The vibrant Catalan capital is one of the most popular cities in the world with travellers and digital nomads alike. With its iconic Gaudi architecture and distinctive gridlike layout, Barcelona is a city of many faces which blends Catalan culture with its status as a truly international city which is home to people from all four corners of the world. Read on for our Barcelona digital nomad guide to get the full lowdown.
Nomad Cities – Barcelona Guide
- Population – 1.6 million
- Country – Spain
- Languages – Catalan, Spanish
- Currency – Euro
- EU & Schengen Area
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Barcelona in late November is starting to calm down and regain more of a local flavour with the hot Catalan summer now a thing of the past. You’d be wrong. Its airports, train and bus stations remain a constant revolving door of visitors coming and going and the tourist season never truly stops here.
In the aftermath of a pandemic, its streets, bars, restaurants and metro trains are as busy as ever as residents and visitors jostle for space in a compact, densely populated city squeezed in between the Mediterranean Sea and the hills that rise steeply to the northwest.
Whether it’s your first or fifty-first visit, Barcelona always leaves an impression. With a little bit of help from Antoni Gaudí, it just looks and feels different to other cities, be that in Spain or across Europe. Its long streets and vast avenues seem to go on and forever, often totally straight and flanked by apartment buildings that all seem to be around six storeys high. It’s a dizzying display of symmetry, yet there are subtle changes as you move away from the old centre and from one neighbourhood to the next.
While desperate to keep a hold of its identity and roots as a Catalan city, Barcelona is also constantly evolving and embracing what’s new. It’s a place with a modern, outward looking mentality that has grown to become an innovative hub for everything from biotech to start-ups and it was already well on its way to embracing and encouraging remote work, long before Covid made it a necessity.
Best Neighbourhoods in Barcelona
Barcelona’s extensive metro and rail system and relatively small size, ensures you should never be too far from the centre of the city, even if you base yourself in one of the more distant suburbs. However there are certainly good and bad neighbourhoods in Barcelona and you will want to do your research before deciding on a base.
Barcelona digital nomad life does bring with it a wide number of options when it comes to coworking spaces (some of which are listed below). One approach may be to find accommodation close to a good coworking space that suits your needs and budget. Upmarket Eixample is perhaps the best district for that and it’s also one of the most liveable parts of the city, centrally located, with a wide choice when it comes to bars, restaurants and places to shop.
Moving further away from the centre, Eixample eventually leads on to Gracia, another of the most popular areas with international people living in Barcelona. It has a slightly alternative vibe with arthouse cinemas and indie boutiques, while it’s also home to some of the best views in all of the city from beautiful Park Güell.
If you want something a bit more central, Barrio Gotico and El Borne are perhaps the most appealing parts of the old city in which to live. Being based there will enable you to really feel the history of Barcelona and get to anywhere central on foot, however you’ll need to put up with some of the more unpleasant sights, sounds and smells of city centre living. The same could be said of El Raval, a more budget-friendly, central option on the other side of La Rambla that has a multicultural feel with large immigrant populations from regions including South Asia and South America.
If you’ll be in Barcelona during the summer, you may want to prioritise somewhere with easier access to the beaches. While many of the best ones are located outside of Barcelona, the neighbourhood of Sant Martí is home to most of the best city beaches including Bogatell, Mar Bella and Llevant.
- An active international nomad community
Lots of cities around the world are described as having a “digital nomad community”. In many cases, the reality is that it only means there are a relatively small number of people working from that destination at any one time, with perhaps the occasional half-hearted event or meetup that attracts small numbers. Barcelona though is truly an international city with large numbers of digital nomads and remote workers based there. There are events throughout the week (many of which are advertised on Meetup) where you can meet other nomads and many are even geared towards more specific work sectors or specific interests which would be impossible in a less popular destination like nearby Tarragona.
- Varied, vibrant neighbourhoods
One of the cool things about Barcelona is how it gears to so many different tastes. Beach lovers can find their base within walking distance of the sea. Unlike in a major European capital like London or Paris, you can also find affordable city centre living where you can really get the best of Barcelona by day or by night. Meanwhile, those looking for a more authentic or even alternative experience, can find quirky Catalan districts with plenty of interesting things to see, do, eat and drink. They are all vibrant places in their own way with even some of the most distant suburbs in the city proper far from sleepy outposts.
