Are you a solo female traveler heading to Barcelona and wondering which Barcelona neighborhood to select as your home base?
My first visit to Barcelona was in 2004, when I packed my bags and “moved” to the capital of Catalonia the day after my university graduation ceremony.
I only ended up staying in the city for about two months, as I quickly realized the expat labor market was saturated and as a twenty-year-old with nada Spanish language skills I wasn’t going to find a fulfilling job.
However, Barcelona nestled itself in my heart and remains of my favorite cities in the world. I’ve returned twice since 2004. The first time I introduced my mom to the city, and the second, more recent time, I visited a local friend.
It’s undeniable that Barcelona is a fantastic city for solo female travelers. Nearly all of the city’s most important attractions are located within walking distance of Plaça Catalunya, and a fast walker could cross the city center by foot in less than two hours.
Although everything in Barcelona is quite central, it’s still important to stay in the Barcelona neighborhood that best suits your personality and travel style. Would you prefer to be close to the beach or close to museums? Are you looking for Catalan history or contemporary multiculturalism?
Here’s my breakdown of the most popular neighborhoods in Barcelona for solo female travelers, along with a few local secrets in each area.
Barceloneta was established in the eighteenth century as a fishing village and is surrounded on two sides by water. It is primarily a residential neighborhood with narrow streets leading to small plazas filled with children playing football and elderly locals feeding the pigeons.
The far north end of Barceloneta’s beach (near Frank Gehry’s stunning goldfish sculpture) is home to a number of popular nightclubs, while the south end is home to some of city’s best seafood restaurants.
Barceloneta’s expansive selection of private apartment rentals makes it an ideal home base for travelers wanting to experience a slice of Catalan life. One of the hottest rentals is the Barceloneta Ramblas Apartments, a contemporary apartment right on Barceloneta’s main waterfront street (Passeig de Joan de Borbo). Make your reservation early as it tends to book up quickly.
After you’ve checked in, head over to the tiny BarCeloneta Sangria Bar (Carrer de Sevilla, 70), where they serve fifteen different flavors of house sangrias (my favorite was the Cleopatra, made with organic cava, local craft gin, strawberries and rose petals). They also offer vegan versions of traditional Spanish tapas, which is a godsend for travelers who aren’t into jamon iberico.
The Barri Gotic, or Gothic Quarter, is by far the most mysterious Barcelona neighborhood.
Staying in the Barri Gotic means staying in the heart of Old Town Barcelona, close to the medieval cathedral, ancient Roman towers and former royal palaces.
I love staying in the Barri Gotic because it means you’ve got shopping, dining and accommodation at your doorstep, as well as convenient access to the green, yellow and red metro lines for hopping around the city. One popular hotel choice here is The Moods Catedral Hostal Boutique, where solo female travelers can opt for inexpensive interior rooms with windows into the inner courtyard or splurge on a more luxurious exterior room with a balcony overlooking Barcelona’s busy street life.
While the Barri Gotic is generally very safe (many businesses stay open until the wee hours), you’ll want to keep an eye on your belongings in crowded places, as its popularity with tourists has led to its popularity with pick-pockets.
You can get some divine protection from pickpockets by shopping for sweet treats at Caelum, a pastry shop and café serving baked goods and hot chocolate that is hand-produced by local nuns. Don’t be fooled by the tiny upstairs shop – there is a larger seating area downstairs (in a former medieval bathhouse). If you’re more into magic, make sure to check out El Bosc de les Fades, a fairy-themed cafe and bar that is one of the best bars in Barcelona!
Eixample is one of central Barcelona’s largest districts, which means it has something for every kind of tourist. This is where I lived during my two months in Barcelona, so it still has a very special place in my heart (even though on my last visit I could no longer remember which of the apartment buildings on Carrer Rossello I had once called home!).
The southwest part of the neighborhood is situated at the base of Montjuic mountain, and allows for easy access to Plaça d’Espanya and the Magic Fountain’s water and light show.
In the center of Eixample is home to some of Anton Gaudi’s most famous buildings, like Casa Mila and Casa Batllo, as well as the city’s most upscale shopping street, Passeig de Gracia.
