W Barcelona is one of the city’s newest additions. Overlooking the Mediterranean, the beachfront hotel towers 26 stories and has a glass, sail-shaped exterior (yes, it does resemble Dubai’s Burj Al Arab).
When we stepped off the elevator on the 18th floor, we were stopped in our tracks: an unobstructed view of Barcelona lay out in front of us. There, off to the right, was Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Família, its intricate facade and unfinished steeples rising just off Avenue Diagonal; to our left, Anella Olímpica, the Olympic Park on the hill of Montjuïc; and straight below us, the tree-lined La Rambla with its famous La Boqueria market.
Our room, a Cool Corner Suite, No. 1819, had a less-congested view, of the beautiful blue Mediterranean sea. Note: Watching the sunset is a show in itself, thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows. Nice Touch: A separate bathtub sits directly in the living room area, so you can relax while watching the 42-inch, flat-screen TV. The bathroom is designed for two people and well-stocked with Bliss bath amenities. There are two sinks and a rain shower with frosted glass.
W Barcelona has 10 different accommodations categories in all, with names like Cozy Room, Wonderful Room and Spectacular Suite. Top Digs: It’s presidential, indeed, but called the Extreme Wow Suite (No. 2507). Think wood floors, outdoor teak balcony, master bed with 360-degree-turning mirrors and a living room perfect for entertaining big crowds. Contact Director of Sales Jeannine Perie ([email protected];
011-34-932-210-830) to help you decide which room type best suits your clients.
As for W dining, we lunched at Wave (try the lamb for two), which serves up Mediterranean-style food at a great location next to the pool. For breakfast, take a trip down to the lower level where Bravo24 awaits, a gastronomical adventure by famed Catalan chef Carles Abellán. At night, head to Eclipse, the hotel’s rooftop lounge. The views of Barcelona and the sea are incomparable, as are the sexy cocktails. For a nice detox, book a treatment in the nine-treatment room Bliss Spa. We hear the ever-popular Ginger Rub, Hangover Herbie, Betweeny Wax and Triple Oxygen Treatment are the go-to services, and that Zoe is the go-to therapist, particularly for massages. Contact Spa Director Sabra Seligman ([email protected]) for all your spa-related questions.
Head Concierge Rodrigo Sampaio ([email protected]) can arrange special experiences, such as a wine tour in Penedès or a helicopter tour of Barcelona.
|W Barcelona’s Cool Corner Suites have floor-to-ceiling windows and soaking tubs in the living room.|
Note: W Barcelona is a bit removed from the main sections of the city (the closest Metro station is in Barceloneta, which is about a lovely 15-minute stroll along Playa Sant Sebastiá Beach). Taxis, however, are constantly idling outside the hotel. Note: A new cruise port is being built next to the W, so transportation will likely improve.
Another new kid on the block, Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona opened on Passeig de Gràcia last November with 98 rooms. Here, guest room views are either over Passeig de Gràcia or the hotel’s landscaped interior garden. We say the Penthouse Suite is the apex of luxury living. Equipped with a personal butler, the suite, on the hotel’s top floor, was designed with the utmost in privacy in mind. The Penthouse Suite has two terraces, one ideal for hosting an alfresco dinner affair (the suite has its own kitchen and bar). After dinner, retire inside to enjoy the Bang & Olufsen home cinema system and HD projector.
Another great option is the Barcelona Suite. It is designed like an apartment with a corridor dividing the private rooms, bedroom and study from the living areas. Top View: A large terrace is accessible from the bedroom, with views of the façades, including Gaudi’s Casa Battló. Contact Director of Sales and Marketing Lourdes Gaude ([email protected]) with queries.
|Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona’s Terrace Suite on the seventh floor has a wooden-decked terrace that runs the full length of the suite and overlooks a garden.|
General Manager Gérard Sintès ([email protected]), who just arrived at the Mandarin Oriental after opening One&Only Cape Town, and Concierge José Ignacio Garcia ([email protected]) ensure that guests needs are seamlessly met. Note: Barcelona is a football town. Garcia can snag you last-minute tickets to see FC Barcelona, quite possibly the toughest ticket in town.
The Spa at Mandarin Oriental has eight treatment rooms and, we hear, the Orange Relaxing Ritual and the Barcelona Spring are the top treatments. Contact Spa Director Virginia Lara ([email protected]) to find out about the spa’s Suite Experiences designed for couples.
While the W and Mandarin Oriental are full of flash and flare, up along Passeig de Gràcia, the Majestic Hotel & Spa has been welcoming guests since 1919, from Los Angeles Lakers star Pau Gasol to actor Marcel Marceau. Our classic room, No. 601, looked right out over Passeig de Gràcia. Top Two Digs: The Apartment Paseo de Gracia and Suite Sagrada Família, both on the top floor, are the best rooms. Each has access to its own private terraces with views of the city icons that are their respective namesakes. Guests receive private check-in and use of amenities such as hydro-massage bathtubs. Luxury travel advisors should contact Marketing Manager Martin Santiago ([email protected]).
