Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, is filled with cool neighbourhoods – think hidden art galleries, cocktail bars, designer boutiques and hipster hangouts. Whether you’re looking for a stay in bohemian Gràcia, hip El Born, trendy Poblenou, edgy Raval, or somewhere else, here’s our pick of the coolest neighbourhoods in Barcelona.
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Gràcia is bohemian, hip and family-friendly – all at the same time. Here, narrow pedestrian streets are linked by atmospheric plazas, fringed by tapas bars and cafés, and filled with playgrounds. It’s well known for international cuisine – you’ll find authentic Italian eateries, American pie shops, and Japanese sushi and ramen restaurants. It’s a cool spot for shopping, too, home to independent stores, selling an eclectic range of products, from old vinyl records to unique boho fashion and handmade souvenirs. Gràcia is also a nightlife hub with animated bars, swanky cocktail joints and traditional spots with live music.
The narrow web of streets scattered around the old church of Santa Maria del Mar is known as El Born. Here, hidden down backstreets, sit some of the coolest spots in the city – clandestine speakeasies, hip coffee shops, trendy concept stores and hipster barbers. They’re interspersed with small art galleries and boutique shops, selling everything from handmade leather shoes and bespoke jewellery to unique fashion. Another lively spot for a night out, the main thoroughfare of Passeig del Born is lined with bars – ideal for a cocktail, beer or vermouth.
Poblenou has slowly been growing into one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the city, popular with hipsters and start-ups. While the lower part of the neighbourhood, close to the sea, has remained quite traditional, it’s the upper region near the colourful Torre Glòries that has changed the most. Here, old warehouses have been transformed into creative offices and co-working spaces, modern galleries, craft beer breweries and concept stores. If you love Instagrammable spaces, quality coffee, brunch places and vintage markets, you’ll love Poblenou.
While Raval may still be a little rough around the edges at times, it’s been changing over the years into a cool and edgy barrio, where skaters and street artists hang. At the centre sits the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art and the Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona. Huge street murals sit next to vegetarian cafés and skater shops. It’s a multicultural neighbourhood, too, home to some of the best Indian and Middle Eastern restaurants in Barcelona. The area is also packed with quirky bars and trendy brunch spots.
Sant Antoni lies between Eixample, Raval and Poble-Sec. The neighbourhood is centred on the Sant Antoni Market, a covered food and book market that opened in 2018. Because of this, the neighbourhood has attracted cool bars and restaurants – great places to eat in Barcelona, which range from trendy doughnut shops – the kind you might expect to find in New York – to craft beer bars. Even top chefs Ferran and Albert Adrià, of El Bulli fame, opened eateries in the area.
Poble-Sec sits between Raval, Sants and Montjuïc Hill and offers a mix of edgy and cool. Along the main road of Parallel, you’ll find several theatres and music halls, which have made this neighbourhood an entertainment spot for many years. Recently, however, the interior of the barrio has been changing, with the addition of craft beer bars and funky international joints. One of the coolest spots to hang out here is Carrer Blai, a street filled with Basque-style pintxos bars.
The Gothic Quarter is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city, and partly surrounded by the old city walls and filled with ancient Roman remnants and medieval buildings; it’s also home to Barcelona Cathedral. Here, you’ll find century-old shops sitting next to Irish pubs and quirky souvenir outlets. It’s a neighbourhood of contrasts, and a cool spot for a night out, where you can find nightclubs and themed bars, particularly in the lower part of the neighbourhood, close to the marina. While the main parts of Barri Gòtic (such as the area around the cathedral, La Rambla and Plaça de Sant Jaume) can be crowded, you’re sure to find some quiet streets to explore and unique shops to discover.
The Eixample neighbourhood sits in the city centre and offers a different type of cool. It’s elegant, upmarket and luxurious, filled with designer stores and boutiques, refined hotels and fine-dining restaurants. The neighbourhood runs from Plaça Catalunya (just north of the Gothic Quarter) to Gràcia, and is divided by the grand boulevard Passeig de Gràcia. This is where you’ll find most of the designer shops and magnificent pieces of architecture, including two of Gaudí’s most famous works – the Casa Batlló and La Pedrera. One of the coolest parts of Eixample is the lower west side of the neighbourhood, a favourite hangout of the LGBTQ community. Here, there’s a party vibe with lots of bars, clubs and LGBTQ-centred hotels.
You’ll need somewhere to hunker down during your time in the Catalan capital. See where to stay in Barcelona.
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