Before we moved to Barcelona, the Professor and I did quite a bit of research on how much we should expect to spend on an apartment, which neighborhoods were nice and which were dodgy, and which websites were best to begin our apartment hunt. It actually took us a few months to compile this information because we have no family or friends here to ask. So the Professor asked his future colleagues at the University and I polled the online community by posing our questions to the kind readers of Apartment Therapy (you can read that thread here).
We got some conflicting feedback. The Professor's colleagues at the University told us to look in the areas of Les Corts and Sants, being that they are close to campus. They also said that a budget of 700 Euros should be sufficient. Other people recommended that we live in the Born district (where our apart-hotel is located), el Gotic, or Gracia. These places are all great but super pricey. And many people told us we should expect to spend around 1000 Euro for the space we wanted. The only thing everyone seemed to agree on unequivocally was to stay out of El Raval. This is where the tourists go and for that reason, petty crime and delinquency run amok here. Also it's loud and kind of dirty.
Since we've been apartment hunting for the last three days, the Professor and I feel pretty confident to give our own opinions on these questions now. From what we've observed, the neighborhoods of Sants and Eixample, by virtue of being so big, seem to be the best bang for your buck. In these areas you can find a 2 bedroom apartment at around 60 square meters for 700 Euros or less. In areas like Les Corts or Sarria, the only way you can find an apartment that cheap is if you want a studio or if you want a run-down, two-bedroom apartment with a kitchen and bathroom that haven't been renovated since the 1970s. And trust me, the 1970s were a really BAD time for kitchens and bathrooms. Wood paneling and brown ceramic toilets and tubs weren't a good idea then and they're certainly not a good idea now.
The best web sites to begin your search online are, idealista.com, pisos.com, enalquiler.com, habitaclia.com. My favorite one is idealista because you can narrow your search by many factors and you can also put the results in order from date of listing, price, square meters, etc. My least favorite site is habitaclia, because you can't bookmark your favorite apartments without signing up to become a member. Many people advised us to look for an apartment on Loquo which is the Spanish version of Craigslist. But Loquo limits you to 4 pictures of the apartment and I don't feel like you can tell much by so few pictures. As a rule, I only check out places that have more than five or six pictures or a virtual tour.
You may be wondering, what has all this research and all this advice yielded thus far? Well, actually... nothing. We don't have an apartment yet. We've seen around four places these past few days and 2 of them were pretty awful. One of them had a living room so small that if I laid down on the floor, my head would reach one wall and my feet the other. The other awful place was also small, and in a dodgy area, AND smelled like chicken. Le sigh.
We're checking out three more places tomorrow. Wish us luck!