Estelle Sarney and Grant Bradley check in to Chic&basic Ramblas in Barcelona.


A reasonably modern building with 97 rooms and styling of the 1960s and 70s (the chic part). The hotel's doors frame images and portraits taken by "Gauche Divine" photographers from the Catalonian city. The first thing you notice is a car in the lobby, it is a tiny SEAT 600 variously nicknamed "la hormiga" - the ant, "el ombligo" - the navel, because everybody has one, "la bolita" - the little ball. It was the car that put Spain on wheels from the late 1950s and helped drive an industrial economy.

Location: Within about 70m of the bottom of the famed La Rambla tourist boulevard (hit by a terror attack two weeks before we arrived but was packed with tourists - and watched over by a few conspicuously heavily armed police). It's a €35-€40 (NZ$60-$68) taxi to and from the airport.


Check-in experience: Perfect. We arrived about 8am after a slog on a budget carrier from Budapest but to our delight our room was ready. These are moments when you feel like hugging a stranger.

Room: On the third floor, not huge and slightly odd shaped (the basic part) but it came with a kitchenette and plenty of storage. Air con and a big TV with mainly local channels.

What's in the neighbourhood? Many of the main attractions of one of the world's great cities are an easy walk. La Rambla is heavily touristed but essential, the Gothic Quarter is minutes' walk and the edgier Rambla del Raval is even closer. The hotel is at the Mediterranean Sea end of La Rambla so port attractions are nearby. We were able to walk to Gaudi's masterwork in progress, Sagrada Familia, in about 45 minutes to get a sense of the city.

Food and drink: It may have been holiday breakfast fatigue but cold meat cuts weren't doing it for us and the eggs and cooked meat were a bit tired. The muesli and fruit were good, and it had a killer coffee machine so for €9.90 it was not bad value for breakfast.

The huge tapas and reasonably priced drinks from the popular bar later in the day were better.

The bed: Large and comfortable.

The view: A carpark across an alley through large windows that did open. There was a Spanish flag flying in view in what is a densely built-up area of town.

Bathroom: Compact but great tiling and styling. Rainhead shower had plenty of grunt. Nice soaps and gels.

Wi-Fi? Worked well, easy to join.

Price/Value for money: The basic room rate we paid was €119 in early September. Given the location, very good value.

Facilities: Great lobby, and bar with classy musical acts later at night, a reading/billiards room although the cool white table didn't have any pockets or balls immediately apparent. We hired good bikes for €15 a day from the hotel and did a 30km ride up into the hills and down to the beach for a swim.

What's so good about this place? The SEAT 600 in the lobby, the location, the great bar, hearty tapas and friendly one-stop shop 24-hour reception staff, who effortlessly booked a couple of tours for us.

Would we return? If looking for good value in Barcelona.

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