Areas and Suburbs in Barcelona
There are ten municipal districts in Barcelona, namely Cuitat Vella, L’eixample, Sants-Montjuic, Les Corts, Sarriá-Sant Gervasi, Gràcia, Horta-Guinardó, Nou Barris, Sant Andreu and Sant Marti. Each district is divided into zones, often named after the closest metro or train stop.
Each area of the city offers different facilities and options for housing, so depending on your personal circumstances and preferences there is no shortage of options for expats looking for a place to live in Barcelona. Below is a list of popular areas and suburbs for expats in Barcelona.
Pedralbes (district of Les Corts)
Pedralbes is an elegant residential area in the northwest of Barcelona, with wide avenues and green, open spaces. At close hand are the serene gardens of the Palau de Pedralbes, the hilly Parc de Cervantes with its playgrounds and rideable miniature electric train, the 12km-long Carretera de les Aigües with its spectacular views of the city (great for cycling, jogging or walking), the Reial Club Tennis Barcelona (founded in 1899, the club hosts the yearly international Conde de Godó tournament), and the beautifully preserved, ancient Reial Monestir Santa Maria Pedralbes (known as Monestir Pedralbes). Many apartment buildings here date from the 1970s, and have swimming pools, a doorman during the day, a watchman at night and garaging for two cars per apartment.
Pedralbes has fewer metro stations than more central areas. The bus network is reliable but not as well developed as in neighbouring Sarriá, so if living in Pedralbes, owning a car is recommended. This is a mainly residential area with very few shops and cafés. However, the closest supermarkets are only 10 minutes away by car.
This area is very close to many of the well-known English-speaking schools, such as Kensington School, St Peter’s, Oak House, and Benjamin Franklin International School. Pedralbes will therefore appeal to families and those wanting to be in a safe neighbourhood. The fact that you need a car and that it is very expensive makes it less appealing to younger expats.
Sarriá (district of Sarriá-Sant Gervasi)
Just to the east of Pedralbes, Sarriá is a pleasant residential area which is less up-market than its neighbour, but has a better choice of shops and restaurants. There is a mixture of older and newer apartment blocks, many of which have a day doorman. A few detached and semi-detached houses can be found in the hilly streets to the north of the area. Sarriá has a good municipal market, and the local supermarkets will deliver your groceries.
Close by are the Parc de Collserola (great for walking, jogging or cycling), Parc del Castell de L’Oreneta and the Jardins de la Villa Amèlia, two parks with very good children’s play areas. The FGC suburban train connects Sarriá to the centre of town, and the area is very well served by buses. This district is very convenient for the Benjamin Franklin International School, Oak House School, Le Lycée Français de Barcelone and the John Talabot School. Sarriá will therefore also appeal to families and those who want to be in a safe neighbourhood and close to international schools.
Tres Torres (district of Sarriá-Sant Gervasi)
Tres Torres is an agreeable residential area in the northwest corner of Barcelona, and quiet both during the day and at night. Most apartment blocks employ doormen and provide garage space for two cars with each unit. The area is served by the FGC suburban train and there is an excellent bus network, but metro stops are scarce. There is a good municipal market and some small supermarkets, and the shopping area of Avenue Diagonal is just down the road.
Close by, Plaça Ferran Casablancas offers a good children’s play area. The John Talabot School is on your doorstep, and Oak House and Benjamin Franklin International schools are only a five-minute car ride away.
Tres Torres is not recommended for young people without a car, as you are a bit outside the city centre.
St Gervasi (district of Sarriá-Sant Gervasi)
To the north of the old city, just above L’eixample and west of Gràcia, St Gervasi is one of the most central districts of Barcelona. Shopping possibilities are unlimited, with a good combination of old and new boutiques on your doorstep. There is also no shortage of small bars and restaurants. Rental prices are relatively low, but parking can be troublesome. Many apartment buildings offer one car parking space, and most don’t have a resident doorman.
The FGC suburban train connects St Gervasi to Plaça Catalunya and bus routes cross the district in all directions. As this area is very central, walking can also be an option. The John Talabot School is close by in Les Tres Torres.
