Brief Guide to Barcelona Hotels
Selecting a hotel is always tough especially if you aren’t familiar with Barcelona. Within the city limits there are over 380 establishments ranging from 1-star up to the uber-luxurious 5-star in all of the major barrios, which by the way, total 14. There are hotels for every taste built for the business traveler or the young solo traveler. So where to begin?
First consider your budget, then where you would like to be located and lastly the amenities that you can’t live without. Sometimes I also think about the theme of the visit. For example when friends ask for suggestions on places to stay when coming to Barcelona I take into mind what the main intention of their stay is: is it for business, a long haul vacation with the kids, a romantic getaway or a three-day party binge. These are all important factors when beginning your hotel hunt in BCN although in what order you choose to narrow down your search is completely personal.
If money isn’t an object and your prime worry is supreme customer service, lush surroundings and Michelin rated restaurants then Barcelona has plenty of places to stay to chose from. Of the 300-plus hotels, 22 are top rate 5-star hotels. Although all are standouts there a few that capture the attention of those with discerning tastes such as the new Hotel W, which opened in October 2009 followed by the opening of the Mandarin Oriental in November 2009. Both are highly regarded hotel chains however cater to a very different crowd.
If you want hip, trendy and international cool then the W located on prime beachfront property is your choice. The W, shaped like a wind sail of a boat, has been nicknamed La Vela by locals and is a hang out spot year around. The Mandarin Oriental is a bit more subdue but equally as chic as it has taken over what was previously the head office for the Banco Hispano Americano on Paseo de Gracia. The deluxe hotel features 98 guest rooms and suites. Personally I am a fan of the common areas including everything from the grand walkway entrance to its dark and moody Bankers Bar or the white an airy Moments restaurant.
If celebrity sighting is a favorite hobby then you’ll want to check into the Hotel Arts, a Ritz Carlton hotel property located at the marina in Villa Olimpica. Although other new hotels may have stolen some of its star-studded clientele, celebrities like Antonio Banderas still like to make Hotel Arts their home away from home.
Another celebrity favorite and is my all time preferred pick for a romantic getaway is La Florida perched high above the city in the hillside of Tibidabo. This once privately owned mansion was converted into what is now one of the Leading Small Hotels of the World servicing only the extremely wealthy that prefer to remain anonymous during their stay in Barcelona, which is why Shakira elects this 70-room exclusive oasis when in town.
I also have to mention Casa Fuster because it´s one of the few hotels that is a shining example of Catalan Modernism architecture built in 1908 by Lluis Domenich I Montaner. It was also Woody Allen’s choice when filming Vicky Cristina Barcelona and its Friday evening jazz sessions are famous amongst music lovers.
4-Star hotels are the most prevalent in the city with locations in every single corner of Barcelona followed by 3-star and on down to 1-star. Therefore no matter what your budget or taste you’ll be able to find a place to rest your head in just about any barrio from the creative haven of the Born to the historic Barrio Gotico.
With Barcelona being a major conference and international convention capital its no surprise the number of hotels that cater to the business traveler. If here on business, I would suggest looking for hotels either in the center of town sticking close to the Eixample Left area or near Les Corts as this area has a large concentration of businesses and financial institutions. This area also has some great restaurants but as far as sightseeing going it´s pretty dull except for the shopping in L’illa mall. Eixample is certainly a lot more exciting because it borders Paseo de Gracia and has a little of everything—shopping, dining and culture.
Some hotel chains that are popular with business travelers are the AC, NH and Hesperia. All are chain hotels with several locations in both of the mentioned districts as well as throughout the city. AC is at the top of the business hotel chain with a 4-star rating that follows a boutique-styled design aesthetic and ambiance. The NH, depending on the area fluctuates between 4 and 3-star ratings and offers all the basic amenities a business traveler or vacation traveler would need. Likewise the Hesperia hotels offer tastefully designed rooms and a full list of services and other features.
If your company isn’t taking care of the bill and you rather splurge your money on lets say Liceu opera tickets or a wine tasting tour of local bodegas then go moderate when choosing a hotel. There are still plenty of 2 and 3-star hotels in neighborhoods that border all the action.
A recent discovery I made through my research is the Hotel Peninsular. It is located just off Las Ramblas and was once a nunnery. Sounds a little boring but it’s quite the opposite oozing with charm and character. It has an Art Nouveau elevator, antique wrought-iron railings and a sunny indoor courtyard that is welcome respite from the non-stop activity on La Rambla.
Another chain that comes highly suggested is Chic & Basic. Unlike the quaint Hotel Peninsular Chic & Basic has two locations in Barcelona with a style that mimics something you would see in an Ian Schrager hotel: meaning stylish, modern interiors, a young courteous staff all for a fraction of what you would pay at a 5-star establishment. Chic & Basic also regularly promotes creative events targeting aspiring artists and designers with happenings like it’s Artist Series collaboration or Changing Room design exposition. Additionally this trendy chain also offers slick hostel residences too that include flat-screen TVs and a connection to listen to your I-Pod.
For families you can never beat Citadines, which come with mini-kitchens and maid service. Furthermore in Barcelona the Citadines couldn’t have a better location set right on the lively Las Ramblas. The newer Eric Vokel Apart-Hotel offers the same amenities at the same price point but feels fresher with clean, minimal interiors that have one, two and 3 bedroom units available all of which come with their own private balcony. This hotel also has a high-tech yet easy self-automated check-in/check-out service much like what you see at airport kiosks.
Party people are always pleased with the boutique Hotel Omm that has a lively night scene that heats up in it’s lobby bar. Its newly renovated subterranean level lounge is also a draw for those wanting a more club-like atmosphere while its restaurant Moo satisfies the appetites of food snobs. Frommer’s also named it the best hotel for modern design.
Hotel Me (pronounced may) is a bit far away from the center located in the up-and-coming hi-tech business barrio of Poble Nou but still draws a big crowd to its Angels & Kings bar that host international DJs almost every night of the week. This place was also the location for big events like the Sex in the City movie release party and Harper’s Bazaar magazine launch party. Thankfully for the rest of the hotel guests the rooms are sound proof and heavy on plush amenities to drown out the sound of the non-stop fiestas.
If you tend to go on the recommendation of travel mags then Banys Oriental is a good one. Nominated twice by Conde Nast Traveler. In 2003 it made the ‘’50 Most Recommended Hotels in Europe’’ list and again in 2004 for ‘’Top 10 European Hotel Hotels.’’ Furthermore it still holds the title as the first establishment to launch the boutique hotel concept in Barcelona back in 2002.
As you can see the list is long and not even a quarter of what’s available was mentioned. If you’re still stumped on finding a hotel go to the Barcelona Hotel Association Website. Here they have hotels broken down by neighborhood and rating and feature current promotions at all associated hotels.
Lastly, keep in mind Barcelona is a very popular destination city. All hotels generally operate at 75% capacity all year long at times higher due to conference and big ticket sporting events like Formula One. Therefore waiting to the last minute to find reasonably priced accommodation is not recommended. Give yourself at least 4 weeks lead-time and if your trying to keep very costs low think about traveling during the low season between October to through March.