Barcelona – Spain’s second city – sets the template for urban style, hip design and sheer non-stop energy. Where others tinker at the edges, time and again Barcelona has reinvented itself. And as you'd expect for somewhere this vibrant, there's plenty of choice when deciding where to stay in Barcelona.
The buzzing cultural capital of three million people, a thriving port and prosperous commercial centre, the city is almost impossible to exhaust. Visit for the first time or the fiftieth, Barcelona never fails to surprise, and even a lengthy visit will likely only scrape the surface. You'll find some of the best places to stay in Spain here, too.
The city’s popularity means finding a hotel vacancy at any time of year can be difficult: wherever you stay, it’s always best to book in advance. There’s a wide range of options, though, from youth hostels to glam five-star-plus hotels. You can find accommodation housed in medieval mansions and Modernista masterpieces alike.
Note that while rooms with balconies may be the brightest, traffic can be a constant presence. In a city where people get ready to go out at 10pm, you can expect a fair amount of pedestrian noise. This is particularly the case when staying in the old town.
Explore the capital of Spain Madrid and the second-largest city of Spain, Barcelona with our tailor-made 7-day trip to the tale of two cities: Madrid and Barcelona.
Las Ramblas: city's main boulevard
No day in the city seems complete without a stroll down the Ramblas. For Spanish poet Federico García Lorca, it was “the only street in the world which I wish would never end”. Lined with cafés, restaurants, souvenir shops and flower stalls, it is at the heart of Barcelona’s life and self-image.
If you hanker after a Ramblas view, you’ll pay for the privilege. Generally speaking, there are much better deals to be had. Try looking either side of the famous boulevard, often just a minute’s walk away.
Spain’s most famous thoroughfare, however, has its attractions. It is sprinkled with cafés and restaurants, thronged by tourists and performance artists, and home to the acclaimed Boqueria food cafés.
- Best value for money: Hostal Benidorm. This refurbished pensión attracts tribes of young tourists with rooms available for one to five people.
- Best for dramatic luxury: Hotel 1898. The former HQ of the Philippines Tobacco Company has undergone an eye-popping refit. Some sumptuous suites even have their own private pool, jacuzzi and garden.
Where to stay in Las Ramblas:
Once in Barcelona, explore our list of things to do in Barcelona for free.
Barri Gòtic: where to stay in Barcelona for sighsteeing
The Barri Gòtic, or Gothic Quarter, which spreads east from the Ramblas, forms the very heart of the old town. You'll find some of the best areas to stay in Barcelona here: with buildings from the 14th and 15th centuries, most of the district is picture-perfect. The area is full of shops, bars, restaurants, museums and galleries. Alongside some classy boutique choices, most of Barcelona’s cheap accommodation is found here.
Note that the south of the Barri Gòtic is rather less gentrified. Be careful (without being paranoid) when coming and going after dark and take care at night in poorly lit streets.
- Best for an impeccable boutique: Hotel Derby. The stylish Derby Hotel has an impressive collection of Catalan art, including pieces by Miró and Tàpies. Rooms have functional design and parquet flooring. They all include a safe and a minibar.
- Best for eye-catching style: Neri Hotel. A delightful 18th-century palace houses this stunning boutique hotel of just 22 rooms and suites. Expect swags of flowing material, rescued timber and granite-toned bathrooms.
Where to stay in Barri Gòtic:
El Raval: best area to stay in Barcelona for foodies
The old-town area west of the Ramblas is known as El Raval (from the Arabic word for “suburb”). El Raval has always formed a world apart from nobler Barri Gòtic. In medieval times, it was the site of hospitals, churches and monasteries. By the 20th century it had acquired a reputation as the city’s main red-light district. Today it is known to all as the Barri Xinès – China Town.
Over the last two decades, however, the district has changed markedly. This is particularly the case in the “upper Raval” around Barcelona’s contemporary art museum, MACBA. Cutting-edge galleries, designer restaurants and fashionable bars are all part of the scene these days.
You’d hesitate to call El Raval gentrified, as it clearly still has its rough edges. Don’t be unduly concerned during the day as you make your way around. It's best to keep your wits about you at night, though, particularly in the southernmost streets.
There are also plenty of tapas bars in the El Raval area, for more information browse our list of the best tapas bars in Barcelona.
- Best for staying in a local landmark: Barceló Raval. The USP of this hotel is its 360-degree top-floor terrace with plunge pool and sensational city views. Rooms are refined and open-plan with space-station-style sheen.
