The Best Neighborhood in Barcelona?
Many would vote for La Rambla, a barrio surrounding the 1.2 km tree lined pedestrian street of the same name, packed with tourists and locals alike, and anchored by the huge open air market dating as far back as 1217, La Boqueria.. Others might choose the trendy Born neighborhood or beachside Barceloneta. But for us, the best neighborhood in Barcelona is the up-and-coming underdog, Sant Pere.
Sant Pere is the oldest district in Barcelona, assembled around a monastery and plaza that’s over 1100 years old. Roman buildings, narrow streets, and medieval walls set the scene. With the amazing modern Mercat Caterina on one end and Barcelona’s Arc Di Triomf on the other, it’s still relatively undeveloped for tourism, with very few hotels or large restaurants.
The Catalan-speaking neighborhood is mainly residential, parents walking their children to the bus, little old ladies slowly doing their daily shopping, skateboarding teens clacking along the cobblestones… The lack of tourism could construe Sant Pere as “low rent” compared to some of its more developed neighbors, but low rent sometimes awakens the entrepreneurial spirit, as evidenced by the numerous tiny shops and galleries that dot the neighborhood. Here are just a few of the reasons why we think Sant Pere is the best neighborhood in Barcelona:
Plaça St Pere 10
We stopped in for some takeaway noodles on a non-typical rainy Barcelona afternoon and were hooked. The dynamic couple that owns the place makes everything from scratch each day. The small menu is focused on focaccia, sandwiches, salads, and coffee, but the real treat here is the incredible selection of cupcakes… We ended up trying one each day for a week!
Plaça Sant Pere 11 | +34 93 268 33 59
The piadina’s roots are of Italian ancestry. Thin bread folded over the filling of choice and then grilled, for a crispy exterior encapsulating a melty interior… Think quesadilla. The made-to-order treats are filled with a range of meats, cheeses, and veggies: Speck, mushrooms, and gorgonzola is one tasty combo, or you can get something for the sweet tooth in Nutella and banana fashion if you prefer.. Busy from afternoon until very late, Santa Piadina seems to have tapped into the after-bar crowd, often with a line out the door well after midnight.
Elsa Y Fred
Rec Comtal 11, Sant Pere | +34 93 501 66 11
Branding themselves as a Gastropub, Elsa y Fred re-interprets that classic Spanish tapa into something a bit more upscale, while letting you hold on to some of those extra Euros. You’ll find your jamon, anchovies, and cheeses here, but without the hustle and bustle of a typical tapas bar. This is the place you can relax with your significant other over candlelight and a glass of cava.
Gran Bodega Maetrazgo
Carrer Sant Pere Mes Baix, 90 | +34 933 102 673
At first look, this is just the neighborhood wine store. Offering quite an extensive collection of Catalan and Spanish wines at reasonable prices sucked us in. And then we discovered their house-made specialties: Vermouth, the popular Barcelona brunch drink (shhh, we drank it at night!) for just 3.50 Euros/750ml bottle and their very nice India Pale Ale which satisfied our gnawing hop withdrawals since leaving the States. They also had the Aperol, cava, and soda needed to assemble our recreation of the locally popular Spritz. Sold!
Carnisseria Pepita Valles
Carrer de Sant Pere Més Baix, 84 | +34 933 19 12 95
We were happy to find this old-school butcher shop just around the corner from us. Really, this place could be from 1950’s America. The prices are of a different era and the butcher had a friendly demeanor that could place him in Mayberry. He even remembered my name on our second visit, even though he spoke primarily Catalan. The shop has a small collection of high-quality meats and cheeses that the proprietor cheerfully guided us through, even making sure we didn’t buy more then we needed. It’s probably a good sign that the Carnisseria can only be faulted for the long line of neighborhood ladies doing their daily shopping here.
Mercat Santa Caterina
Av. Francesc Cambó, 16 | +34 933 195 740
The “other” market. Foodies from around the world make a pilgrimage to the famous Boqueria on La Rambla. Certainly a spectacle of sound, color, and scent, La Boqueria showcases exotic produce, cured meats, and amazingly fresh seafood display. And, they receive almost 50,000 visitors per day… Our choice is the “other” market, The Santa Caterina Market. Open since 1845, but renovated in 2005 with a beautiful mosaic-tiled roof and a modern looking wood and glass exoskeleton, the Santa Caterina combines modern architecture with old market charm. A large market in it’s own right, Santa Caterina is cleaner, less crowded, and less expensive in general. This is where the locals shop. And now, so do we…
Carrer dels Tiradors, 5 | +34 935 01 68 60
Sometimes a hot spicy broth, and noodles, yes noodles! are the only thing your body needs. Red Ant Noodle Bar just so happens to specialize in the bodily sustenance of these types, complementing with a nice selection of craft brews to round things out. In our case, the Char Siu Pork Ramen and Bimbimbop offerings were exactly what the doctor ordered.
Carrer de les Basses d’Horta, 08035 Barcelona, Spain | +34 933 10 27 29
After a month in Barcelona, it was time for a haircut. We had passed the place a number of times during our stay and was drawn by the interesting cuts and music happening inside, so this was it. Your hair, is well, your hair, so it’s always a little nerve-racking to get it cut by someone new, but I couldn’t have made a better choice.
After a short wait, they got me right in, and I met one of the owners: Lou, the rock-a-billy barber. Turns out, he’s a huge fan of Chuck Berry, and once traveled all the way to my hometown of St. Louis to catch a show at Blueberry Hill, where Berry still performs monthly.. Lou’s partner has a hip-hop background, and between them have attracted quite a large clientele over the last two years of business, with write-ups in local and international magazines. All-said, I ended up with maybe the best haircut of my life, and for 17 euros, maybe this is the real reason we think Sant Pere is the best neighborhood in Barcelona. I wonder if I can talk Lou into coming back to St. Louis?
We’ve teamed up with GPSmyCity and converted this Barcelona neighborhood guide into a downloadable application that comes complete with a GPS map of our recommendations and operates offline without any need of data plan or Internet connection. You can check it out here.