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Compared to some major cities, Barcelona is and feels like a very safe place to explore, except of course if you count its one major vice: pickpocketing. Keeping yourself and your belongings out of harm’s way is easy if you use a little street sense and navigate the city wisely. Here’s our insider’s guide to the safest spots around.
If you’re looking to stay somewhere you can feel safe without compromising on feeling like you’re still part of the city’s buzz, then Gràcia is ideal. A vibrant neighbourhood which was once its own independent town, Gràcia is considered one of the hippest neighbourhoods in Barcelona thanks to its independent boutiques, alternative shops and cool bars. The atmosphere here is much more laid-back than in the busy city centre, making it very much a place where locals like to go out and live.
A strong contender for the next up-and-coming neighbourhood in Barcelona, Sants is a welcoming area with a strong community feel to it. The Carretera de Sants is the main high street, and you’ll find a great number of independent and chain shops here, as well as traditional bakeries, butchers and of course, the Mercat Nou food market. The Plaça d’Osca is one of the trendiest spots in the neighbourhood, home to craft beer bars and contemporary places to eat. During the day, wander the streets of Sants and you’ll come across peaceful public squares with elderly men engaging in a game of boules and children playing outside.
Located on the edge of the city, Sarrià was once an independent village which was annexed by Barcelona in 1927 as the city expanded. Today Sarrià still very much has a village feel with its narrow streets and relatively low-lying buildings. The area is one of the city’s most affluent, and is popular with young families who appreciate the good local schools and sense of openness which comes with being close to the edge of the city. The Carrer Major, Sarrià’s main high street, is where you’ll find shops, cozy wine bars, and friendly cafés, as well as the famous Bar Tomàs, allegedly where Barcelona’s best patatas bravas are served.
Located just past Eixample and Sants, Les Corts is a busy residential, commercial and university area with great transport connections to the airport, train stations and city centre. There are two sides to Les Corts: a modern side with high-rise office blocks and modern shopping centres, and a more historic side which can be appreciated around the Plaça de la Concòrdia where you’ll find the stunning Modernist edifice, Can Deu. This is also where you’ll find the quieter and more charming streets and squares in Les Corts, with places near the world-famous Camp Nou stadium tending to be a little busier and louder.
A triangular-shaped neighbourhood at the intersection of the lower corner of the Eixample, El Raval and Poble-Sec, Sant Antoni is a trendy area that’s home to some fantastic cafés and tapas bars. The main attraction is the Sant Antoni market, which is currently undergoing a complete refurbishment which, when completed, is likely to rival the famous Boquería food market. Along Parlament Street you’ll find some of the best brunch spots in the city such as Federal Café and Lando. Sant Antoni is also ideally located for exploring the Old Town, Montjuïc and the Modernist marvels of the Eixample.
The Antigua Esquerra de l’Eixample, or ‘Old Left of the Eixample’ is the neighbourhood located to the ‘left’ of the Eixample district, starting at the University of Barcelona and stretching away from the sea. This is a mostly residential area where you’ll find some stunning early 20th century buildings along the typically wide avenues of the Eixample. For cute cafés, trendy restaurants and some fantastic art galleries, walk up Enric Granados Street starting just behind the historic university building. The Mercat del Ninot is the local fresh food market and you’ll find some good places to eat and shop around there.
Another affluent neighbourhood located above the Avenida Diagonal, Sant Gervasi – Galvany is home to modern apartment blocks, leafy outdoor parks and high-end shops. The most upper-class residents enjoy one of the highest concentrations of green areas in the city with no less than six parks on their doorstep. Sant Gervasi – Galvany also has its fair share of sophisticated cocktail bars and nightclubs such as Luz de Gas, one of Barcelona’s most famous clubs.