Barcelona is Europe's favorite city-break destination, and as such is ever-expanding its ever-eclectic range of accommodations. At the top end of the market are first-class and deluxe hotels, which are reasonably priced compared to similar lodgings in Paris or London, giving you a chance to splurge -- especially over weekends -- on bargains. Scour the Internet for deals and find out about special offers. Even visitors on a budget have ample choice.
Attractive changes have taken place in many of the older establishments in Barcelona. Traditionally -- and especially in the heart of the Ciutat Vella quarter -- these old hostales are centered around a well or patio and may have seemed dark, gloomy, and almost claustrophobic in the past. Today, however, many have been renovated and transformed into bright, appealing places to sleep. Some have gardens and patios to look out on. One thing that has not changed, however, is the noise (especially from weekend revelers), though mercifully more rooms are soundproofed these days. 1920s' moderniste facades and original tiled floors have also been retained in many hotels, and the city's increasing number of boutique establishments are decorated with all the stylistic inventiveness you'd expect in such a famously avant-garde metropolis.
Keeping pace with the times, nearly all Barcelona hotels -- including even the most budget-oriented ones -- offer Wi-Fi.
Smoking in Barcelona Hotels -- The official ban on smoking is due to cover all public places from January 1, 2011 (unless the authorities chicken out). At the time of writing, almost all hotels have non-smoking rooms; by the time this book is published, all hotels will be obliged to be smoke-free, both in public areas and in all rooms.
Which Quarter Suits You?
The Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter) is good for hostales (not to be confused with hostels) and guesthouses. You can live and eat less expensively here than in any other part of Barcelona and save money on transport, as most sights are within walking distance. Keep an eye on your belongings, since bag snatchings can occur here, especially in the narrow, alleyed Old Quarter. By and large, though, Barcelona is a safe city to wander round.
More modern and more expensive accommodations are found north of the Barri Gòtic in the Eixample district, centered on the Metro stops Plaça de Catalunya and Universitat. Many buildings are in the moderniste style from the last decades of the 19th century; sometimes the elevators and plumbing are of the same vintage. However, L'Eixample is a desirable and safe neighborhood, especially along its wide boulevards, and is excellent for eating out. Traffic noise is the only problem you might encounter.
The area around Sants and Plaça Espanya is the main hub of business hotels, and convenient for conferences, meetings, and trade shows. Families also enjoy its easy access to the parks and leisure attractions of Montjuïc, 5 minutes' stroll away. It's also convenient for the airport (just 20 minutes by taxi) and the hotels here tend to be good if you require a family-size room. However, most leisure travelers will probably find Sants too far away from the city center.
Farther north, above the Avinguda Diagonal, you enter the Gràcia area, where you can enjoy distinctively Catalan neighborhood life. It has a village feel, low-rise buildings, and plenty of sunny plazas populated by students. The main attractions are a bit distant but easily reached by public transportation, and the barrio has an eclectic feel that makes it worth exploring. Above this the neighborhoods of Sarrià and Sant Gervasi are mainly upper-class residential areas, with plenty of top-end bars and restaurants.
Barcelona's multi-faceted portside and seafront area offers an attractive blend of seaside and city lifestyles. Hotels here range from five-star monuments to luxury to the odd bed-and-breakfast, and its quieter, still-burgeoning neighbour Poble Nou is an increasingly popular beachside choice.
Another option is to look at aparthotels and short-term rented apartments (self-catering accommodations), which are becoming increasingly popular. They give you independence, a kitchen to cook for yourself, and the sensation of a home-away-from-home. For those, look to AirBnB.com, HomeAway.com and Flipkey.com.
Finally, there is a new wave in bed-and-breakfast accommodations. Virtually unheard of until 2 or 3 years ago, these family-run guesthouses (often with just two or three rooms) offer a personal and cheap alternative to mainstream chains.
Whichever option you choose, book well ahead to secure your accommodations. Don't even think of rolling into town without a booking in hand or you will find yourself looking for a room in the outer suburbs or out of Barcelona altogether. This is not just true of the summer months: Tourism here is non-stop, year-round.
Not many of Barcelona's hotels have garages. When parking is available at the hotel, the price is indicated; otherwise, the hotel staff will direct you to a garage. Expect to pay upwards of 16€ for 24 hours, and if you do have a car, you might as well park it and leave it there, because driving around the city can be excruciating. If you don't plan to leave the city, there is little point in hiring a car at all.
Ciutat Vella -- The Ciutat Vella (Old City) forms the monumental center of Barcelona, taking in Les Ramblas, Plaça de Sant Jaume, Vía Laietana, Passeig Nacional, the Passeig Colón, and the colorful Raval and La Ribera neighborhoods. It contains some of the city's best hotel bargains. Most of the glamorous, and more expensive, hotels are located in L'Eixample and beyond. For convenience, we have split the Ciutat Vella into three areas: Barri Gòtic, La Ribera, and El Raval.
L'Eixample -- If moderniste architecture, designer shopping, and high-class restaurants are your bag, then the Eixample ("extension" in Catalan) is the place to be. The area was built in the mid-19th century to cope with the overflow from the Ciutat Vella, and has retained its middle-class, residential flavor.
Sants, Paral.lel & Montjuïc -- A favorite district for business travelers, this is the hub of Barcelona's out-of-towner meeting district with practical four-star accommodations galore, the Fira exhibition centers on Plaça Espanya, and the World Trade Center at the bottom of Paral.lel. There are leisure amenities in the immediate vicinity, and the art galleries, museums, and scenic parklands of Montjuïc are 10 minutes' walk away.
Barrio Alto & Gràcia -- The Alto represents the pijo (posh) part of town, with swanky restaurants and cocktail bars, millionaires' mansions, and lots of expensive cars, contrasting with the more eclectic, villagey atmosphere of Gràcia with its two-story houses, sunny plazas, and student/bohemian vibe.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.