Last Updated: 7/23/23 | July 23rd, 2023
Barcelona is one of the most popular cities in all of Europe. It has medieval neighborhoods, fairytale architecture (¡hola, Gaudí!), incredible restaurants, world-class art museums, and a vibrant urban life, all hugging up against the azure Mediterranean Sea.
It has roots that stretch back to the Roman Empire, though it was in the Middle Ages (when it was its own country) that it came into its own as an economic powerhouse in the western Mediterranean.
Today, Barcelona is the capital of the autonomous Catalonia region (which has sought separation from Spain on numerous occasions) and is the second most populous city in the country.
I have loved it since I first visited as a backpacker in 2006.
With a population of 1.6 million spread out over 10 districts (and 73 neighborhoods), travelers looking for a base have a lot of areas to choose from.
To help you figure out where to stay, in this post, I’ll break down the best neighborhoods and give you my favorite places to stay in each.
Barcelona Neighborhood Overview
Where to Stay for Nightlife: La Barceloneta
The seaside area known as La Barceloneta is full of bars, restaurants, and clubs. It is a beautiful and happening part of town. You’re right next to the beach with its lovely boardwalk, and close to a lot of nightlife. It’s not one of the quietest neighborhoods (at least if you stay in the center of the area), but there’s a lot going on here, you’re close to a lot of museums, and it’s not a far walk to the Gothic Quarter either.
Best places to stay in La Barceloneta
- BUDGET: Sea Hostel Barcelona – This hostel is right on the beach. The beds aren’t anything to write home about, but it’s the only hostel in the area, making it the best budget choice for anyone looking to soak up La Barceloneta without breaking the bank.
- MIDRANGE: Hotel 54 – This stylish hotel offers terrace views over the beach. The rooms have a lot of natural light and a minimalist decor. There’s a bar on-site, and continental breakfast too.
- LUXURY: W Barcelona – With an infinity pool, a rooftop bar, and the posh rooms you’d expect from this global brand, the W is the peak of luxury in the neighborhood. It’s also one of the best Ws in the world.
Where to Stay for Families: Gràcia
Gràcia is far from where tour buses and groups roam. It’s quiet, and many of its streets are pedestrianized, so there’s no need to worry about those pesky cars, especially if you have kids in tow. And the neighborhood is adjacent to Gaudí’s wonderfully weird Park Güell, and is home to his Casa Vicens as well as the 19th-century clock tower in Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia. This is the neighborhood you want to stay in for quiet and calm.
Best places to stay in Gràcia
- BUDGET: Factory Hostels – This hostel has a great location right next to Park Güell. There are different types of dorm rooms. The beds are comfy, and it’s a great place to meet other travelers. Unlike a lot of other hostels, breakfast is included too.
- MIDRANGE: Hotel BestPrice Gràcia – Ignore the generic name of this affordable, centrally located spot in Gràcia and cozy up in one of the slightly funky rooms with photographs on the walls and a minimalist design. The rooms are small but comfortable. It’s good, no-frills place to stay.
- LUXURY: Hotel Casa Fuster G.L Monumento – Housed in a UNESCO-listed modernist building right on Passeig de Gràcia, this five-star hotel has a jazz bar and a Michelin-starred restaurant, which were the two man draws for me. But there are plenty of other luxurious amenities here too, including a rooftop terrace with a pool, a sauna, stylish rooms, and four eateries.
Where to Stay for Foodies: Sant Antoni
A relatively off-the-radar neighborhood, Sant Antoni is great for those who like to indulge in food and drink. Browse the dozens of stalls at the Mercat de San Antoni (there will be fewer tourists there than at La Boquería), and then go on a vermouth crawl.
I like this area because it’s a bit more “local” than other parts of town, has a high concentration of relatively nontouristy restaurants and bars, and is still close to all the major attractions and tourist sites, so you don’t have to go far to sightsee.
Best places to stay in Sant Antoni
- BUDGET: TOC Hostel Barcelona – The social hostel offers backpackers a super secure place to stay (there are fingerprint scanners at the door). There’s a laid-back lounge and common area with games, an outdoor pool, and cozy pod beds that ensure you’ll get a decent night’s sleep.
- MIDRANGE: Saint Antoni Market – Stylish Sant Antoni Market’s 68 rooms offer all the perks you’d expect from a sleek hotel, plus bathrooms with large showers and magnifying mirrors. The staff are very friendly and the rooms are spacious, with lots of light and beautiful wood floors. I think it’s the best value hotel in the neighborhood.
