The 5 best places to live in Barcelona for expats

The 5 best places to live in Barcelona for expats

Are you looking for the best places to live in Barcelona for expats? If you are considering moving to a cosmopolitan and coastal city in the Iberian Peninsula, stay because in this article we explain everything you need to know.

When moving abroad, the decision about exactly where to live can be a challenging one. There are numerous Barcelona neighborhoods to choose from, each with their own distinct character. We’ll tell you which are the best 5 places to live in Barcelona for expats in this article.

You land in a city with a guidebook but the reality is, that visiting a neighborhood can be a lot different to actually living in. You need to think about questions such as: do you prefer the idea of living in an area where there is an established expat community or a neighborhood where there is a more authentic feel? Do you want to live in the heart of the city and be able to walk to most places or do you prefer to live in the suburbs which offer more space? Do you want to live in a house or an apartment? How important is outside space? What about being near international schools?

Barcelona has undergone a major regeneration and renewal over the last 100 years or so which has produced a real mix of accommodation, from classic townhouses to new builds. Here we look at 5 areas in Barcelona that are popular with the international community and all of which, as is the case in across the Catalan capital, offer a fantastic quality of life.

Barcelona Old Town

The Old Town is Barcelona’s iconic beating heart filled with narrow, winding streets offering endless opportunities for exploration and discovery.  Locally known as the ‘Ciutat Vella’, it dates back to 133 B.C. and every corner is fascinating, where ancient and modern combine to create the hustle and bustle of daily life and tourist activity.

banner properties barcelona

The Old Town is made up of four different quarters, three of which are found within the original city walls – the mysterious Barri Gòtic, vibrant Raval and bohemian Sant Pere, Santa Caterina i La Ribera, also known as El Born. The fourth quarter is the rapidly-transforming Barceloneta, a barrio that has changed personality since the once thriving local fishing industry gave way to modern city beaches, bustling markets and stylish hotels.

Across from the Cathedral over Via Laietana, the colorful mosaic roof of the Santa Caterina market announces the 3-in-1 neighborhood of Sant Pere, Santa Caterina i La Ribera. Sant Pere, Santa Caterina i La Ribera also hosts the largest park in town, Parc de la Ciutadella, which provides the opportunity to enjoy grass, trees and even a boating lake. This is an area which boasts prestigious apartment conversions overlooking historic squares, while independent boutiques and vibrant bars are shored up by beautifully preserved Roman walls.

Unlock the door to extraordinary living with Bcn Advisors, your premier destination for luxury apartments for sale in Barcelona, where each residence is a testament to our unwavering commitment to excellence in luxury real estate.




This neighborhood of ‘Eixample’ literally translates as ‘Expansion’, the large central district that expanded the city in the 1890s, connecting the Gothic quarter to the nearby village of Gràcia. Barcelona’s grid-like  Eixample neighbourhood was the brainchild of Catalan engineer Ildefons Cerdà, whose19th Century vision was not only ambitious, but also ahead of its time. This globally recognisable residential project is located north of Plaça de Catalunya and comprises ‘Eixample Right’ and ‘Eixample Left’, split between the beautiful boulevard of Passeig de Gràcia and the more intimate Rambla de Catalunya.

Cerdà’s simple, bold plan was to increase the size of the city ten-fold by building functional appealing and efficient residential blocks. His innovative urban living spaces also offered hidden oases of calm and greenery as an antidote to city stresses. Today, life in this central district offers passers-by a perfectly-framed view of some breathtaking architecture and magnificent showpiece apartments that are some of the most desirable in the world.

Eixample enjoys easy access to Barcelona Old Town and the beachfront with all its world-renowned attractions. It is busy, urban and functional, but also relentlessly fascinating, and spacious, harking back to Cerdà’s key motivation – a study of the city’s Old Town that concluded that the narrower and darker the street you lived in, the shorter your life would be!

banner properties barcelona


Gràcia is a proud neighborhood with a strong heritage and identity, one of the many independent villages absorbed into expanding Barcelona in the late19th Century, but this time tracing its origins back as far as 1628. On a map, the jumble of narrow streets stands out where Eixample comes to an unavoidable halt at the top of Passeig de Gràcia. Comparatively undiscovered by the tourist hordes until the Naughties, Gràcia has become a popular choice for those looking to take a break from touristy Barcelona and dive into its trendy, vibrant streets.