Ever wondered what it would be like to do a Formula 1 circuit? Susana Oños ([email protected]), Majestic Hotel’s concierge, can make it a reality. She can also snag reservatons at the top restaurants in town, such as Murmuri Restaurant at Murmuri, Majestic’s sister property.
The Majestic Spa offers an assortment of services; we’re big fans of Citric Pleasures, a treatment based on Vitamin C that helps recover lost vitality. Tip: For any treatment, ask for therapists Mireia Orozco or Laurence Loiseau. Luxury travel advisors can contact Spa Director Eva Crespi ([email protected]; 011-34 93-496-7718).
Note: Majestic Hotel’s central location is ideal for fans of Gaudí. Three of the great architect’s buildings are in walking distance: Casa Battló, Casa Milà and Sagrada Família. Hint: Hop on the Metro to the Vallcarca station, where, after an uphill climb, you will find yourself in Parc Güell, a cornucopia of Gaudí work. Hint: Be patient—snapping a photo of the famed multicolored mosaic dragon fountain is a process as it’s always mobbed by tourists.
Like any great city, Barcelona has its share of great stores and restaurants. While Passeig de Gràcia is the 5th Avenue of Barcelona (think Escada, Hermès, Yves Saint Laurent), head west to El Born, its Soho, if you will. There you will find some great boutiques. One of our favorites is Ivo & Co. (www.ivoandco.com; Plaça Comercial, 3), which, if you are into high-end, retro-vintage home décor, is for you.
After some hours shopping, you’ll want to head back east to the Barri Gòtic, better known as the Gothic Quarter, with its narrow streets and stunning cathedral architecture. Despite several changes, many of the buildings date from medieval times, some from as far back as the Roman settlement of Barcelona. A short walk from the Gothic Quarter is the tourist-trafficked La Rambla—a must-see. Make sure to duck into the Boqueria Market for its endless stalls of produce, meat and other delectables.
Food is a major attraction of Barcelona. In the city, tapas restaurants are as ubiquitous as the street performers along La Rambla. While each is similar, Taller De Tapas, with four locations in the city, serves up a mean plate of salt cod fritters. Try Tapas, 24, and Bravo for fried sardines.
One of the wonderful things about Barcelona is that you find something new around every corner. We serendipitously came across a restaurant in Barceloneta that we are still raving about. Walking the desolate streets of this once small fishing town, Restaurante Somorrostro (www.restaurantesomorrostro.com; Carrer de Sant Carles 11) captured our eye (later our stomachs!). At first, we were hesitant to go in (not a soul occupied the small dining room). Then we remembered it was Christmas Eve. We have no problem saying you will have one of your most memorable meals here. The restaurant is an intimate affair, where you can watch the chefs at work in the exposed kitchen. A Must: Order the monkfish draped in béchamel sauce. One Word: otherworldly. After dinner, take a stroll down Sant Carles, toward the beach; you will come across Absenta Bar (Carrer Sant Carles 36), where they concoct authentic absinthe drinks. It’s the perfect spot to wrap up an evening in the City of Counts.
Melisa Keiser is the owner of Carmel Travel Company in Carmel, IN. She is a Vacation.com expert, who specializes in Spain. On hotels, she has five favorites: The ABaC Restaurant & Hotel, Hotel Casa Fuster, Majestic Hotel, Hotel Omm and Hotel Arts Barcelona. “There are many incredible hotels in Barcelona,” she says. “It was not easy making a selection! Barcelona is a sophisticated, dynamic city with a more-than-ample choice of luxury hotels. The hotels I’ve chosen have unique architecture, luxurious, comfortable surroundings, helpful staff and delightful restaurants.”
Culture is also a huge part of the experience here. “Barcelona has a history of producing great artists and they inspire great museums dedicated to their life and work,” she says, calling attention to three such: the Picasso Museum, Joan Miró Foundation and Tapies Foundation. “The National Art Museum of Catalonia is housed in the Palau Nacional and is situated on the Montjuïc hill (the location of the 1992 Summer Olympics stadium). The views of the city are breath taking—especially after you climb the 100 steps to get there!”
Made for Spain offers many intimate experiences in Barcelona. How about lunch in one of the only places in the city that serves true—and truly good—paella? That’s not all, the lunch is hosted by Jeff Koehler, author of La Paella: Deliciously Authentic Rice Recipes from Spain’s Mediterranean Coast. Koehler explains in detail paella’s role in Spanish culture, and tricks used to prepare it. Another fun one is a visit to Gaudí’s Casa Milà, also known as La Pedrera. This isn’t just your regular museum visit: Made for Spain’s good friend María hosts the tour. “Maria who?” you might ask. Maria is Maria Milà, part of the Milà family, which commissioned Gaudí at the beginning of the 20th century.
|Majestic Hotel’s Suite Sagrada Família has a private terrace with a view of the famous—still under construction—Gaudí masterpiece.|