Barcelona: Three Hotels, One Amazing City
All photos by Katherine Vallera
The city of Barcelona continues to be a desirable destination for a wide array of travelers. They’re drawn to the city’s exceptional culture, which is derived from its history, art, architecture, and gastronomy. Another draw to Barcelona is its proximity to the sea and the beaches that this destination has to offer. I set out to Barcelona on a mission to explore all of the above.
In between tapas and strolls through the gothic district, I had a chance to tour the W Barcelona, The Mandarin Oriental and El Palace Barcelona. What caught my attention most about these three accommodation options was how dramatically different they were from one another. While they are all five-star hotels that are dedicated to luxury experiences, I found that each one was unique and distinct. This diversity in the city’s top rated hotels mirrors the variation of Barcelona’s attractions.
The first hotel I saw was the W Barcelona. In 2009, the city’s skyline was forever changed with the completion of this swank Starwood property. The stunning twenty-five story skyscraper is the only luxury accommodation that has direct access to the city’s most popular beach. Guests can enjoy gourmet waterfront dining experiences or stroll along the waterfront’s promenade. The pool bar offers a wide selection of cocktails that guests might sip while unwinding across the hotel’s plush white lounge chairs. The W Barcelona is ideal for clients who are looking for a relaxing beach experience outside the hustle and bustle of Barcelona’s city center, which is only a fifteen-minute taxi ride away.
The W Barcelona’s sleek glass exterior allows for 360-degree vistas of the city, the Serra de Collserola mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, which the centerpiece of this hotel’s design concept. The lobby’s blue light fixtures and aquamarine couches are meant to evoke an underwater experience, while each room is designed to showcase the seascape with sleek furnishings that extol the glistening waters below. Perhaps the highlight of the W Barcelona is the adults-only infinity pool, which I would recommend because it offers a serene oasis surrounded by the sea and Barcelona’s extraordinary panorama.
Travelers looking to stay in the heart of the city might like to consider the Mandarin Oriental, which was the second stop during my visit to Barcelona. It is located on Passeig de Gracia near plenty of shopping as well as architectural works by Antoni Gaudi. The Mandarin Oriental Barcelona’s warm golden color scheme and oriental accents convey a more contemporary sophistication. The rooftop veranda features an outdoor swimming pool, while a more tranquil salt water pool is located indoors near the spa. This boutique hotel is ideal for clients who enjoy luxury accommodations that aren’t overly ostentatious.
Before the structure that houses The Mandarin Oriental was a hotel, it was a bank. They have preserved this history by keeping the vaults intact, which line the walls and ceiling of their speakeasy Banker’s Bar. Perhaps the centerpiece of the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona is their fine dining, most notably at the Bistreau by Angel Leon. I loved the fact that this restaurant offers guests the opportunity to sample from “El Viaje” (“The Trip”) menu, featuring entrees and beverages from around the world.
READ MORE: Making Tracks to See the Best of Barcelona
In contrast to The Mandarin Oriental’s more simplistic modernism is El Palace, which was the last hotel I visited during my stay in Barcelona. This hotel is ideal for clients who might appreciate a more grandiose setting. Located near Las Ramblas, this hotel still offers a central location but in an entirely dissimilar, more palatial ambiance. El Palace was first constructed during the roaring twenties when Barcelona was a hub for avant-garde movements and surrealist art. The hotel’s most famous guest was Salvador Dali, who will be forever remembered for requesting a taxidermy horse in his suite. The horse was so large it would not fit in the lift, so staff had to carry it up the stairs. The hotel honors the artist’s legacy with the Salvador Dali suite, which features elegant roman style bathrooms and a modish four poster canopied bed.
El Palace Barcelona has been recently renovated to further accentuate the opulence and artistry of the era. To me, the experience of entering through lavish curtains, ornamented with gold fringe and tassels, felt like I’d been transported back in time. The lobby’s green velvet parlor sofas are complemented by rich mahogany end tables and the soft light emanating from boudoir style light fixtures. El Palace Barcelona’s lobby is a real treat for the eyes as every corner of the room is covered with rich textures accented by the gold trim, marble floors and columns, wrought iron banisters and crystal chandeliers.
El Palace’s rooftop garden stays true to the overall theme, inspired by the work of Catalan artist Ramon Casas. I was delighted to take breakfast in the terrace’s parlor, which is typically reserved for VIP guests. There, I enjoyed fresh (gluten-free) croissants while relaxing amidst the garden’s splendid array of orchids, jasmines, and citrus trees.
Enduringly are three beautiful hotels located within Barcelona, yet most impressive are their remarkable idiosyncrasies. Each hotel sets a varying tone with distinction in style and sophistication. As a travel agent, I realize that not all of my clients will enjoy the same hotels. That is why it’s important to create custom FITs that are personalized, catering to my client’s individual preferences and tastes. Whether clients are visiting Barcelona for the beaches, the history, the art or the cuisine, I can match them with the most appropriate hotel by sending them to the W Barcelona, The Mandarin Oriental or El Palace Barcelona.
More by Katherine Vallera
Get Travel Deals and Travel News
Recent Travel Opinions
Airlines & Airports
Features & Advice
Destination & Tourism