People are also moving in to stay, attracted by characterful apartment blocks, hidden terraced houses and authentic corners that have fought against overdevelopment. Gràcia’s topography is a key part of its character. The neighborhood starts at the point where a gentle slope up through town from the beach kicks up into a proper hillside. Like most of Barcelona, Gràcia is a proud, living, breathing, working neighborhood with unique appeal and rewards for all ages. Inevitably, it is becoming increasingly gentrified due to growing demand and luxury renovations have seen multiple apartments consolidated into modern 21st living spaces.

Uptown area (“Zona Alta”)

Barcelona’s Zona Alta offers a variety of barrios with different characters, but which all share the same sense of exclusivity, friendliness and relaxed pace of life. All this combines with some of the city’s most impressive homes and best family-friendly facilities in town. The Zona Alta is where you’ll find impressive properties in leafy residential neighbourhoods. Stretching from Avinguda Diagonal up into the rolling green Collserola hills, there is an air of elevated privilege, but it also enjoys quick access to the city centre via excellent train links and regular bus services.

banner properties barcelona

With the Ronda de Dalt and Diagonal close at hand, getting out of town is easy and Barcelona’s international airport is just a short drive away. The charming residential district of Sarrià is at the heart of the Zona Alta. Like Gracià, this was once a pretty independent village that was absorbed by a growing Barcelona around a century ago. This part of Barcelona is able to accommodate those amenities that require a bit more space, resulting in a wealth of highly respected international and local schools and colleges, up-market hospitals and clinics and exclusive social and sports clubs. To the west, Pedralbes is Barcelona’s showpiece residential neighborhood. It nestles in peaceful privilege in the lush foothills and boasts magnificent detached homes with manicured gardens, infinity pools and high security, and is dotted with exclusive blocks with penthouses and apartments taking up entire floors.

To the south, the narrow streets of Sarrià give way to a more organized layout in neighboring Tres Torres, where neatly arranged townhouses form a relatively low-rise landscape and welcoming bars and cafés await in picturesque plazas. Sant Gervasi tumbles down to the city-side of Avinguda Diagonal and marks the boundary between the Zona Alta and Barcelona’s urban center. From here, the shallow slopes of Turó Park and its exclusive apartments kick upwards towards the steeper hillside. The great outdoors and its many associated activities are a central part of life in the Zona Alta. The Collserola hills form a constant picturesque backdrop to the city, with the towering Tibidabo mountain providing spectacular viewpoints.

Sant Martí

Anyone new to the city will have no difficulty locating Sant Martí, thanks to the towering Hotel Arts and Frank Gehry’s shining Peix d’Or (Golden Fish). Sant Martí is a perfect example of Barcelona’s commitment to the transformation of a fading industrial neighborhood into a hub with 21st Century character – namely technology, sustainability and entertainment. This sprawling district stretches back from the sea as far as the spectacular Hospital de Sant Pau and borders Gran Via and the Besós river. Its two key neighborhoods are Poblenou and Diagonal Mar, both facing the sea to the west of the Vila Olímpica and the city zoo. This area’s seaside location perfectly combines Mediterranean lifestyle appeal with Barcelona urban living.

The redevelopment process was initiated when the city was awarded the 1992 Olympic Games and the Vila Olímpica grew from reclaimed industrial landscape, which then had its back to the sea. This transformation has continued to spread, and today business and technology drive the area’s growth, with the bold 22@ Project designed to make Poblenou one of the world’s most advanced and admired tech hubs. Nearby Diagonal Mar offers a wealth of hotels and apartment blocks, breezy open boulevards, lush green spaces and paths that take you down to the sea.

banner properties barcelona

The Rambla de Poblenou retains a flavor of its former days as a bustling local focus for socializing and trade, with its quirky shops, international restaurants, bustling markets and vibrant bars that seem to stand in charming defiance of the multibillion-Euro revolution going on around them.

The transformation of this once urban wasteland is underlined by Barcelona’s second largest park, the Parc de Diagonal Mar. This fascinating mix of sculptures, grassy hills, hidden giant slides and a huge lake was the brainchild of the visionary Enric Miralles. It’s evident that Sant Martí has changed for good. Its forward-thinking Poblenou and Diagonal Mar neighborhoods are leading the way into a more welcoming future that promises to be cleaner, better and more user-friendly in every way.

You may also like...