Travelers to Barcelona always face several very good choices about where they will stay. The city has many fine hotels, from modest one-star lodging to world-class 5-Star deluxe “palaces.” There are also a broad range of Holiday or Vacation Apartment Rentals, available in every price range and located in every part of the city.
The question is which is the better option – hotels or Barcelona´s rental apartments? An argument can probably be made for either choice. Consider all of the following …
Rating Barcelona’s Hotels and Holiday Apartments.
There are apartments for rent in Barcelona that are suitable for every taste and budget. The same is true, of course, for hotels. Every traveler knows that hotels receive “star ratings” on a scale from 1 to 5. Hotels with the most stars are posh – much more luxurious and expensive than hotels with fewer stars.
Holiday or Vacation Apartments do not receive star ratings. However, as is the case with hotels, the range of rental apartments available to travelers runs the gamut from very basic and inexpensive to extremely luxurious and expensive. A luxury Barcelona apartment for example will generally be quite large – about 200 square meters – and have several bathrooms, perhaps a Jacuzzi and also a large and inviting terrace.
What about the prices for each option?
As you might expect, prices range from modest to very expensive – for hotels and for vacation apartments, as well. One, two or even three star hotels are likely to be easy on your budget. However, a deluxe 5-star hotel can cost as much as 700 Euros per night. Well, if you can’t afford that, you can at least imagine what it would be like to spend one night in such a hotel.
Vacation Rental Apartments are also available in a broad range of price levels – from inexpensive to moderate to costly. A top-of-the-line Barcelona apartment can set you back as much as 400 Euros a night. But … you are likely to enjoy the use of a private Jacuzzi large enough for six people, top of the line appliances such as flat screen TV in each bedroom and a large terrace that will enable you to look out over much of the city.
This is an extreme of course. There is a great variety of more affordable options. If you are traveling with your family or you are part of a large group, a Barcelona apartment rental is probably the better choice for you. You’ll be able to save money – perhaps a lot of money – by sharing accommodations with your traveling companions. With each of you sharing in the expenses, the cost per night can be as low as 20-30 Euros per each.
Of course, if you are traveling alone or just with your spouse or a single traveling companion, the price differential between a hotel and an apartment rental is much smaller. In fact, in this case, the price for both is virtually the same.
Another way you can save money. If you choose to stay at a vacation apartment, you are almost certain to save money on food. Your rental apartment will have a fully-equipped kitchen in which you can cook meals, anytime you please, instead of always “eating out.” If you elect to stay in a hotel, your package will probably include breakfast, but no other meals … and that means you will have to spend money each day dining in restaurants. If you’re traveling with a large family, including children, it can get very expensive to eat out so frequently.
Where will you enjoy better amenities?
Both hotels and Holiday Apartments will enable you to enjoy many amenities, though rental apartment will probably be better than the hotel in terms of room facilities. Here’s why: any apartment you rent in Barcelona is likely to be fully furnished and well-equipped. The kitchens in most apartment rentals include a broad range of utensils and appliances, including a toaster, a coffeemaker, a microwave oven, a refrigerator, a combination stove/oven and much, much more.
There is even likely to be a washing machine and a dishwasher. It’s like having all of the comforts of home while you’re on vacation.
Many vacation apartments even provide renters with a DVD, a CD Player, an extra cot, a crib, even an internet connection.
And, as is true for hotels, Barcelona Apartments also provide renters with fresh, clean towels and bed linens. When you think about it, the only thing you need to bring with you if you’re renting a Barcelona apartment is your luggage.
Though keep this thought in mind: unlike hotels, apartment rentals in Barcelona do not include daily cleaning from maids or other service staff, so you may have to clean it yourself. If you’d prefer not to clean, you may be able to purchase cleaning services from the person renting the apartment to you for additional cost. You won’t have to worry about cleaning the apartment before you leave. It’s always done for you at no additional charge.
On the other hand there is a range of amenities only the hotels can provide you. Amenities such as a concierge, a restaurant, a swimming pool, free parking (there are apartment rentals that offer free parking also), meeting rooms and more are generally available only to those who stay in hotels and not in rental apartments. So it all depends on your preferencies in each journey.
