Barcelona is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, the capital of Catalonia and the largest industrial and trade center in Spain. Nobody will argue that Barcelona deserves to be named the true gem of the Mediterranean.
This city can boast the wealth of culture and history, interesting landmarks, amazing cuisine and an unforgettable atmosphere. Barcelona is saturated with the spirit of freedom and tranquility. That is why a trip to this city always creates vivid impressions.
Barcelona is relatively large but unlike many other metropolitan cities, it is very cozy and comfortable for both locals and tourists. Barcelonians are hardly ever in a hurry. Numerous street cafes are always crowded during after-lunch hours and you cannot help but fall in love with the melodies of the Spanish language interlaced with numerous sounds in dozens of other languages.
By the way, the official language here is not just Spanish but also Catalonian. Catalonia is an autonomous region of Spain and local citizens take pride in their independence. You can even say that Barcelona is a part of some “other” Spain. For example, if you want to see the traditional Spanish corrida (bullfighting), you should keep in mind that Catalonians do not approve of that type of entertainment and have officially banned it since 2010.
Barcelona is a great place to visit at any time of the year. The climate here is mild and relaxing in winter and warm in summer.
Choosing a place to stay here can depend on a number of factors but you should always keep in mind that no matter where you stay, you will be able to get to most sights easily because of a great public transport system in the city. You can use a metro, buses and trams here. Of course, you can always take a taxi, or even a cable car from the city to Montjuïc hill and enjoy incredible views of the city.
Additionally, you can use Barcelona as a base location for your travel in Spain. From here, you can take trains to a number of locations in the country. Plus, Barcelona–El Prat Airport is the second largest in the Mediterranean.
What Area is the Best to Stay in Barcelona?
It’s with good reason that Barcelona is known as a cultural capital of Spain. It used to be home to such incredible personalities as Antonio Gaudi, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. You can see different styles and historical periods represented in Barcelona. There is so much of it that you can’t really cover everything in a short time but it is definitely worth a try. That’s why it is incredibly important to find accommodation in the best possible location.
Barcelona is officially divided into ten large districts. There are a few districts that I believe will be great for tourists, such as Old Town, L'Eixample and Sants-Montjuïc. Living in these districts will help you save time and cover more sights while you are in Barcelona. Additionally, I recommend taking a closer look at the following districts: Les Corts where the famous Camp Nou stadium is located, Gracia with amazing Park Güel and the area near the airport.
Each of these districts is rather large, so when choosing a hotel you should decide what exactly you expect from your trip to Barcelona and define your priorities. If it is your first time in the city and you just want to make your first acquaintance with it, then I recommend choosing areas close to the historical downtown and/or transport hubs. Like I said, transport network in Barcelona is really well organized.
Old Town (Ciutat Vella)
If you prefer not to use public transport and love walking, you would enjoy to stay in the Old Town (Ciutat Vella). That’s a historical center of Barcelona with the highest number of landmarks, most of which are within a walking distance. There are many great hotels here but the prices usually are above average. In the Old Town, I can recommend such hotels as NH Barcelona Centro, Ciutat Vella and Gaudi Hotel. If you are looking for something more budget-friendly, good options are Cuatro Naciones and Chic & Basic Lemon.
One of the most beautiful places in this district is without a doubt the Catalonia Square (Plaça Catalunya). That is the starting point for the famous La Rambla boulevard that divides the Old Town into two parts and ends at the seashore and the Old Port (Port Vell).
La Rambla along with the Gothic Quarter and Montjuïc hill is one of the most visited places in the city.
Almost a mile long La Rambla boulevard connects Port Vell in the south with Catalonia Square in the north. You can use the boulevard as some kind of compass. If you turn your back to Port Vell, to your left you will see El Raval quarter and to your right you will see the Gothic quarter.
