Gràcia is without a doubt, one of the city’s coolest neighbourhoods. It’s bohemian, hip and family-friendly, all at the same time. Here, narrow pedestrian streets are linked by atmospheric plazas, fringed by a range of tapas bars and cafés, and filled with playgrounds. It’s particularly well-known for its international cuisine scene – you’ll find everything here, from authentic Italian restaurants to American pie shops and Japanese sushi and ramen restaurants. It’s a cool spot for shopping too, home to many independent stores, selling an eclectic range of products, from old vinyl records to unique boho fashion and handmade souvenirs. Gràcia is also well known for its nightlife, where you’ll find an array of 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 these backstreets sit some of the coolest spots in the city – clandestine speakeasies, hip coffee shops, trendy concept stores and hipster barbers. All these are 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 many different bars – ideal for a cocktail, a beer or a vermouth and popular with both locals and tourists alike.
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 have its no-go corners, over the years it’s been changing into a cool and edgy barrio, where skaters and street artists like to hang out. At the centre sits the cultural hub of the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art and the Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona, home to all the latest exhibitions in the city. Huge street murals sit next to vegetarian cafés and skater shops. It’s a very multicultural neighbourhood, too, home to some of the best Indian and Middle Eastern restaurants in the city. The area is packed with both quirky bars and trendy brunch spots, so it can be a great area for going out or eating in. Unfortunately, parts of Raval can also be a little dodgy at times and is a favourite hangout for pickpockets, so keep your wits about, even if you’re here during the daytime.
Sant Antoni lies in between Eixample, Raval and Poble-Sec. The neighbourhood is centred on the newly renovated Sant Antoni Market, a covered food and book market that opened in 2018. Because of this, the neighbourhood has attracted many cool new bars and restaurants, which range from trendy doughnut shops – like the kind you might expect to find in New York – to craft beer bars. Even Michelin-star chefs Ferran and Albert Adrià have opened a couple of new eateries in the area.
Poble-Sec sits in 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, too, with the addition of craft beer bars and funky international joints. One of the coolest spots to hang out here, however, is Carrer Blai, a whole street filled with Basque-style pintxos bars.
Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter is one of the oldest neighbourhoods of the city, partly surrounded by the old city walls and filled with ancient Roman remnants, medieval buildings, and is home to the Barcelona Cathedral. Here you’ll find century-old shops sitting next to Irish pubs and quirky souvenir shops. It’s a neighbourhood of contrasts, and a cool spot for a night out, where you can find an array of nightclubs and themed bars, particularly in the lower part of the neighbourhood, close to the marina. While the main parts of Barri Gòtic (like the area around the cathedral, La Rambla and Plaça de Sant Jaume) can be very crowded, you’re always sure to find some quiet streets to explore and small unique shops to discover.
The Eixample neighbourhood sits right in the centre of the city 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 the neighbourhood of Gràcia, and is divided by the grand boulevard of 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, known as Gayxample, a favourite hangout of the LGBTQ community. Here, there’s a vibrant party vibe with lots of gay bars, clubs and even specific gay-centred hotels.