Barcelona

Forget no-frills lodging; today’s new brand of hostels offers cool decor and plenty of perks. Sounds too good to be true? Well, we’ve got the scoop on hostels that pack a wow factor with upscale amenities, contemporary comforts, prime locations, and good food. Plus, with fun social scenes and affordable rates, they have all the ingredients for a pleasant stay without breaking the bank. Join us as we step into the (little-known) world of modern hostels.

Hostelling International – New York

hostelling_intl_nyWithin walking distance of Central Park and numerous subway lines, Hostelling International in New York City offers an affordable stay on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. This well-run property has both private and shared rooms, free Wi-Fi, a theater room, game room, café, several lounges and a private patio/garden. To keep guests (mostly in their 20s and 30s) entertained, the hostel organizes daily events like city tours, pub crawls, and in-house comedy shows.

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Beyonce isn’t the only one with a message for all the single ladies out there — a growing number of hotels, in an effort to target single female travelers, are offering women’s-only rooms and floors. These range all the way from shared hostel accommodations to entire floors of upscale business hotels. So for the hostel dorm rooms we’re pretty much on board – we know we wouldn’t love having to possibly change in front of strange dudes — but we’re a bit conflicted about having women’s-only rooms and floors in nicer hotels, where it’s less a matter of practicality and more of a marketing gimmick. These properties are targeting well-heeled businesswomen with female-oriented amenities such as curling irons and glossy fashion mags; some may find it convenient, others a bit insulting.

We can see that it might be nice to leave the yoga mat and nail file at home for those who often pack up all their supplies for just a short weekend getaway — but other women may find the selection of amenities discriminatory (after all, I’ll take the standard NYTimes over Cosmo any day). Also, for hotels with women-only floors (rather than select rooms), there’s an implied security element — it’s as if the hotel is promoting a way for women to stay safe and non-sexed on their next business trip. (Kind of like, er, staying in a convent.) What do you think — are women’s-only floors convenient or anti-feminist?

To help you decide, we’ve rounded up nine properties around the world with dedicated dude-free accommodations.

The Georgian Court Hotel, Vancouver

georgian court

The women’s-only Orchid Floor has 18 rooms, all equipped with extra amenities for women, including flatirons, curling irons, yoga mats, ladies emergency kits, and lifestyle magazines. The upscale hotel is on the edge of Downtown Vancouver, within walking distance of numerous Vancouver attractions.

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Barcelona is a city steeped in culture and rich in history. Art is more than just a scene here: It’s a heritage, which comes as no surprise since this city is where Salvador Dali and Picasso would meet for lunch and forever cement their friendship. Okay, so now we’ve covered the cultural bases — onto the shopping! When it comes to a European shopping expedition, Barcelona delivers without a doubt. Check out our shopping guide to Barcelona below before flexing that plastic!

Where to Shop for Luxe Goods: Passeig de Gracia 

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Paris has the Champs-Elysees — and Barcelona has Passeig de Gracia. Along this shop-lined street, you’ll find all the usual suspects of international luxury shopping such as Chanel and Gucci, but there are plenty of brands and stores that are unique and distinctly Spanish. International brand Zara has plenty of stateside locations, but none compare to the huge flagship Barcelona store. Not only does it have the hip fashion you would expect, there’s also housewares. It also offers affordable shopping compared to its high ticket neighbors, but everyone can afford to drool over the spectacular turn-of-the-20th-century architecture that populates the iconic Passeig de Gracia.

Where to Stay: El Palace Hotel

The Palace oozes elegance and old-world charm. Housed in an early 20th-century building a few blocks from the Gothic Quarter, the hotel is popular among well-heeled families, couples, and business travelers. The property boasts a Michelin-starred restaurant, Caelis; car service to the airport and major attractions; and a small but modern fitness center. The exclusive spa features the only Temazcal sauna in Spain, Anne Semonin products, and traditional treatments. 

