We booked an excellent room at Hotel Market, with a very nice bed and fantastic shower and bathroom. By far this was our most luxurious hotel in Spain, but it won't break the bank. We paid around $100 a night. The con of Hotel Market is that its not exactly in the heart of the high traffic tourist areas. But there is a metro very near by, and honestly it's not too far of a walk to Las Ramblas (we did it multiple days!). I got the tip from Aspiring Kennedy who is always full of great little travel tips.
|Our room seemed huge after staying in a hostel in Granada! There's a good bit of street noise but the rooms are so spacious and comfortable there's no trouble taking your afternoon siesta.|
Some of our best food was around the neighborhood at Hotel Market -- probably because it was far away from the tourist areas. We grabbed a late night bite at SI Bar Ramon across the street and they were very friendly with great bar food/atmosphere. For breakfast I highly recommend Federal Cafe near the hotel where you can get a fantastic cup of coffee and morning churros that start the day off in the perfect sugar coma.
|Breakfast of champions at Federal Cafe. Yest that's a cup of dipping chocolate.|
Honestly food in Barcelona was kind of a blur for us -- it was all good but there was no real standout like we found in other cities. Maybe we just fell into a bunch of tourist area traps, or maybe we were just so satisfied eating patatas bravas or tapas meat plates instead of actual meals, we didn't dedicate much energy into finding more sophisticated food selections.
|Who needs real food when you can get this with your beer or wine order? via|
We did have a really good (and expensive!) milkshake by the beach at Maka Maka Beach Burger Cafe when we walked around La Barceloneta. Their burgers are a nice break if you are craving a little bit of home. I can absolutely imagine this is a mojor tourist trap, but I didn't really care because I had a milkshake and burger on the beach.
Getting Around Barcelona: There's enough to see in Barcelona that you won't be able to walk everywhere, but luckily the metro system is phenomenal. Just remember to have euros to pay for your tickets because American credit cards won't read in the machines (unless you have the new micro-chipped kind). You need a lot of cash money travelling in Spain but there are ample ATMs (just be aware that there may be a foreign transaction fee with your bank). We used the Barclays ATMs throughout Spain and it was very easy (you can even chose English on the first screen).
Another tip -- many restaurants (especially the more touristy ones) will ask you if you want to pay your bill in American dollars or Euros if you are paying with a credit card. Always, always, always pick Euros when asked this question. You don't need the restaurant setting your conversion exchange rate, and you're still going to get hit with foreign transaction fees by your credit card company anyway.
Shopping: Before I visited Barcelona, everyone always seemed to be caught up on the shopping. I literally was so excited to find some fantastic Barcelona shoes or sleek outfit. The Born district is full of unique shops and boutiques, but honestly budget shopping was more my speed this trip and maybe that's where I went wrong. Definitely check out Spanish main-stays like Zara and Mango (there's a Mango outlet right by the hotel). And my husband got a great deal on a leather jacket at Pull and Bear (it seems like European equivalent of American Eagle?). Personally I came home empty handed, but maybe I was just expecting too much. Style in Spain looked just like walking into your local Forever 21 (complete with patterned leggings), so just basically it was like shopping at home. Spend your time seeing the sights and not at the mall, and maybe bump into a few boutiques just for the experience but window shopping is all you really need in a city full of wonder like Barcelona.