An experiment was conducted in a greenhouse to estimate the level of morphological variability within 44 barley landraces (14 farmers' cultivars and 30 accessions) from north Shewa in Ethiopia. Four qualitative traits (spike type, kernel color, caryopsis type and spike density) were recorded. Variation in spike type (two-rowed, irregular or six-rowed) was high in many landraces. Variability in spike type within landraces from Debre Libanose, Kuyu and Girar Jarso was high. The highest mean frequencies of the six-row type were recorded for Ankober-Mezezo (85%) and Kimbibit (80.9%). The two-row types were dominant in Wuchale (53.3%), while they were absent at the Ankober-Mezezo, Debre Libanose and Kimbibit localities. A larger proportion of the irregular types occurred in Debre Libanose (71.3%), followed by Kuyu (62.6%). Diversity for kernel color was generally low except in landraces from Kuyu, but it was very high among landraces. White kernel color was predominant. The mean diversity index pooled over characters ranged from 0.12 ± 0.08 to 0.57 ± 0.11, and 11 landraces had a mean diversity larger than 0.50. Differences among landraces within localities were mostly highly significant for all characters except that of caryopsis type (covered or naked). Landraces from Girar Jarso, Wuchale, and Kuyu in particular differed significantly in spike type and kernel color. Unlike farmers' cultivars, the accessions were found to be more variable in spike type and kernel color. Moreover, the mean diversity indices pooled over characters were relatively higher in the accessions than within farmers' cultivars.