
Photo Credits: Jesús Corrius (Barri Gotic) on Flickr CC