With magnificent boulevards, winding old streets, the Montjuïc behind you and the beach always within reach, Barcelona has a carefree atmosphere. The modern architecture and Gothic buildings give the capital of Catalonia a distinctive cityscape. The various city districts - whether young and trendy or old-fashioned and dignified – each have their own unique charm.
Barcelona at a glance: Most important districts
Barcelona Parc Guell © MasterLu
L’Eixample: Luxurious boulevards, LGBTQ scene & modernism
Separated from the Passeig de Gràcia to the right (Dreta) and left (Esquerra), L’Eixample is designed in a kind of checkerboard pattern and reminiscent of the architectural style of modernism. This is where the world-famous Sagrada Familia proudly stands. Here you will also find chic boulevards as well as the gay and lesbian scene of Barcelona.
Architectural sightseeing: For more than 40 years, Antonio Gaudi worked on the basilica, which dominates the district. 85 years after his death, construction work has still not been completed. Gaudi’s work on the church is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Along the Passeig de Gracia are some of the most colorful modernist buildings, such as Casa Batlló, Casa Amattler and Casa Lleó Morera.
Luxury Shopping: International fashion labels and wickedly expensive jewelers: The upper class and jetsetters enjoy shopping along the Passeig of Gracia. Both high-end and luxury stores can be found here, interrupted only by design shops, like Vitra and Starck, where you can splurge out on great classics as well as small accessories and souvenirs - such as a simple first aid kit for the design-conscious household.
Exquisite Patisserie: The chocolatiers of Barcelona have a long and proud tradition. For centuries, cocoa has been imported from South America and made into sweet treats here. An art still very popular today, the creations of the young Oriol Balaguer, a student of Spain’s most famous chef Ferran Adrià, surprises with unusual combinations and Enric Rovira (Avinguda de Josep Tarradellas) makes miniature Gaudi buildings out of chocolate.
LGBTQ scene: The LGBTQ scene is rather small compared to other European capitals, but its stylish and chic. The so-called Gaixample extends from Diputació to Aragó and Villarroel to Balmes. The area is punctuated by fashionable bars, clubs and hotels, some of which are rather short-lived. For this reason, it is a good idea to take a look at scene magazines such as "Shanguide, " to find out what, where and who is currently hip and happening.
Hotspot for stylish hotels: L’Eixample is the most famous district of Barcelona. That’s why it’s no wonder that so many design hotels have chosen to open their doors here. To match their surroundings, they place a great deal of importance on unusual style and urban-chic design. The Hotel ALMA Barcelona combines timeless elegance with state-of-the-art technology, so that you are able to open your hotel room with a fingerprint scanner. The rooms at Hotel Omm are decorated in a trendy Zen style, while the restaurant serves Catalan cuisine, which earned it 2 Michelin stars. Both hotels are categorized as 5 star hotels. Hip is how you live in the design rooms at the H10 Catalunya Plaza Boutique Hotel. The historic building has been restored with finesse and styled with design classics into a restful urban oasis. Right next to the Boulevard Passeig de Gràcia is the romantic Murmuri Hotel, which offers peace and quiet on the side street.
El Born: Elegant villas, trendy shops & hip bars
In El Born, located right on the harbor, the old elegance and splendor of Barcelona, in the form of restored villas and the Picasso Museum, meets young, edgy fashion boutiques and designer shops. The streets are lined with trendy bars and pubs that are always buzzing.
Hip boutique shopping: Around the Passeig del Born there are many stylish stores and small boutiques where you can relax, linger, and shop. Quality, not quantity, is important here, and young, local designers are often located alongside international fashion labels.
Leather craftsmanship: From wardrobes to handbags - the leatherwork shops of the district have something for every destination and occasion. Often, the crafts are made entirely by hand, such as the handbags and accessories by designer Lisa Lempp, available in her frontrunner store Capricho de Muneca (c / Brosolo).
Tapas bars & Catalan cuisine: Have your fill of tapas: Nowhere else in the city are there so many bars serving the traditional cuisine of Spain. You can enjoy meat balls, Calamares a la Romana, Jamón Íberico and roasted plums served in clay bowls here in abundance. Comerç 24, Carles Abellan serves upscale fusion food and anyone who wants to get to know the traditional Catalan cuisine beyond tapas, should visit the Patxoca (c / Mercaders) which exclusively uses regional products.
