By Regina W. Bryan in Barcelona—
I’ve lived all over Barcelona, from the upper Eixample by the Sagrada Familia, to the ancient heart of the city in the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter). I now live near the sea, which suits me best.
Which barri is right for your trip or move to Barcelona? That depends on what you’re after in your Barcelona experience… and your budget. Here are some questions to ask yourself when choosing a neighborhood:
1. Are you after hip, multicultural, central, cool, and inexpensive?
Then your barri is El Raval! Right in the center of the city off Pl. Catalunya, this barri is one of the up-and-coming zones of the city. Some of Barcelona’s trendiest bars and restaurants are found in El Raval, as are the contemporary art museums, the CCCB and MACBA. This is where skaters zip around and students share beers on ample squares. This is also where to come to get a late-night kebab.
Yes, there is crime and prostitution and drug use in El Raval, which may be why the prices are lower for apartments and hotels in this barri. If you’re a chica, consider a Raval spot on a well-lit street in the outer Raval, rather than deep within it.
Perks: Ridiculously cool barri with a lot going on.
Drawbacks: Crime, drugs, etc. Not much in the way of green spaces.
2. Are you after a large apartment with an elevator in a somewhat posh area of the city with lots of cutting-edge restaurants and bars, plus easy public transportation?
Then your barri is “Gay” Eixample! It’s called “Gay” because a lot of gay folks live in this area and hence, there are many gay-friendly clubs, bars and establishments. This Eixmple is much cooler than the other Eixample (there are two), and has a lot more going on.
For those moving to town, apartments in this zone are usually spacious with multiple rooms. Also, they tend to have elevators, unlike many buildings in the Barri Gotic and La Ribera/Born.
Perks: Very central, with excellent bars, stores, movie theaters. Newer buildings.
Drawbacks: Noise. Lots of traffic crosses the Eixample. Pollution.
3. Are you after cobblestone streets, buildings with “character,” bohemian bars and history?
Then your barri is La Ribera/Born or Barri Gotic! Two of my preferred areas of the city because of their charm ratio, they’ve got a lot of it! Living in “old” Barcelona is awesome because of the history that surrounds you. It’s like living in the book Shadow of the Wind. Many of the La Ribera/Born or Barri Gotic streets are quiet and lit up at night by enormous and ornate iron lamps.
Fun bars and innovative restaurants mingle with truly bohemian cafes in this barri, where there’s something for everyone. If you’re moving to Barcelona, many of the apartments in La Ribera/Born or Barri Gotic are large, but they may not have heating/elevators/fixtures from this century.
Perks: Central and exceedingly charming. Fun bars and nightlife. Quiet at night (for the most part).
Drawbacks: Too touristy, lack of supermarkets, petty theft.
4. Are you after an artsy-fartsy barri with a “local”/family vibe to it and over 15 plaças to lounge in?
Then your barri is Gracia! Sure, it’s not that central, but most who live in this fabulous area will tell you that they could care less. Nice apartments on skinny streets lined with super cool bars, boutiques and natural food stores keep Gracia people happy.
Once a village called, uh, Gracia, this area still maintains its small town feel, even though it is very much now part of Barcelona. From Gracia it’s only four Metro stops to get to Pl. Catalunya.
Perks: A barri for the people with markets, shops, cafes, bakeries, etc. Family-friendly.
Drawbacks: Small streets, a bit removed from the center, hard to park (if you have a car).
I also really dig the barris Poble Sec (central, near nature), Poble Nou (near beach) and Sarria (out of the center). Bonanova and Tres Torres and anything on Diagonal are super posh areas with high rent and nice apartments.
Stay clear of distant barris such as Horta, La Pau and Besos. Vila Olimpica is nice for the beach, but doesn’t have much “community.” Living outside Barcelona in a small village is also an option, but unless you have a car you’ll sepend a lot of time on the train.