Budget Accommodation in Barcelona

Hostals, hostels, pensions, hotels, apartments, B&Bs, oh my! It’s easy to get confused in Barcelona with so many ways to label budget accommodation, and the one-four star system makes it even more unclear.

Here's a basic overview of what to expect in the various types of budget accommodation in Barcelona.

Hotel Astoria Barcelona

The three-star Hotel Astoria offers predictable service and style at affordable rates.

Hotels

€70 & up

Overall, a hotel should have more services than hostals, hostels, and pensions. However, from our research in Barcelona we’ve learned that this is not always the case. Hotels are usually more expensive than other accommodation options but do not, for the most part, offer larger rooms.

Expect other perks though, like telephones in the room, 24-hour reception, Wi-Fi (not always included in the rate), breakfast (though expect to pay for it, €10 and up), handicap-accessible rooms, and standardized interior design. Of course, four-star hotels offer all of these things (and more), but we don’t recommend any four-star hotels on EuroCheapo!

What to expect in hotel rooms

The nice thing about a hotel is that they offer reliable service and most have private bathrooms in every room. It may be worth paying a bit more for this convenience alone.

Also, uniform interior decoration is the norm at hotels; no bizarre paintings of clowns on the walls or doily-clad antique furnishings often encountered at hostals. Count on rooms equipped with telephones, televisions, an occasional minibar, air conditioning, heating, soundproofed windows, as well as toiletries (shampoo and soap) and perhaps a sewing kit.

Read our reviews of recommended hotels in Barcelona.

Hostal Gat Xino

The Hostal Gat Xino offers rooms with private bath and a touch of style.

Hostals and Pensions

€40 & up

The word "hostal" looks like "hostel," as in youth hostel, but they're not the same thing. Hostals are like hotels but some of the rooms won’t have bathrooms en suite. Most of the time hostals do not serve breakfast, although there are exceptions to this rule.

The same is pretty much true for pensions, though quite a few pensions will offer breakfast or coffee and tea. Think of them as a cross between an inn and a hotel, but not quite a B&B. Many times it is less expensive to book a hostal or pension than a hotel, and the services will be very similar.

Hostals and pensions are both given star ratings, just like hotels. Generally speaking, the more stars, the more services they offer.

Hostal and pension rooms

Here is where we find the greatest variety of room types in Barcelona. A hostal room might have a bathroom en suite, then again, it may have a shared bathroom and only a sink en suite. We’ve even seen a few that had a shower and sink en suite, but the toilet outside the room and down the hall. You need to ask.

If there is a bathroom in the room, the rate will be more expensive, so if you don’t mind sharing your loo, then this is a good way to save money. Shared bathrooms in hostals and pensions will not be communal like they are in youth hostels. Usually they are just "normal" bathrooms with a shower and toilet and little else. It can be a pain if there are only a couple shared bathrooms and many guests trying to shower, etc.

If an en suite bathroom is not available, the next best choice is to at least have a sink and mirror in your room. Don’t expect shampoo, although there may be a small bar of hand soap.

As far as other amenities go, it’s unpredictable. Many hostals will not have telephones or televisions (due to the noise caused by TVs, which may bother other guests through thin walls) in the rooms. Many also don’t have air conditioning, but will have fans and radiators for heating in the winter.

Hostal Levante is a good example of this "services enigma," as they offer air conditioning in some rooms, fans in others, some en suite bathrooms, no televisions, but towel dryers and heating. Go figure!

Read our reviews of recommended hostals and pensions.

The Hostel One Paralelo offers stylish communal areas and group activities along with cheap beds.

Hostels

€20 per person & up

These are the classic youth hostels with dorm rooms, lockers, communal showers, and lots of backpacker types chilling in the lounge area. All of the hostels that we review offer private rooms, and many offer meals and activities, as well.

For the most part, hostels are open to all age groups. Indeed, you do see all ages (especially families with children) in hostels, although hostels are undeniably most popular with the high school and university-age set.

Hostel rooms

In Barcelona's youth hostels, you can expect rather spacious rooms with between four and 10 beds, which will most likely be bunk-beds. Sometimes rooms will be separated by gender, but if this is important to you make sure to ask ahead.

Usually there are male and female bathrooms, which will have several shower stalls and sinks. This is the case at HelloBCN and Itaca, but over at the Hostel One Paralelo bathrooms are not gender-specific.

Rooms should have lockers inside or just outside the door (a better plan for those coming back at 3 a.m.!). Most youth hostels provide "chill out" areas and lounges for mingling with other travelers.

Read about our favorite hostels in Barcelona.

Apartments

€90 & up

Short-term vacation apartments are popular in Barcelona. Many hostals and pensions may also have apartments to rent, so be sure to ask if this interests you. Booking an apartment is a smart approach for saving money in the city. This is especially the case for families and large groups who can save money by cooking in the apartment.

The issue is that some apartments don’t have Wi-Fi and, of course, there is no one on site to help you out in case of a problem. You're usually on your own.

What to expect in the apartment

Apartments are a bit like hostals and usually run by hostals on the side, so many of the above hostal guidelines apply here. However, if you rent an apartment you’re sure to have a kitchen, though it may not have an oven and could have little more than a two-burner stove. The kitchen should be stocked with dishes, cutlery and basic pots and pans.

Apartments should also have a dining area, a living room (sometimes these will be two in the same) and a bedroom. Some may have balconies or even terraces. When it comes to televisions, air conditioning, heating and WiFi, it is best to ask ahead. Most will not have telephones. Bathrooms will have towels, but will not usually have shampoo or soap.

To see apartments available for your travel dates, do a search in the box above.

The swanky Fashion House is a "hostal."

What to expect overall

One of the complaints we most often hear is that rooms of all types of accommodation in Barcelona are cramped. Sadly, this is pretty much standard unless you go four-star or pay extra for a "suite." There are few hotels that offer spacious rooms, as there simply isn’t much space in mountain-locked Barcelona.

Expect itty-bitty showers, limited storage, and rooms with little more than a desk and a bed. Also, many budget hostals and pensions will not have elevators (hotels will), so ask about this if you travel with lots of luggage or if climbing stairs is an issue.

Also, Barcelona can be an incredibly noisy city. If you’re a light sleeper, always ask for an interior room and sacrifice the balcony views of La Rambla.

A note about star ratings

Star ratings are endlessly confusing. We’ve been to two-star hostals that have been better than three-star hotels. "No star" hotels are generally the most basic in town, while four-star hotels offer the most number of services and amenities.

Related articles

• All Barcelona hotels inspected and reviewed by EuroCheapo.

• Choosing a neighborhood in Barcelona for your upcoming stay.

When to go: the best seasons to visit Barcelona.

• Our favorite youth hostels in Barcelona.

About the author: Regina W. Bryan is EuroCheapo's Barcelona-based correspondent. Read her reviews of hotels in Barcelona and her regular posts in EuroCheapo's Barcelona blog.