We asked our friends over at trivago for some advice on where to stay in Barcelona. With over 52 nationalities in their office, there’s always a hotel nerd wandering around with all the local knowledge on where to crash. Check out this guide on where to stay—and why—from Trivago’s Teresa Fernandez.
The Raval is Barcelona’s most high-energy, diverse neighborhood. Indian, Pakistani, Turkish and Moroccan corner shops and cafes stand on every corner. Vendors hawking improbably cold cans of beer for one Euro stalk the plazas. After decades of being left on the margins, the Raval stands renewed. It’s the artistic and cultural heart of Barcelona with the MACBA and CCCB museums. In Carrer Tallers and Riera Baixa you’ll find a passel of vintage stores and creative studios: Holala!, Flamingos, Paella Showroom, Motel, Lullaby and Retro City are just the beginning. The hotel brunch at the Barceló Raval—live DJ included—is well-known to locals looking for a tricked-out Sunday plan. Tip: after filling up your stomach, go to the 11th floor to enjoy a 360º view of Barcelona.
Barri Gòtic is the gorgeous, ancient heart of Barcelona. Locals love debating which buildings belong to the Gothic period and which were built more recently, but no one can deny the cumulative beauty of the district. Try not to linger in the over-touristed hotspots around Catedral de Santa Eulàlia and City Hall, but instead seek out the quieter spaces: the Thursday antique market in Plaça Nova, the weekend fair in Plaça del Pi. Hotel Mercer is perhaps the perfect expression of the charms of this neighborhood. Built into the Roman wall, tucked in a quiet corner adjacent to the small Plaça de Sant Just, Mercer’s native elegance and calm resonate perfectly with its cobblestoned surroundings.
Gràcia is a humbler and more personable neighborhood than most in central Barcelona—it used to be a separate village from the old city, and you still can feel the echoes of its independent heritage. The inexpensive, hip hotel Casa Gracia is a part of the district’s cultural life, regularly hosting exhibitions by local artists, comedy shows, yoga classes, paella workshops and movie screenings. But you’ll want to wander as well: Plaça del Sol or Plaça de la Virreina are great for people watching, or head to La Llavor dels Orígens for coca, a sort of Catalan pizza.
La Barceloneta is the Mediterranean face of the city, a beachy slice of coast dotted with seafood specialty restaurants. Suquet De L’Almirall is fantastic for seafood and particularly rice dishes. A walk down the Passeig Marítim with ice cream in hand is the most popular way for any local to take it easy once the weather starts warming up from May onwards. Walk to La Cova Fumada and ask for the iconic bomba tapa or extend your walk all the way to Poblenou, an industrial-turned-hipster neighborhood down the coast. For a typical Barceloneta meal, a celler (a traditional Catalan tavern or winery) called Can Recasens is my favorite. The W Barcelona is not just a hotel in the neighborhood; it’s also the district’s most iconic building. Locals call it hotel vela—the sail hotel—thanks to the curvature of the building, which towers high over Barceloneta with nearly endless views of city and sea.
Set an early alarm and you’ll have the labyrinthine streets and charming little shops and cafés of the Born to yourself. Look up as you walk, and you’ll see plants and just-washed-clothes hanging from every balcony. The Centre de Cultura i Memòria in the striking Born Market building offers an unearthed glimpse of the neighborhood’s medieval past. Other history echoes here: the Born was a commercial district, and streets still carry the names of the guilds that practiced there. Carrer dels Mirallers, the street where mirrors were sold, is one of my favorites, decorated throughout with colorful pennants. The gothic Santa Maria del Mar church, which inspired the novel Cathedral of the Sea (a recommended read if you want to delve deeper into Barcelona’s history) lies here. The Chic & Basic hotel delivers on the promise of its name—it’s a stylish, inexpensive home-base for this beguiling district. It is located, incidentally, just around the corner from Roads & Kingdoms’ Barcelona office.
Eixample is Barcelona at its most cosmopolitan, a perfect commingling of shopping, food and architecture. Located right next to Passeig de Gràcia, the main commercial artery of the city, the neighborhood hosts an endless stream of people and a vast number of stores (mostly luxury). Hotel Omm’s name is also its mission statement: to impose peace and tranquility despite being located in the buzzing heart of Barcelona. Its singular façade, which is a little reminiscent of fish scales, actually serves the purpose of muffling street noise. Omm is the first hotel project by Grupo Tragaluz, a local trendy restaurant group—Bar Lobo and Pez Vela are my favorite among their offerings.
