Barcelona is a city of eccentric people, lively energy, and a multitude of beautiful places. The city is the capital of the Catalunya region and is in many ways the epicenter of Catalan pride. It is home to locals, immigrants, foreigners, students, and receives larger number of visitors annually in comparison to many other European cities. It is this mixture of people who help to contribute to the city’s artistic and cosmopolitan feel. One of my favorite things about Barcelona are the unique neighborhoods that you can find around the city. Barcelona is historic yet modern, traditional yet trendy, and for those reasons I think people continue to visit it year after year.
After recently visiting Barcelona again, I thought that I would share with you some of my favorite areas in the city. I chose these few because they are unique from others and stand out. Truthfully, one could find something neat about every neighborhood in Barcelona, and I think that is one of the things that I like so much about the city. It seems that as you walk the city, there is always something new to uncover. That being said, here is a list of 5 unique neighborhoods in Barcelona.
1.) El Barri Gotic – The Gothic neighborhood, or el barri Gotic as it is known locally in Catalan, is probably one of the most famous neighborhoods in Barcelona. It has been featured in movies and music videos, and it is one of the main selling points for tourists who visit the city. It is located on the northeastern side of the famous La Rambla street. The Gothic district in Barcelona is known superficially for its architecture, but is historically more significant. It is the oldest area in the city and has been the site of civilization for well over a thousand years. There are several famous churches in the area such as the Cathedral, as well as a few beautiful and historic plazas such as Plaça Sant Jaume and Plaça Reial. El barri Gotic can be considered the heart of Barcelona in several ways.
2.) Gracía – Heading a little north from el barri Gotic is another neighborhood, which is known locally for its nightlife and youthful energy. Gracía is one of my favorite areas of Barcelona and it is a great place to grab a drink with some friends or relax a bit. It is often frequented by students and rarely by outsiders as it is a little outside of the city center. Gracía, formally known as Vila de Gracía, is near Avinguda Diagonal, which is one of major roads that cross the city. Vila de Gracía is not far from Antoni Gaudi’s famous Parc Güell, and it is accessible to many shops along streets like Vía Augusta. If you are in the mood for a good time, then I suggest a pass by Gracía for some true local fun.
3.) 22 @ – 22 @ is a uniquely named neighborhood, but perhaps properly so once you have heard about its origin. It is a district that covers the area between Sant Marti and El Poble Nou. El Poble Nou, or new town, is the more modern and recently developed area of Barcelona. The new buildings are there and that is also where the majority of the technology within the city is housed. The name 22 @ originates from the idea that it is an internet center and futuristic area of the city. It literally means 22 @ signs. Many local business such as the Twenty-Tú, have caught on to this theme and used it as a business model. Twenty-Tú, considers itself to be a trendy eco-hostel that is high-tech. Neighborhood highlights are its proximity to the beach and recent construction developments. Although the recent economic downturn (el crisis) has certainly taken a toll on new developments, several buildings are still being constructed in the area. The Torre Agbar, another famous Barcelona landmark, was founded upon principles of sustainability and being eco-friendly. Not far from the district is the famously unknown Moroccan market, which I was told will be moving to a new location soon.
4.) El Raval – El Raval is one of the most eccentric and different neighborhoods in Barcelona. It is sort of hidden in the shadows of Montjüic and tucked away just a few streets off of La Rambla. This is the neighborhood that is commonly referred to as the red light district of Barcelona. Before the 1992 Olympics games, this title was formerly held by a street in Barri Gotic. Today if you walk through the El Raval neighborhood you will witness an eclectic mix of people as well as the occasional shady business. If you seek ethnic food in Barcelona, then I would suggest a walk through this area. You can easily find ‘international’ cuisine ranging from Moroccan to Indian to Chinese. Even the occasional Spanish food, as is the case with Meson David. El Raval is very close to the MACBA art museum and is near to several schools and a university. The major street Parallel runs between it and Montjüic.
5.) Barceloneta – Between el barri Gotic and Barceloneta, I am not sure which one that I would consider to be more famous. Barceloneta, began many years ago as a neighborhood for fishermen. Many people do not know that the Barcelona that we now know was quite different before the 1992 Olympics. Barceloneta used to be located on Barcelona’s rocky coastline. There was a marina where fishermen would sail from daily and return with their catch to sell to the markets. The railroad used to run along the coastline. However, with the Olympics, Barcelona was re-branded as a city for tourists. The beach was basically created from imported sand. I have never been able to find an exact answer, but everything that I have ever been told points to Egypt. So, the sand of Egypt’s Sahara desert lines the beach of Barcelona. Modern day Barceloneta is a strange clash between extremely touristy and extremely local. During a hot summer day, hundreds of thousands of tourists walk along Passeig de Joan de Borbó, but a fraction of that ever get to know the real Barceloneta. Tourists and foreigners have been steadily creeping inside the Barceloneta neighborhood for the last few years and many of the locals who actually live in the area have become frustrated and agitated by the influx and aftereffects. Rent prices have increased and so have the price of local eateries, which commonly cater to the masses. Nonetheless, Barceloneta still remains to be one of the better Barcelona neighborhoods. The marina remains active, although much of the industrial side has been moved to other ports outside of the city center. There are a few great local restaurants or places to grab a drink in the district.
Have you been to Barcelona? Which is your favorite neighborhood?