In the northeast part of Eixample you’ll find the world-renowned Sagrada Familia church, as well as a small neighborhood of shops, restaurants and rental apartments that have established themselves in the church’s shadow.
This Barcelona neighborhood is home to many of the city’s best hostels. The huge Generator Hostel Barcelona is located here, and its lantern-themed bar is a great place to connect with other travelers. For a homier experience, Barcelona Central Garden Hostel feels more like a traditional apartment built around a common living room and sunny outdoor patio. Both of these popular Barcelona hostels offer a mix of shared and private rooms. Of course, if hostels aren’t your thing, Eixample has some cool (and affordable!) guesthouses and boutique hotels like Guesthouse Magatzem. Located near the little-known modernist Parque Joan Miro, Guesthouse Magatzem has both single and double hotel rooms, a chic lobby area and fresh-baked pastries and coffee for guests every morning.
On my last visit to Barcelona, my friends took me out to Raim 1886 (Carrer del Progrés, 48), a classic Cuban mojito bar that is open every night of the year (yes, even Christmas Eve!) and that draws an eclectic crowd of locals. My friends even spotted a famous Spanish actor!
Also called La Ribera, El Born is situated between the Barri Gotic and Barceloneta.
El Born is widely recognized as the heart of Barcelona’s contemporary art and design scene. It is home to the Museu Picasso and the ornate Palau de la Musica Catalana, as well as several Gothic churches, innovative food markets and the sprawling Parc de la Ciutadella.
El Born is the perfect neighborhood for solo female travelers who want a central location but less touristic feel. It’s still possible to experience an intimate hotel stay at one of El Born’s affordable guesthouses, like the El Born Guest House by Casa Consell (recently opened in February 2018 and already highly-rated by travelers) or the Som Nit Born (located in a heritage building dating back to 1836).
It’s not exactly a secret, but you’d be crazy to stay in this Barcelona neighborhood without visiting El Xampanyet (Carrer de Montcada, 22), a Barcelona institution pouring glass after glass of house cava (its name is a throwback to champagne, of course), local craft beers and traditional tapas.
Fifteen years ago, El Raval would have appeared on a “where to avoid” list, not a “where to stay” list.
This Barcelona neighborhood, located on the opposite side of La Rambla from the Barri Gotic, has shed its reputation as the city’s dingy red light district and emerged as the heart of Barcelona’s multicultural community. Nearly half of the residents who live in El Raval were born in other countries, so the streets are packed with affordable ethnic restaurants, supermarkets and service providers.
Travelers often visit the attractions along El Raval’s border with La Rambla, such as Mercat de la Boqueria and the MACBA contemporary art museum, but few venture further west to discover the cross-cultural world within.
Now, numerous independent boutique hotels line the district’s eastern edge, including Hostal Marenostrum (a friend of mine stayed here and was impressed with the included breakfast buffet) and Hostel Operaramblas (where all rooms have recently been renovated – a refreshing change in a city where some hotel rooms are a little too antique!). If you’re a solo female traveler in Barcelona who’s on a budget, but still wants an upscale experience, El Raval could be perfect for you.
El Raval has a few restaurants that cater to vegetarian and vegan travelers. I highly recommend Teresa Carles (Carrer de Jovellanos, 2), which offers a set lunch menu based on the freshest seasonal ingredients, house organic wine and communal tables where solo travelers can chat with other lovers of good food. Check out my post about my dining experience at Teresa Carles!
Barcelona’s Coolest Neighborhoods, Summarized
Every Barcelona neighborhood has its own distinct charm and suits a different female travel style.
Barceloneta is the best neighborhood in Barcelona for solo travelers who want to stay close to the city’s beautiful beaches.
Barri Gotic is the top choice for street-smart female travelers who want to be in the heart of the action.
Eixample is ideal for solo female travelers who are on a budget, but still want to see some of the city’s most iconic architecture.
El Born is the perfect Barcelona neighborhood for boho, artsy and creative travelers in Barcelona.
El Raval offers solo female travelers on a budget a higher-end experience at a lower price point.
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