The boulevard can be divided into two parts. The first one (from the Catalonia square to Liceu metro station) is a quiet and peaceful area while the other one (from Liceu metro station to the Old port) has a bit of an unsavory reputation. You will see the difference after the dark when the southern part of the boulevard turns into some kind of the famous Amsterdam Red Lights district where every now and then strange crowd gathers. Of course, it is recommended to choose the quieter part of the district for accommodation, i.e. areas near the Catalonia Square. Here good options are Hotel 1898 and Royal Ramblas.
Barcelona’s local council limited traffic flow in this district making it a comfortable area for pedestrians. Actually, the downtown in Barcelona has many pedestrian streets with no traffic at all which definitely makes exploring the city more convenient.
In La Rambla you will find various shops and boutiques and see dozens of streets performers some of which are incredibly talented. Like in many other tourist spots, here you can get your portrait or caricature done.
Of course, that is also a great place for restaurants and small cafes. However, this is a very popular spot hence the prices are a bit higher than average and the quality of service is not always as great as you would expect. Yet, it is probably worth to sit in an outside café and drink a cup of coffee to enjoy an unforgettable atmosphere of the famous La Rambla.
There are three metro stations in the area, which means that this street can be a great starting point for your Barcelona quest. Within an easy reach, you will find such tourist attractions as Güell Palace (Palau Güell), the Parc de la Ciudadela, De Arc de Triomf and many other fantastic architectural landmarks including buildings in the Gothic quarter that I will talk about later.
Hotels in the area of La Rambla, especially in El Raval offer really good deals. Yet, you should always keep in mind that this is the busiest and probably the loudest place in the city. If you decide to stay in this area, try to avoid El Raval. This district is not very safe. Some of its parts are home to drug dealers and petty thieves. However, El Raval is not a criminal area or some kind of ghetto. There are nice places and good hotels here too. Yet, I would recommend choosing a hotel at a respectful distance from this district. Maybe, something closer to the Catalonia Square or the Gothic quarter.
The history of the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic) goes back to the ancient times when Spain was under Roman rule. Most of buildings date from 14th and 15th centuries. This district will be particularly interesting to architecture buffs because of numerous medieval and even older buildings. One of these impressive landmarks is the Temple of Augustus. Despite the age, it kept its grandeur and beauty. Another great example of the medieval Catalonian architecture is the Royal palace. Like many other architectural gems in Spain, it combines European style with Moresque elements. Especially beautiful are facades of intertwined arches, windows of different shapes and sizes, and incredible patios.
The Gothic quarter is also famous for its old churches. Among the most famous ones are the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, the Basilica of Our Lady of Mercy and Basilica of Santa Maria del Pi. Each of the churches has its own unique architectural design. Another great sight within a walking distance in the Gothic Quarter is Sant Jaume, or Plaza de San Jaime. This is the square where all local festive events take place. That is something that, as a tourist, you probably would not want to miss. Geographically, the Gothic Quarter is located on the right side of La Rambla if you turn your back to the sea.
You might find this district attractive if you are fond of medieval architecture and would like to dive deep into the atmosphere of the old Europe. Here you can take a look at such hotels as Barcelona Catedral and NH Barri Gotic.
Barceloneta is another district within the Old Town. That is where you will find lots of bars and nightclubs as well as the local beach. It is a good place for those who are up for some partying and also would like to combine a beach holiday with exploring the city. However, if you want a real beach holiday, there are better places not far from Barcelona. That is probably the reason why there are not that many hotels in Barceloneta. The most prominent is the 5-star W Barcelona. A good budget-friendly option is Hotel 54 Barceloneta. In this district you will also find many apartments for rent. For example, Arts Apartments Baluard.
To the north from the Old Town and the Catalonia Square, you will find Eixample, a district well worth the attention of tourists, built in a way that all streets are crossed at 90 degrees. This district is home to one of the main tourist attractions of Barcelona – Sagrada Familia (The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia) – the work of the great Antonio Gaudí.
There is no doubt that the design deserves the highest praise. Yet, you can’t help but notice how much time and skill has been put into the exterior trim of the cathedral. The number of details, the comprehensiveness of the motifs and the combination of different styles boggle the imagination.
