BARCELONA - NEIGHBORHOODS

Ciutat Vella (Old City)

Ciutat Vella is the oldest part of Barcelona. It includes buildings and attractions from all the city history and has the most important monuments (except the most famous modernist ones). It's divided in four quarters.

Barri Gòtic
This beautiful neighborhood used to be the Roman village of Barcino and you can still see portions of the Roman wall through this area. Fully pedestrian, the narrow, winding streets create a labyrinth with many peaceful squares (plaças) where you can relax and enjoy your surroundings. The Barri Gòtic offers attractions such as the Cathedral de la Seu, the Plaça Sant Jaume and the medieval palace of the Plaça del Rei, as well as smaller squares, such as the Plaça Felip Neri with a central fountain, the oasis-like courtyard of the Frederic Marès Museum and small chapels set into the sides of medieval buildings. Most of them can only be discovered on foot, ideally at sunset when the fading Mediterranean light lends the stone buildings a warm hue. El Call, the original Jewish quarter, is also located within the Barri Gòtic. You will be spoiled for choice of restaurants and bars, especially around Plaça Reial, which is always full day and night. The nightlife in the Gothic Quarter is lively to say the least and you will always find somewhere to have a drink or a dance. Shopping is also amazing in the Gothic Quarter, from the more commercial area of Calle Portal de L`Angel to all the little boutiques on Calle Avinyo. The sprawling Barri Gòtic is hemmed in on one side by the Vía Laietana and on the other by La Ramblas.

La Ramblas
The most famous promenade in Spain, ranking with Madrid's Paseo del Prado, was once a riverbed. These days, street entertainers, flower vendors, news vendors, cafe patrons, and strollers flow along its length. It consists of five sections, each a particular rambla - Rambla de Canaletes, Rambla dels Estudis, Rambla de Sant Josep, Rambla dels Caputxins, and Rambla de Santa Mónica. The shaded pedestrian esplanade runs from the Plaça de Catalunya to the port and all the way to the Columbus Monument. Watch out for the giant sidewalk mosaic by Miró halfway down at the Plaça de la Boqueria. At the top of Las Ramblas is Plaça Catalunya from where you can go onto Passeig de Gràcia if your shopping tastes are slightly more designer orientated, or if you want to see Gaudí's buildings.

La Ribera
Is a large section of the old town between Arc de Triomf and Via Laietana. It is often mistakenly called the El Born after the large, 19th century market that sits in the area below Carrer de la Princesa. It is a very happening neighborhood with lots to do and see. By day, there are many small shops and local designers. By night, there is a thriving bar and restaurant scene. It's easily reachable on foot and contains no end of old buildings, many of which date back to the 15th century. Carrer Montcada has the biggest collection of Gothic houses in Barcelona. Among these is the Picasso Museum, which is definitely worth a visit. Palau de la Música Catalana, Modernist design by Lluís Domènech i Montaner is a UNESCO World Heritage site, a masterpiece of Catalan's modernist architecture is also located here.

El Raval
This is the neighborhood of the old town just to the west of Las Ramblas. Historically, it's had an incredibly seedy reputation, but this changed right before the 1992 Olympics. These days, it's a vibrant place for nightlife; and while still very much an immigrant neighborhood, it's home to many bars and restaurants. El Raval has recently been cited as the neighborhood with the greatest multicultural mix in Europe. A quick stroll around its maze of streets, where Pakistani fabric merchants and South American spice sellers stand side by side with traditional establishments selling dried cod and local wine, confirms the fact. The adhan (the Muslim call to prayer) wafts from ground-floor mosques next to neo-hippie bars, yoga schools, and contemporary art galleries.

Barceloneta
This was a fisherman's quarter with dark and narrow streets, but since the 1992 Olympics, significant gentrification has taken place, principally along the seafront.

