A friend who was working on an article e-mailed me the other day.
"In one sentence, why do you like Barcelona?"
I settled on it being artsy without being snotty. Creative without being self-congratulatory, some alleys rough-and-ready with others being clogged with tourists (which keep services open late). Barcelona tolerates me conveniently and anonymously. I can roam through Raval or Born without anyone accosting me, can move right into a neighborhood and feel perfectly at home in the urban, improvisational environment. And I can buy clothes. More on that another day.
That's more than a sentence.
I've never stayed in a hotel in Barcelona. I've always rented apartments. They're usually cheaper and you can make food if you're hungry when the restaurants aren't open. Like at seven at night.
Where to stay:
-I've rented from Rentalona more times than I can remember. Why? Cuz it's cheap. The locations just outside the heavily touristed area are perfect for me. The Arc de Sant Pau is, to me, MY apartment. I was the first person to move in after they renovated it in 2004. I was there two months, after having renting a grungier place uptown from an annoying lawyer guy. But the Arc de Sant Pau isn't for everyone. It's a sixth-story walkup, or maybe 5, I forget, and the stairs are small and decrepit. Plus the water pressure in Raval, in the whole area, is not so great. I like Raval, but I avoid it these days after having encountered the same water pressure issue in a private apartment last year. Rentalona's Soho Studios are, however, a great deal in a great location across Ramblas. Ask for one on the outside, with a window.
If Rentalona's Soho Studios had wifi, I'd never have looked for any other apartments. But they don't, so...
-My pals Jack and Kaddee rented from this place and had an excellent experience with it. Jack said the place they stayed, which I think was on the main tourist drag being Plaza Real, was basic but decent. And cheap too.
-Normally, I couldn't afford something like this, but as the economy tanks, there have been some marvelous sales. I used this site to get a newly renovated 3-bedroom (with elevator) right on Argenteria, just at the edge of Born. Beautiful area, close to my favorite restaurants, ethernet internet, and even glass doors that I could pull open to the morning sun.
There are probably hundreds of these apartment rental websites for Barcelona. These are just the ones I can personally vouch for. I'd say to watch out for a few things: 1) water pressure 2) location (you may or may not want to be where the tourists drink) 3) walk-ups without elevators. Also check the security and cleaning fees before you sign up! Some places add too many fees which make the price less appealing.