There are a lot of reasons to visit Barcelona, but one of the best is to be dazzled by the modernist architecture. Antoni Gaudi's basilica, La Sagrada Familia, is the most famous example, but Gaudi was merely the biggest star of the Catalan art nouveau movement that launched Barcelona as a style capital. More than a century later, the design quotient remains high. If you want to stay in a hotel that lives up to the city's lofty visual standards, you'll find that good design comes at many budget levels.
When Gaudi contemporary Lluis Domenech i Montaner designed this stunning modernist structure in 1908, he pulled out all the stops, with rich marbles, florid ornamentation and exquisite woodwork. The 105 rooms in this private-residence-turned-hotel are decorated in a luxurious interpretation of modernist style, making them some of the most elegant places in Barcelona to rest your head. Located just 4 blocks north of La Pedrera, Casa Fuster is close to L'Eixample's most upscale shopping. The on-site Café Vienés serves up a gracious tea in the afternoon and hot jazz every Thursday night.
The most modestly priced of Barcelona's modernist hotels, the España began life as a simple inn tucked behind La Rambla, near La Boqueria market. In 1903, Lluis Domenech i Montaner completed his work with a team of modernist artists to transform it into a small, stylish gem. An overhaul in 2010 restored the daring original beauty of the España while fitting it with all the comforts of the 21st century. Public areas, including super-chef Martin Berasategui's gourmet restaurant, retain the grandeur of old Barcelona. The clean-lined, contemporary guest rooms — dressed in mauve, taupe and milk chocolate — are perfect for a soothing escape from the city's bustle.
The best of old and new converge in this Gothic Quarter hotel with a striking 18th-century sgraffito facade. Most of the 31 studio apartments in this historic structure feature vaulted ceilings, big wooden ceiling beams, and exposed brick and stone walls. Parquet floors, black slate bathrooms and fully equipped kitchens complement the sleek, modern furnishings. A rooftop terrace and outdoor pool overlook the oldest part of the city. The cafe scene of Placa Reial is a few blocks west, and the Picasso Museum is only a few blocks east.
In many Spanish cities, the cool kids hang at the Room Mate. In Barcelona, that means Pau, which is just east of Placa de Catalunya and convenient to both the historic attractions of the Gothic Quarter and the boutiques and galleries of L'Eixample. The contemporary styling is the antithesis of modernism, with a theme of Swiss-cheese-like cutouts in the white walls and all-white furniture. (You're forgiven if you think you've walked onto the futuristic set of Woody Allen's movie Sleeper.) Appropriately enough for a hotel where guests might stagger in at dawn after a night of dancing, the generous breakfast is served until noon. It's even included in the moderate price.
Dos Equis' Most Interesting Man in the World doesn't always go to Barcelona, but when he does, he probably indulges in the opulent, clubby style of Hotel 1898. Named for the watershed year when Spain forfeited its empire, the hotel conjures a bygone era of colonial privilege. It occupies the former headquarters of the Philippines Tobacco Co. in the heart of La Rambla. Dark wood paneling and rich, saturated wall colors combine with graceful, chic upholstered furniture to create a cocoon of comfort in each very spacious room and suite. The spa has an indoor pool beneath a brick barrel arch, while the rooftop terrace boasts a heated outdoor pool.
It reflects an eco-conscious sense of style to stay at the Mirror in L'Eixample, a 5-block walk from Gaudi's La Pedrera. Every room appears to be doubled in size, thanks to mirrored walls. A few beige accents break up the white-on-white decor, and the bed surrounds are made of padded panels for super soundproofing. Sustainability is a watchword, so most lights are LEDs, and rooftop solar panels heat the water for your shower. (Don't worry, there's still room for a rooftop pool and terrace.) Your moderate bill will be sent to you electronically, as the Mirror maintains a no-printing policy.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.
Shaped like a shark’s fin, this bold glass structure rises from the harbor's outermost pier at the west end of the Barceloneta beach strip. All the rooms have the signature W style of pale-toned minimalism broken up by wide-screen TVs, along with sweeping views of the ocean. Strain into the haze shimmering off the Mediterranean, and you can almost imagine North Africa in the distance. Some rooms also give amazing views of Barcelona's old city. This is the only hotel in town with direct beach access, making it a little piece of the Costa Brava at the edge of downtown.