Sagrada Familia is without a doubt a unique architectural construction that connects eras and generations. It attracts millions of tourists and is one of the landmarks of the UNESCO World Heritage List.
If you want to stay in the area next to the cathedral, you can give a chance to such hotels as Hotel Boutique Hostemplo, Ayre Hotel Caspe and Granvia. Good budget-friendly options are Acta Antibes and The 8 Boutique B&B. All of them are located within a walking distance of Sagrada Familia and the Old Town. It will take more time to reach other tourist attractions but you can always take public transport if you do not enjoy walks all that much.
There is an option of staying in the other part of Eixample – right between Plaça d'Espanya, Sants and Passeig de Gràcia railway stations. On the one hand, this area is close to the Old Town, on the other hand, Montjuïc hill is also nearby. Besides, this part of the district can be easily reached from the airport. Consequently, there are many accommodation options here. For example, take a look at B Hotel (not far from Plaça d'Espanya) or H10 Casanova (just a 10-minute walk away from the Catalonia Square).
Gracia district borders on Eixample. Some time ago, Gracia used to be a separate town and you can notice that even now. The district has its own flair and atmosphere. It makes sense to choose this district for accommodation if you have visited Barcelona in the past and want to see the city from a different angle. Besides, it might be a bit cheaper than staying in Eixample or the Old Town because Gracia is located at some distance from main attractions of the city. In other words, if you want to save some money, Gracia could be a good option.
There are not that many hotels in the area but you can still find attractive deals. Take a look at budget-friendly Hotel BestPrice Gracia (the name speaks for itself, doesn’t it?), guest houses Monrooms Barcelona and Hostal Lesseps or Aparthotel Silver. In Gracia you can find many wonderful apartments to rent (there are more apartments here than hotels). For example, Estudio Maignon or BWH Gracia.
Gracia’s location is not really a disadvantage. From some hotels and apartments here you can reach Sagrada Familia on foot. Plus, there are many local attractions that are worth visiting. One of the best is probably Park Güell, another gem of Gaudi. This place is soaked in history, reverberates the voices of the past and is in accord with modern buildings.
Park Güell is divided into two areas, and there is entrance fee for one of them. That is where unique stone constructions, beautiful mosaic fountains and Gaudi’s house can be found. Time flies by when you are here and you can be lost in this beauty for hours.
The park welcomes you with a beautiful mosaic fountain in a shape of a fairytale dragon. In the upper part of the park you will find a large terrace that features an incredible view of the park and Barcelona. You can sit down on the fairytale-like benches and enjoy these views not worrying about time at all because of the close location of your hotel.
Sants-Montjuic is often ignored by tourists. But you definitely should direct your attention to this district. First, that is where Montjuïc hill is located. It is one of the favorite attractions of both locals and tourists. For a long time Montjuïc used to be a strategic defense point. There is an old castle on the top of the hill, and at the foot of the hill you will find the famous Font Màgica fountain. If you are a sports fan, you will not be disappointed. This district is home to a number of sports venues built for 1992 Olympic Games.
Other attractions in Sants-Montjuic include Sant Jordi palace and the Spanish village.
The Spanish village (Poble Espanyol) is an open-air museum. It was built for the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition to introduce city’s visitors to the cultural and historical heritage of Spain. That is the place where you will find architectural works from all over Spain.
Entering through the medieval gates from Avila you will come into the main square with buildings from Castile and Aragon. From there, picturesque streets will lead you to Spanish quarters – Andalusian, Basque, Galician, Balearic, Valencian and Catalonian. Many buildings host handicraft workshops on their ground floors where you can buy Toledo blades, hand-made mantillas, leather and ceramic goods.
To find out more information about certain parts of Spain, just find the street of the relevant province. Gems of Navarra can be found on the Prince of Viana street. Valencian temples and houses are located on the Carrer Levante street, and Andalusian attractions can be found on the Calle de Los Arcos street. In the evenings, this museum is a great meeting point where you can enjoy an authentic atmosphere and make a few local friends. In Tablao de Carmen restaurant guests can watch a real flamenco show performed by professional dancers and taste amazing Spanish cuisine. Keep in mind, that this is a very popular place, so make a booking in advance.
