People in Barcelona tend to stay out late, so if you want to participate in local customs, you may find yourself in a hotel room for only a few hours per night. Rather than spend a fortune on limited room time, try finding a cheap hotel close to the centre and save your money for tapas, wine and museums. And though budget hotels in the Catalonian capital are few and far between, if you look hard enough, you’ll find yourself a bargain.
Hotel chic&basic Ramblas is a cool, stripped-back hotel located just off La Rambla (Barcelona’s main thoroughfare). Despite the name, the decor is much less basic than you’d imagine. Communal areas are vibrant, with a retro, pastel green SEAT 600 car in the lobby; a stylish white billiards table; and stacks of vintage leather suitcases. Rooms are cheap, comfortable and kitted out in a charming, mid-century style.
La Casa Gran is an old-school bed and breakfast in the middle of the affluent L’Eixample area of Barcelona. This small hotel has a family feel and offers personalised service and cheap rooms. The owners live on the premises, meaning you’re always well looked after. The most charming element of this B&B, however, is the sunny terrace where you’ll enjoy an ample breakfast (fresh bread, home-made treats, fruit, cold cuts and patisseries) while listening to the sweet, soothing sounds of jazz.
The goal of Eco Boutique Hostal Grau is to create a place that feels like your home while keeping the environment in mind. The stripped-back decor is bohemian chic in style, with crates for shelves, pallet headboards and at least one piece of upcycled furniture in each room. The hotel is also committed to sustainability, so toiletries are made from natural sources. It also has eco-lighting, a water recycling system and plenty of recycling bins for your plastic and paper waste.
The Praktik chain creates cheap, unique hotels with various themes. Praktik Èssens has a perfume theme – each floor has a different scent – and also develops fragrances based on the odours found in Barcelona (the sea, the flowers and the plants), which you can purchase. It’s set in a 19th-century building just off Passeig de Gràcia, close to Plaça de Catalunya and La Rambla. The neat and minimalist decor features whitewashed exposed-brick walls, oak parquet floors and neutral colours. Learn about perfume, bottle it, buy it and savour the smell of your trip when you get home.
Upon entering Casa Gracia, it almost seems like it doesn’t fit the low price tag, with luxurious art deco touches, numerous rooms for lounging and tons of activities on offer. In addition to private rooms, the hotel offers affordable dorms fitting up to six people, and all feature private bathrooms. With a live performance and music space in the basement, a restaurant and bar on the first floor, a rustic kitchen and dining room upstairs, communal areas and a library, there’s so much to do. A free walking tour also meets in front of the hotel, so you’ll have entertainment both inside and outside.
Sometimes if you want bang for your buck, you’ve got to compromise on location. However, there’s the Paral-el metro stop near Casa Vaganto that’ll take you to Plaça de Catalunya in under 10 minutes. For a fair price, this hotel offers five-star hotel-grade customer service, weekly pintxos (local snacks) and complimentary vino. The hotel has a sociable hostel feel with luxury finishings and boho decor – combining mismatched flea-market finds, furniture and traveller trinkets with plants, woven rugs and Aztec patterns. It’s one for the travel veterans.
Fostering a good relationship with its neighbours by maintaining good communication and open invitations to events, chic&basic Born has a downstairs cafe that feels like a library and is often frequented by El Born residents. The building has original details such as a grand marble staircase with a chandelier and old Spanish tiles, and many of the rooms have balconies. Each bedroom has a shower in the middle of the room with a jewel-like LED curtain, of which you can change the colour or turn off completely. The hotel also features art by local artist Maria de Amantes.
Fans of mid-century design won’t be disappointed by this affordable hotel, which is just a short walk away from Passeig de Gràcia in the centre of Barcelona. As well as being on the doorstep of the best designer shops in the city, it’s also within walking distance of some of the most popular Gaudí landmarks (Sagrada Família, Casa Batlló and Casa Milà). Packed with furniture from the 60s and 70s and bright, patterned rooms, Retrome offers a laid-back vibe.
This budget hotel resides in an old furniture warehouse and retains an industrial feel – picture high ceilings, polished cement walls and exposed pipes. Magatzem 128 also has a sense of minimalist simplicity about it, but everything serves a purpose. Coffee is available in the mornings free of charge, and local art adorns the walls. Hipsters will love this reasonably priced hotel, which is located far enough from Barcelona’s busy tourist areas that you’ll feel like a resident.
Located in the middle of the ancient Gothic Quarter, The Moods Catedral overlooks a timeworn Roman wall and is a stone’s throw from Barcelona Cathedral. It’s in a good spot, with Plaça Reial (a popular plaza packed with restaurants and bars) and the Picasso Museum just a short walk away. Inside, the hostel walls are decorated in earthy, warm hues with nature-inspired prints and well-placed lighting, creating a relaxing, spa-like ambience – just the ticket after a long day of walking around the busy streets.
The rooms at this three-star hotel are decorated in classy monochrome tones and come with soundproof windows and walls to keep out the chatter from the streets below (it’s in the middle of the lively El Born neighbourhood). La Barceloneta beach is around a 15-minute walk away, and heaps of restaurants and bars are on the doorstep. Breakfast is included in the room rate and will more than set you up for a day of sightseeing.
The Golden Tulip lies between the heart of Barcelona and the popular, up-and-coming neighbourhood of El Poblenou. The latter, a former industrial area, is having a moment – it’s leafy, quiet and full of restaurants and bars. The standout feature of this hotel, however, is the rooftop, which comes with a shallow dipping pool and city views. The interior here is not unlike something you’d find from a four-star chain hotel – modern, bright and pristinely finished. Friendly staff are happy to print out information or offer insider tips on less obvious things to do (such as visit the Palo Alto Market).
Leon Beckenham contributed additional reporting to this article.