Barcelona city layout

The neighborhoods and major streets of Barcelona

Barcelona is another of those burgs with a split personality.

The Ciutat Vella (Old City) is a hexagon of narrow streets nudged up against the harbor. The massive street grid that makes up the new city (which, for touristic purposes, consists mostly of L'Eixample) surrounds the old one.

Barcelona's Old City
The famed La Rambla (Les Rambles in Catalan) bisects the Ciutat Vella, running from the harbor north to Plaça Catalunya.

La Rambla is a wide, tree-shaded boulevard taken over by street entertainers, flower stalls, cafes, and the bustle of the city. (It techncially runs northwest, but most city maps are oriented with the port flat across the bottom and this street pointing straight up and down, so it feels like it runs north-south.)

The street degenerated a bit during the fascist Franco era earlier in this century, as did much of old Barcelona, but has regained its footing and respectability as new businesses revive the Ciutat Vella.

To the east of La Rambla lies the Barri Gòtic, the medieval heart of town around the cathedral. This area was the site of the original Roman city, and it's the most fun area for wandering. Its narrow lanes and old buildings are filled with shops, museums, and restaurants.

The Barri Gòtic's eastern edge is Via Laietana, and from this wide street over to the Passeig de Picasso stretches the Barri del la Ribera.

Formerly fallen on bad times, the Ribera is now a trendy district of art galleries, bars and clubs, and grand old mansions, and has recently been rechristened as El Born (sometimes "El Borne"), especially if you're talking about the southernmost part of is between the Barri Gotic and scenic, lake-spotted Parc de la Ciutadella.

Just south of El Born, on a triangular peninsula jutting into the harbor, the former fishing village of Barceloneta teems with activity, seafood restaurants, and tapas bars.

To the west of Las Ramblas, down near the harbor front, is El Raval, a historically seedy neighborhood of prostitutes, beggars, and thieves. It's improved significantly in the new millenium, and makes an intriguing walk... by day.

That said, I still would hestitate to venture there after dark, especially in its southern reaches near the port (which retains some of its rough, sailors-in-port vibe and was historically referred to as Barri Xinés—a somewhat fanicful moniker, as there was nothing particularly "Chinese" about it).


The westnermost egde of El Raval is marked by Avienda Pral-lel boulevard.

Beyond this, the becoming-trendy residential district of Poble Sec climbs the lower slopes of the hill of Montjuïc, site of the World's Fair and Olympic parks and nost home to several museums and other sights.

Barcelona's New City

The Plaça de Catalunya at Las Ramblas' north end is the center of Barcelona, dividing the old city from the new.

The grid of streets spreading north from this plaza is known as the Eixample. Its grandest boulevard extends north from Plaça de Catalunya: Passeig de Gracia, lined by high-end boutiques, cafes, nice hotels, and some of the best Modernisme (Art Nouveau) architecture in town.

The neighborhood's main avenue is the uninventively named Avienda Diagonal, which cuts diagonally across the grid.

Beyond the Eixample, the thoroughly Catalán neighborhood of Gràcia expands to the north, where Castilian truly is a foreign language and plenty of colorful local nightspots liven things up.

Tips & Links

How long should I spend in Barcelona?

If you're just passing through, I'd give Barcelona at least two full days.

It is a lovely place to relax, however, so you might be happier spending 3-4 days.

» Barcelona itineraries

Useful links & resources


Barcelona tourist info: (info office), (events mag); (regional info),

Sightseeing passes: Barcelona Card (20+ sights; transport; discounts), Museum Pass (6 sights)

Tours & activities:,,,,,


Hotels:,, Priceline.comPartner,


Apartments:,,,,, Homeaway.comhomeaway

Hostels & campgrounds:,,,




Trains: (throughout Europe), (within Spain), (throughout Europe),

Public transport: Barcelona Card (free transport; sightseeing); Search all public transit:; Metro/Bus:; Tram:; Light rail:; Taxi:

Car rentals:,,,,,,

Get a sightseeing / transport pass

Barcelona has two types of sightseeing/transport passes:

There's a full description of both passes here, but in brief: The only museum covered fully by the Museum Pass that is not also covered by the Barcelona Card is the Museu Picasso (where you get only a 20% discount with the Barcelona Card).

You can also get discounts (usually 10% to 20%) on a wide range of sights, activites, and shows if you have a hop-on/hop-off bus ticket.

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This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in October 2013.
All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 1998–2013 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.