Sadly, we are almost at the end of our three months in Barcelona in Spain. We have thoroughly enjoyed our time by the Mediterranean.
During our time here we have stayed in three apartments, each for a month and each in a different area of the city. Moving every month combined with the usual going out and seeing stuff has allowed us to cover a lot of ground while getting to know some different areas of Barcelona.
Pro tip, splitting a long stay between several different parts of town is a great way to see a lot more of a new place simply by going about your day to day routine.
These are the areas where we stayed. Horta, El Clot and Badalona.
First up is...
Barcelona is sandwiched between the Mediterranean and the Serra de Collserola mountain range. Horta can be found in the foothills of the mountain range.
Steep streets and beautiful views are the order of the day. There are plenty of cliched yet very beautiful scenes of flat roofed houses stretching up hill sides. The roads are often steep enough that walking home with your shopping is more than enough exercise for the day.
Horta is fairly inexpensive and has an abundance of small restaurants, cafes and supermarkets. These are almost all of the smaller, non-chain variety. Lunch options were particularly abundant with many restaurants offering a menú del día or menu of the day. This typically gets you two plates of food plus bread, wine or beer, and dessert. Menu del dias were far more common in Horta than anywhere else we came across. They were also typically a couple of euro cheaper in Horta.
This is also the most Spanish area that we stayed in. The streets were often filled with pensioners chatting in small groups, people drinking tiny cups of coffee and smoking cigarettes, and groups of friends enjoying beer and tapas in the small bars that are on just about every block.
Using the metro we could reach central Barcelona easy enough but you are definitely out in the 'burbs of Barcelona. I don't think we noticed a single other tourist during our month here. If you want to work on your Spanish or Catalan, Horta would be a great area to base yourself as you are going to use it every day. People who spoke no English were quite common so you are pushed to learn.
This was my personal favorite area. Recommended for anyone wanting to work on their language skills or anyone who just wants a comfortable daily routine in a friendly relaxed environment.
This is far more central. From our apartment we could walk to both the Arc de Triomf and La Sagrada Familia. There was also a large modern shopping center nearby containing a Carrefour, a giant supermarket that also sells clothes, electronics and pretty much everything it seems.
Everything was slightly more expensive in Clot. Not a lot, maybe 10% here and 20% there. There seemed to be a lot more working aged people hustling to and fro during the week. Young families were also much more common with the local parks often being filled with mums pushing prams in the sunshine.
Clot felt somehow a little less Spanish. Most of the buildings are modern, shopping centers are pretty much the same the world over and menu del dias were much harder to come by so leisurely two hour lunches with wine became a bit of a special event. There were moments were we forgot we weren't in Australia.
Our Spanish speaking ability plateaued while in Clot. We just weren't having the daily interactions with people. People in Clot rarely asked about our baby as they had in Horta and supermarket staff tended towards surly indifference. When we did talk to people they would quickly realize that we aren't actually Spanish and would often switch to English. It was at once both a relief and a little frustrating to no longer be pushed to improve every day.
Clot was Tanya's favorite area due to its proximity to central Barcelona and a lot of Barcelona's attractions.
A coastal satellite town of Barcelona that now appears to have merged into the growing city. Badalona has a structure similar to many beach side towns. The area immediately near the ocean is beautiful and filled with restaurants and expensive looking apartments. A few blocks inland and things are less glamorous. Not bad, just not postcard material. Lets put it that way.
Badalona does however have its own distinctive charm. The beachfront is genuinely beautiful. We are able to walk along it to reach a supermarket and a variety of restaurants. Its nice to have such a scenic walk form part of your daily routine.
The Badalona Museum was a pleasant surprise. We weren't expecting much and were mostly using it as an excuse to go for a walk. When we entered the museum however we were greeted with the preserved ruins of the Roman town of Baetulo, hidden away beneath Badalona's streets. If you are in the area definitely check it out.
Although Badalona's location appears quite remote it is well connected to the rest of Barcelona by the metro and the tram. The tram is a particularly pleasant way to get into town.
Although Badalona as a whole isn't super impressive the beach is really nice. Sadly we are here in winter which may explain why the place feels a little flat. In summer I suspect it would be far more bustling.
If you are going to be in Barcelona when its not winter Badalona would be well worth a look.
Ok, so we didn't actually stay here but we did walk through it and stopped in for lunch a few times and felt it deserved a special mention. Poblenou is immediately next door to Clot so it has a lot of the same location related benefits with the added advantage of being a little closer to the ocean.
Poblenou has one of the nicest walking streets that we came across. It is a long pedestrian only street lined with restaurants and cafes. As an added bonus if you wander all the way along it, it will take you to a very nice beach.
This area seemed to bring together the convenience of Clot with the charm of Horta. It felt like this might come with a slightly higher price tag but that is just a guess.
Where To Live In Barcelona
Barcelona is a varied and interesting city. Far more than we realized before we arrived. Choose your area and choose your experience.
If you want modern convenience El Clot is probably your pick. If you want a less modern more Spanish experience choose Horta. Poblenou seems to be a good compromise. And wherever you stay try to be near a subway station. That makes a huge difference and makes it very convenient to get around this wonderful city.