[BARCELONA] — I know I’m in the minority in being a steadfast fan of boutique hotels these days, whilst the rest of you are Airbnb’n, but I still am bullish on the whole hotel experience. In fact, I usually book my vacations around the hotel, often traveling far and wide just to visit a special place.

Barcelona has been almost overrun by Airbnbs, so much so that whole apartment buildings are being converted by investors into full-on apartment rentals — much to the scorn of local residents, pushed out by reasonable growing rents.

But just before the HomeAway trend hit BCN, a flurry of boutique hotels were built, high on style, funky design and cool restaurants, dramatically increasing this great city’s inventory of cool places to stay.

Now, many remain under-booked. I don’t have a single friend that stayed in a hotel in Barcelona recently, which is kinda scary for hoteliers. With this tectonic shift, now you can stay at these places at a fraction of what they originally charged.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been in and out of Barcelona six or seven times; sometimes for days, sometimes just a quick overnight to catch cheap flights to other parts of Europe. Here are my favorite places I’ve found, so far, and can highly recommend.

Hotel Ohla

The Ohla Hotel is a groovy little sleeping platz In Barcelona, right on the edge of the Gothic Quarter. Sleek rooms, a good restaurant and an awesome pool bar on the roof, the absolute perfect Gin-Tonic Spot before going out grazing tapas around town.

The pool on the roof is a go-to, even if you’re not staying there. Amazing views to watch the sunset every night. The location is perfect and sometimes you can really snag a great steal of a room rate.

Hotel Ohla pool view
There’s something cool about a pool in the sky. I like it.

It’s the right amount of mixing old and funky new, like Barcelona is today. The rooms are roomy and have nice sheets. Some as low as a couple of hundred bucks. The bathrooms are open to the room, so plan for that if you’re with someone new.

Even if you don’t stay here, or swim here, this is a great place to stop in for a sunset pop. The views are fizzy. Come here for a sunset drink overlooking Barcelona and let the ebullient, friendly bartenders tell you the right way to make a proper G-T. I didn’t even like gin & tonics, I do now. How could you not like a hotel call “Hi!” ? The pool isn’t big, but it’s perfect for overlooking Barcelona. It’s like a fish tank for people.

Last visited May 2015

Here is the hotel review on the always dependable Mr and Mrs Smith boutique hotel website.  And on my favorite hotel booking site, Tablet Hotels. Always my go-to hotel site. Even the goons at TripAdvisor agree, giving the hotel a 4.5 rating.

 The Cotton House

A fairly new place, right on the Grand Via, so easy to walk to everything.

I was there in 2015, a month or so after it opened, couldn’t believe it was a Marriott owned place, under their new Autograph boutique hotels. This is not your father’s Marriott place.

Very cool design and a great restaurant. And since it was new, they have the speediest wifi….especially after I spent two weeks in Morocco…. I got a lot of work done.

I’m not really a Marriott stayer, but this place was surprisingly cool. The only downside (for me) was that it is a Marriott property, so most of the guests there are Americans, many that seemed like this is their first trip abroad. But I don’t want to be a dick. (I can be.)

There’s an awesome terrace/restaurant/bar out back that’s just great to hang out and get some work done.

This is the place to stay if you have points, but it’s also a place to stay if you’re not a fan of chains. The design public areas are just amazing and plentiful. So great to come back and chill between jaunts, or just hang out all morning and not feel like you’re missing something.

Here’s the 4.5 review of Cotton House on TripAdvisor

And a great review in the Daily Mail.

Last visited June 2015

 The Mercer

The Mercer was another great hotel in Barcelona I stayed in the summer 2015. (No relation to the NY one). This was probably my second favorite so far.

Highly recommend. Very cool understated design, big rooms, huge beds and super quiet dead-end street in the Gothic Quarter, opening onto an ivy covered courtyard so you can snooze longer after having dinner so late.

I saw Anthony Bourdain once post Instagram Stories from his room there.

Located on a near-pedestrian-only area in the Gothic Quarter, with thick stone walls, there’s no traffic noise. Just snores and smiles. Nice sheets.

The Mercer Barcelona room view

Everything at the Mercer was quiet, subtle, understated, elegant. The fit and finish was just perfect. Soft to the touch. Warm on the feet. Easy on the eyes. In fact, quiet is the one word that shouts in my head in remembering this place.

You get back in from busy Barcelona, hot, sweaty, tired. You walk through the door and everything is quiet, cool. Calm. Like being inside a human frigobar…. without the annoying hum.

Here is their website. But if you’re a TabletPlus member, I recommend you go here to get a possible upgrade. Or on Mr and Mrs. Smith. Or read this review in The Telegraph.

— Last visited July 2015

El Palauet Barcelona

This is one of the coolest city hotels I’ve ever stayed. Actually, more of a building of swanky apartments, run like a hotel. El Palauet in Barcelona, just off the top of Passeig de Gracia. It has been a long time since I’ve stayed here, 2011!, but it looks like they have gone more hotel-like and now call these apartments suites. So check out their website to see what’s new.

This is not some IKEA filled place for you to flop, it’s more like if you could stay at a footballer or rockstar’s multi-million pad, in a sumptuously restored Art Nouveau building.

Dramatically lit, ornate plaster ceilings with white egg-and-dart and acanthus leaf patterns. All white walls, two master bedroom suites, huge living and dining rooms and full-on kitchen, stocked with everything you need to feed 14. Beer. Wine. Cheeses of every type. Jamon Iberico. The full size fridge was jammed with so much stuff, I couldn’t add things I picked up from the Mercado. And a super sweet butler that checks in on your every need in the morning.

El Palauet Living sitting room
I mean… this was just one of the rooms I had in my suite…. the sun room.

It had a full built-in whole-apt stereo, a funky projection TV the size of a Mini Cooper. And one of those cool lighting systems that dims to different moods. I almost didn’t want to go exploring, the instant I had a lull, I’d sprint back with a grin and crank up the tunes.

Ah man, if you’re in BCN with another couple for a special occasion, this is where you want to do it. Makes it reasonable if you split it. I got it on a winter-holiday deal on Tablet Hotels, I couldn’t believe my eyes on how nice this places was. So it was just me, doing my best Risky Business slide-across-the-parquet-floor imitation… except for the whole looking-like-Tom-Cruise part. (He’s much shorter; and boxers, not tighty-whities.)

Here’s their website. And stellar reviews on TripAdvisor.

Last visited December 2011

Other Resources About Barcelona Boutique Hotels

Here are some other great resources for where to stay in Barcelona:

Travel & Leisure’s article on where to stay. As well as T&L’s great City Guide to Barcelona. And this is T&L’s more comprehensive recommended Barcelona hotels list.

And here is Conde Nast Traveller’s list of top Barcelona hotels. And here is a great list from CNT on the top things to do, places to stay and eat in Barcelona.

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