Never have I been to one place and exclaimed so often; “Wow, that’s weird, but it’s so cool…”
Such is the essence of Barcelona. Here old world grandeur meets modern design in a city that’s still growing, still forming and still moulding itself into one of Europe’s great destinations. Visit now, or in a few years time, and the place will have metamorphosed into something different, getting ever more spectacular with the passing of time.
From the flowing lines of Gaudi’s apartments, to the abandoned project that is Park Güell, the dripping-sand-like structure of Sagrada Familia, the cobbled streets and imposing cathedrals of the Gothic Quarter and the glass modern facades of the beachfront, Barcelona has so much to see and do.
But where are the best places to stay when exploring this unique city? Here are just a few of my favourites:
The charming narrow streets of the old part of Barcelona attract many a tourist. While it is easy to get lost in these winding roads, the actual Gothic Quarter extends only for a few blocks. It is home to many restaurants, cafes and quirky shops but the trendy nature of this area also tends to raise the prices, of not only accommodation but also eating out. The Cathedral of Barcelona is found here and is well worth a visit, while the new marina area is located just on the outskirts of the Gothic Quarter. Lining the road between the Gothic Quarter and the marina are a number of upmarket hotels. The Serras is a great option here – it is a boutique property so you won’t feel like just another one of the crowd and has a fabulous rooftop bar with a pool. Even if you don’t stay here be sure to visit for a drink or a bite to eat when the sun goes down!
Gracia is a trendy neighbourhood area that juxtaposes commercial districts against high-fashion shopping streets and high-rise apartment blocks against other-worldly architecture. Stay here and you’ll find yourself within easy walking distance of a number of Gaudi’s apartments including Casa Batlló, Casa Mila and Casa Vicens. Gracia is really recommended for longer stays or for anyone that really wants to feel like a local during their stay in Barcelona. It’s also a very central location, with the Sagrada Famila and Park Güell both being a 20 minute walk away while plenty of bus and train options link spots further away. I highly recommend Aparthotel Silver in the Gracia neighbourhood. This delightful apartment-style hotel offers superb value for money for European standards, with large rooms and amazing service. They have a cosy lounge with honesty bar, a little garden and breakfast area and all of their rooms come equipped with a kitchenette so you can save bucks by self-catering. Some of their rooms also offer large terraces which are the perfect place to relax with a glass of Cava and rest tired feet after a day out exploring.
If you visit Barcelona in summer you’ll want to be within walking distance of the beach. If sunshine and sand are your reasons for visiting then La Barceloneta is where you want to be. Set between the new marina, the Meditteranean sea and the trendy up and coming El Born district, La Barceloneta easily combines the perfect beach holiday with a range of restaurants, bars, nightclubs and cafes right on your doorstep. As the area is very fashionable, it can be pretty noisy, especially at the height of summer, but it this vibrant atmosphere that is one of the draw cards of staying here. To really appreciate this area at its best, it’s recommended to try and book a local apartment. However with Barcelona, like many other cities around Europe, cramping down on the likes of Airbnb these can be tricky to come by, as expensive as hotels and need to be booked far in advance.
If you arrive in Barcelona late or need to leave early, the El Prat neighbourhood is a great choice. It’s located only one metro stop away from the airport and indeed there is even a park in the neighbourhood where you can lie on benches and watch the planes coming into land just metres above your head. El Prat has a fun, community vibe with a great spirit. Find yourself here on a weekend and you’ll be swept away by locals on the street as they cheer on soccer games, sing and dance or even engage in building a casteller – the Catalonia form of human pyramids. Mucha Masia is a hostel here that offers affordable accommodation in dormitory or private rooms. Run by passionate locals, they have lots of information to offer on things happening around town and what to do and where to eat etc. If you have a few hours to spare they also have bicycles to hire so you can explore the town, venture into the beautiful natural reserve nearby or head down to the beach for a few hours.
Janine Avery is the brains behind 5 Star Stories, a digital marketing company offering bespoke content and social media services to the luxury and travel trade. Janine is first to confess that she has been bitten by the travel bug… badly. Raised by a menagerie of Artists, Creatives, Scientists, Researchers, Biologists and Botanists she is a lover of all things travel from basic tenting with creepy crawlies to lazing in luxury lodges. Among her other passions, dabbling in digital marketing, spreading messages on social media, and taking audiences on a journey through her travel stories rank high on her list of priorities.