Budget-Friendly Option: Petit Palace Museum

This 61-room hotel, part of the tech-savvy Petit brand, is a no-frills but contemporary choice located in Barcelona’s city center, a few blocks from Plaza Catalunya. There isn’t much to the property (it lacks any outdoor space — a rarity for Barcelona) but it’s a good value, especially for families. Rooms are starting to show wear and tear, but high-tech amenities such as flat-screen TVsiPod docks and laptops help compensate. 

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What’s not to love about Barcelona? It goes nearly undisputed that the Catalonia capital is Spain’s coolest and most modern city. And it’s arguably one of the top party spots in Europe. Oh, and if that’s not enough, it’s replete with excellent restaurants, beautiful Gothic and Modernist architecture, calming sea breezes, great shopping, and — most importantly to us — gorgeous hotels. Barcelona is home to some of the top European luxury hotels, and considering the city’s focus on design, these spots feature cool, modern decor — as well as beautifully maintained historic details. Below we bring you 13 of the best luxury hotels in Barcelona, new on Oyster since our recent visit!

1. Hotel Espana

Hotel Espana

Located on a quiet side street off Barcelona’s main tourist thoroughfare La Rambla, this 1859 building was redesigned as a hotel in the early 20th century by celebrated Modernist architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner. A restoration in 2010 kept many of the historic and design features, including a stunning carved stone fireplace in the bar. The striking, contemporary decor gives the hotel a very stylish flair, from the dramatic light fixtures in the common areas to the staircase that snakes up the property. There is also a great food program on the property including a restaurant by Michelin-starred chef Martín Berasategui. A rooftop pool and bar is open in the warmer months. Some nearby hotels have lower rates, but don’t offer the same history or style.

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Some hotels just can’t keep their naughty parts to themselves — in fact, they flaunt them. When it comes to decor, we’ve seen everything from the strange, to the racy, to the almost pornographic on our travels. Sometimes hotels just have a style sense that’s — let’s say broad-minded? Other times, like at the Hotel Amour in Paris and the Desire Resort and Spa in Riviera Maya, they’re deliberately trying to get guests in the mood. No judgement here; if you’re the type of traveler that gets a kick out of lounging on a phallic chair, more power to you. We rounded up seven naughty hotels that can’t help themselves when it comes to being a little nude-y. Check out the risque hotel decor below — and just wait until you see number five on this list.

1. The Morgan, Dublin

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Hardly ladylike, Mona! But we have to say, a mural of Mona Lisa mooning guests is pretty creative — it’s not quite what you’ll see in the Louvre. Read More »

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A city with a vibrant artistic community can mean lots of fun with great live music, terrific street fairs, and a laid-back vibe.  After all, the art scene of a city can define its very culture – and can make for a great getaway. You can stock up on one-of-a-kind artisanal goods by day and take in a different show every night. Or crawl through pubs and rock out to local bands after dark, while gallery-hopping during the day. We picked out our five favorite artsy cities, home to creative communities that deliver a unique flavor. And of course, we tell you where to stay in each!

1. New Orleans

Photo Credit: Katie Harbath, Flickr Photo Credit: Katie Harbath, Flickr

 

New Orleans has always been a cultural mish-mash with Latin, French, African, and Caribbean influences. The bright colors of Mardi Gras only scratch the surface of what this city has to offer. There’s plenty of experimental theater, live music (jazz!!!), and great artistry, as well. Visitors would be remiss if they didn’t check out the art galleries of St. Claude Avenue, especially on Second Saturdays when many galleries showcase their newest and boldest exhibits. If you’re looking to shop or take in some live music, start at the Frenchmen Art Market to pick up some one-of-a-kind jewelry or spectacular wall art and then drift over to Frenchmen Street for a show.

Where to Stay: Royal Sonesta Hotel

After a long day of artistic revelry, relax in some of Bourbon Street’s swankiest hotel digs.  This hotel is home to a hopping pool scene complete with a cabana bar, and live jazz is performed on the premises. You can also do plenty of people watching from a balcony room.