Picasso Museum: The Picasso Museum Barcelona (c/Montcada) is devoted to the works of arguably the most famous and important artist of the 20th century. It was created in the early 1960s by Jaime Sabatrès, a sculptor who was a friend of Picasso, as well as his private secretary. Picasso’s earlier work is predominantly on display. Lectures and exhibitions on individual themes of Picasso’s oeuvre are regularly held here.
Barri Gòtic: Lively old quarter, shopping malls & small boutiques
With its small, narrow streets, Barri Gòtic is one of the best-preserved medieval old quarters in Europe. The old Jewish quarter lies in the western part of the city. Around the Gothic cathedral, there are a number of smaller, busy shopping streets with well-established shops.
Urban Shopping: In addition to large clothing chains, there are plenty of charming shops on the streets around Carrer dels Banys Nous. From antique furniture to a hip poster shop, you can buy everything here. Around the Plaça Sant Jaume there are many well-established craft shops such as hat stores and traditional toy manufacturers. Avant-garde fashion from Bless to Bernhard Willhelm is available at Doshaburi (c/Lledo).
Antique sightseeing: Many of the great boulevards and streets of Barcelona date back to ancient Rome. Excavations and remains from the ancient Roman settlement of Barcino can be viewed around Plaça Saint Jaume. On closer inspection, visitors to Barcelona can tell that many ancient walls have simply been built into newer buildings over the centuries or serve as their foundations. In the Jewish quarter, you can visit one of the oldest synagogues in Europe, the Sinagoga Major de Barcelona.
Glamorous coffeehouses: The Café Els Quatre Gats (c/Monrsió) has all the traces of the flair and vivality of a bygone era. Designed by the modernist artist, Puig i Cadafalch, Picasso frequented the café with his contemporaries, and was even commissioned to design the cover page of the menu.
Jazz, Latin and flamenco clubs: Barri Gòtic has two of the best jazz, funk and Latin clubs in the city. Almost every evening local artists perform at the Harlem Jazz Club (c/Comtessa de Sobradiel), many of which have since made a name for themselves. Even in the cavernous Jamboree (Plaça Reial), jazz and Klezmer music rock the party, before the audience mixes with the flamenco-club partygoers of Los Tarantos, situated one floor above, and together everyone dances the night away.
Gràcia: Bohemian flair & alternative, hip nightlife
In recent years, more and more trendy, alternative and affluent crowds have been drawn to the former working-class district of Gràcia, where political unrest and revolutions were previously sparked. The area is reminiscent of a tattoo studio meets artist studio meets yoga studio. In the evening, the small cafes and bars are always lively.
Alternative shopping: Many small boutiques and tiny shops full of hip and edgy fashion line the streets of the district and provide local hipsters and trendsetters with everything from printed shirts to self-made furnishings.
Architectural sightseeing: In Gràcia are two of Antonio Gaudi’s must-see buildings. Casa Vincens is located in c/Carolines and is one of Gaudi’s first commissioned works. As it is privately owned, it cannot be visited. The crimson-colored walls, the colorfully tiled facades and the delicate turrets were later to become the hallmarks of the Catalan master builder. Not far away, over the mountain, is Park Güell. A visit is worthwhile not only because the park and architecture are amazing, but also because the view over Barcelona is spectacular.
Alternative club and bar hopping: Live music, readings, film screenings, exhibitions or simply a fiesta - Gràcia’s mix of hipsters and bohemians revel in trendy clubs (El Colleccionista, c / Torrent de les Flors) and bars like Bar Vinil (c / Matilde).
El Raval: Red light district, kiez-flair, bars & galleries
El Raval is the “kiez”-neighborhood of Barcelona. Many bars and galleries have set up shop here due to gentrification, particularly in the northern part of the district, which attracts a lively crowd every evening. The red light district, with its rather shady streets and alleyways is located in the south.
Vintage Shopping: El Raval is Barcelona’s vintage mecca for fashionistas and trendsetters. From simple second-hand items to flea market prices to stores specializing in individual youth cultures or epochs, you can find everything here. It’s time to bring and buy. With a bit of patience, you can also find hidden treasures in Carrara’s countless record stores (Carrer De La Riera Baixa).
