Combining medieval splendour with groundbreaking architecture, an abiding respect for tradition with a sunny Mediterranean disposition and temples to art with shrines to fashion, Barcelona has exploded in popularity in recent years. Luckily, the vastly improved hotels have made it easier to find a quality room than ever before, and with a little forward-planning it's possible to get some great deals.
Here are my top hotel picks in Barcelona.
Best view – The Serras
Neighbourhood: Barri Gòtic
Overlooking the Port Vell, The Serras makes the most of its enviable location with huge floor-to-ceiling windows (some rooms even have tubs from which you can watch the yachts bobbing in the harbour), but the best view is from the rooftop terrace. Newly revamped and expanded, it now has a leafy open-air restaurant to add to its cocktail bar and plunge pool.
A stylish but impressively relaxed place, it works hard to keep its guests happy, providing luxuries such as mobile phones with free data and international calls, Diptyque toiletries and a 24-hour bar.
Doubles from €245
Best for design on a budget – Room-Mate Anna
The Room-Mate chain is a quirky Spanish affair that styles each hotel around an individual, fictional, person. Whoever Anna is, she sure has élan and a quirky sense of style. The cartoony fish wallpaper in the corridors sets the playful tone, which continues all the way to the neat little pool, surrounded by Tim Burton-inspired striped cushions. Rooms are filled with colour, but a little more sober, although the nicest ("Deluxe") have a sumptuous Eastern theme and are worth splashing out a little extra for.
Doubles from €98
Best for dining – Mandarin Oriental
With the sort of luxe comfort and service you'd expect from a Mandarin Oriental, the Barcelona branch has character in spades, as well as a notable selection of restaurants and bars. The outstanding Moments has (deservedly) won two Michelin stars for its chef Raül Balam, whose mother Carme Ruscalleda – one of the most garlanded chefs in the world – oversees Blanc, a less formal dining option. There are two outdoor bar-restaurants, one of which serves Peruvian cuisine, as well as the celebrated Banker's Bar.
Doubles from €375
Best for country house chic – Soho House
Neighbourhood: Barri Gòtic
Though it's only been open a couple of years, Barcelona's Soho House already has the venerable and clubby feel of one of its London counterparts. There are elements of Catalan craftsmanship in the design, but the look is overwhelming Cotswold retreat – which works surprisingly well in combination with a view over the Med. Rooms are small but luxurious, abundantly stocked with Cowshed toiletries and what can only be described as maxi-bars. There are various bars and restaurants, a rooftop pool and a small private cinema.
Doubles from €275
Best for history – Cotton House
Set in the 19th-century neo-classical building that once housed the city's guild of cotton producers, the hotel runs with the theme. The reception desk is adorned with vast sprays of cotton bolls; the rooms (dazzling white) are named after fabrics, and there is a discreet Atelier, lined with bolts of cotton, where you can have a shirt made. Dazzling architectural features include the coffered library-turned-cocktail bar and the 1950s suspended staircase.
Doubles from €342
Best for swimming – Grand Hotel Central
Neighbourhood: El Born
A smart, sexy hotel with an understated deco elegance, the Grand Hotel Central has one outstanding feature – its rooftop infinity pool, star of a million Instagram shots. The view from up here (where there is also a bar/restaurant) is breathtaking, and enhanced by a curious maritime mural. The story goes that the family that owns the hotel, frustrated by the neighbouring building blocking what would be a view of the sea, bought it for themselves and commissioned a vast mural to be painted on one side.
Doubles from €248
Best for hanging with the locals – Casa Bonay
Everything about Casa Bonay is designed to engage and give back to the local community, and during the day it becomes something of a co-working space for young Catalans, who gaze at MacBooks while eating homemade granola with almond milk and sipping a cold-pressed coffee. In the evenings, they return for the Asian food or for events such as the outdoor cinema on the citrus tree and herb-filled rooftop terrace. In the simply designed, light-filled rooms, rugs, blankets and hand-crafted furniture is by local designers, and much of it is for sale.
Doubles from €102
Best for fun – Casa Camper
Bowls of M&Ms, an honesty bar, hammocks in the rooms, a little slice of rainforest, complete with shower, on the roof – these are the things that make up the Casa Camper experience. Rooms – painted crimson and overlooking a hanging garden – are divided into two, with sitting rooms across the corridor from the bedrooms (strangers padding around in dressing gowns is less awkward than it sounds), and an excellent 24-hour free snack bar is a social hub day and night.
Doubles from €230
Best spa – Hotel Sofia
Neighbourhood: Zona Alta
The Sofia is up in the business district, which means there are bargains to be had in holiday periods. Rooms on the higher floors have fabulous views, and the dining options – three restaurants and an underground speakeasy with cabaret – are surprisingly good. The pool is a little too close to the road to be peaceful, but the spa is exceptional. Genuinely relaxing, it's a vast and leafy space, with expert therapists and a range of treatments, along with a caldarium, sauna, salt room and ice-fountain.
Doubles from €228 (including breakfast)
Best for beach-lovers – W Hotel
Not for the shy, the seaside W is unabashedly aimed at the young and glam (there is an actual recording studio in the basement, not to mention a ferocious entrance policy for the main bar). The rooms, however, are all about the sea, decorated with a maritime theme and with beds placed dead centre, all the better to gaze out at the view. The gym and pools also face out to sea, as do the various restaurants, one of which is practically on the sand itself.
Doubles from £286
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