Barcelona Neighbourhood Guide
WHERE TO LIVE IN BARCELONA
Barcelona’s Zona Alta (UpTown) compasses the neighborhoods of Pedralbes, Sarria, San Gervasi – Bonanova and Tres Torres. These lie northwest of the city, nestled amongst Barcelona’s surrounding hills of Tibidado and Collserola, stretching south to the Diagonal and east to Balmes.
Sarria was an independent town which slowly became integrated into the city as it expanded towards the hillside. It still maintains a charming small town feel. Pedralbes is mostly made up of elegant mansions and apartment blocks with large communal areas. Both Sant Gervasi – Bonanova and Tres Torres are residential areas with a good mix of amenities. See the neighbourhood guide from Sarrià.
The Zona Alta is an upscale residential area: some of Barcelona’s most prestigious properties are surrounded by parks, green areas and private schools, some of them international. It offers a wide range of services regarding family life. Although it’s mostly residential, there are many restaurants, shops, gyms, fresh food markets and recreational venues. The area is well connected to the rest of the city through Ferrocarrils Catalans (metro) and bus. Close to the Ronda de Dalt (upper beltway), it allows a quick access and exit from the city and easy weekend escapes.
The district of Gràcia is one of Barcelona´s most iconic areas. Once an an independent small village with beautiful houses and animated life, it became part of the city in 1897 under the Cerdà urban plan. Gràcia comprises the neighborhoods of Vila de Gràcia, Vallcarca i Els Penitents, El Coll, La Salut, and El Camp d’en Grassot – Gracia Nova. It boasts the iconic Park Güell.
The Vila de Gracia is known for being funky and artsy. It is made up of small winding streets and public squares which lend themselves to a bustling and vibrant street life, full of fresh food markets, cafes and boutiques. Gracia is one of Barcelona´s most culturally diverse neighborhoods: it is this unique essence that draws both national and international residents. It maintains a strong cultural and traditional identity thanks to local residents´ and district partnerships, and still celebrates their yearly renowned Festes de Gràcia. See the neighbourhood guide from Sarrià
To the east of the Vila lies Camp d’en Grassot i Gràcia Nova. Developed during the Cerdà plan, it has a more modern distribution. To the north of the Vila lie La Salut, El Coll and Vallcarca i Els Penitents. These areas are some of the greenest in Barcelona, with both the Parc de la Creueta del Coll and Park Güell, two of the largest parks in the city. Those looking for light city trekking or biking can head up to Vallcarca at the foot of the Tibidabo mountain, and the Passeig de les Aigües. Closer to the Tibidabo mountain and therefore cooler in the summer months, this is where wealthy Barcelona residents built their summer homes in18th and 19th centuries. Some of these homes still exist today, although many were torn down during the 20th century as the city pushed north and larger residential buildings were needed for a growing population. Traditionally Catalan, these neighborhoods are all residential areas with good amenities and easy access to the city centre.
Developed at the height of the Industrial Revolution by one of the geniuses of Catalan architecture, Ildefons Cerdà, the Eixample district of Barcelona is a perfect example of great urban design. This district is made up of the neighborhoods of Sant Antoni, Fort Pienc, La Sagrada Familia, L’ Antiga Esquerra de l’Eixample, Esquerra Nova de l’ Eixample, and Eixample Dreta. Some of the city’s best Modernist heritage examples can be seen in Eixample. Modernist buildings are world renowned for their imaginative flair, beautiful designs and attention to detail. Inner courtyards and high ceilings fill apartments with natural light, making them ideal homes.
The Eixample district has bustling residential neighborhoods full of amenities and commercial activity. Tourist activity is usually concentrated around the Passeig de Gracia in Eixample Dreta and around Plaça Cataluña, where the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic) begins. The Sagrada Familia neighborhood, home to Antoni Gaudi’s famous church, is also a tourist attraction.
Some of Barcelona’s most sought and expensive real estate lies within Eixample Esquerra and Eixample Dreta. Streets such as Balmes, Enrique Granados, Muntaner, Paseo de Gracia, Gran Via and Aragon are both commercial and transport main ways. They offer the city’s best shopping, top-notch restaurants and bars. The famous Quadrat d’Or next to the famous Paseo de Gracia encloses the city´s best modernist buildings.
Ciutat Vella (the Old City) is the oldest neighborhood, with traces of human activity dating 4000 years back. The district comprises El Raval, El Gótico (The Gothic Quarter) and Sant Pere, Santa Caterina i La Ribera (Born). The oldest neighborhood is the Gothic Quarter, largely developed by the Romans. Ruins of the Roman walls can be seen to this day. Ciutat Vella concentrates most of the city’s tourist activity its charming streets bustle with the activity of its fresh food markets (such as La Boqueria on Las Ramblas), public squares and cultural venues. Some of the city’s best museums, such as the Picasso Museum and MACBA, can be found there.