A group of local craftsmen—an artisan soap maker, a graphic designer and an interior designer—came together to make Casa Bonay happen. More than just a place to stay, the Casa houses an outpost of one of the best coffee spots in the area (Satan’s Coffee Corner) and shop where you can take a bit of the hotel home (décor items or crew uniforms made by local designers Clara and Leti). There’s also a small library with a selection of books picked enthusiastically by the staff. Casa Bonay’s sunny terrace Chiringuito is the place for cookouts, tapas and wine tasting in the summer. You can visit the nearby Els Encants flea market, one of Europe’s oldest. It has more than 500 merchants selling a seemingly infinite variety of items—I recently got a picturesque family portrait of complete strangers that read behind “Cadaqués; holidays 1972; Mom, Dad, Pere and Lluc”–now that makes for a unique postcard.
Motel One is located right next to Ciutadella, one of the largest parks in Barcelona. It would take you more than a day to walk through it all (park goal: try to find the life-size mammoth sculpture). In Ciutadella, you can stroll by acrobats, musicians, people reading their books on the lawn, and couples taking rides in little boats. But the park’s greatest role is as the lungs of the city. This is a green oasis in the heart of the city—and trust me, some days you can really feel the pollution in Barcelona. Botany freaks and nature lovers will enjoy the greenhouse with ancient and endangered plant species, not to mention the huge community of herons inhabiting Ciutadella Park. Just like its surroundings, the hotel ambiance at Motel One evokes the distinctive fauna and flora of the park through its decorative elements such as the illustrations from Barcelona native Lara Costafreda that cover the rooms with painted foliage.
At Room Mate Hotels, the main focus is on the decor and making guests feel as if they’re crashing at a friend’s place. That is why each hotel has its own first name. Óscar in Madrid, Aitana in Amsterdam or Grace in New York: each outpost of this Spanish boutique hotel chain has its own personality. In this case, Gerard, a very common name in Catalonia, represents that protective and loyal pal we all have. He is intrinsically passionate about design and you can tell with every single corner in the hotel. Jaime Beriestain, the Catalan interior designer in charge, defines the place as sophisticated yet warm, built with high-end materials without excessive ornamentation. Gerard runs on Mediterranean rhythms: the hotel offers breakfast until 12 p.m. daily, ¡con calma! A tip: the entrance to Gaudi’s iconic Sagrada Familia (a 20-minute walk or seven-minute cab ride from Gerard) is open to the public every Sunday at 9 a.m. for mass. It’s a way to experience the building without paying the 29€ it costs to visit the towers, or if you don’t want to wait up to two hours to get inside at other times.
It’s not a heritage building, and it’s not the fanciest hotel in town. But La Casa de Antonio is living proof that putting real love into your work makes all the difference. This modest property run a couple of Argentinian friends is perfect for those who live for the little design details. This hotel is located in Sant Antoni; a neighborhood whose popularity has risen enormously in the last couple of years, thanks in large part to Carrer Parlament. No street has more trendy spaces per square meter. The neighborhood is home to seemingly all the hot new restaurant or bar openings. In Sant Antoni you can brunch, vermut, lunch and dine in the same stroll. For Spaniards, vermouth is not only a drink, it’s a social concept in itself: gathering with friends to share an afternoon aperitif with a drink in hand that can last until late at night if it gets its own momentum. Café Cometa and Tarannà Café are the places for coffee and art lovers; have your vermut at Bar Calders (legendary!) or at Vinito to try the wines from Priorat and Empordà (Catalonia is well known for its viticulture). In Sant Antoni, there is also is the old Moritz beer factory, restored by the Nobel Prize-winning Jean Nouvel to become a microbrewery and gastronomic space (run by Catalan Michelin star chef Jordi Vilà) where concerts, music festivals and events of all kind are held. The neighborhood also has a worthy alternative to the famous (but heavily-touristed) Mercat de la Boqueria. Mercat Sant Antoni offers different and very dynamic spaces for fresh food or books and has become the epicenter of the neighborhood. Next to it, you will find another emblem of the city full of history, Teatro Goya, featuring everything from domestic to international theatrical performances.