Diving into the uniqueness of Barcelona doesn’t mean sacrificing a luxurious stay. Nothing illustrates that more than these three hotels, which fully embrace their distinguishing design touches while providing a modern and comfortable getaway in the Spanish city.
I have a weakness for places with heart, for hotels or restaurants in buildings respecting their history and showing that this is part of their character. No place is this more evident than at Mandarin Oriental, a property located in the celebrated Passeig de Gràcia area. When you’re at the luxury hotel’s Banker’s Bar, the best place to sip a cocktail in town, enjoy jazz every Wednesday evening in a facility surrounded by safe deposit boxes that have been recycled from the former bank, Banco Hispano Americano. In the 1950s, the building was the headquarters for the finance company.
The building’s Catalan façade has been completely restored and, together with the sun-filled atrium and the floating catwalk, serves as a landmark entrance of the Mandarin. As for the 98 distinctive guest rooms and suites, they offer a wonderful blend of luxury (French carpets, goose-down bedding), lavish furnishings (contemporary pieces designed by Spanish architect Patricia Urquiola) and lovely amenities (butler services, complimentary bike use).
The latest gem in the Derby Hotels Collection is Arai, a boutique hotel situated in the former Casa dels Quatre Rius in the heart of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter. Steeped in history, the building dates from 1702 and is one of the best Catalan heritage examples of the graffito decorative technique. Over the years, it’s been the residence of several aristocratic families, and the €12 million (around $15.5 million) total restoration of the palace’s structure and decorative elements took two years to complete.
Each of the hotel’s 31 rooms is unique with ebony wood, a bathroom tiled with specially imported Indian black slate inlaid with pyrite, and a leather sleeper sofa. High-quality new materials are set alongside the palace’s original features — its 17th-century stonework walls have been fully restored. Bedrooms also feature historical touches, including hydraulic-tile 19th-century headboards, tables made from the building’s original wooden beams, wardrobes with doors repurposed from the old balconies, wooden shutters restored as decorative elements and even recovered lintels and engraved stones displayed as works of art. The ceiling paintings and drawings have also been restored, and old wood paneling reused as parquet flooring. In addition, you’ll find a small museum on the premises that displays unique historical pieces discovered during the restoration project. And if you’re looking for a cool escape, don’t miss the rooftop terrace with a pool and views of the old town.
Located in the heart of Barcelona’s Gothic quarter, Mercer Barcelona showcases both contemporary design and the splendor of the Roman colony — its structure was built on top of a section of walls belonging to Barcino, an ancient city. As such, the archaeological gem is both an ode to the past and to the present, with original features alongside state-of-the-art technology. The terrace stuns with exclusive views of the cathedral Santa Maria del Mar, and the pool is small but stylish and great for drinks on summer nights.
Amazingly, Mercer retains historical features dating from the 1st to the 19th centuries, all of which have been restored. Innovative contemporary design, by Rafael Moneo, is seamlessly integrated with the building’s architectural heritage — the 28 rooms have the original wooden beams and some even have Gothic windows, wooden coffered ceilings and Gothic columns on balconies. While no two rooms are alike, from the basic guest room to the Grand Suites, all embrace medieval design.
During your stay, be sure to have a signature cocktail in the central orange tree courtyard or in the cocktail lounge, Negroni by Mercer — perhaps a signature like The Gothic Beauty, with bourbon, dry vermouth, orange juice, sugar and grenadine, is in order.
Photos Courtesy of Mercer Hotels and Derby Hotels