Sònia Graupera, a Barcelona-based travel writer, had invited me to speak at the Hospitality Industry World Congress in her home city. Though we had only been “Twitter friends” up to that point, when we met I felt like we had known each other for years, bursting out laughing and exchanging stories over drinks and bowls full of green olives.
After the conference, I spent extra time in Barcelona to stalk hotels, explore its many neighborhoods, architecture, and museums, and have some of the best meals of recent memory at Escriba, Restaurante Lasarte, and Tickets tapas bar.
Sònia told me that most of the properties that have opened in the last few years have been family-owned boutique hotels. But, she said, “we’ve also seen the international chains like W, Mandarin Oriental, and Renaissance arrive in Barcelona, with Hilton opening its second hotel, all in the past four years.” Lucky for us travelers, the influx in options hasn’t driven up costs. “Prices are still very reasonable, compared to Paris, London, or Milan, with very high quality,” she said.
After pounding the pavement for hours armed with Sònia’s expertise and extensive research, I came up with my picks for the 10 best hotels in Barcelona (in no particular order):
> Hotel Majestic: If I had to choose where I’d stay again, I’d go with this hotel. Located on the swanky Passeig de Gràcia near two of Gaudi’s most famous buildings, La Pedrera and Casa Batlló, this hotel has a rich 90+ year history to discover. Grand columns and a chandelier lead to the lobby lounge, bar, and piano, while rooms have all been recently renovated. My balcony allowed me to watch Barcelona promenade by. The feature that made me go from like to love? The rooftop pool and lounge, with phenomenal views of La Sagrada Familia and Passeig de Gràcia.
> ABaC: I felt immediately calm at this hotel, located on Av. Tibidabo, a street of villas slightly removed from Barcelona’s main tourist sites. Opened as a hotel in 2008, the building was actually the U.S. embassy in Barcelona from 1936-1939. Now, they call it a restaurant with a hotel, because the 2-Michelin-star-rated Restaurant ABaC is so popular. At the helm is Jordi Cruz, known for being the youngest chef in Spain to get a Michelin star. If you’re looking for a romantic retreat in the heart of the city, look no further than this hotel’s 15 stylish rooms, gorgeous spa, and garden.
> Casa Fuster: Designed by a famous Catalan architect, this historic building opened as a hotel in 2004, revealing a whimsical, modern design in its 105 rooms on the Passeig de Gràcia. Café Vienés, just off the lobby, is a popular meeting spot with bright furnishings. But on Thursdays, it turns into one of the hottest jazz clubs in town (Woody Allen has played his clarinet here, as this is his hotel of choice in Barcelona). A two-minute walk from Casa Fuster is Da Greco, a wonderful spot for homestyle Italian cuisine if you are tired of tapas bars.
> Mandarin Oriental Barcelona: There’s no mistaking when you’re at a Mandarin Oriental property. The vibe is always tranquil and unhurried, with impeccable service. Their Barcelona location has been no exception since opening in 2009. The hotel has one of the best breakfast spreads served in a truly serene setting, as well as a lovely rooftop pool. Rooms overlooking the Passeig de Gràcia have far better views than the “garden view” ones, which are more run down.
> Hotel Claris: A hotel with a truly superb location, this former 19th-century palace off the Passeig de Gràcia has the additional distinction of housing a 400+ piece art collection. Each of the 124 rooms is decorated with original Roman, Egyptian, and Hindu art. There’s even a small Egyptian art exhibit above the lobby level. The love for art comes from owner Jordi Clos, an avid collector who also owns the Egyptian Museum of Barcelona. Hotel Claris’ rooftop restaurant and terrace are also beautiful. The style of the rooms can vary wildly, so be sure to look into each type before booking.
> Hotel Arts Barcelona: For those of you who want to be as close to the Mediterranean as possible, check out this vibrant hotel with 483 rooms, five fantastic restaurants, a spa on the 42nd floor with the one of the most gorgeous views, and fresh flower displays throughout. It was built during Barcelona’s revitalization for the 1992 Olympics and has a prime spot next to Frank Gehry’s fish sculpture, which has since become a symbol of the city.
> Hotel Alma: This super-stylish boutique hotel in the Eixample neighborhood feels hidden away from the bustling city streets. Rooms at Hotel Alma have high ceilings and strong, masculine feel, but with white marble bathrooms. While it’s definitely not the right choice for families, those wanting a sleek, quiet stay in Barcelona will be more than pleased with the experience.
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> Hotel Omm: It’s all about the word natural at Hotel Omm — the furniture and linens are earthy and unrefined, and public spaces are filled with light. The hotel’s spa is one of the best in Barcelona, as is Restaurant Moo, where Catalan food is served “with a twist” worthy of a Michelin star. I also really liked Moovida, the more casual little brother to Moo that can be found in the lobby.
> Neri Hotel: You may have some trouble finding Neri when you first arrive, as it’s tucked away in the Gothic Quarter. But that’s just part of its charm, as is the fact that it was once a Medieval palace. The stone walls from its palace days remain, which lend a very authentic feel to the hotel and its beautiful courtyards.
> The Mirror: One of the best values in Barcelona, this hotel is all white, light, and well…mirrors. Each of the 63 rooms feels trend-setting in its design, and larger due to the expansive effect of the reflections. The seafood restaurant is a favorite, run by Paco Pérez, a chef who has earned two Michelin stars at another restaurant in Costa Brava. It is said this restaurant should — and will — earn its own star soon.
Bonus Tips! For more great value and food, try The Park Hotel, where rooms can be found for less than 100 euros. The hotel’s restaurant, Ten’s, is a local foodie favorite, and was one of mine as well. There are also two Room Mate-branded hotels in Barcelona, Emma and Pau, which are geared toward a fun-loving, younger crowd.