Neighbourhood Watch: Barcelona’s Coolest Barrios
From the 2,000 year old walls of the Ciutat Vella (old town) to the salty backstreets of the fisherman’s quarter, the following are 7 of the coolest barrios to explore the next time you visit Barcelona…
Born and Gótico
The oldest neighbourhoods in Barcelona, these ancient walls now house an abundance of independent fashion boutiques selling everything from high-end vintage and prêt-à-porter pieces to handmade gifts and homewares. Start your tour on Gótico’s iconic boulevard of Las Ramblas and discover cultural sites such as the Picasso Museum and the dramatic cathedral. In Born, wander the leafy Passeig Del Born, then stop off and refuel at the trendy bars, cafes and restaurants, before visiting the awe-inspiring Santa Maria del Mar church.
Not only is Raval a melting pot of cultures, but over the last few years it’s become the centre of the city’s arts scene, with the mind-bending MACBA (Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art) and CCCB (Centre of Contemporary Culture) taking pride of place. Low rents have also attracted creative entrepreneurs, who have filled the colourful streets with quirky bazaars and indie fashion stores. Shop for one-off pieces and handcrafted treasures on streets like Carrer de la Riera Baixa and Carrer Tallers or seek out ethnic eats along Carrer Joaquin Costa, Carrer Pintor Fortuny and Carrer del Dr. Dou.
Sant Antoni and Poble Sec
The Sant Antoni and Poblesec neighbourhoods are heaven for foodies. And it’s all down to Catalan superstar Ferran Adrià, the multi Michelin-starred chef who attained legendary status after winning the title of “world’s greatest restaurant” no less than 5 times with his restaurant El Bulli. He and his brother Albert now have five restaurants dotted around the barrio, including the Michelin-starred Tickets, where you can sample contemporary and creative tapas. But it’s not all fine dining, streets such as Carrer del Parlament and Carrer Blai are brimming with great value brunch spots, tapas bars and traditional bodegas. Just follow the crowds to find the best spots, or check out our guide to taking a tapas crawl along Carrer Blai.
Literally meaning “the extension”, Eixample is a triumph of urban planning. It was designed and built in the late 19th century after the government decided it was time to knock down the old city walls and create a better living environment for its residents. It instantly became inundated with the rich and famous, many of whom hired the likes of Antoni Gaudi and Lluís Domènech i Montaner to build them ostentatious trophy homes, which led to the neighbourhood’s nickname, the ”Quadrat d’Or” (Golden Square). Stroll down the regal Passeig de Gràcia and shop for exclusive brands, before stopping for tapas and Cava at the newly opened gastro emporium of El Nacional.
Gràcia was once completely separate from the city of Barcelona, but it was gobbled up by the metropolis as the Eixample barrio expanded. Although it’s only a ten-minute metro ride out of the city centre, a tight-knit community and independent village vibe make it feel like a world unto itself. Explore streets like Carrer del Torrent de l’Olla, Carrer Bonavista and Carrer Verdi for ethnic dining options and a plethora of indie fashion boutiques.
Tech start-ups and creative types have moved into what used to be the city’s main industrial district, transforming abandoned warehouses and factories into hip design spaces and avant-garde office hubs. Feast on traditional Catalan fare at old school eateries like Els Tres Porquets, or detour down one of the side streets and hang out at new hipster haunts like Skye Coffee or the trendy Balius Cocktail Bar. Many of Barcelona’s best beaches are just a short stroll away.
Boxed in by the Mediterranean Sea and the billionaire yachts that bob around in the new marina, Barceloneta perfectly exemplifies the city’s dramatic contrast between new and old. But despite the arrival of all that comes with mass-tourism, this old fisherman’s quarter has managed to retain its seaside village vibe and remains as the best place to tapeo (go tapas bar hopping). Work up an appetite with a bike ride along the beachfront boardwalk and a quick dip in the sea, before heading to bustling tapas bars like Jai-ca Bar and La Cova Fumada for fresh seafood and tapas.
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