Where will you be more comfortable?
The typical hotel room, even in a better hotel, is usually only large enough for two, possibly three, people. It will probably include a closet, perhaps a dressing area and a bathroom.
A short term apartment rental in Barcelona – at any price level – except perhaps a studio apartment, will give you much more. You’ll enjoy access to a living/dining room, a bedroom, a bathroom and a kitchen … all the comforts you’re used to enjoy in your own home.
This provides you with a big advantage if you’re traveling with a large family or even a group of friends because it allows you to enjoy substantially more privacy and freedom.
Think about this: if you’re traveling with young children and you rent a two-bedroom apartment, you’ll be able to keep your kids close to you and safe and, because you’ll have your own bedroom and privacy, you’ll be able to enjoy a “romantic evening” if the mood strikes you.
What about location?
Hotels and Holiday Apartments are located everywhere in Barcelona. You can stay in the center of the city and close to the action or far from the tourists and the noise. If you prefer, you can even stay at the beach in hotels or apartments located in that area.
Check-in/Check-out times depend on where you stay.
If you’re a guest at a Barcelona hotel, check-in –and-out time is normally noon, but can be as early as 11:00 A.M. There is no set rule for check-out times at Holiday Apartment Rentals. Generally, renters tend to check-out between 11:00 A.M. and 12 Noon. Check-In time is usually between 2:00 P.M. and 3:00 P.M. Here’s an important point to remember: if you’re renting an apartment, you can always ask your “landlord” for an earlier check-in time or a later check-out time. He or she will be happy to satisfy your request if it is at all possible to do so.
Luggage storage is available.
If you have a late afternoon or evening flight – and you have already checked out – your hotel will generally store your luggage until the end of the day. That convenience may not be available to you if you’re renting a holiday apartment … because, very often, a new renter is arriving just as you leave your apartment. Nevertheless, you can always ask the “landlord” for help temporarily storing your luggage for you until you’re ready to leave for the airport.
Which gives you the better experience?
If you’ve traveled before, you know what to expect from a hotel stay – standard, everyday amenities and comforts. A stay in a short term rental apartment in Barcelona can give you so much more – the chance to “live like a local” and experience Barcelona from a perspective not available to hotel guests. Choose to stay in a rented apartment and you will see, feel and experience life in Barcelona – Spanish style. There may be no other experience like it.
Holiday Apartment or hotel … no matter your choice, you are sure to enjoy your stay in Barcelona. But, if you’ve already experienced life as a hotel guest in the past, consider a Barcelona apartment rental this time. It may make your trip a lot more memorable.
Here are 10 tips on booking an apartment for a vacation in Barcelona, and also some general holiday advice which I would strongly recommend to anyone considering booking a short-term apartment rental. In no particular order, here are my top ten tips for checking that your apartment will not disappoint:
1. Carefully study the photographs and dimensions of the apartment you want to choose.
Admire the photographs of your accommodation by all means, but also check the measurements of the rooms. Many pictures are taken with special lenses which appear to magnify the room, leading you to assume the space is larger than it really is.
2. The selection of the neighborhood is critically important..
The location of your apartment rental is likely to play a large role in whether or not you enjoy your stay in Barcelona. It’s important to choose carefully … and wisely. And your choice should be based on your individual likes and dislikes. For example:
If you’re interested in exploring historic Barcelona, it makes perfect sense for you to select an apartment in any one of the five districts of Ciutat Vella (old city). Districts such as Barrio Gotico, El Borne and Raval are alive with activity during the day and in the evenings, as well. Famed for their Gothic architecture, each of these neighborhoods is dynamic, always-crowded with people … and packed with a broad range of fun and exciting entertainment options.
Prefer first-class accommodations away from the crowds and the tourists? Consider Eixample, particularly the section of this fine neighborhood that is closest to the center of Barcelona. There you will find easy access to public transportation (metro, buses and even surprisingly affordable taxis) that can get you to Plaza Cataluna and Las Ramblas in just a few minutes. In fact, the trip is even short enough for those who prefer walking.
