Where to live in Barcelona

23 January 2021

Gracia vs Eixample vs Barrio Gotico vs El Borne vs Poble Nou

A guide to where to live in Barcelona according to The Expatriator, originally written in 2007 and recently updated.

If you like looking at schlong and boobs then this is your spot. Other highlights of Poble Nou include the big penis building, known as Monumental (coincidence?)

These are the main areas in the centre, there aren’t really many reasons to want to live outside of the metropolitan area unless you’re looking for a bit of country bumpkin life or need to be right next to the beach. If you look at housing prices you’ll see that some of the outlying areas are actually more or as expensive as the centre of Barcelona. Ridiculous eh?

Ciutat Vella (Old Town AKA, Central Barcelona)

is comprised of the following four barrios:


Next to Barceloneta Beach. Higher crime (organized), lots of immigrants and expats, tons of tourists who walk through to get to the beach. Some very good hidden restaurants and things to do. Very near museums and marina and…

El Borne

Or as expats call it, The Born. Everyone’s #2 favourite, probably because it’s great in so many ways but lacking some of the dirty flavour of other barrios. Top restaurants and top fashion shopping: all around very indie and chique. Note the ubiquitous black turtleneck, it’s that kind of area.

El Raval

This word is just fun to say with the Catalan drawl. Musicians love Raval and it’s indeed it’s full of life. Tons of immigrants, especially middle Asians like Indians/Pakistanis (see the Rambla de Raval). A long history of gangs, drugs and prostitution, Raval has, sadly, cleaned itself up and now people can visit again thinking to themselves how cool they are for hanging with immigrants… or something like that. Tons of nooks and crannies to discover, and in these nooks and crannies you find some of the originally cool bars, clubs, restaurants, museums, trendy stuff, etc. This isn’t really where the tourists go but you can still get a hooker at the right cross-street.

Barrio Gotico

Strangely, we call this one Barrio Gotico in English. This is where all the tourists go to get lost in that *aww* “I love Europe!” sort of way. It’s definitely got its appeal, I can’t deny it. All the great history of old Barcelona is right there, along with the new Dutch junkies (no, not all are Dutch, but a lot of ‘em). A lot of expats set up shop here first and branch out after the first few months of dealing with the noise and belch of non-stop tourism. If you can get a roof-top patio then you are rockin’!

Artsy, funky, unpretentious. Great expat scene, cool cafes, great plazas, diverse and quality restaurant scene… great metro connections and close to Parc Guell too!

Beyond the center of Barcelona

Beyond Ciutat Vella there’s, of course, The Extension of Barcelona, the big donut block neighbourhood known as L’Eixample


In Spanish, "El Ensanche," I believe. No, it doesn’t mean The Example as we expats commonly believe for years on end (or was it only me?). Pronounced, “ey-sham-pla”. It’s a massive suburb in the centre of the city. Yep, imagine America’s perfectly planned gated communities, and then make all the roads octagonal, 20x the density, dash some Catalan modernism throughout the whole thing, put the buildings in the middle of the blocks out like donuts (reminds me of Sim City) with park in the middle of the donut and, BOOM. You have the perfect example of how to enlarge a city 1890’s style. Does this make any sense? It does to me. Regarding living here, it’s very downtown New York or London. Big-ass buildings, no community feel (it feels very cosmopolitan), some good shopping and places to go no doubt and quite safe: much less drugs, etc. The tourist spots are real mecas of tourism though. This is where you find all the Gaudi stuff. Eixample is divided into the left and right, “izquierda” and “derecha” respectively, and it’s commonly held that the izquierda is higher end. But alas the Eixample is boring for me, so let’s move on…

Poble Sec

(“Dry Town” I believe) or the Montjuic area is really nice actually. Enough character, good metro connections, the Montjuic area is amazing for running and events and stuff, all around quite safe, not too expensive… the only problem is the total lack of good restaurants! I know that sounds lame but Barcelona has amazing cuisine and if you’re not around that good cuisine you’re going to be subjected to TOTAL CRAP. I mean, churros? WTF? Have you had a Spanish bocadillo before? The roof of your mouth will hate you for the first few months as you alternate between burning it on overheated cafes con leche and jamon y queso bocadillos. Anyway, Poble Sec rocks, and will be a big hit for anyone needing some good nature and a little more quiet. Please note the presence of great exaggeration in the above bitch fest.

Sants and Les Corts

are both cheaper areas with higher crime but may be the new hot areas. I don’t know them all that well but people I’ve met from Sants are nice. Does that help? The main train station is right there people, you can imagine what that does to the area.

Poble Nou

AKA New Town (just call it “pob-la no”), is a real mixed bag. This is a zone that perhaps only The Cheat could love… and other expats I suppose. This is an old industrial district so it carries all of those hallmarks: big old brick buildings with huge frosted windows (now lofts), smoke stacks (not-in-use), wider streets, etc. Poble Nou has seen the most new construction of any barrio in Barcelona though. Tons of new high-rise condos line the highway that runs next to the many beaches. If you go straight south from Poble Nou metro station about 10 min (walking), then at the beach turn right and go around the big grassy knob you’ll be at Mar Bella and Bogatell (another fun Catalan word, “bo-ga-teyy”) which are total nude beaches. If you like looking at schlong and boobs then this is your spot. Other highlights of Poble Nou include the big penis building, known as Monumental (coincidence?)

Also, the only real “mall” in Barcelona is here in Poble Nou, called Diagonal. If you’re a runner then you’ll probably appreciate Poble Nou. I did when I lived there. The proximity to the beaches is great. Big downside: the metro line sucks. The yellow line running through the barrio is old and rickety. Higher crime here too, avoid the parks and beaches at night (pickpockets, scams, and, well, late-night predators looking for a hook up in the bushes (true)). If you’re into the loft thing then this is your barrio though.

Sarria and Sant Gervasi

At the diagonally opposite side of Barcelona from Poble Nou. Literally, it’s on the other end of (avenue) Diagonal. All apartments start at a million euros. Very nice, very safe, some might say beautiful, with tons of trees and parks. Sarria used to be its own little town so it’s got a cool pueblo feel to it. Very few tourists out here. Kinda snobby though. No good metro connections, but if you have the money to live out here then you’ll own a car anyway, plus there are the Ferro Carrils which are more like a regional metro, but they go downtown and connect to the metros pretty well. Did I mention how snooty these barrios are?


I’ve saved my favourite for last. Gracia. Oh Gracia how I adore thee, let me count the ways. Artsy, funky, unpretentious. Great expat scene, cool cafes, great plazas, diverse and quality restaurant scene… great metro connections and close to Parc Guell too! It’s super urban and hipster but beware of the anarkistas and okupas! No, just kidding, kinda. It’s a diverse mix of people though, a great soup of cultures like I’ve never seen anywhere else in the world. The one problem is the distance to the beaches, but you’ll be partying on roof-tops and sipping cafes at Plaça Vierreina so who cares? I won’t go on because I don’t want to send too many of the wrong kind of people there. No, it’s not for everyone, but nearly everyone finds something to like in Gracia. This is where your second apartment will be and then when you leave it you will long for it again and again.

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