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THE DEAL: Prestige Paseo de Gracia Hotel, Barcelona, Spain

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WHY IT’S A CONTENDER: Lots of travelers have heard about the ultra-modern "design hotels" in the vibrant city of Barcelona, but they might not have a clue about why they’re special. On a recent trip to the capital city of Catalonia, we tried three hotels that exemplified this trend. At the aptly-named Hotel Cram, there was barely enough room to turn around, and the bathroom was only partially separated from the bedroom by some frosted glass. We had better luck at the newly-renovated annex of the famous Hotel Condes de Barcelona, where our room had nifty push-button shades and, like the others, bare wood floors, a platform bed, and a lighting system complicated enough to launch the space shuttle (inscrutable bathroom fixtures are a given at these places, too, by the way). Best of all, and a relative bargain to boot, was the wonderful Prestige Paseo de Gracia, a sleek, ultramodern haven smack on the most sophisticated shopping street in town. This one combined minimalist style with old-fashioned service and a delicious breakfast to boot.

WHO SHOULD GO: Design hotels are not for kids, who could easily smash into glass doors or otherwise wreak havoc on the high-tech decor. Rather, the 45-room Prestige Paseo de Gracia is for grownup romantics who want a dose of urban style that’s in the middle of all the action but feels like a cool, calm oasis.

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THE ROOMS: Zen-like sanctuaries done in various shades of white, black, and gray. Ask for a room in the back and you won’t hear a sound day or night.

MORE REASONS TO STAY: The second-floor lounge, called the Zeroom, is where you’ll enjoy a breakfast of fresh fruits, pastries, juices, and more. Here you also find the eager young concierges, who work at laptop computers and sport buttons that read "Ask Me." You’re invited to consult them before, during, and after your stay.

WHAT’S THE DEAL: Double rooms are around $235 right now, including breakfast — about $50 to $100 less than other hotels of this caliber in the city. Although the hotel’s website guarantees the lowest rate, you might be able to do a little better though hotels.com

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INSIDER TIP: Just around the corner is a very handsome, largely tourist-free tapas bar called Cerveceria Catalunya, where you’ll find lots of well-dressed locals chowing down on patatas bravas, roasted peppers, and all manner of seafood snacks.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: You can stroll to the Ramblas, the Old Quarter, and the famous Boqueria Market in less than 15 minutes.

THE DETAILS: Passeig de Gracia, 62; prestigepaseodegracia.com.

-Tom Passavant

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