Fulfilling one of her many controversial campaign promises, Ada Colau, Barcelona's new left-leaning mayor, last week announced a one-year moratorium on licensing any new hotels in the city. Her goal is to preserve the distinctive charms of the city's varied neighborhoods, but the freeze has put several big-name projects in jeopardy, like the plans for a Grand Hyatt in the Jean Nouvel-designed building formerly known as the Torre Agbar.
While the restriction may cause a dip in new launches in the coming years, there are still plenty of standout properties of recent vintage worth checking out—or better yet, checking into. At the high end of the market is Hotel The Serras (doubles from $762), a five-star property on the bustling-but-not-usually-associated-with-five-stars Passeig de Colom, opposite the city's harbor. This is prime tourist terrain, and with 30 modern rooms with large balconies overlooking the neighborhood, the The Serras offers a plush oasis in the very heart of the city.
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Also filling out the luxury category is the Cotton House Hotel (doubles from $300), a new five-star property run by Marriott and set in the landmark former Cotton Producers Guild. With grand décor, an elegant library, and outdoor pool and terrace, the hotel also unabashedly pays homage to Barcelona's once-thriving textile industry of the 19th and early 20th century, with room categories differentiated by such evocative fabric names as Madras (standard) and Damask (superior).
Among the grooviest (and most affordable) is the Hotel Yurbban (pictured; doubles from $267) on rapidly transitioning Carrer de Trafalgar near the Palau de la Musica. Self-proclaimed as the first "hipster" hotel in the city, the hotel has a certain 1970s L.A. vibe, with most of its dining and entertaining spaces located in the rear garden or by the pool on the rooftop terrace. Guests also have tiny terraces in their rooms, and access to the hotels stock of Finna bicycles.
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With no sign announcing it on the street, the nine-room Margot House (doubles from $221) is tucked into a building on the Passeig de Gracia, and is all about discretion, comfort and personalized service without all the cumbersome infrastructure and overhead of an actual freestanding hotel. Margot House aims to give guests everything they desire from a hotel, without the fustiness and formality.
Andrew Ferren is on the Spain beat for Travel + Leisure. He lives in Madrid.