- Excellent transport links
Barcelona is a major transport hub too with excellent air links thanks to its status as one of Europe’s biggest travel destinations. While many people fly into Barcelona on a Thursday or Friday, and leave on a Sunday or Monday, you can often find good prices by doing the reverse and taking a short weekend break in another European destination. Aside from the main El Prat Airport, there are also budget flights from Girona and Reus.
By high speed rail, Madrid can be reached in just 2 hours 30 minutes and you can find much better prices these days thanks to the emergence of low-cost carrier Ouigo which now also runs the route. Barcelona is also of course at the heart of the Catalan regional rail network (Rodalies) and you can benefit from easy and cheap access to the beaches to the north and south of the city (there are currently free rail passes in Spain that you can take advantage of), while the popular Costa Brava is also not hard to get to.
Things to Consider
- A very touristy centre
It’s fair to say that few people visit Barcelona without taking a long stroll down the famous La Rambla which cuts through the heart of the city from Plaça de Catalunya to the port. It’s a rite of passage of sorts but it would be unwise to fall into the trap of thinking you have to find somewhere to live that is very close to this street.
There is much, much more to Barcelona than La Rambla and its side streets and most locals try their best to avoid this area and will probably advise you to do the same. It’s fair to say that the centre of Barcelona is not exactly the most authentic of places and is somewhere that attracts all sorts of shady characters. You don’t have to venture far off La Rambla though to find good places to eat, drink and hang out, although the constant flow of tourists in the centre does not really stop with only a slight lull from Monday to Thursday.
- Some negative sentiments towards foreigners
As a result of some of those issues, there are many local people who feel their city, or at least its centre, has been ruined by mass tourism. No matter how hard you try to fit in or how long you stay, there will always be times in Barcelona where you are treated like “just another tourist” while you may often feel that hint of resentment from a minority of locals who feel their city is losing its Catalan heart and soul. While that is by no means everyone and to some extent those feelings are understandable, Barcelona doesn’t always come across as the friendliest or most welcoming of places.
Barcelona Guide – Costs
|Private room in Airbnb||From €30/night / €550/month|
|Private room for long-term rent||€350-550/month|
|1-2 bedroom flat on Airbnb||From €65/night / €1300/month|
|1-2 bedroom flat for long-term rent||€700-1200/month|
|Meal in an an affordable restaurant||€10-15|
|Beer in a bar||€3-4|
|Coffee in a cafe/restaurant||€1.50-3|
|Metro Pass (10 Trips)||€7.95|
|Cercanias Train to Castelldefels (Single)||€2.40|
|High-speed train to Madrid||€20-80|
The costs for this Barcelona nomad guide were compiled in November 2022. The city is one of the most expensive in Spain but still tends to compare favourably to most major Western European cities. In terms of accommodation prices, much will depend on when you come if you’re not looking for a long-term rental. January and February are likely to offer up the best value on accommodation as less people visit during this time but there are tourists in Barcelona throughout the year (particularly from May to September) and this pushes up prices for both locals and digital nomads in Barcelona.
In terms of long-distance trains to Madrid or other destinations in Spain, booking in advance and being flexible on days/times is the key to getting the best fares. You can sometimes get tickets to the Spanish capital for less than 20 Euros if you book several weeks ahead, but prices can soar to above 100 Euros at popular times.
Coworking & Coliving Barcelona
|Popular Coliving & Coworking Spaces||Google Rating|
|A Landing Pad Barcelona||4.9|
Barcelona has some of the widest range of options for coworking spaces of any city in Europe. The international element to the city also means English should be widely spoken at many of them which isn’t always the case in Madrid or Valencia for example where many are more geared to local people and companies.
There are also coworking hostels and guesthouses where you can sleep and use the facilities for work including A Landing Pad, a stylish space in Eixample, one of the best coliving options in Barcelona. These kinds of places can work out as cost-effective options if you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Barcelona for remote work.
Verdict: Is Barcelona good for digital nomads?
Barcelona is one of the most obvious and best known destinations for digital nomads in Europe. There are plenty of good reasons for that popularity, most of which have been highlighted above. Whether you’re looking for vibrant big city living, a place with an international atmosphere and active nomad community or simply a sunny city on the beach, Barcelona ticks those boxes and plenty more.
It’s a good all-round option and perhaps a good starting place for anyone just getting going on their journey as a travelling remote worker. It does depend on what you’re after though. Barcelona is a big, busy city and costs are higher than almost all other Spanish coastal destinations so if your priorities are saving money and living a quieter life on the coast, there will be better options for you.
We visited in November 2022 and the info in this Barcelona digital nomad guide is accurate as of them.