A former industrial hub home to hundreds of factories, these days Poblenou’s warehouses are being transformed into trendy flats and artists’ studios. While the streets of Poblenou don’t have the same buzz as you’ll find closer to the centre of town, you get a lot more space for your money in this area, and there are still plenty of shops, bars and restaurants around the Rambla de Poblenou. What’s more, you’re just minutes away from Barcelona’s best beaches, which is perfect for a refreshing dip in the summer or for a stroll anytime of the year.
Back in the day (we’re talking 19th century) Gràcia was a town on the outskirts of Barcelona and was attached to the city via the Passeig de Gràcia (these days a major designer shopping destination). Although nowadays Gràcia is officially part of Barcelon,a the neighbourhood continues to have an independent spirit, from its alternative music scene to its cooperative food stores and activist networks. Gràcia also has some of the nicest squares for sitting out in with a beer during the summer.
Most of the time, when people first imagine living in Barcelona they see themselves in a bohemian apartment in a 19th century stone building with a shaded balcony. They imagine narrow streets with intimate courtyards hidden behind old wooden doors and small squares buzzing with the sound of laughter until late in the evening. The best place to live out your Barcelona fantasy of this kind is in El Born: it has the same old-world charm as the Gothic Quarter, but has managed to retain more of an authentic spirit, and is still popular with locals who like to shop in the independent boutiques and visit the cocktail bars at the weekends.
As prices hike in one neighbourhood after the other, the latest ‘cheap’ area to live in is El Clot, located not far from the Sagrada Família and the Gloriès Square. The neighbourhood is a mostly residential area with everything you need for everyday life, including shops, bars, restaurants and a park. Prices probably won’t stay ‘cheap’ for long, but the absence of any major tourist sites there means the area doesn’t get too mad in the summer.
Historically, anything above the Avenida Diagonal in Barcelona is considered uptown and upmarket. Nestled between Gràcia and Sarrià, Sant Gervasi is a relatively wealthy part of town with some nice 20th century apartment blocks generally offering more space, light and comfort than those in the old town. But you’re also well connected with the city centre and nearby Gràcia, as well as having quick access to the bypass if you like to get out of town at weekends.
Some twenty years ago El Raval was widely considered a no-go area owing the prevalence of drug abuse and petty criminality. After a serious clean-up act by the local government, the area is now a vibrant, multicultural neighbourhood with some great nightlife and a thriving art scene. The concentration of bars around the Carrer Joaquin Costa are frequented predominantly by local hipsters and skaters when they’re not hanging at the nearby MACBA contemporary art museum.
Sants is one of those great Barcelona neighbourhoods which feels like it could be its own little town, so strong is the community spirit and so active is the local social life. It’s the kind of place where old men gather to play boules in the square on sunny days and everyone knows each other’s name in the street. It also has a number of great bars in places like Plaça d’Osca, whilethe Carretera de Sants is said to be one of the longest high streets in Spain.