Spain’s dual cities could not be more different—free-spirited Barcelona has its Catalan cuisine, Gaudi architecture, and Mediterranean twang; sophisticated Madrid, its prized museums and traditional Spanish flavors. What they have in common? Stylish boutique hotels that give you incredible bang for your buck. Here's where to stay in Barcelona and Madrid for under $200.
Retrome’s manager, Cora, has a real eye for design, which is evident in every detail at this 11-room Barcelona guesthouse in Eixample—one of the best affordable hotels in Barcelona under $200—from the geometric wallpaper to the retro European furniture and emerald-tile bathrooms. The Art Nouveau building’s original bones have been restored to beautiful effect, including the bowed beams, the hand-painted wall tiles, and the cast-iron balconies overlooking a convent garden. Caveat: rooms are small, unless you spring for an apartment.
Hotel Primero Primera, Barcelona
If stepping into Primero Primera feels like entering someone’s home, it's because you are—the owner’s family has lived here ever since the 50s. Even with modern updates, the hotel still retains its old world charm: guests can treat themselves to an honor bar in the lounge, the restaurant is more like a living room with velvet sofas and worn-out chairs, and the collection of one-off furniture gives off the impression that everything was assembled over time. When night falls, head to the garden pool for excellent tapas and wine.
Hotel Praktik Rambla, Barcelona
A stunning 19th-century palace in central Barcelona is the setting for this Modernist gem, whose century-old molded ceilings, vaulted hallways, and ceramic tile floors have been combined with contemporary art and industrial lighting. Our favorite spaces include the oval reading room, with its wall of bay windows and the interior courtyard—perfect for kicking back after a day of exploring leafy La Rambla, in the heart of the city’s best cafés, small museums, and shops.
Casa Bonay, Barcelona
The roster of talents involved in the transformation of this 1869 Neoclassical former home is like a best-of-the-best list: the design—including a painstaking restoration of the building’s finer details—comes courtesy of Brooklyn-based Studio Tack (behind the buzzworthy new Scribner’s Catskill Lodge) and co-owner Inés Miró-Sans (who worked at the Ace Hotel New York), while the ground floor is a laundry-list of hits including a café from celebrated Catalan baristas Satan’s Coffee Corner with the city’s first cold-pressed juice bar. Guest rooms are attractively simple, juxtaposing minimalist furniture with the building’s original mosaic floors, and the rooftop has its own orchard and herb garden. The real showstopper: the lobby, whose teal sofas, Turkish kilims, and wagon-wheel chandelier set the stage for after-dark cocktails and conversation.
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Casa Mathilda, Barcelona
Interior designer Barbara Aurell went to great lengths to preserve Casa Mathilda’s 20th-century details, and it shows: stained-glass doors, parquet floors, and brass doorknobs all retain a sense of the building’s past, while lime-green walls and crown-molding-framed mirrors bring it thoroughly into the present day. Like today's best Airbnbs, this bed and breakfast is as homey as it is design-conscious: think fresh pastries and breads made every morning by owner Assumpta Baldó.
TÓTEM Madrid is, in fact, not a members-only club, despite what its interiors—and its address in posh Salamanca—might have you believe. The look is moody and dark—dim lighting, velvet armchairs, potted plants, and mid-century furniture. Upstairs, 64 white-and-gray rooms spread over five floors are decidedly brighter, with black marble bathrooms and pops of color (ask for one with a balcony, which overlook the street). The real hype, though, revolves around its Roaring Twenties-style cocktail bar and adjacent Mediterranean restaurant, both inspired by Fitzgerald’s novel The Beautiful and the Damned.
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Hotel Urban, Madrid
No serious art or anthropology lover can visit Madrid without checking into Hotel Urban, one of the most intriguing hotels in the city center. Its glass tower is an Art Deco vision of black Zimbabwe stone and coffee-colored steel beams, but the interior spaces are even more eye-popping. The geometric lobby has a glass-roofed courtyard and unique pieces like flap chairs and wooden sculptures from Oceania, hallways are lined with Ming Dynasty prints, 96 masculine rooms (all leather and antiques) feature ancient Buddhist art, and, in the basement, there’s a museum dedicated to Papua New Guinean artifacts like cowry bone knives and ancestor figurines.
Only You Hotel Atocha, Madrid
Like London’s emerging King’s Cross neighborhood, Atocha, Madrid's once gritty transport hub, is experiencing something of a renaissance as stylish restaurants, storefronts, and hotels move in. Case in point: Only You Hotel Atocha, whose dazzling design has made the hotel somewhat of its own destination. The 19th-century building was given an industrial-chic makeover (exposed piping, stenciled lettering on the walls), with 205 loft-style rooms that feature brick-tiled bathrooms, wooden floors, tartan throws, and soundproofed walls—a godsend in this sleepless barrio. Another bonus: the first-floor Relaxarium, perfect for recharging after an all-day visit to the nearby Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.
Dear Hotel, Madrid
Escape the hustle of Madrid’s Gran Vía at this serene 162-room sleep. A soothing natural palette and minimalist, Scandinavian-style furniture—courtesy of Barcelona-based interior designer Sandra Tarruella—create an effortlessly stylish and laid-back vibe. Here, you’ll never feel like you’re rushed: late check-out is included and “anytime” breakfast ensures you can enjoy your eggs and o.j. whether you wake up at nine or two. Any time you start to miss the city life (but can’t bear the crowds below), hit up the solarium for tapas and cocktails or the Sky Pool for a refreshing dip—both come with panoramic views of the surrounding rooftops.
Room Mate Laura, Madrid
It’s safe to say the fashion-forward Spanish Room Mate chain has the beautiful budget hotel down to a science, and the 37-room Room Mate Laura is no exception. The design—ruby-red couches, flower-like light fixtures, recessed murals of the Spanish royalty—is big and bold, while the various guest rooms accommodate everyone from traveling twosomes to families. There isn't much in the way of extra amenities like a gym or a restaurant (a breakfast buffet is included), but you won't find a more affordable stay this close to Madrid's major sights.
Please note: rates fluctuate depending on season and availability.