Culinary markets: Since La Boqueria on the boulevard La Rambla is the largest food market in Europe, it is always full. It attracts tourists and locals alike, so the earlier you get there, the better. It is the least busy early in the morning, when the Montserrat tomato pots and baskets full of Cargol snails, shrimp, mussels and other offerings can be viewed without the throng of crowds. If you don’t feel like cooking, you can try the Catalan specialties at one of the many bars.
New galleries: An active modern art scene has evolved around the Contemporary Art Museum (MACBA) and the Center de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB), with galleries like Galería Nogueras Blanchard to the north of the district. There are often videos and installations by Catalan artists, but the international stars of the art business are also featured. Art lovers celebrate late into the night at gallery and exhibition openings.
Multicultural: On the streets of the district, you can hear a multitude of different languages from Indonesian to Romanian and Arabic. Nearly 50% of the inhabitants are immigrants from all over the world, giving El Raval a truly multicultural character.
La Barceloneta: Modern, beach & old-fashioned charm
In the course of the modernization measures for the Olympic Games in 1992, the quiet, old city center and maritime district along the Olympic harbor and Sant Marti became a beach-orientated district with kilometer-long coasts. Even if a lot is tailored to tourists, the district has preserved most of its charm. Numerous small seafood restaurants are still there, where you can dine on excellent food.
Historical sightseeing: The Monument a Colom stands exactly where Christopher Columbus docked his ship in 1493, when he returned from America. Surrounded by eight lions, the monument depicts moments of Columbus’ travels. You can enjoy the great view of the Rambla boulevard from the small viewing platform at the top. The Museu d’História de Catalunya, located at Place Pau Villa, tells the interesting history of the region, from everyday life in the Middle Ages to political events of the recent past.
Beachfront promenade & chic: See and be seen: Along the promenade (Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta), there are many bars and bistros, which transform into hip clubs that attract a younger crowd later on in the evening.
Mediterranean cuisine & seafood eateries: In Barceloneta, there are countless cozy, old seafood eateries. Restaurants like Kaiku (Plaça del Mar) serve classic fish recipes with a modern twist. The ambience of these eateries is often rather simple with plastic seating and paper tablecloths, but the cuisine more than makes up for it in exquisiteness.
Montjuïc: Green, museums, new clubs & party scene
The hills of Montjuïc are full of parks and gardens and always a few degrees cooler than the city itself. In the summer, you can picnic here alongside large local families with a view over Barcelona. There are also a number of museums. In the evening, the district’s numerous clubs and discos attract young night owls.
Modern Art: The CaixaForum opened its doors some years ago in a building that was previously an old textile factory. In addition to an impressive permanent collection of modern art, it is above all the spectacular traveling exhibitions that attract hordes of visitors. The nearby Fundació Joan Miró exhibits more than 5,000 works by the Catalan painter, graphic artist and sculptor.
Culture by bike: Some roads in Montjuïc are very steep, so a bike ride is only partially recommended. Instead, take the cable car (from the Paral-tel station), which allows even inexperienced cyclists to reach the top easily. On the summit, you can relax and enjoy the magnificent views of the Jardins de Joan Brossa sculpture park, the Museu Nacional d’Art d’Catalunya, the botanical garden and the Olympic facilities.
Colorful nightlife: The bars, clubs and discos in the lower part of Montjuïc are a paradise for night owls. A colorful crowd of artists, journalists and members of the media meet in the dimly lit, red glow of Bar Rouge (c/poet). Among the hottest clubs is the charming La  de Apolo (c/Nou de la Rambla), which bursts at the seams every weekend.
Barcelona – good to know:
Catalonia: Since the end of the 1970s, Catalonia, located on the northeast coast of Spain, has been an autonomous community within the country. This is of great importance to the inhabitants of Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia. The Catalan language, which was suppressed during the Franco dictatorship, is now the second official language.
Modernist Catalá: Modernism, which is related to Art Nouveau, characterizes the cityscape of Barcelona like no other in terms of art and architecture. The buildings and installations of the master architect Antonio Gaudi and his students, built at the beginning of the last century, give the town a distinctive visage. There are more modernist buildings here than anywhere else in Europe, and the Sagrada Familia, which is still under construction, is one of the city’s best-known landmarks.
History & Gentrification: Barcelona maintains the delicate balancing act between gentrification and the preservation of historical areas like no other city. Despite some extensive modernization measures, the quarters of the city have been able to preserve their character. Many new centers have been built, such as the northern part of Raval, which have developed their own unique charm.