Moving to Barcelona: A guide to the best neighbourhoods to live in

Moving to Barcelona: A guide to the best neighbourhoods to live in
Photo: Toa Heftiba/Pixabay
Whether you're moving to Spain's second biggest city for the first time or are looking for a new neighbourhood to live in the city, Barcelona resident Esme Fox talks us through the best 'barrios' to live in in the Catalan capital.

El Born

El Born is the area that lies between the Ciutadella Park and the Ciutat Vella or Old Town. It’s one of the city’s hippest areas, filled with some of Barcelona’s best bars and restaurants, as well as a range of independent galleries and small designer stores. At its heart lies Passeig del Born street and the Born Cultural Centre, housed in the old market. Choose to live here and you’ll be based in an enviable location, close to the city’s main park, within easy walking distance to the beach and the centre.

Because of all of this however, it’s one of the most popular areas to live in the city and rental prices reflect this. This also means that it’s popular with tourists too and night time noise from drunk holidaymakers is an issue, particularly because the streets here are so narrow. The neighbourhood is generally safe, but before the pandemic, crime was on the rise here with regular bag snatchings taking place and people targeting tourists in particular.

El Born. Photo: mariusbphoto / Pixabay

Gràcia

Gràcia is located at the top of the Eixample area above Calle Diagonal. This barrio is near or at the top of everyone’s list who wants to live in Barcelona. It’s characterised by a maze of small narrow streets, connected via several main plazas. It’s very popular with local young families and foreigners, and has a great international vibe. Here you’ll find loads of great bars, both local and international restaurants, independent shops and even specialised Japanese supermarkets. There is a real sense of community here, particularly during its famous annual festival in August.

Because of its popularity though, it’s also one of the most expensive areas to rent or buy in the city. The area’s main drawback is noise. Most of its streets are small and narrow and all its plazas are surrounded by bars, so while there’s always a great atmosphere, it can often be hard to sleep, particularly in the summer when people sit outside all night long.

Gracia. Photo: OK Apartment / Flickr

Eixample

Eixample is the more modern extension of the Old Town, rising up from Plaça Catalunya. Unlike some of the neighbourhoods which have slender streets, this neighbourhood has wide avenues and boulevards. It’s very central and very safe, with grand, elegant apartment blocks, as well as some more modern accommodation too.

The neighbourhood is split into L’Eixample Esquerra (the left side) and L’Eixample Dreta (the right side), with the grand Passeig de Gracia bisecting the two. The right side comprises the city’s unofficial China Town between Arc de Triomf and Plaza Tetuan. The top part of the left side is elegant and upmarket, while the bottom side of the left side has been nicknamed ‘Gayxample’ because of its home to several gay bars, clubs and hotels. Rental prices are high the closer you get to Passeig de Gracia, but are cheaper the further you get either side.

Eixample nieghbourhood. Photo: athree23 / Pixabay

Poblenou

In recent years, Poblenou has become one of the most sought-after neighbourhoods to live in, and because of this, housing prices have risen steeply in the last few years. Lying between the beach and the right side of the city, it’s a unique mix of warehouses, which have been transformed into new-age start-up businesses, galleries and design schools, and more traditional Catalan architecture. The neighbourhood attracts a good mix of both foreigners and locals. It’s home to many bars, international and local restaurants, and hip, interesting spaces. It’s great for both young professionals and families, and is safe.

Sagrada Família

Despite being home to the city’s most famous sight, the neighbourhood of Sagrada Família doesn’t get overrun with tourists, apart from the area right around the Gaudí’s magnificent church. The streets are wide and open, there are lots of shops, restaurants and bars lying within an easy walk, and it’s relatively central to the rest of the city. Noise is not so much of a problem as in some other barrios and it’s relatively safe too. Apart from the busy metro station of Sagrada Família itself, it’s a good option.

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona. Photo: kai-and / Pixabay

Sants

Sants lies to the left-hand side of L’Eixample Esquerra. Lying close to Plaça d’Espanya and Montjuic Hill, it’s ideal if you want easy access to lots of outdoor green space. It’s home to lots of shops, markets and restaurants, and has a very multicultural vibe. It doesn’t have so much of a neighbourhood feel like some of the other barrios and can be slightly edgy in parts, but rental prices are reasonable and the area is generally safe. Live here and you’ll also be within walking distance of the city’s main transport hub – Sants Estació, from where you can get trains to destinations all over Catalunya and wider Spain.

Park near Sants neighbourhood. Photo: Michal Jarmoluk / Pixabay

Sant Antoni

The neighbourhood of Sant Antoni lies to the left of Raval and just south of L’Eixample Esquerra. Although it has that slight gritty edge like its neighbour Raval, it’s a lot safer. Here the streets are wide and well lit, unlike the narrow maze of streets in some areas. In recent years, this neighbourhood has become very popular thanks to the huge central market which was renovated in 2018. This attracted many new bars and restaurants to the area, making it more prosperous, although rents were also pushed higher than they were prior to the reopening of the market.

Sant Antoni, Barcelona. Photo: Esme Fox

Barceloneta

Barceloneta was once the old fisherman’s quarter, and lies next to the city’s main beaches. In the past, this was one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Barcelona, but today it’s been transformed into a vibrant neighbourhood, home to lots of seafood restaurants and local tapas bars.

While living right next to the beach sounds ideal, Barceloneta does have its drawbacks. In the summer in particular the neighbourhood is filled with tourists, and many of the apartments have been turned into Airbnbs. There are so many here in fact, that the locals have been fighting to regain their neighbourhood. You may find that you’re treated more like a tourist here than a local. Another of the main issues here is that the apartment buildings are very old, and drainage and rising damp is a common problem. Live here if the beach is really your only requirement. 

Barceloneta, Barcelona. Photo: gorpol / Pixabay

Sarrià 

Sarrià is one of Barcelona’s upper-class neighbourhoods, lying to the north of the city, just before you reach the hills and the huge natural Collserola Park. It’s full of well-heeled Catalans, wealthy expats and a handful of international schools. Despite this, it has maintained a traditional and local vibe. Properties are slightly more modern than in the older central areas, but retain a certain charm. It’s ideal for families being very safe, quiet and close to many green spaces and parks.  

Monastery near Sarria. Photo: Tony Prats / Pixabay

Sant Andreu

If you’re looking for somewhere slightly out of the centre with cheaper property prices and a charming village-like feel, then look no further than Sant Andreu. The neighbourhood is home to a mix of old Modernista style apartment blocks, as well as contemporary newly-constructed ones. It’s also one of the few neighbourhoods in Barcelona where you’ll find actual houses and not just apartments. It’s a very traditional and local barrio with lots of independent shops and is very safe.

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It’s ideal for families, those wanting to mix with the local population and don’t want to be mistaken for a tourist. While there are lots of bars and restaurants, many don’t offer the same quality as they do in the centre and there are very few international options. Looking at a map, many might consider this neighbourhood too far from the centre, but in fact, it’s just 20 minutes on the metro into the heart of the Old Town.

Sant Andreu neighbourhood in Barcelona. Photo: Ogutier / Pixabay

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