These neighborhoods are known for their bohemian lifestyle, multicultural diversity and cosmopolitanism. At the lower end of the real estate market is El Raval. Real estate prices go up as you move east towards El Born. This area is rich in architecture, as it features the Santa Maria del Mar cathedral, the Mercat de Santa Caterina, the Mercat del Born and the Estació de França. It has become a chic and trendy neighborhood sought by artists, antiquarians and entrepreneurs, and offers a wide choice of of lounge bars, cafés, gourmet restaurants and entertainment venues.
This district is the most technological and optimistic face of the future of Barcelona. It is known as the 22@. It was traditionally an industrial area, but early 20th Century city planning gradually turned it into residential area. The district comprises the neighborhoods of Vila Olimpica, Poblenou and Diagonal Mar.
Poblenou and Vila Olimpica were largely transformed during the 1992 Olympic Games. The 22@ technology district combines offices, businesses and modern apartment buildings that are a great residential alternative to many Barcelona expats looking for a more relaxed city experience. Diagonal Mar was created during the 2004 Universal Forum of Cultures and is under continuous transformation: it displays some of the highest and most modern buildings in Barcelona. There are many hotels, offices and spacious apartments with stunning views over the sea and peaceful courtyard gardens. These areas boast easy access to some of the city’s best beaches, great cultural and music events in the Forum and charming street life around the Rambla de Poble Nou.
This district is located west of Barcelona: it features residential areas with large buildings, the Barcelona University Campus, Camp Nou Football Stadium and one of Barcelona’s best shopping malls – La Illa. Like most of Barcelona, this area has great transport with a tram line, metro and buses. It is close to the city’s main beltways for an easy access and weekend getaways.
The Pedralbes neighborhood is actually situated within this district, although most Barcelona real estate agents usually make a distinction between the north and south of Les Corts, intersected by the Avenida Diagonal. The Pedralbes area is more closely associated with the high standing residential areas of Sarrià and Sant Gervasi, whereas the south of Les Corts is usually bundled in with Sants due to its neighborhood feel and architecture.
Sants is known for its train station –Sants station, Barcelona´s main one–, the National Palace Museum –in Montjuic, another of the city’s main parks–, and many more museums and tourist attractions.
Sant Just – Esplugues
Sant Just Desvern and Esplugues de Llobregat are towns that belong to Baix Llobregat and they are situated to the west of Barcelona. A large residential section lies in the mountains of Collserola, so its neighborhoods are characterized by traditional masies (farmhouses), beautiful modernist buildings and more modern homes surrounded by nature. The town of Sant Just offers all the necessary amenities such as schools, shops and businesses, making it an ideal location for those looking to live close to the city within a suburban environment.
Sant Cugat del Vallès
Sant Cugat is known for its high quality of life. This town is located in the Vallès Occidental, on the north side of the Collserola and Tibidabo mountains. It’s characterized by a major urban center developed around the spectacular Monastery of Sant Cugat. Today, this town hosts television studios, a training center for elite athletes and other institutions.
Along with Rubí and Cerdanyola, it forms the CIT (Catalonia Innovation Triangle), a project that brings together the industrial and financial activity concentrated in these three locations. Sant Cugat also has several schools, colleges and universities, including ESADE, and it’s near the UAB.
Gavà – Castelldefels – Sitges
Heading Barcelona’s south, there are Gavà, Castelldefels and Sitges towns. Gavà is mostly made up of independent and semi-attached homes with a beachfront promenade with shops and restaurants. Castelldefels became an important summer resort in the 1950’s and many of its beachfront properties date back to this time. It is now home to a large expat community, major research centers and universities, and the Olympic Channel. Both Gavà and Castelldefels are split by the motorway with the beach on one side and the village on the other. The beach side tends to be more expensive, although some of the more modern homes with stunning views and tended gardens with pools can be found on the north side, nestled on the hillside.
Sitges sits on the Mediterranean coast, in the beautiful county of Garraf, 36 km south of Barcelona. Sitges is known for its large expat and gay communities, a high standard of living,and its charming beachtown lifestyle.
The homes in Sitges are among the most expensive in Spain because they stand out for their luxury. Many villas are on the beachfront or offer majestic views of the Mediterranean Sea and the sunrise. They are all surrounded by comfort and beauty. Barcelona is easily accessible by both public and private transport.
The Maresme lies north of Barcelona, along its coastline. Among its best known towns are Mataró, Arenys de Mar, Canet de Mar, Calella, Premià de Mar, Pineda de Mar and Tordera. These are towns with year round large and vibrant population, although many Barcelona residents spend their weekends and summers there.