Barcelona is without a doubt a sought-after destination in Europe for many people from all over the world. This is mainly thanks to Gaudi and the city’s modernist architecture, laid-back culture, diverse cuisine and lively festivals.
A summer in Barcelona can therefore get incredibly busy but most of all fun as it’s so close to beautiful coastal beaches and small towns to simply take a trip or just relax in the one of the many parks while it still offers the sights and events of a big city, there is always something to do!
My decision to come to Barcelona was initially meant to be just a brief visit but I somehow ended up staying in Barcelona over 3 months which gave me enough time to take in the atmosphere and all that summer in this city has to offer. Since it has recently advanced into a hub for digital nomads, freelancers and location independent entrepreneurs, I was also excited to check out the incredible amount of coworking spaces and networking opportunities in the city.
Because I had nothing much planned beforehand, the biggest challenge initially was to find accommodation to stay medium-term in Barcelona. I wanted to be in a central location, not too far from the beach, nice cafés and tapas places. Yes, I wanted a decent place with a good Internet connection and nice flatmates! So with the whole city right at my feet, what would be the best way to find accommodation? The hunt was on.
What sort of accommodation are you looking for?
Living in your own or a shared apartment just like a local will certainly get you a better sense of the Barcelona way of life while also giving you ultimate flexibility! You could go grab some fresh ingredients from one of the many markets and try out some Mediterranean recipes whenever you want to, cycle around the city, or step right outside onto the lively streets of the old Fishermen’s neighborhood which you call your new home. You definitely don’t get that in a hotel or hostel and that’s why I would always opt for either of those two options below when I stay in a city for more than just a few days of visiting.
A shared flat
I was pretty positive I would start looking for a shared flat as I enjoy the social atmosphere of sharing with other people, maybe practice some Spanish and have some vino together, just as you do in Spain! Sharing an apartment is also a safe bet when it comes to renting something furnished and for a short or medium term stay as someone else in the apartment normally holds the contract and you will not have to worry about that either.
Your own apartment
Other options include your own studio or a one bedroom apartment which is probably your preferred option if you want to have more space, more privacy and comfort. Clarify what you want before you start looking as there are really gazillions of options and it will be much easier if you already have in mind what you want and don’t want.
Like air-conditioning or heating (it does get quite chilly if you’re planning to stay over winter). And I have seen heat waves in July with over 40 degrees and only just survived with a fan powering through all day and night. Because I also worked from home a lot in Barcelona, this was quite an issue for me as feeling drained from continuously being hot and sweaty is not the most productive environment really.
And what about a laundry inside the apartment? Parking on the street? Or an elevator to the 7th floor? Should the apartment be furnished or not? Just some stuff to keep in mind before you start the hunt.
Other things to take into consideration when finding accommodation in Barcelona
Barcelona can get quite noisy, even at night. And I am not only talking about party people coming home late at night which seems like a minor problem. But especially if you are noise sensitive, the more annoying thing is that the garbage is collected between 1:00-3:00 am depending on which neighborhood you are in.
When I lived in the Gothic Quarter there was almost no point to go to bed before 2:00 am as the streets get cleaned at night with a huge noisy vehicle scrubbing the alleyways. And since I lived across a supermarket, a fresh batch of groceries was delivered around 7:00 am in the morning. Not exactly the best place to live to catch a healthy sleep. My advice would be to check ahead what’s around your street and rather opt for room or flat going to the inside patio (called “jardín interior”) if you have a choice.
It’s helpful to have a time frame in mind how long you roughly want to stay in Barcelona. Renting for between 1 to 6 months is attractive because you can negotiate better rates than only staying short-term let alone paying each night individually as you would in a hotel. This way you can save money for what you really want to do and see in the city.
For example some quarters are more popular than others in summer like Barceloneta which is right next to the beach or those areas close to universities tend to get swamped with new students when the semester starts. So you will have more competition and probably pay a higher price here as well.
Exterior vs. interior window
Not all windows are created equal in Barcelona. If the room states to have a window you’d think that it will look out over the street, garden or park. In Barcelona many apartments have small interior windows which normally look into interior patios of roughly 6 square meters.
Sometimes you will even have to share this “view” with a neighbor and it doesn’t give you as much daylight as a normal window. But it can be incredibly quiet and maybe your neighbor has some sense of decoration for making the patio look pretty. So this might not be the worse choice.
Which is the best area to stay in Barcelona?
Eixample & Sarrià
Barcelona has many great quarters all with their own charming character. Eixample is a very popular area and known as one of the safest. It’s largely residential but still close to everything and has great public transport links. Sarrià is also known to be safe and it’s quite high up in the city so you can often rent a place where you get some great views over the rooftops or even until the ocean.