- Best for sumptuous style: Hotel España Ramblas. There’s been no more anticipated hotel opening in recent times. The revamped interior of this Modernista icon has no equal in Barcelona.
Where to stay in El Raval:
Sant Pere and La Ribera: trendy area with unique vibe
The two easternmost old-town neighbourhoods of Sant Pere and La Ribera are both medieval in origin. They are often thought of as one district, but each has a distinct character.
Sant Pere, perhaps the least visited part of the old town, has two remarkable buildings: the Palau de la Música Catalana and the Mercat Santa Caterina. By way of contrast, the old artisans’ quarter of La Ribera has always been a big draw. Here you can visit the graceful church of Santa María del Mar and the Museu Picasso.
Both have a number of safely sited budget, mid-range and boutique accommodation options; all are well located and handy for the Born nightlife area.
- Best for budget cool: Chic & Basic Born. From the open-plan, all-in-white decor, everything here is full-on boutique and in-your-face. Chic, certainly; basic, not at all.
- Best for wham-glam design: Grand Hotel Central. This hotel, beloved of all the style mags has spacious, ever-so-lovely rooms, a rooftop sun deck and infinity pool.
Where to stay in Sant Pere and La Ribera:
Del Born: where to stay in Barcelona for bar hopping
Fronting the church of Santa María del Mar is the fashionable Passeig del Born, once the site of medieval fairs and entertainments (“born” means tournament) and now an avenue lined with a parade of plane trees shading a host of classy bars, delis and shops.
At night the Born becomes one of Barcelona’s biggest bar zones, as spirited locals frequent a panoply of drinking haunts – from old-style cocktail lounges to thumping music bars. Shoppers and browsers, meanwhile, scour the narrow medieval alleys on either side of the passeig for boutiques and craft workshops – carrers Flassaders, Vidreria and Rec, in particular, are noted for clothes, shoes, jewellery and design galleries.
- Best for comfy stays: Hostal Orleans. This pleasant guest house is located in front of Estació de França Train Station. It offers air-conditioned rooms with a balcony and free Wi-Fi, 50 m from Ciutadella Park.
Where to stay in Del Born:
- Best for hospitality: Hotel Oasis is located just 250 m from França Railway Station and 100 m from Barcelona’s Born district. The modern, air-conditioned rooms have satellite TV and private bathrooms with hairdryer.
Plaça de Catalunya: the heart of Barcelona
The huge formal square at the top of the Ramblas stands right at the heart of the city. It’s not only the focal point of events and demonstrations – notably a mass party on New Year’s Eve – but also the site of prominent landmarks like the main city tourist office, the white-faced El Corte Inglés department store and El Triangle shopping centre.
The Ramblas itself actually comprises five separate named sections, starting with the northern stretch, Rambla Canaletes, nearest Plaça de Catalunya, which is marked by an iron fountain – a drink from this supposedly means you’ll never leave Barcelona.
Further down is the sudden profusion of flower stalls on Rambla Sant Josep, near the Boqueria market. The bird market which used to be on Rambla Estudis closed down due to stricter animal protection legislation.
- Best for staying in the heart of Barcelona: Hotel Lloret Ramblas is situated on Barcelona’s famous Las Ramblas, just outside Plaza Catalunya Square. It offers a 24-hour reception and air-conditioned rooms with flat-screen satellite TV and free Wi-Fi.
Where to stay near the Plaça de Catalunya:
- Best for simple decor: Ronda House is set just off Ronda Sant Antoni Avenue, 10 minutes’ walk from Las Ramblas. This hotel has a restaurant and rooms with satellite TV. The Ronda features bright, simple décor. Its air-conditioned rooms have fully equipped private bathrooms.
The Eixample: elegant area to stay in Barcelona
North of Plaça de Catalunya, he Eixample, a vast 19th-century street grid, is the city’s main shopping and business district. It was designed as part of a revolutionary urban plan and is split into Right (Dreta) and Left (Esquerra).
The bulk of the city’s show-stopping modernista (Catalan Art Nouveau) buildings are also found here. There's also an array of galleries and some of the city’s most fashionable hotels, shops and boutiques.
The Dreta de l’Eixample acts as a sort of open-air museum, featuring extraordinary buildings. The most notable are the work of Antoni Gaudí i Cornet, Lluís Domènech i Montaner and Josep Puig i Cadafalch.
