Barcelona is an extremely multifaceted city. The city of Barcelona has 10 distinct neighbourhoods, or “barrios”, and they all have a completely different atmosphere. So, which one should you stay in if you’re spending a city break in Barcelona? It depends. Some neighbourhoods allow for proximity to sights, some for a more local experience, and some for the more budget-savvy traveller. Here are the 5 best neighbourhoods for 48 hours in Barcelona.
If you’re looking for the overall best place to stay for 48 hours in Barcelona, it’s probably going to be the Ciutat Vella. First, you can’t beat this barrio for its location. Within this district, you’ll find the Gothic Quarter, with the Museu Picasso and Barcelona Cathedral, as well as Barceloneta Beach. Plus, you’ll be walking distance from the Eixample and Montjuïc, and have access to public transport if you’d like to go further afield. There’s also a wide variety of accommodations, from 5-star luxury hotels, to more standard rooms under £100. Staying here, you’d ensure you’ll check everything off your sightseeing list, and you’ll get to soak up all that old town charm.
If you want the ritzier side of Barcelona, Eixample is your best bet. Famous for its Modernista houses, Eixample is home to Gaudí’s masterpieces Casa Batlló and Casa Mila. It also lies in the centre of Barcelona, just north of Ciutat Vella. Here, you’ll still be walking distance to the Gothic Quarter, but you’ll probably have to take public transportation to some other sites. Not to worry, though, because the neighbourhood is serviced by three metro lines and about half of the city’s buses. Within the neighbourhood, you’ll find the Passeig da Gràcia and La Sagrada Familia, the city’s most famous site. There’s a variety of accommodation in Eixample, but there is a higher density of luxury hotels (including the five-star Mandarin hotel), so it might not be the best choice if you’re budget-conscious.
If you want a local experience without sacrificing location, book in Grácia. It’s Barcelona’s smallest and densest neighborhood, so you’ll be wandering the eclectic squares and architecture on its narrow, hilly streets. The only major tourist site in Grácia is Park Güell, meaning the influx of tourists is much lower than in other neighborhoods. That makes this neighborhood popular with locals, giving it a youthful and trendy vibe. You’ll also find more local restaurants and shops. In fact, Grácia is known for its top-notch cuisine, with everything from tapas to Japanese. You’ll have to rely on public transportation, but its two metro lines can get you to Plaça de Catalunya, bordering Ciutat Vella and Eixample, in under 20 minutes. Hotels here tend to be smaller and cheaper, and you’ll find a lot of airbnbs in this neighborhood.
For a combination of location and price, Sants-Montjuïc is an excellent spot. Still within walking distance to the harbor and Ciutat Vella, Sants-Montjuïc gives a different side of the local atmosphere. You’ll find the up-and-coming neighborhood of Poblenou, with its trendy coffee shops and boutiques, and Poble-Sec, one of the go-to spots for Basque-style tapas, or pintxos. Hotels are noticeably cheaper here, and you’ll also find several hostels. The best part of the neighborhood, however, is its namesake, Montjuïc. Crowned by the former royal palace, the hill of Montjuïc towers over the city, offering spectacular views, but it’s also home to five museums, historic Monjuïc Castle, and a botanical garden.
Another hotspot for budget travelers is Horta Guinardó. There’s many inexpensive hotels, hostels and airbnbs to choose from, and Horta is great for those who want to skip the hustle-and-bustle of downtown for a quieter, greener neighborhood. At the north of the city, Horta is further away than the barrios above, taking up to 30 minutes to reach Plaça de Catalunya, but there’s a lot of lesser-known attractions to explore within the neighborhood. First, the Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau is located at the southern border of the barrio, for a look at a Modernista masterwork. Up north, you’ll find the Parc del Laberint d’Horta, a large green space with a perfectly groomed maze. Last but not least, you can also find the best view in the city at the Bunkers of Carmel. While Horta doesn’t have much for location, it still doesn’t miss out on the food or atmosphere of Barcelona.
No matter where you spend your city break in Barcelona, take some time to check out the different barrios of the city. Each one has its own unique charms and quirks, and they all contribute to what makes Barcelona such an amazing city.
Sarah is a college student and avid traveller, who’s cracked the budget travel formula and backpacked solo across 15 European countries