Beach lovers would be wise to consider a stay in Vila Olimpica, Barceloneta or even Poble Nou. Each of these neighborhoods will enable you to enjoy the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea and bright sunshine at such relatively tranquil beaches as Nova Icaria and Bogatell. A word of caution: Barceloneta is a public beach and often overcrowded in summer.
If you’re coming to Barcelona on a business trip, you should look no further for your apartment rental than Sants or Les Corts. Each of these neighborhoods is ideally-suited for business travelers because both are located near the Fira Barcelona Fair and the Congress Centre. This is Barcelona’s business hub and public transportation is readily available. In fact, you can get on the metro and, after a short ride, get off at Plaza Espana, which is right at the doorstep, literally, of the Fira Barcelona Fair.
3. What to do if you are traveling with senior citizens or children.
If you have children, seniors, or those with any kind of mobility problem, check that your accommodation has an elevator. Remember, many of the buildings here are 100-200 years old, and set very closely together. As a result, entranceways can often be quite narrow and up a flight of steps, and inside there may well be no elevator, so check this first. It’s too late to find this out when you get there.
4. Air conditioning … a “must-have” for every vacation and business traveler.
If you are booking a vacation in Barcelona for the summer period, remember that it is almost always hot and humid. For this reason, and for your comfort, check that your accommodation has adequate air conditioning. If not, you are likely to be uncomfortable at night, and this could spoil your holiday.
5. What you need to know about check-ins and check-outs.
Make sure you find out what the check in and checking out times are. Hotels usually have a fixed time for this, but apartments can vary quite a bit. Checkout times can often be 11 am, although if you have a late flight, facilities for storing your luggage can be arranged. Checking in times can vary from between 2 pm and 4 pm.
6. Make sure you know about additional charges – in advance
When booking online you’ll usually assume that all charges are included in the price, but make sure you find out about any additional charges, such as late checking in or checking out surcharges. Many people take advantage of the low-cost flights to Barcelona, but as these often arrive late at night, people can find themselves facing a €20-€40 surcharge for collecting keys between 10 pm and 8 am. Remember, apartment lets don’t usually have a receptionist.
7. Plan your trip when there are no fairs, conferences or conventions.
Avoid any times when there are major fairs or conferences in Barcelona. The city of Barcelona is well known throughout the world for holding some of the biggest trade fairs and conferences in Europe, and at these times anything up to three million extra visitors come flooding in to the city. Not only does this add to the crowds, but also accommodation can be difficult to find. In addition, prices usually increase at these times, which means that booking a vacation in Barcelona can cost a good deal more than you might otherwise expect to pay.
8. Discuss “special requirements” with your rental provider while you are planning your trip.
Think about any special requirements which you may have, and make sure that you discuss these with the rental provider well in advance. For example, if you are traveling with a very young child, and will need things such as a cot or crib, a high chair and so forth, then you will need to speak with the agency beforehand. Usually such facilities can be provided, but don’t assume that they will be left available in the property unless you ask for them.
9. Look for special offers and discounts.
Check out any special offers or discounts which might be available. If you can be at all flexible with your holiday dates, and aren’t tied to the usual weekend-to-weekend times, then have a look at the special rates and discounts which agencies can usually offer. You might be surprised to discover that very often savings of between 20%-40% aren’t unusual.
10. Make sure you choose the apartment rental agency carefully.
Most agencies are highly reputable, but it always pays to do a little homework first, rather than rushing in to making a booking as you are caught up in the excitement of the whole experience. Look at their website and ask yourself how well laid out it is, how helpful, and how clear the images are. Can you find the contact details easily? Why not send them an email with a few questions, and see how quickly they respond, and how helpful their advice is?
Remember, any internet booking agency based in Spain must be legally registered, which will mean that they will be using the letters S.L. or S.A with the business name, as well as including legal information on the website. If this isn’t apparent, then you might be best looking elsewhere.
It’s always good advice to try to obtain some testimonials about either the letting agency or the apartment itself. The agency might be able to provide these on request if they are not already included on the website, but don’t forget to use independent review sites which are increasingly popular on the web.
Bearing these 10 tips in mind will almost certainly help to ensure that booking your holiday in Barcelona is thoroughly enjoyable, and your apartment is comfortable, suitable and just what you were expecting.