Just returned last week.
We stayed in hotels recommended in Rick Steve's' guidebook with one exception. All had breakfast included.
Two weeks before our trip to Spain, we had taken a short trip to the Tampa Bay area & a week before that a trip to Columbia, S.C. All to say, I have recent experiences in hotels & restaurants to compare.
In my opinion, the Spaniards win --most emphatically. The quality & price of food is just superior in both Madrid & Barcelona. We ate very well for less than 10 euros/person/meal--sometimes "daily specials" 3 & 4 courses. Comparing even my least favorite Barcelona hotel breakfasts to a Marriott breakfast--I preferred the Spanish breakfasts. The hotels (Francisco & Paseo del Arte in Madrid & Hotel Inglaterra in Barcelona) served English as well as Spanish breakfasts. Flan for breakfast--does it get any better!! Yes, fresh fruits, pastries, eggs, meats-even baked tomatoes & many tea choices. I found the restaurant breads , overall to be some of the best I have ever eaten--crusty & flaky. A few places charged for bread baskets, most did not.
Yes, you do pay for water in restaurants but generally, the bottles (glass) were large enough to serve all 3 of us.
Do not miss the bakery-La Mallorquia in Madrid. Read Rick's review of this. Yes, Rick is correct, I have never seen so much ham!! It is hanging from the ceilings & on counter-tops --whole legs--hoof & all--just not appetizing.
We had dinner at a lovely vegan restaurant in Barcelona near the hotel & it was a welcome relief from the ham shows.
The hotels--I love European hotels as now all have hardwood rather than the filthy carpeted American hotel room floors. They all control their energy use with a gizmo that requires the use of your hotel "key" to turn on the power & when you leave --the power goes completely off. It's a great idea & I do not know why not used in U.S. All of our hotels were squeaky clean. Everyone was very friendly & helpful but some speak little English. The day clerk at Hotel Inglaterra, a lovely young woman, spoke perfect English & was most helpful. The beds were all comfy & we really had no complaints. All 3 were perfectly located for walking to all of the sights. Francisco is located between Puerto del Sol & the palace with Plaza Mayor to the back. Paseo del Arte is across from the train station & also walking distance to the art museums. Hotel Inglaterra in Barcelona, is just off the "Ramblas".
Now, I am a very round woman of some years, nursing an ankle injury -so I must say, for that reason, Francisco 1 was a bit difficult as it is 1 &1/2 flights up to the lobby & another flight up to the elevator level. Also, even though we were on the 5th floor the street noise at night was really an issue. Now, none of that is any fault of the hotel--just a personal issue but might be helpful to others with walking difficulties & light sleepers.