Heading to Barcelona? You’re probably experiencing something between a mixture of relief, excitement and overwhelming desire to learn everything that you can about this beautiful and bustling city. The north-eastern city offers some of the best neighborhoods in Spain, if not all of Southern Europe.
With so many questions to be answered and even more choices to make, let’s take an in-depth look at Barcelona’s neighborhoods. But before we get to the 10 areas that are particularly popular with young internationals, let’s give you a bit of background to this world-famous city.
Barcelona is just teeming with things for young people to do. A thriving nightlife scene, a trendy artistic side and a feasible cost of living makes this city a popular choice for students, interns and young professionals ready to start something new.
Barcelona can hold its own when it comes to world-class universities in Europe. So if you’re a student looking to enroll, a few institutions to keep in mind are:
University of Barcelona - With over 90,000 enrolled in its 18 different faculties, this historic institution was founded back in 1450 and is full of tradition.
Polytechnic University of Barcelona - If you’re passionate about science and technology, then you’ve found the right place.
Pompeu Fabra University - Situated near the beach, this social arts and economics school is so popular with incoming internationals that they make up 35% of the enrollment.
If you’re looking to kickstart your career with an internship in Barcelona, then you’re in luck; it’s known to offer some of the most promising companies to find a placement, so much so that many interns stay on and become permanent employees. Alternatively, if you’re ready to secure a full-time job, you won’t be alone in moving to Barcelona to start your professional career right away. Some of the companies that are favorites amongst expats include:
Seat - This car manufacturer has a plant in Barcelona. Being German-owned, they are especially on the lookout for expats who can speak German, English and Spanish.
Hewlett Packard - This computer giant also likes a little international flavor, and it greatly appeals to young people who have their roots in the tech industry.
Accenture - With a large office in Barcelona, this management consulting firm constantly has positions open for financial advisors, analysts, consultants and engineers.
Check out our Top 100 Cities to Find a Job to see how Barcelona ranks for factors such as the number of available jobs, average salary and startup score.
If you happen to be coming from a colder climate, you’ll be happy to discover that sunny Barcelona has an average daytime temperature of 21°C. Naturally, its residents spend a lot of time outside, soaking up the warm temperatures and relaxing in the sea. You can hit up the beaches, watch the world go by and work on a tan. If you’re arriving to study at one of the universities, plan to come in a few weeks early so you can experience the end of the city’s delightful summer season.
As you begin to search for a neighborhood in Barcelona, it’s wise to understand the city’s transportation options, so you can make an educated decision on where precisely to live. Seeing how the city’s transport works will show you if it’s worth staying a little way out of the centre to save on rent. Barcelona’s public transportation system is commonly referred to as the TMB, and it crisscrosses all over the city, getting you exactly where you need to be. It includes the bus, metro, funicular and the cable car, so you can even get a nice aerial tour of the city while getting from A to B. Purchase single tickets or multi-day cards (to save money in the long run).
Typically, Europeans embrace city bikes, and the residents of Barcelona are no different. It can often be way more economical to buy a second-hand bike from the market to solve your transportation needs. If you return home half a year later, you can always sell it on to another incoming international.
If you like the idea of renting a scooter to zip through Barcelona’s streets, you can check out electric scooter apps like LIME and BIRD. This is another fun way to see plenty of the city and some surrounding areas.
It’s easy to see why moving to Barcelona feels like one big adventure. Its jaw-dropping architecture and proximity to a number of beaches is enough to encourage people to make it their permanent home after a single visit. After all, can six to 12 months in Barcelona ever be enough?
Of course, you’ll want to choose a trusted rental platform to conduct your search for housing, and it’s important to understand as much as you possibly can about the city’s culture and it’s particular neighborhoods. Each has its own personality, so once you begin to dig in, you can take your budget into consideration and see which suits you best.
If you have a bit of a bohemian spirit going on, then this is the perfect place for you! Gràcia is one of the busiest and liveliest neighborhoods in the city, mostly due to its high population. However, it also welcomes internationals like family, so everyone has a sense of belonging, no matter where they’re from. It does attract a lot of tourists, but it still retains its free-spirited vibe; there are heaps of hip, organic cafés and restaurants, along with vintage, second-hand shops and a food market at its center. You’ll find a fun mix of artists, students, young professionals and elderly residents, retaining the original “village” feel (once upon a time is wasn’t part of the actual city). You’ll find that locals and visitors alike love to people-watch from the terraces of the well-known Plaça del Sol on sunny days.
