Spain’s second largest city is coastal, cosmopolitan and one of Europe’s most visited destinations. Barcelona is truly a cultural hotbed, home to world-renowned food, art, design, music and more.
Strolling through Barcelona offers delights for all the senses. A bakery smells of buttery sweets. A musician strums her guitar. Architectural details grab the eye. We recommend skipping the well-trodden Las Ramblas in favor of seeing some lesser-known, locally loved parts of the city. Here are some of our favorite neighborhoods that are best explored on foot and with a curious mind.
One of the buzziest neighborhoods in Barcelona offers up great sights day and night. El Poble-Sec is the area between the hill of Montjuïc and the port. The neighborhood is packed with cultural highlights and exceptional dining.
- Peruse the handmade ceramics selection at Turbot Design with an organic cinnamon bun in hand from Horno Santa Madrona.
- Then, get your nature fix at one of Europe’s largest cactus gardens, Jardins de Mossèn Costa i Llobera. The garden comes with a view of the sea. While you’re in the park, snap a photo of the Greek-style amphitheater Teatre Grec, built in 1929. The Festival Grec takes place here with cultural programming throughout the summer.
- Also in the park is the avant-garde building that houses the Fundació Joan Miró, home to the world’s largest collection of works by the artist. Keep your artistic spirit high with a stroll to the renowned contemporary gallery CaixaForum in a restored factory.
El Poble-Sec’s energetic vibe lasts all day and night. Enjoy a meal at some of our favorite restaurants: Bar Seco for ethically sourced food and drinks, Xemei for true Venetian cuisine or Casa de Tapes Cañota for Galician seafood tapas. Top off your neighborhood exploration with a late-night drink and a jazz soundtrack at Malevo.
Ritzy Eixample Esquerra is located just west of Barcelona’s city center. You’ll quickly notice the orderly grid layout of the streets and elegant 19th century architecture.
- Eixample Esquerra is home to gastronomic hub Mercat de Sant Antoni. Built in 1882, the market today houses more than fifty food stalls, several restaurants and clothing stands. A flea market pops up on Sunday mornings outside the building.
- At Mercat de Sant Antoni, we recommend sampling the famous Catalan charcuterie from Escofet Oliver and salted cod from Masclans Orígens.
- Around the corner is the cozy Barna Brew. Settle in for a homemade Belgian-Catalan craft beer.
- Nicknamed “Gaixample,” the neighborhood is densely packed with LGBTQ-friendly hotels and nightlife. Explore the area between Carrer Balmes, Gran Via, Carrer Urgell and Carrer Aragó for inclusive fun (though the whole city is a top LGBTQ destination).
- Your shopping fix is sated in none other than Barcelona’s former bullfighting ring, now a multi-story shopping mall. Centro Comercial Las Arenas contains more than 100 stores, a cinema, fitness center and rooftop for 360° views of the city.
Barrio Gótico, the Gothic Quarter, is one of the oldest parts of the city. In fact, the Museum of the History of Barcelona has an underground exhibition of Roman ruins that you can visit beneath the Plaça del Rei. The Gothic Quarter is an ideal part of town to wander (above and below ground). Explore the nooks and crannies of this neighborhood as you’ll find little shops, restaurants and plazas around every corner.
- You can’t miss the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia. The cathedral was constructed between the 13th and 15th centuries, and is a striking example of Roman Catholic architecture.
- The Plaça Reial is one of the most famous squares in the city, now home to several bars and clubs. Pop into the charming Els Quatre Gats café that three artists opened in 1897. The place has served Pablo Picasso, Antoni Gaudi and many other notable artists.
- For shopping, Carrer Avinyó is a street lined with hip, independent boutiques. We like trying on espadrilles at La Manual Alpargatera, and scouring the vintage and second-hand selection at The Rent Shop.
Barcelona is a city for exploring slowly and on foot. Let the tapas bars, boutiques, breathtaking architecture and Mediterranean views guide you as you wander through town. We’re thrilled to be opening the Kimpton Vividora, our first Spanish hotel, in the Gothic Quarter at the end of November.