Barcelona is one of Europe’s most iconic destinations, and also one of the most well-visited thanks to its heady combination of the best of both city and beach life. Many people tend to stay on or around its most famous street, La Rambla, and it’s easy to not travel much further than this huge boulevard.
While it’s definitely worth exploring, there’s plenty more on offer. From kick-ass aerial views, to trendy tree-lined squares. It would be a shame not to venture a bit further out. If you’re heading to Barcelona but want to see more than the usual tourist hotspots then check out these areas to hit that aren’t La Rambla.
Formerly a village in its own right that was absorbed into the city proper as it expanded, Gracia still retains its small-town feel. Its narrow, tree-lined streets are packed full of tiny boutiques, hipster wine bars, and independent restaurants as well as numerous pretty squares with chilled-out atmospheres. Gracia is one of the trendiest areas in the city and yet manages to pull it off without feeling pretentious. While there are no attractions as such here, it’s got a great laid back night scene and some of the best eateries in the city.
2. El Born
Just beyond the narrow, sun-starved labyrinth of the Gothic Quarter in the centre of Barcelona is the little oasis of El Born. Unlike the Gothic Quarter, the streets are noticeably more open, leafy, and bright, which lend themselves to the outdoor cafe and bar scene which has developed here in recent years. Centred around the beautiful Passeig de Born, the area boasts numerous al fresco dining opportunities, some of the best cocktail bars in the city, and a vibrant and young feel. El Born is undoubtedly one of the more upmarket areas in Barcelona, with stunning architecture to match.
3. El Raval
Just off La Rambla lies the area with undoubtedly the seediest reputation in Barcelona, El Raval. Formerly known as a kind of den of iniquity, with prostitution, drugs, and petty crime being rife, over the past few decades that’s started to change. It’s undergone heavy regeneration in recent years and is building a name as more of a cultural hotspot. You’ll find great street art, plenty of small studios, galleries bookshops, plus an abundance of cheap, ethnic restaurants. However, while the majority of the most unsavoury activities have been cleared out, it definitely still retains a certain edge to it.
4. Poble Sec
In the shadow of Montjuic, one of Barcelona’s characteristic surrounding hills, lies the largely residential area of Poble Sec. It’s just minutes away from many of the city’s top attractions including the Magic Fountains, the old bullring, and the stunning Montjuic Castle. It’s also where you’ll find the restaurant-lined Carrer de Blai, the best street in Barcelona to sample one of its must-try foods, pinchos. Essentially they’re bite-sized portions of food secured to a piece of bread with a cocktail stick. However, they’re a speciality of the Catalan region and the sheer variety of toppings on offer is sure to boggle your mind.
5. El Carmel
This hillside neighbourhood is quite unique in Barcelona since it’s home to a largely Spanish rather than Catalan population. This was as a result of mass migration during General Franco’s rule and gives the area an interesting and individual feel. The main reason to come to El Carmel though, is to visit what is probably Barcelona’s very best lookout, the Bunkers. Built to help defend the city from aerial attacks during the civil war, they now provide what have to be the most stunning 360 panoramic views across the city and beyond.
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