Five budget places to stay in Barcelona

by Fred.Mawer

When flights are so cheap, why spend a fortune on a hotel? In Barcelona, with its Gaudi architecture, vibrant nightlife and street performers on the Ramblas, you can stay in style for €65 a night

Not long ago, it was hard to find anywhere appealing to stay in Barcelona on a tight budget. In the past few years, however, a number of “cheap but chic” hotels and hostales (in Spanish cities, a hostal means a simple guesthouse, not a “hostel” in the English dormitory/
backpacker sense) have opened in the Catalan capital. Here are five quality places to stay, all offering double rooms for less than £100 a night – and most for much less than that. Unless otherwise stated, prices are lead-in rates for the cheapest double rooms, including a 7 per cent local sales tax.

Chic&basic Tallers

This is one of the best of Barcelona’s new breed of hostales. Occupying two upper floors of an apartment block, virtually everywhere at Chic&basic Tallers is startlingly bright white. Bedrooms are simple but strikingly modern, with blond wood floors, racks for hanging clothes (no wardrobes) and decent mod-cons (air conditioning, flat-screen TVs). The cheapest are small and interior-facing; consider paying €10-€20 extra for a larger room with a balcony. There's a generosity of spirit: help yourself any time to breakfast, snacks and drinks in the funky communal area and kitchen. The location, on the edge of smartened-up Raval, is central. From €75.

Hostal Goya

Leather-padded headboards and pretty throws on beds, striking bathrooms with enamel and black granite fittings and original, decoratively tiled floors... Furnishings in the Hostal Goya, which is spread over a couple of floors of a late-19th-century building typical of the Eixample district, are of the quality you might expect of a decent four-star hotel. Facilities are pared down, however: no TVs in rooms, and no breakfast on offer – though there is free tea and coffee in the smart lounges, as well as free Internet access. The cheaper internal bedrooms can be dark; exterior rooms (only €10 more) have balconies or access to a shared terrace at the quieter rear. The Ramblas is a short stroll away. Expect to pay €75 for the sole bedroom that is not en-suite, otherwise from €86.

The Market Hotel

If you have managed to bag a room at the Market Hotel at the lead-in €65-a-night rate, your first response on seeing your room might be that there has been some fortuitous mistake. The Asian-influenced accommodation looks super-stylish: monochromatic save for splashes of red, with teak and lacquered furniture, and swish black-tiled showers. So what's the catch? While the location near the earthy Sant Antoni Market is central and close to a metro stop, it is not in Barcelona's tourist heart. Also, prices can double when the hotel is well booked up – though the €65 rate was widely available based on checks I made across a few random weekends. Another plus is the elegant but fantastic-value restaurant: set-price weekday lunches cost just €10; breakfast €9 extra per person.

Banys Orientals

One of the first of Barcelona’s new wave of fashionable but Banys Orientals is still one of the best; book well ahead to get in. With their blackened floorboards, white muslin curtains, modern four-poster beds and Perspex chairs, bedrooms look unimprovably sleek. Ask for one at the rear to minimise nighttime disturbance: the hotel is on a busy pedestrian thoroughfare leading into the bar-rich Born district. If you want extra space, consider a suite (€139) in two nearby annexes. Downstairs, Senyor Parellada restaurant serves good-value, hearty Catalan dishes in a colonial-style setting. €107, breakfast €11 extra per person.

El Jardi Hotel

The El Jardi Hotel isn’t anything like as stylish as my other recommendations, but it has easily the best location: in the Barri Gotic (the old city), overlooking two of its prettiest pedestrianised squares. Bedrooms are uncompromisingly plain and functional, but in my experience fine – as long as you avoid the cheapest interior ones, which have next to no natural light. Opt instead for a room with a shuttered window opening on to one of the squares (from €80), or one of the top-floor rooms (€90), which are by far the quietest (cafes spill out into the squares) and have large private terraces. Skip the hotel’s uninspiring breakfast, and head round the corner to La Pallaresa for thick hot chocolate and churros (mini Spanish doughnuts). Double rooms from €65, breakfast €6 extra per person.

Fred.Mawer

As a travel journalist with over 20 years of experience, I have written numerous articles on Amsterdam for the travel sections of newspapers such as The Daily Telegraph, Mail on Sunday and The Independent. I've also contributed to guidebooks on Amsterdam for the AA and Dorling Kindersley.

For my portfolio of writing, I am proud to say that the Netherlands Board of Tourism has voted me Journalist of the Year 2010.

During my many and frequent visits to the Dutch capital, I've stayed in most of the best hotels (in all price brackets - not just the expensive ones), and visited dozens of others. I've eaten and drunk in more restaurants, cafés and bars than, even sober, I can remember. I've explored the canals by boat and bike and on foot. I've hunted for bargains in the markets. I've admired the art - and worked out how best to avoid the crowds and queues - in the must-see museums. When not in Amsterdam or on my travels elsewhere, I'm at home in Bath.

My Amsterdam

Where I always grab a beer - Café t' Smalle (Egelantiersgracht 12), a cosy, classic "brown café" with its own canalside terrace.

My favourite dining spot - Café de Reiger (Nieuwe Leliestraat 34), an atmospheric eetcafé in the Jordaan that is always packed with locals.

Best for people watching - A window seat in Snackbar Bird (Zeedijk 77), a great little no-frills Thai café on one of the main thoroughfares into the Red Light District.

My favourite stroll - Pick a canal, any canal...but the stretch of the Prinsengracht along the Jordaan district is particularly lovely.

Where to be seen - MiNiBAR (Prinsengracht 478), an unusual, newish bar near the Leidseplein where you get your own minibar (and unlike many of Amsterdam's trendy nightspots, it's easy to get in).

The most breathtaking view - from the top of the tower of the Westerkerk.

The best spot for some peace and quiet - Vondelpark, the city's main park - especially towards its less visited western end.

Shopaholics beware! The gourmet shops, funky art galleries, fashionable clothes boutiques and oddball stores that line the charming Negen Straatjes or Nine Streets quarter.

Best new attraction - Hermitage Amsterdam, which lays on no-expense-spared exhibitions of treasures from St Petersburg's State Hermitage Museum.

Don’t leave without...exploring the Eastern Docklands on a bike. The avant-garde modern architecture there is as memorable as the old gabled canal houses in the centre.