I initially lived in Sant Antoni near Plaza de España in a shared apartment on the 7th floor with a really old fashioned elevator rambling up and down. The room was decent size and had new IKEA furniture but the highlight was really the big windows opening onto a small balcony with a wonderful view all over the rooftops in the neighborhood. I could also see all the way to the famous Tibidabo Mountain from here!
The neighborhood of Sant Anoni has some very nice wine bars, brunch places and is very relaxing to live in while it also has a hip crowd of people. The location of my apartment was on Avenida Mistral, which is a calm and beautiful walking avenue without cars and lined with trees and small green parks. Plaza de España is only a few minutes by foot where you can find the Arenas de Barcelona Shopping Center as well as some of the cities big tourist attractions like the Magic Fountain and the Museu Nacional D’Art de Catalunya with its’ beautiful adjoining parklands.
El Poble Sec & El Raval
The districts El Poble Sec and El Raval both are a bit more alternative but you could most probably find a good spot to live here too. El Poble Sec lies very close to Montjuïc Mountain and its’ beautiful gardens and city views. The quarter also boasts with a fantastic street called Carrer de Blai where you can eat tasty tapas and especially pinchos starting from only €1 per piece.
The district of El Raval is a colourful mix of street art, culture and cool skaters. The Rambla de Raval is good for a stroll or to sit down for a drink and do some people watching. The streets are small, there are many bars and it’s very alive throughout the day. The area can get a little creepy at night though and I wouldn’t want to walk around here by myself.
The district of El Gotico is the most central of Barcelona you can possibly get and includes the famous tree-lined street La Rambla. I didn’t enjoy living in this quarter very much as it was fairly noisy and crowded with many tourists during summer. I guess it’s a personal choice, some people love it here, some just don’t. It is however very close to the water and the harbor of Barcelona with its’ pretty promenade walkways and of course Barceloneta beach.
I could also imagine that El Borne is a nice and central alternative to the Gothic Quarter as it’s just next door but a little less busy with many small cafés, boutiques, bars, galleries and houses the famous Picasso Museum among other smaller museums. El Born borders the biggest park in Barcelona, the Parc de la Ciutadella. Additionally, it’s very close to the beach which is a plus of course!
El Poblenou & Barceloneta
El Poblenou lies on the other side of the Parc de la Citudella and borders the Mediterranean sea in the south. While it’s been the industrial part of Barcelona in the past it now houses some very hip bars and restaurants and some fairly new residential and leisure spaces. You won’t find many tourists in the area. Rental prices also seem lower than in the city center while it’s still super close to it and the beach proximity make it especially attractive to live around here.
Barceloneta is the quarter between the beach and the harbor Port Vell, making it very attractive for tourists and locals alike as it is only a short walk into the city center. This area once used to be Barcelona’s Fisherman village and now houses apartments, tapas bars, cafés and sea food restaurants in the small alleyways which lead out to the beautiful sea front promenade and the popular Barceloneta beach.
Finally, I moved to Gràcia which has a wonderful mix of Catalan traditions and modern tendencies and is characteristic for its narrow alleys and many leafy plazas. Artists, students, families and expats alike roam the are area. Rents tend to be relatively cheap which is also due to many outdated houses around here. Gràcia is far away from the center to be more quiet and residential with little tourists and still close enough to everything as the metro or bus can take you anywhere fairly quickly. The neighborhood also has some great nightlife, plenty of shops and is famous for its traditional town festival Fiesta Major.
Gràcia is a fantastic area for all digital nomads coming to Barcelona because of the many uncrowded cafés with free Internet. And it’s still fast because not a hundred other tourists are on it with you at the same time. It’s also a great location because many coworking spaces have set up shop around here.
Towards the north of Gràcia is Barcelona’s most well-known park, Parc Güell. With it’s interesting and colorful sugar loaf architecture it’s well worth a visit and I’d recommend you to come here right around sunset, it’s just beautiful!
Finding medium-term accommodation in a shared flat
I am a big fan of booking a temporary stay few days upon my arrival and start looking locally for accommodation. Just to avoid agreeing to something blindly which may essentially not be what I am looking for. So I stayed in an Airbnb in the Gothic Quarter not far from the popular street La Rambla when I first arrived into Barcelona. Nice place, very friendly host, my room was out to the interior patio, so very quiet and I could walk to the Catedral de Barcelona as well as the harbor in only minutes.
I started looking for a shared place to stay on idealista, one of the biggest sites especially for shared flats and to find housemates. I also checked fotocasa and loquo, where you can find share houses and apartments as well as other things like local events, stuff for sale or jobs. I browsed around several Facebook groups for housing but eventually, believe it or not, I had a lead from couchsurfing who hooked me up with my soon-to-be landlord. And I had only updated my travel plans on the platform to say I was coming to Barcelona for a few months and looking for accommodation. How super nice!