The Esquerra de l’Eixample is one of Barcelona’s hottest night-out destinations. It hosts two Michelin-starred restaurants and some of the best bars and clubs.
- Best for a cheery B&B atmosphere: Hotel Casa Elliot is located in the centre of Barcelona, less than 10 minutes’ walk from Plaça de Catalunya and Las Ramblas. Breakfast is served in the hotel’s buffet-style restaurant. Guests can make use of the Hotel Casa Elliot’s library, lounge and tour desk. A bar service is also available.
- Best for contemporary and high-spec design: Ohla Eixample. Offering a year-round outdoor pool with city views, Ohla Eixample is a stylish boutique hotel located 10 minutes’ walk from two of Gaudi’s major works, La Pedrera and Casa Batlló. There is free high-speed WiFi available throughout and a Clef d’Or Concierge service.
Where to stay in the Eixample:
A visit to Barcelona is one of the many things to do in Spain. To find even more inspiration for your Spanish trip, read our guide to the best things to do in Spain.
The Seaside: where to stay in Barcelona waterfront
The greatest transformation in Barcelona in recent years has been along the waterfront. Today, harbour and ocean have once again been placed at the heart of the city. Dramatic changes have opened up the old docksides as promenades and entertainment areas, while landscaped beaches can also be found to the north.
Port Vell is the best place for waterfront views. A pleasant walk around the harbour takes you past the marina, where a boat has been converted into a floating bar. The Luz de Gas is a particularly good place for a sundowner.
To the northeast, you will find the 18th-century neighbourhood of Barceloneta, with the harbour on one side and a beach on the other. Exploring tightly packed streets and great seafood restaurants, there’s no finer place for lunch on a sunny day.
Further up the coast you will find the showpiece of Port Olímpic, a huge seafront development constructed for the 1992 Olympics. It’s emblem is a huge copper fish (courtesy of Frank O. Gehry, architect of the Bilbao Guggenheim).
Four- and five-star accommodation can also be found further out at the Diagonal Mar conference and events site. Here you can take in Jacques Herzog’s dazzling blue biscuit-tin of a building that hovers, seemingly unsupported, above the ground.
- Best for a chic and charming base: Hotel Casa Bonay. Located in central Barcelona, 200 metres from Tetuan Metro Station, Hotel Casa Bonay is a boutique hotel offering a shared terrace and free WiFi throughout. Plaça Catalunya is 10 minutes’ walk away.
- Best for those seeking stupendous cool: W Barcelona. This signature building on the Barceloneta seafront is one of the city’s most iconic structures. Open-plan designer rooms have fantastic views and facilities are first-rate.
Where to stay at the Seaside:
If you're looking for the best Spanish beach holiday - pick the perfect destination with our guide to the 20 best beaches in Spain.
Poble Nou: the New Village
A twenty-minute walk up the beach from Port Olímpic, the Rambla de Poble Nou runs through the most attractive part of Poble Nou (“New Village”). The old industrial neighbourhood is at the heart of a huge city regeneration scheme, but the local avenue remains unchanged – a run of modest shops, cafés and restaurants, including the classic juice and milk bar of El Tio Che.
The waterfront district north of Poble Nou was developed in the wake of the Universal Forum of Cultures Expo (held in 2004). It’s promoted as Diagonal Mar, anchored by the Diagonal Mar shopping mall and with several classy hotels, convention centres and exhibition halls grouped nearby.
The dazzling Edifici Fòrum building is the work of Jacques Herzog (architect of London’s Tate Modern), while the main open space is claimed to be the second-largest square in the world after Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
In summer, temporary bars, dancefloors and chill-out zones are established at the Parc del Fòrum. The city authorities have shifted some of the bigger annual music festivals and events down here to inject a bit of life outside convention time. At other times it can be a bit soulless, but it’s definitely worth the metro or tram ride if you’re interested in heroic-scale public projects.
- Best for staying near the beaches: Acta Voraport. Less than 1 km from Bogatell Beach, Acta Voraport offers accommodation with a restaurant, private parking, an outdoor swimming pool and a bar. Among the facilities at this property are a 24-hour front desk and an ATM, along with free WiFi throughout the property. Guests can have a drink at the snack bar.
Where to stay in Poble Nou:
- Best for panoramic views: Novotel Barcelona City offers a free gym and a roof terrace with a seasonal outdoor pool and panoramic views of Barcelona. The rooms include free Wi-Fi and flat-screen satellite TV.
