I am learning new things all the time… And I never thought I would say this but here it goes – I refuse to live in the centre of Barcelona now. Here are my reasons why!
If you have read my blog posts about living in Barcelona, you will know that I am very honest about my opinions and experiences. I always try to share some real talk on everything… I think it’s great that there are so many travel and lifestyle blogs out there, but I do wish that people would share more about the challenges and not so sparkly sides of living in a place.
Here we go… Another reflection post on my experiences and lessons in this beautiful city. Whether you are living in Barcelona and renting a room or a whole apartment, this may apply – especially if you plan on staying long-term and want to discover Barcelona’s local life.
There are many obvious positives to living so close to everything. – I want to share another side of living in the centre. I know many people come to live in Barcelona because it can be affordable (compared to other cities) to live in the city centre. This was one of the initial attractions for me too. The funny thing is I soon learned that it is not always a great option for a long-term basis. Many people who live here soon find a spot out-of-the-way from the centre for the same reasons I did. Here are some reasons why…
8 Reasons I would not recommend living in Barcelona city centre
🌟 Visiting a city on a holiday is very different from living in a city…
What I used to think of Barcelona has changed so much over time after living here. The same goes with any place I visit… What is great for a holiday may not be so important or relevant when you are actually living in the same place.
🌟 When something drastic happens, the whole of Barcelona feels it…
Small pond, large waves – This is Barcelona. As a small city compared to many other round Europe, it has its obvious charms. But the downside is that when something bad happens (like the recent terrorist attacks, the Catalan referendum crowds, strikes etc.) you will literally have it at your front door.
This really shook me and confirmed my decision. It’s not like I haven’t been in other cities where similar things happen, but (again) the size of the city does make a difference – especially if you are in the centre. For example: On the night of the terrorist attacks, there were many friends who couldn’t go home because the streets around their flat were blocked off. At such a vulnerable time, the last thing you want is to stress about where you are going to spent the night! I felt grateful to be able to return to a safe home and crawl into bed after the sheer exhaustion of getting away from all the tension. And now with the Catalan referendum crowds, the centre continues to be a playground for every single activity. Moments like this made me realise that I could do without having *everything* so close to home.
OK, I am making Barcelona sound like a complete war zone now lol, I just realised this when I was typing the last couple of words – Apologies, I didn’t mean it come off like this! Barcelona really isn’t a dangerous city (the complete opposite I think) and bad things happen everywhere. Don’t let my words freak you out. I am just trying to make the point that living in the city centre will bring you nearer to the action (both good and bad).
🌟 Late night parties and noise…
On a lighter note, Barcelona is well-known for having a GREAT night life. Whatever you enjoy, Barcelona has it! Great music, clubs, places to eat… And all at a descent price too. It may seem practical to live in the city centre if you like to go out often – But it comes with the disadvantage of having all the late-night noises that will keep you up. This is especially true during the hotter months where most of the time, the windows are wide open for fresh air (even if there is air conditioner) – and the night owls are doing their thing outside. I have had many sleepless nights because of this.
🌟 Crowds of tourists are no fun!
Barcelona’s cute narrow winding streets become flooded with groups of tourists. I guess it would be OK if there was more space, but this city just feels like it’s ready to burst with people during the peak holiday seasons. It makes moving around the city very uncomfortable sometimes, even for the tourists.
This is not a dig at tourists – I just like my personal space. After years of living in London and its unbearable commuter trains and busy streets, I was hoping to get away from crowded spaces in Barcelona. It might not bother everyone, but I do prefer to walk home without having to dodge big crowds. On the plus side, you do get to know Barcelona’s back streets and sneaky short-cuts very quickly.
🌟 I finally found a daily routine that works for me…
Maybe this is just me – But I think many friends here also find this to be true too. I found it very hard to maintain a daily routine of work while I was in the city centre. Living in the centre of any city (especially with a great laid back nature) can be a challenge because it is SO easy to be a complete dosser sometimes! I admit, I fell into this cycle BIG TIME. Everyday as a holiday can actually be bad for me, as I soon discovered.
Living away from the action and distractions gives me the time and space I need for a good work-fun balance. This is what I noticed in my life. I work as a freelancer so having a quiet home space to create a work routine matters to me. Also, having more physical room for less rent makes a big difference to set up and live with comfort.
🌟 Rent (and daily expenses) become cheaper further away from Barcelona city centre…
Rent prices have soared in the last few years (no surprise there!). It used to be fairly easy to find a room or flat for a good price – Now it feels more like it’s about who you know and pure luck.
The competition for even getting a descent room in a flat share is crazy. As many people are now using AirBnB (even when there are stricter regulations for this) and getting good money for it, this has pushed the prices up – People realise they can charge way more from renting out to tourists than people who want stay long-term. The same can be said for many other cities, but smaller cities may feel it more intensely.
In fact, many things become a lot cheaper away from the city centre. Doing some simple food shopping changed as my regular items became cheaper too. For example: The tap water in Barcelona is fine to drink but I am used to buying bottled water, which can cost 1-2 euros less for a big 8 litre bottle. Small savings mean that I can spend the extra money doing things I love, especially when travelling is not expensive within Barcelona.
🌟 Meeting locals and settling in to local life is harder in the centre…
I remember meeting an expat girl who said that it feels hard to meet long-term friends in Barcelona. This got me thinking… it’s not hard to see why! In the centre, you will meet more passer-bys and tourists than locals.
The people you meet in the centre are usually expats living in Barcelona for a short period of time. This also applies to meeting Spaniards from other parts of Spain. It could be because they are here to study, to learn the language, for teaching English, for doing an internship or being a digit nomad… It feels like you will meet many wonderful people who are only here on a short stop over of a few months to a year.
Meeting locals is more of a challenge. It gets easier when you live in an area where there aren’t that many tourists. For starters, you learn to speak the language faster and you start to recognise people in a short space of time.
Locals don’t like going to the city centre anymore. Unless they work/study there or are passing by, many locals I meet say that Ramblas and surrounding areas has become a place that only tourist visit now.
🌟 Explore the less known neighbourhoods of Barcelona…
This is a real opportunity to see what Barcelona is really like, neighbourhood by neighbourhood. It is a wonderful thing that people can still rent in the city centre (unlike other cities, like London, where the price makes it off-limits)… But maybe this is a good time to explore more.
I learned SO much by getting away from the centre. What I thought I would like as part of my daily life started to change and surprise me. For example: I actually prefer to head to the hills during Spring/Summer and hike, than be laying on the beach… who knew?!? I didn’t see that coming!
Also, there are some neighbourhoods that feel more homely to me now… I appreciate the diverse environments that Barcelona has to offer now. Barcelona has it all – from the mountains to the sea. For example: I enjoy being in the Horta-Guinardó neighbourhood now, where I can enjoy the best horizon views of the city and nature, while still being able to walk to nearby Gràcia for some fun.
Just because you are not in Barcelona’s city centre, it doesn’t mean you’re missing out! I found that I actually enjoy having much more.
Live in different neighbourhoods before you decide on your long-term home. If you are thinking of moving to Barcelona (or any new city), it is SO worth explroing all the neighbourhoods properly first. In time, you will know if the centre is what suits you or not – and which neighbourhood makes you feel at home. Have fun ❤️