If the historical side of Barcelona is what attracted you in the first place, it’s good to know that this neighborhood is one of the oldest in the city. You’ll find narrow streets that are just begging for exploration, as well as beautiful squares and museums, such as the popular Picasso Museum. You’ll also be a short stroll from both the Ciutadella Park and Arc de Triomf, as well as a thriving nighttime scene, ranging from high-end bars to comfortable, cozy pubs. Plus, the good news is that El Born is close to most of the other areas of the city, making it easy to spend a day at Barceloneta beach or explore any of the other nearby locales.
Appealing to those attracted to the underground culture scene in Barcelona, you’ll definitely still want to rub elbows with the tourists at the MACBA (Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona). Skateboarding is also quite popular in this area, with several spots just perfect for the sport. If international dining is right up your alley, then you can have lunch at an authentic Mexican café and then settle down for dinner at a Pakistani restaurant; a real draw for expats living throughout the city. Joaquin Costa Street is also a great place to take advantage of numerous take-away dining options. Though this area can get a bit crowded and noisy (and it may not be as residentially-oriented as some other neighborhoods) it does attract younger residents.
Be ready for some lovely architecture in this neighborhood! Known as the primary residential area of the city, it has long straight streets that are arranged in a grid-like pattern, with squared blocks dating back to the 19th century. This area is actually split in two by Passeig de Gràcia, which leads to Plaça Catalunya and the high-end shopping mecca of Barcelona. As you may have guessed, this can be an expensive neighborhood, but it has great appeal and is conveniently located.
When you want to throw yourself into Barcelona’s nightlife or if you crave a traditional Spanish meal, this is the neighborhood for you. Seafood dishes are sold along the seafront at a variety of eateries as well, fresh from the sea. Barceloneta beach is also a wonderful place to relax and soak up the sun; it’s just minutes away! The beach has been known to fill up with tourists by day, but by night, it tends to turn into a locals’ party hangout.
After the gentrification of this mostly industrial space in Barcelona, the converted warehouses are now serving as some of the roomiest, trendiest locales for housing. They are perfect for sharing with a few new friends, students or co-workers. Plus, its residents are mere steps from the city’s nicest beaches, Marbella and Bogatell. The famous Razzmatazz nightclub is a big attraction, and nightlife and dining options are plentiful.
This neighborhood is home to the Polytechnic University of Barcelona, but it still manages to have lower rent than most of the central neighborhoods. A stone’s throw from the Sagrada Família, you can also find plenty of green spaces, eateries and nightlife choices in El Clot. It is considered one of the safest areas of Barcelona, and is conveniently connected by several lines of public transportation.
Merging with Barcelona in 1889, Sants was once an independent city. However, today it is famous for the Festa Major, a large gathering comprised of food, music and lots of fun. Sants may be a bit away from the center of the city, but it’s quiet and less expensive. Furthermore, it boasts the bustling Sants station, which is one of the largest in Barcelona with connections deeper into Spain and even neighboring countries.
This is a neighborhood that’s become quite popular with incoming students, nestled just southwest of the city. You’ll find a unique mix of the old and the modern, with blocks of apartments and shopping districts. A little further out, and you’ll run into older buildings that surround historic squares. So, there really is something for every taste.
Sant Antoni is known as a hipster’s paradise, filled with coffeehouses and some of the best brunch spots in all of Barcelona. If you love shopping at markets, one of the best is also located here, offering everything from fresh foods and fruits to inexpensive clothing and books. Plus, you can easily walk to the nearby nightlife just a bit over in El Raval.
Now that you know Barcelona’s best neighborhoods and what each is known for, you can start planning and book a place in Barcelona right away! Rooms and apartments in this sunny city can be in high demand, so begin your search at least four months before moving, to ensure you have plenty of options.
After reading Barcelona’s Neighborhood Guide, you’ll realize that you’re preparing for a truly memorable chapter in your life! Be sure to set some time aside to explore some of the city’s most enchanting attractions, such as the unfinished cathedral of La Sagrada Familia, the magic fountain show at Font Magica and the Picasso Museum. Barcelona awaits!