Gràcia: charming neigbourhood with local atmosphere
If you prefer neighbourhood living, then the northern district of Gràcia is the best place to stay in Barcelona. It still retains a genuine small-town atmosphere and, unlike some districts in the city, has a real soul.
The area is still very much the liberal, almost bohemian, stronghold it was in the 19th century. You’re only ever a short walk away from its excellent bars, and restaurants.
Plaça del Sol is the beating heart of much of the district’s nightlife. The Plaça Rius i Taulet, the “clock-tower square”, is another popular place to meet for brunch. However, the one unmissable attraction is just on the neighbourhood fringe: be sure to visit the surreal Parc Güell, by architectural genius Antoni Gaudí.
- Best for a hostel with style: Casa Gracia. This vibrant and stylish space, spread over six floors, is housed in a Modernista building. While technically a hostel, you’ll feel like you’re staying in a hotel.
- Best for deluxe luxury: Hotel Casa Fuster. Lluís Domènech i Montaner’s magnificent Casa Fuster is the backdrop for this five-star hotel. You'll be charmed by its huge beds, gorgeous bathrooms and wonderful panoramic roof terrace and pool.
Where to stay in Gràcia:
Montjuïc: where to stay in Barcelona for art and gardens
For art and gardens you need to head across the city to the verdant park area of Montjuïc, site of the 1992 Olympics. The hill is topped by a sturdy castle and anchored around the heavyweight art collections in the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC).
Two other superb galleries also draw visitors, namely Caixa Forum and the celebrated Fundació Joan Miró, not to mention a whole host of family-oriented attractions, from the open-air Poble Espanyol (Spanish Village) to the cable car ride to the castle.
Meanwhile, the various gardens that spill down the hillsides culminate in Barcelona’s excellent botanical gardens. For Caixa Forum, Poble Espanyol and MNAC use Metro Espanya; the Telefèric del Port (cable car from Barceloneta) and Funicular de Montjuïc (from Metro Paral.lel) drop you near the Fundació Joan Miró.
- Best for minimalistic design: Barceló Sants. Situated above Barcelona Sants Train Station, Barceló Sants offers a subtle outer space theme throughout. Minimalist rooms feature free Wi-Fi, rain showers, and large windows with city views.
- Best for artsy experience: Ayre Hotel Gran Vía is a modern design hotel with a bright central courtyard. It offers free Wi-Fi and a convenient location, next to Barcelona’s Plaça Espanya. The Ayre Gran Vía is set next to the Fira Exhibition Centre, at the bottom of Montjuic. This hill is home to a castle, the National Art Museum and the Magic Fountain.
Where to stay in Montjuïc:
Poble Sec: nightlife destination in Barcelona
The Poble Sec neighbourhood provides a complete contrast to the landscaped slopes of Montjuïc. The name (“Dry Village”) is derived from the fact that this working-class neighbourhood originally had no water supply.
Today, the hillside grid of streets is lined with down-toearth grocery stores and good-value restaurants, while Poble Sec is also emerging as an “off-Raval” nightlife destination, with its fashionable bars and music clubs – pedestrianized Carrer de Blai is the epicentre of the scene. It has its own metro station, or it’s an easy walk from El Raval, while the Montjuïc funicular has its lower station at nearby
- Best for a budget stays: Paral·lel. Situated just 10 minutes walk from the stunning centre of Barcelona, this smart and practical hotel is set in the charming neighbourhood of Poble Sec, at the foot of Montjüic, where you can visit the Olympic site.
Where to stay in Poble Sec:
- Best for a hostel with style: Hotel Barcelona Apolo is located at the foot of Montjuïc, 7 minutes’ walk from Barcelona’s Ramblas. It offers a 24-hour reception and air-conditioned rooms with WiFi. The hotel serves a varied buffet breakfast every morning. There is also a snack bar serving light meals in the evenings.
Also note our list of 9 special places to stay in Andalucía if you are planning your trip to this popular Spanish destination.
If you prefer to plan and book your trip to Barcelona without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.
Ready for a trip to Barcelona? Check out Pocket Rough Guide Barcelona or The Rough Guide to Spain. If you travel further in Spain read more about the best time to go and the best places to visit. For inspiration use our Spanish itineraries or speak to our local experts. A bit more hands on, learn about getting there, getting around the country and where to stay once you are there.
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Top Image: View of the city from Park Guell in Barcelona © Georgios Tsichlis / Shutterstock