If you are worried that Sants-Montjuic is a bit too far from the city center, remember that you can always take advantage of the public transport system in Barcelona. In about 20 minutes you can reach the Catalonia square and the Old Town. The airport is just 15 minutes away from here.
In this district I recommend taking a closer look at such hotels as Barceló Sants, Acta CITY47 and Gran Hotel Torre Catalunya (all three are in the area of Barcelona Sants railway station), and Hotel Brummell (at the foot of Mount Monjuic).
Les Corts is not really a traditional tourist district. It is, however, a great option for those who come to Barcelona on a business trip and will work in one of the business centers in this prosperous district.
At the same time, some tourists find Les Corts extremely interesting because that is where Camp Nou – the home of FC Barcelona – is located. In order to get inside the stadium you only need to buy a ticket. Here you will also find the team’s museum that could be worth visiting for both football (soccer) fans and just curious tourists. The museum showcases trophies the team has won since its foundation. Numerous photos will tell you the stories about many important sports events.
Taking a tour in the museum will provide visitors with a chance to see the world with the eyes of the players and managers and to experience behind the scenes soccer life. At first, you will see a short 3D-movie that will let you experience what it is like to be on the field during a match. You will also see a guest team locker room. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to see FC Barcelona’s locker room but your guide will tell you all about it. A part of the tour is also visiting the chapel that was open in 1958 and blessed by Pope Saint John Paul II.
The visitors also will go through the tunnel that leads to the field, see the technical area (dug-out) that will definitely trigger the most incredible impressions from being that close to the word of soccer. Additionally, you can visit rooms for press, corporate events and the president lounge from where the best view at the stadium opens. The program also includes seeing commentary booths that are located 35 meters above the field.
To sum it up, there is a lot to see even if you are not the biggest soccer fan. As for the fans, they definitely need to watch a match from here. That is something you will never forget.
This district is not that far away from the city center. You can reach Catalonia square in just 20 minutes, and Familia Sagrada – Barcelona’s gem – is only 25 minutes away.
There is a great transport connection between the city and the International El Prat airport (Aeropuerto de Barcelona – El Prat), so you don’t really have to choose a hotel near the airport. Nevertheless, if you are staying in the city for just one day and have an early flight, then booking a hotel near the airport could be beneficial. You can leave your luggage in the hotel and go to the Old Town to explore the city, and then have an easy access to the airport in the morning without fear that you might be late for your flight.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Hotel in Barcelona
Like in any other city, when you choose a hotel in Barcelona you should focus on what is important for you and what is the main goal of your trip. Barcelona has many faces, which means that every tourist will find accommodation that suits his or her needs, taste and budget.
If you want to see main sights and tourist attractions, then the Old Town and, in particular, the Gothic Quarter will be your best bet. The prices here are the highest, though thanks to a growing number of hostels and mini-hotels you will be able to find some budget-friendly options even in the city center.
If you are up for some beach holiday and also would like to hit night clubs, choose a hotel in Barceloneta. Here, next to the beach you will find most of the clubs. I have not discussed this district in more detail because most tourists go to other places when they seek a beach holiday in Spain.
If you want to save on accommodation, take a closer look at such districts as Les Corts and Gracia. It is probably a long way to the city center if you choose to go on foot but you can take metro or a bus and reach there within 20-30 minutes. Besides, in this district you can find nice attractions within an easy reach. For example, Güell Park and El Sagrat Cor church. From here, you can enjoy the most amazing views in Barcelona.
When choosing a hotel you should consider one important factor – how convenient it will be for you to get to the hotel from the airport and to get back to the airport. Of course, you can always take a taxi but that includes some extra expenses. So, it makes sense to choose a hotel with a good public transport connection. There are buses with the routes from the airport to most central districts of the city. There are also local trains that connect the airport with the city. You can use them to get to Barcelona Sants or Passeig de Gràcia. Thus, having a hotel close to these areas could be a good bonus for your comfortable experience.