Esquerra Eixample (district of L’Eixample)
South of St Gervasi and nearer to the heart of the old city, Esquerra Eixample (The Left Extension) is a busy area with many restaurants, bars and shops. Eixample is divided into a right- and left-hand section (Dreta and Esquerra) but both have the same octagonal grid formation that is so typical of Barcelona. Apartments generally don’t have a garage in the building, but you can sometimes rent one in a parking complex nearby. Many apartment blocks don’t have a doorman. The FGC suburban train, metro and buses provide good transport links.
There are three buildings designed by Gaudi close by, and La Rambla de Catalunya with its perfect low-angle view of mount Tibidabo is fantastic for walking. However, parks and children’s play areas are scarcer here and most of the recommended schools lie to the northwest, so this is a district better suited to those without children.
Vila Olimpica (district of Sant Marti)
Originally built to house the athletes for the 1992 Olympics, Vila Olimpica is very close to the pleasure port with its array of bars and restaurants. The beach is also on hand, and there are opportunities for running, cycling, roller blading, sailing and wind surfing. The Parc de la Cuitadella is nearby, and there’s a new Water Spa Complex near the sea front. The area attracts both tourists and locals, and tends to get busy on weekends.
Most apartment buildings here have very good light, are three or four floors high, and also provide a community garden and swimming pool. Quality was sometimes sacrificed in the rush to finish them, and sound insulation can be poor. Nevertheless, rents are expensive. There are local supermarkets, shops and a cinema, but the best international schools are at least an hour away. The metro and bus services connect the area to the centre of town, but you will need to change there for destinations in the north or west of the city.
St Just Desvern and Esplugues de Llobregat
Located to the northwest of the city, St Just Desvern and Esplugues de Llobregat are inner suburbs that adjoin Barcelona at Les Corts and Sarriá-Sant Gervasi. They are spacious areas with plenty of green spaces, tennis clubs, and even horse riding facilities. Both are popular with expatriates and convenient for the American School of Barcelona.
A car is essential here: there are no metros or trains, and buses to the centre of Barcelona take over an hour. However, traffic congestion can be a real problem when driving to work. These suburbs are completely self-sufficient, with plenty of supermarkets and small, traditional shops.
Castelldefels and Gava
Castelldefels and Gava lie 15 to 20km south of Barcelona, close to some fine sandy beaches that fill with city dwellers in summer. Weekends can be very busy as people from a wide area flock to the popular seafood restaurants. Accommodation is mainly in the form of houses, some of which are partitioned off as summer apartments without heating facilities.
Trains in and out of Barcelona are convenient and frequent, reaching the city centre in less than 20 minutes. Several shopping malls can be reached by car in 15 minutes, as can the airport. Castelldefels is home to the British School of Barcelona.
Moving further down the Costa Daurada, Sitges is a beach resort located 30km south of Barcelona. It’s famous for its seafront promenade and seafood restaurants, and has a lively village atmosphere. On weekends, people from Barcelona flood in to enjoy the beach, food and the art galleries and boutiques. Sitges is also a popular holiday destination for the gay community.
There are houses and apartments available in the town, and prices are generally similar to those in Barcelona. Trains to and from the city are very frequent, and take around 30 minutes. By car, there is a toll highway or a longer, winding road along the coast.
This area is convenient for ESCAAN Anglo Catalan School in Sitges, and The British School of Barcelona in Castelldefels.
Sant Cugat del Vallès
Sant Cugat del Vallès is located 12km north of Barcelona. It’s situated behind Mount Tibidabo and the Collsera Natural Reservation and linked to the city by a tunnel. Frequent trains also connect it to the centre of Barcelona in just over 20 minutes. Sant Cugat del Vallès is popular with American and French expatriates.
Sant Cugat has its own cinemas, shops, concert hall, golf course and sports clubs. There is also a 20km long cycle route leading into the Collsera Parc. Its detached houses, with gardens, and occasionally swimming pools, are ideal for families with children. The Benjamin Franklin International School runs a bus service for pupils in the area.