Many travellers assume the best place to stay in Barcelona is Las Ramblas. But the city's most famous boulevard is also its busiest, with constant crowds, noise and expensive restaurants. By renting an apartment in a more authentic neighbourhood, however, you'll avoid tourist traps and experience a more down-to-earth stay in the Catalan capital. Here's our tips on the best areas to rent an apartment in Barcelona.
L'Eixample is an iconic Barcelona neighbourhood with some of the city's most famous landmarks. Meaning 'extension', L'Eixample was built to house a growing population from the former Old Town in the 19th century. Many buildings are designed in the modernist style, with Antoni Gaudí's La Pedrera a striking example. Gaudí's most spectacular masterpiece, the unfinished Sagrada Família, is another draw of this once bourgeois barrio.
Wide avenues cut through the neat, octagonal grid layout of the district and include Barcelona's biggest shopping streets. Elegant Passeig de Gràcia hosts luxury boutiques from brands like Louis Vuitton and Gucci. The L'Esquerra de l'Eixample area is known as 'Gaixample' for its numerous LGBT-friendly bars and clubs.
Often called the 'Brooklyn of Barcelona', El Born has the allure of staying in an old part of the city without the crowds. On winding cobblestoned streets, the fusion of old and new is reflected with modern galleries and cocktail bars hiding behind the facades of centuries-old buildings.
El Born Centre de Cultura i Memòria is an indicator of the rich history of the area. The former market is now an archaeological exhibition with remains dating from 1700. Another cultural highlight is Museu Picasso, which has more than 3,500 works by the artist. The modern face of El Born comes out at night, in trendy bars that only get started from 11pm.
Gràcia doesn't quite feel like its part of Barcelona - and indeed, for a long time it wasn't. Though only a short way from the top of the prominent Passeig de Gràcia avenue, the leafy suburb was its own town until the late 19th century. Narrow streets lined with independent grocery stores and boutiques lead to quiet, shaded plazas that add to the village-like vibe.
Gràcia's tranquil charm and growing reputation as an escape within the city has seen a younger crowd of creatives move in alongside older residents. A short walk from Gràcia, Park Güell draws crowds to Gaudí's unique mosaic sculptures. And the area also has a lesser-known Gaudí gem - Casa Vicens, the first house he designed in Barcelona.
Poblenou was once the gritty industrial heart of Barcelona. Today it's known as the city's most creative barrio. While the old smokestacks remain, abandoned factories have been converted into modern lofts, offices and galleries. The renovated Glòries Plaza is a symbol of Poblenou's transformation with a centre that includes The Design Museum of Barcelona.
Near Glòries Plaza is Encants Vells, Barcelona's oldest flea market, dating from the 14th century. The market was moved in 2013 to a new futuristic space with a mirrored canopy, under which you can search some 500 stalls for a bargain. Bogatell Beach, built for the 1992 Olympics, is the eastern border of Poblenou and a popular spot for sport or sunbathing.
Looking over the centre of Barcelona, Sarrià-Sant Gervasi is an upmarket neighbourhood with quiet parks and impressive houses. A favourite of wealthy retirees, it's away from the bustle but still within a 10-minute metro ride of the centre. Historically a village where Catalan's high society holidayed, this peaceful district is dotted with parks including Parc del Turó del Putxet, which has great views from the 178-metre-high hill it sits on.
Despite its slower pace, there is plenty to see in Sarrià-Sant Gervasi. The interactive CosmoCaixa Science Museum includes a recreated Amazonian rainforest and a planetarium. Opened in 1905, Tibidabo Amusement Park is a Barcelona institution - even if the retro rides won't give you white knuckles.
Previously known as one of the edgiest areas of Barcelona, El Raval is shaking off its sketchy reputation. A vibrant and multicultural barrio - just off Las Ramblas - here you'll find restaurants serving every type of cuisine, from traditional Catalan dishes to Asian tapas. See where they get their fresh produce at La Boqueria, a large market with more than 300 stalls of colourful fruit and hanging legs of jamón.
The cultural awakening extends to art too, and El Raval is home to the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA). Exhibitions change regularly and there are regular workshops and performances. El Raval also has a lively nightlife with many bohemian bars open until the early hours.
Find somewhere to stay in your perfect area by checking out these apartments in Barcelona