Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, is a city of ancient Gothic architecture and the home of bold modernism. From the crumbling old streets of the Gothic Quarter to the early 20th-century barrio of Eixample the city is an exciting place to simply walk around.
Those highlights don’t even include the traditional tapas bars and fresh seafood restaurants, or the vibrant streets alive until late at night, the art and museums, the natural spaces and Sant Sebastià beach.
Whatever your inclination, you can be sure that Barcelona is a city worth visiting. With so much going on and different areas of the city offering atmospheres distinct from each other, where is the best area to stay in Barcelona?
Here’s a guide to where to stay in Barcelona – the best places for all budgets.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Discover Barcelona Guide Book
Where to Stay in Barcelona: Best Districts & Hotels
This old part of the city is home to one of Barcelona’s biggest tourist attractions: the Museu Picasso. Housed in five adjoining medieval palaces (Palau Aguilar, Palau Meca, Palau Baró de Castellet, Palau Finestres and Casa Mauri) it contains the single biggest art collection of Pablo Picasso in the world.
Aside from this, La Ribera is the best area to stay in Barcelona if you want a little bit of everything: medieval architecture, lively tapas bars, upscale shopping, and some other interesting sights in the form of the superbly imposing Basílica de Santa Maria del Mar.
But it’s not all narrow streets and historical buildings. The mid-19th-century Parc de la Ciutadella is good for a slice of nature away from the city. In fact, this was Barcelona’s only green space for a few decades after its creation.
Top luxury hotels we recommend in La Ribera:
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This beachside district borders La Ribera and was originally home to the fisherman. Though not technically part of the city until 1754 when houses began being built as a response to citizens being pushed out when part of La Ribera was leveled for the construction of the Parc de la Ciutadella.
Today La Barceloneta is well known for its bars and restaurants that populate the palm-lined promenade. You can find al fresco seafood eateries as well as traditional tapas bars.
Posh yachts dot the sparkling sea and the beach of Sant Sebastià offers as much for sun-worshippers as it does for surfers. This is where to stay in Barcelona if you would rather spend your days on the beach instead of admiring the old architecture.
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The historic area of El Raval is perfectly located in the center of Barcelona’s old town. This area is also known as the ‘Gothic Quarter’ and includes the famed street of La Rambla.
It is a storied district in itself as there are many monuments, sights, centuries-old streets.
For instance, the Romanesque church of Sant Pau del Camp, built around 979 AD, is found here and so is the stunning Palau Güell, designed by Antoni Gaudí and constructed in the late 1880s.
There’s also the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Arts (MACBA) to explore here, as well as La Boqueria – the city’s best-known market, dating from the 13th century.
Today El Raval is home to a large immigrant community and also boasts a number of bars and clubs for lively nightlife.
Top luxury hotels we recommend in El Raval:
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Originally a separate municipality dating back to 1626 before being formally annexed by Barcelona in 1897 following a century of expansion by the city, Gràcia today is a vibrant enclave of Catalan culture.
This is partly evidenced by August’s Festa Major de Gràcia, the biggest neighborhood festival of the city, where you’ll find the unexpectedly UNESCO-designated practice of castell – creating human towers that put cheerleaders to shame.
Gràcia is also where to stay in Barcelona if you’re a fan of Gaudí: it’s here where you’ll find Park Güell, created by the architect as a commission for his close friend, and filled with the alien curves and striking facades that he’s famous for; as well as the beautiful mansion of Casa Vicens.
Other than that, Gràcia is relatively free of tourist attractions, helping it thrive as a bohemian area full of hip, trendy bars, and cafes.
Top luxury hotels we recommend in Gràcia:
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A district of modernist architecture, upmarket shopping, and what seems like a million different places to eat and drink, the area of Eixample is the ‘new’ part of Barcelona.
It was constructed in the late 19th and early 20th century to accommodate the rapidly expanding city (eixample means ‘extension’ in Catalan) and as such follows a more modern grid pattern.
Because of the timing of its creation, it features many examples of modernista architecture, chief among whom was Gaudí, of course.
A few of his creations can be found here, the amazingly wavy Casa Milà, and tall Casa Batlló with its dragon-like roof, out-of-this-world shapes, and colors.
And one of the biggest sights, of course, is Sagrada Família – started in the late 19th century and still remaining unfinished, it towers above the city. For fans of a more modern city to explore, this is the best place to stay in Barcelona – though accommodation can come at a premium.
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