L`Eixample

To the north of the Plaça de Catalunya is the massive section of Barcelona that grew beyond the old medieval walls. The area benefited greatly from the ingenious urban planning of Catalan engineer Cerdes in the 1850's, who had a fondness for straight lines (the whole area is set out in a grid with each block having an inner courtyard). The modernistes were the neighborhood's earliest architects, filling the blocks with such masterpieces as Gaudí's La Sagrada Família, Casa Milà, and Casa Batlló. L`Eixample is a living, breathing museum piece with an abundance of Art Nouveau architecture and details not found anywhere else in Europe. Passeig de Gràcia is the heart of Eixample and the line that cuts the area into two from 'Eixample left' and 'Eixample right'. Here you will find most of Barcelona's international designer shops such as Chanel and MaxMara. Eixample is a safe and residential part of the city, but there is also vibrant nightlife and a thriving café culture. It is a beautiful barrio to wander round, take in the glorious architecture and people watch from one of the many terrace cafes.

Les Corts

An important financial business district in Barcelona with many good hotels and restaurants. The beautiful Plaça Espanya is a 15 minute walk away from the Les Corts area, and there you can enjoy all the entertainment that Montjuïc has to offer. If you like a good walk you can even walk into the historic, leafy area called Eixample in about half an hour, or the center of town in about an hour. Also, on Diagonal is the large shopping complex called L`Illa with several very good restaurants, a huge supermarket, a small exhibition center and of course lots of clothing shops, including some of Barcelona's favorites such as Purificacion Garcia, Zara and Custo. The Barcelona Football club's grounds Camp Nou is also located here, a must-see for any football enthusiast. The area Les Corts is a 15 minute metro ride from the center of town and is well serviced by both Les Corts and Plaça Del Centro metro stops, which are both on the green line, and the Estacio Sants train station.

Gràcia

This charming neighborhood sprawls out northward of the intersection of the Passeig de Gràcia and the Diagonal. Its contained, village-like ambience stems from the fact that it was once a separate town, only connected to central Barcelona in 1897 with the construction of the Passeig de Gràcia. It has a strong industrial and artisan history, and many street-level workshops can still be seen. The area is popular with artists and a generally bohemian crowd and it also has a high ethnic population and the highest concentration of foreign restaurants in Barcelona. Plaça de Sol is the most renowned area of the neighborhood; it's lined with terrace cafes and at night this is where the people convene to drink and be merry. However, despite the trendy nature of Gràcia it is also a very traditional barrio with a large elderly population, which makes for an amusing and odd mix as well as very entertaining people-watching! The area is perfect for those who want something a little bit different, those who perhaps have been to Barcelona before and want a different tourist experience. Although, because central Barcelona is so easily accessible from Gràcia, it is suitable for everyone.

Sarrià - St. Gervasi

This is a 1,000 year old agricultural hamlet on the northern outskirts of the city, which retains its village character alongside a fleet of chic restaurants and boutiques. It is among the wealthiest neighborhoods in Barcelona. If you are standing at the top of Muntaner Street looking down, it is easy to understand why. It is far quieter than the rest of Barcelona with many parks and green areas. There are many bars, restaurants and nightclubs along the streets of Amigo, Santaló and Maria Cubi. The main attractions are the Tibidabo mountain and the wonderful natural science museum CosmoCaixa. Shopping is varied and more exclusive than in central Barcelona.

Sants - Montjuic

The area of Sants is a 10 minute metro ride out of the center of town. The Barcelona Sants train station (Estacio de Sants) is the focal point of the area and is one of Barcelona's largest and most well-connected stations. Around the station there are several hotels that cater for business people who are in the area because the neighboring area of Les Corts is a busy financial district, and there are sometimes conventions down at the Fira Convention center in Plaça Espanya. The area of Sants itself doesn't have that many attractions, but the ease with which you can travel to areas of interest is a plus point. You could walk to gorgeous Plaça Espanya and Montjuïc where there are attractions such as Poble Espanyol, the Magic Fountain and the Fira Barcelona events halls. In the other direction you may want to stroll to Camp Nou, Barcelona FC ground, or do a bit of shopping in the L`Illa complex on Diagonal.