Looking for a walkable, shoppable area near sites, attractions, and public transportation.
I just returned from Spain yesterday. We stayed at the Hotel Granvia, which was just renovated - like last month! It's listed in RS' book, well located (at the beginning edge of the Eixample), near the Metro (right outside the door, basically). It's not really a budget hotel, but we found it a good value. Here is the link:
http://www.hotelgranvia.com/en// If you email them, they will likely give you breakfast with the room if you mention you are a Rick Steves reader.
Scott, I was in Spain a few weeks ago and stayed at the NH Barcelona Centro and would highly recommend it. It's modern, the rooms are clean and comfortable, the staff are great and they serve an incredible buffet breakfast (NOTE: if you want the cooked eggs and bacon, you'll have to ask the staff, as they're prepared on demand). The hotel is a bit of a challenge to find the first time, but once you learn the way it's EASY. It's within easy walking distance from Plaça Catalunya (where the airport buses stop) and only a few steps from La Rambla. There's easy access to the Metro there also. Happy travels!
If you are interested in renting an apartment you could google the bcngotic and see if it would work for you. It is a building with several rental apartments. Very good reviews on tripadvisor and slowtrav. I have not stayed at the BCNGOTIC yet but have rented it for a stay next spring. Very central walkable location close to Jaume I metro stop on C de l'Argenteria.