- LUXURY: Eric Vökel Boutique Apartments – This is a series of luxury apartments with spacious guest quarters. Some have balconies, and all have fully equipped kitchens. If you are looking for an Airbnb feel but also the luxury and service of a hotel, this is where you’ll want to stay.
Where to Stay for History: The Gothic Quarter
Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, or Barri Gòtic in the local parlance, is the oldest part of town, and oozing with two thousand years of history. The narrow streets, historic churches, underground ruins, ancient plazas — they’re all here. While this area is super beautiful, it’s also ground zero for tourism. If you stay here, you’ll be right in the heart of everything — but that comes with crowds, higher prices, and more touristy restaurants.
Best places to stay in the Gothic Quarter
- BUDGET: Kabul Party Hostel – Kabul is my favorite hostel in Barcelona. It’s a full-on party hostel, where they organize nightly events and pub crawls. Surprisingly, the dorms are clean and the beds are decent (the bunks do squeak a bit though). It’s super social and really easy to meet people here.
- MIDRANGE: Hotel Colón – Located across from Barcelona Cathedral, Colón features 129 design-friendly rooms with a lot of natural light, marble floors, and beautiful decor. I love the comfy beds, rooftop pool, and views of the cathedral. It’s in a quieter part of the neighborhood too!
- LUXURY: Serras – Comfort to the max! Serras offers soundproof rooms with balconies, nightly turndown service, rain showers, and complimentary newspapers and bottled water. The lobby is equally as opulent, there’s a pool, and the rooftop restaurant run by a Michelin-starred chef is good too! I think it’s the best non-chain luxury hotel in the area.
Where to Stay for Luxury: Eixample
If you like Gaudí, modern design, and high-end shopping, Eixample is where you should be hanging out. The elegant neighborhood, known for its 19th-century street-grid design, has avenues flanked by upscale restaurants, cafés, and boutiques. Many of Gaudí’s works can be found here too, including Casa Milà, Casa Batlló, and La Sagrada Família (which is still not quite complete!).
I like this area because it’s somewhat more modern, nicer, and pretty quiet. There’s not a lot going on here, but if you want to stay in a more luxurious part of town, this would be it!
Best places to stay in Eixample
- BUDGET: St. Christopher’s Inn – This is one of my favorite hostels in Europe. It has co-ed and female-only dorm rooms, free Wi-Fi, and complimentary breakfast. There’s also a laid-back bar on the premises and a shared kitchen, so it’s easy to hang out and meet people.
- MIDRANGE: Hotel Praktik Vinoteca – This hotel is beautifully designed, with a lot of wood furniture. The beds are super comfortable, and the rooms have a lot natural life. There’s also a beautiful courtyard with a lot of trees where you can enjoy one of the hotel’s famous wine tastings. It’s a luxury experience at a nonluxury price.
- LUXURY: Cram – This hotel has minimalist-style rooms with lots of light wood and natural light, as well as huge beds. The rooms feel very open (the plush robes and slippers are really nice too). There’s a rooftop pool and an upscale in-house restaurant with two Michelin stars.
Barcelona is one of the greatest cities in the world. It has a lively, infectious energy that I can never get enough of and some of the most impressive architecture in Europe. But it’s also huge and sprawling, with dozens of neighborhoods to choose from.
Fortunately, by picking one from above, you’ll be situated close to the action so you can save time (and money) as you explore this beautiful and iconic destination.
Get Your In-Depth Budget Guide to Europe!
My detailed 200+ page guidebook is made for budget travelers like you! It cuts out the fluff found in other guides and gets straight to the practical information you need to travel while in Europe. It has suggested itineraries, budgets, ways to save money, on and off the beaten path things to see and do, non-touristy restaurants, markets, bars, safety tips, and much more! Click here to learn more and get your copy today.
Book Your Trip to Barcelona: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight. It is my favorite search engine, because it searches websites and airlines around the globe, so you always know no stone is being left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld, as it has the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.
If you’re looking for more budget-friendly accommodation, here is a complete list of my favorite hostels in Barcelona.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancelations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it, as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- SafetyWing (best for nomads)
- Insure My Trip (for those 70 and over)
- Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)
Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money too.
Need a Guide?
Barcelona has some really interesting tours. My favorite company is Take Walks. This day-tour company will give you inside access to attractions and places you can’t get elsewhere. Its guides rock too!
If you prefer food tours, Devour is the best in town. I always learn a ton and eat incredible food on its tours!
Want More Information on Barcelona?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide to Barcelona for even more planning tips!