Just two days later I moved to the lovely neighborhood of Sant Antoni into a newly renovated 3-bedroom apartment to share with two students. I paid 350 Euro a month. Typically, you can find a room in a shared flat for around 300 to 450 Euro monthly, depending on the area and facilities of course.
Eventually, I moved to a different apartment in Barcelona. In the Gothic Quarter. But this was definitely not my favorite even though it was huge and had an interior courtyard with a garden which is definitely not the standard in the city center. However, since my room wasn’t out to the backyard it was very noisy and I mostly slept with ear plugs. Not so cool.
Finally, I lived in a shared flat in Gràcia with a really nice Mexican girl. Since I’ve seen quite some areas of Barcelona, when I return to Barcelona in the future I personally would look around Gràcia and Sant Antoni and maybe also El Poblenou for a place to stay.
Finding medium-term accommodation securing your own apartment
Next time I visit Barcelona would also consider renting my own apartment because as nice as it is to share a space, it can also be a hassle at times. When you want to use the bathroom for example and someone is taking it over forever. Or when my friend came over to visit me for a couple of days. Renting an entire apartment can therefore be a great option if you are already in a group of friends or you know you will frequently have family and friends visiting (and who doesn’t want to visit Barcelona?!). That way it’s more comfortable to not share your living room and kitchen all the time. Oh and the wifi!
There are some good furnished and fully equipped studio to multiple bedroom options all over the city. The challenge yet again is finding them!
Like I mentioned earlier, I often times struggle to commit to something upfront which I have just seen online so that’s why I think it’s good to book something temporarily and take a look around upon my arrival. But this can be a challenge, especially as it might take you some time to find a good fit. You simply have to figure it all by yourself. Find the areas and sites to look for and maybe you don’t even speak the local language. If you are only planning to be around Barcelona for a few months it might not be worth the hassle to look online everyday and check out several places traveling all over the city. It might indeed be better to look for something ahead of time.
Many times a local rental agency like Apartment Barcelona can help you find a suitable place as they know the areas and rental market in Barcelona perfectly. Since they are local, they have loads of knowledge about short, medium and also long-term rentals and can assist with language barriers as well. It might give you additional peace of mind to know that there is always someone available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, no matter if you arrive late at night to Barcelona or have a problem in your apartment in the early morning. Even if the apartment doesn’t live up to your anticipated expectations, they will do their best to even offer you another apartment.
Lastly, you probably know how great it is to have someone local show you where to get the best tapas, the cheapest beer or find the best picnic spots in one of the many parks! You don’t get that when doing it all by yourself.
Typically, a nice 1-bedroom flat in Gràcia for two people will cost you around 800 to 1300 Euro monthly, depending on the apartments condition and furnishings. But you can also find studio apartments in Barceloneta starting from 440 to 550 Euro a month. If you rent with Apartment Barcelona for up to 3 months, there is no agency fee involved.
Additional advice when coming to Barcelona in high season/summer
Book ahead and skip the line
As with many cities around Europe, Barcelona gets quite busy in summer. I was lucky to arrive at the end of April so the city was still quiet and not many tourists had flooded the city yet so it was a little easier to find a place to stay. That being said, there are some shabby places and the rental market in Barcelona is a tough nut in itself especially if you are searching for a short to medium-term place all by yourself. Make sure to revamp your Spanish skills as not everyone is able to speak English.
Should you decide to arrive in the middle of summer it might indeed be a good idea to book ahead to secure a decent place as well as a chance to get an early booking discount. Rental prices in Barcelona are generally higher from May to October.
If you come a little prepared and know what you want to see and do in Barcelona, booking sightseeing visits in advance will probably get you a nice discount. For example if you want to visit the Sagrada Familia, booking ahead will not only give you a lower price but also save you from queuing up and you can simply skip the line on the day of your visit!
Buy a T-10 ticket for public transport
If you need some more travels tipps how to save while living in Barcelona, I’d definitely recommend buying a T-10 ticket for only 9,95 Euro to use on public transport as this will give you 10 trips on either the metro, train or bus which works out much cheaper than buying individual tickets for each journey.
Get the best value with a menú del día
I am also a big fan of the lunch menus which are served around midday from between 1 to 4pm. Look out for the “menú del día” which starts from around 7,50 to 10,00 Euro and will pretty much get you a 3-course menu. This includes a “primer plato” which could be anything from a cold or hot soup, a salad or small vegetable or pasta dish, followed by a “segundo plato” which is the main dish and normally includes some meat or fish with potatoes or another side. Finally, you’ll get a “postre o café”, so you will have a choice of deserts or a coffee. This normally includes one glass of house wine or a choice of soft drink. You can’t get better value for your money than that!
This blog post was brought to you in collaboration with Apartment Barcelona. All views and experiences are my own.