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It’s hard to beat an afternoon spent soaking up the sun from a rooftop. Add a pool, sweeping views, and Barcelona as the destination to the equation, and you’ve got a siesta that’s definitely worth hopping over the pond for. Here are ten of our favorite hotel rooftop pools in the City of Counts. (Didn’t know that was Barcelona’s nickname? Well, now you do. You’re welcome.)

1. Hotel 1898

Hotel 1898

Located on a prime piece of Las Ramblas real estate, the Hotel 1898 evokes Spain’s opulent late 19th-century past with its architecture and decor. But guests get thoroughly modern pampering, with sterling service, plush rooms, a spa, and fine dining. And unlike other Las Ramblas area hotels, Hotel 1898 has not one but two pools: an indoor pool in an atmospheric grotto and a rooftop pool with panoramic Barcelona views. The property is the perfect pick for travelers willing to spend more for historic style and upscale comfort in a location right on the bustling Las Ramblas, near Passeig de Gracia shopping.

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We’ve traveled all around the globe, and even though every destination we’ve visited — and its hotels — are unique, we’ve learned that most have at least a few things in common. Intriguingly so, we’ve discovered that many a locale has no problem with a little nudity and naughtiness – especially when it’s in the privacy of a hotel room. Here we bring you a look at one of the biggest hotel trends to date: peek-a-boo bathrooms.

Artrip Hotel, Madrid

Artrip Hotel

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Planning a European getaway is one of the travel world’s greatest pleasures. Explorers envision romantic strolling in Paris, tapas tasting in Barcelona, and museum-hopping in London. But just as daydreaming turns into legitimate agenda-forming, sticker shock often backslaps like a champion street fighter. The Euro and the Pound are a tough pill to swallow for American and Canadian vacationers, but Europe isn’t all sky-high prices; we promise there are actually excellent deals to be found across the pond, especially when you plan your escape to miss peak season. We scoured our favorite cities for 3+ pearl hotels that come in under $150 a night in mid-September – the perfectly not-too-hot, not-too-cold, not-too-crowded time to visit Europe!

Conscious Hotel Museum Square, Amsterdam

Conscious Hotel Museum Square

Price: $148 for a 3-pearl property

The Conscious Hotel proves you don’t have to go ultra-budget or far-flung to get a good deal in Amsterdam. This quirky, eco-themed hotel is located within walking distance of the Van Gogh Museum and local tram stations for a quick ride to the city’s historic center. The inviting hotel earns points for its large-for-Amsterdam sized rooms, natural light, and modern décor. Guests drawn by the eco theme will enjoy the organic daily breakfast, tree photo murals, and on-site bike rentals.

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Europe is home to some of the world’s most luxurious properties. From exclusive boutiques to expansive castles, these hotels know how to cater to the rich and famous — if not royalty, itself. Now, you may not own a tiara, but that doesn’t mean you can’t at least dream of laying your head to rest at one of these penultimate establishments. And if you decide to do more than dream, please be sure to pack us in your suitcase: It would be worth it to get back inside these 12 uber-luxurious properties.

1. Conservatorium Hotel, Amsterdam 

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The Conservatorium Hotel delivers a true five-pearl experience in Amsterdam‘s residential Museum Quarter. It’s housed in a 100-year-old former bank building, and the hotel’s warm, modern design melds seamlessly with the structure: The stunning atrium lobby, for example, is industrial-chic, featuring wood, brick, and glass. The rooms are decorated in earthy neutrals and every detail was considered, from the placement of the electrical outlets to the reading lights by the bed to the high-tech controls for the lighting and blinds. The big, modern fitness center, stylish indoor pool, and lovely spa, all located below ground, are highlights. It’s a premier choice for luxury travelers willing to trade a central location for added space and quiet. Read More »

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