City Guide: Barcelona

Barcelona has always been something of a rebel. You can see it in the city's ornamental modernist buildings, in its complex politics and the abundance of bars that buzz as the Spanish sun sinks for another day. Today the Catalan capital is evolving into one of Europe's meeting points for those who dream of a life by the sea, and it's this influx of people that has seen the creative scene flourish while Catalan culture grows more defiant. As a result, the city's neighbourhoods have never been more defined: Sant Antoni is the clear epicurean quarter, industrial El Poblenou is where the cool cats are at, and leafy Gracia's flourishing independent businesses and alfresco bars retain its village feel. This all makes for a very exciting exploration of Spain's most sultry city.

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Hotel Brummell

Barcelona, Spain

Located in the hillside hood of Poble-sec, Hotel Brummell is part of a neighbourhood revamp that has seen trendy bars and restaurants crop up in the area. The hotel’s sleek and minimalist design features a metal staircase which zigzags down the back of the property beside a pool deck housing a rooftop pool surrounded by sun beds and yellow parasols. There’s a running club, a yoga studio and a list of local recommendations given to guests daily – Brummell might not look anything like the family homes that surround it, but it remains a spot with strong ties to the community.

Address

Carrer Nou de la Rambla 174 Barcelona 08004

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Yurbban Trafalgar Hotel

Barcelona, Spain

Yurbban is the urban hotel that knows what the modern traveller wants: compact rooms with comfy beds, a sumptuous locally sourced breakfast buffet served on the patio, a carefully curated app to keep guests up to date with Barcelona’s best bars, restaurants and cultural venues and, to top it off, an opulent roof terrace serving up some of the best views money can buy. Don’t miss the DJ nights and pool parties on the terrace throughout summer.

Address

Trafalgar 30 08010

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Mercer Hotel

Barcelona, Spain

Tucked between the winding narrow streets of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter and built into the ancient Roman walls that once enclosed the city, the Mercer combines the neighbourhood’s medieval heritage with minimalist style. While first-century columns and restored frescoes have been updated by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo, a glass-walled courtyard, orb-like lights and a colourful 70s-style bar create a contemporary vibe. This is an adult hideaway with old-school service to match – expect a turndown service with locally made chocolates and the next day’s weather forecast on your pillow.

Address

Calle dels Lledó 7 Barcelona 08002

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Mandarin Oriental

Barcelona, Spain

We probably don’t need to tell you that the Mandarin Oriental is an opulent option which comes with a hefty price tag.

Address

40 Passeig de Gràcia 38 Barcelona 08007

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Bed & Break

Barcelona, Spain

Bed & Break is made up of nine rooms set over two floors in a modernist residential building typical of Barcelona, close to Passeig de Gràcia. All rooms have high ceilings, design details and comfortable beds, but you do get what you pay for – the purse-friendly rooms have very little natural light and are a tad musty. It’s a B&B experience – there’s no lift, some bathrooms have handheld showers and you’ll have to arrange check-in time with the owner Ivan – but it has the attention to design detail you might expect from a small boutique hotel.

Address

Calle Diputación, 327 08009

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Margot House

Barcelona, Spain

Despite being in one of Barcelona’s prime locations – bang in the middle of Passeig de Gràcia and directly opposite Gaudí’s Casa Batlló – Margot House doesn’t shout about it. Hidden on the first floor of a residential building, this hotel was named after Margot Tenenbaum and is every bit as cool as the Wes Anderson character. Made up of nine rooms and a large open-plan communal space with a living room, dining area, honesty bar and kitchen (for tea, coffee and cakes) the hotel feels like home. And we wish it was – with materials like raw concrete, light-hued wood and marble table tops, the Scandi and Japanese-style design couldn’t be more appealing.

Address

Paseo de Gracia 46 Barcelona 08007

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Cotton House Hotel

Barcelona, Spain

Stop for a sundowner at Cotton House Hotel terrace. Grandiose and elegant, this five-star hotel is housed in a 19th-century neoclassical building in Eixample. Its beautiful outdoor space is filled with rattan chairs and large palms that make for the perfect early evening setting for a cocktail.

Address

Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 670 08010

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Almanac Hotel

Barcelona, Spain

Just off the famed boulevard of Passeig de Gràcia, Almanac is perfectly positioned for a shop and flop – a “flop” being a tranquil evening spent sampling cocktails on the hotel’s rooftop terrace. Visit the restaurant Línia between 4pm and 7pm for L’Hora Dolca, during which pastry chef Lucila Canero offers up a carefully crafted selection of desserts. Retire to your room for a much-needed siesta; muted interiors, a king-size bed, an Ibizan marble bathroom and rainfall shower have never looked so inviting.

Address

Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes 619-621 08007 Barcelona

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Claris Hotel & Spa

Barcelona, Spain

In the lively Eixample district, Claris Hotel & Spa reigns supreme. While the hotel is located in the Palau Vedruna, a former palace dating back to the 19th century, it’s the interior decor that most come to admire. The hotel’s first floor hosts a museum showcasing Pre-Columbian art, while original artwork adorns the rooms, each with furnishings designed to complement the pieces. If that doesn’t tempt you, perhaps La Terraza del Claris, an innovative Mediterranean restaurant with views over the city, will do the trick.

Address

Pau Claris, 150 08009

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The Serras

Barcelona, Spain

This understated hotel doesn’t need to shout about its five-star status. Arrive to a tray of refreshments that includes chocolate and sparkling Spanish wine before cooling down in the pool while watching grand yachts moor at Port Vell. Dine on refreshing ceviche on the roof or head to restaurant Informal, helmed by chef Marc Gascons. At the latter, the required dress code and atmosphere live up to the restaurant’s “informal” name – but the food does not. Seasonal, Catalan dishes strike gold every time. Opt for the honeyed potato gnocchi with butter sauce and black winter truffle.

Address

Passeig de Colom, 9 08002

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Casa Mathilda

Barcelona, Spain

Casa Mathilda was formerly the residence of one of the most prominent Catalan textile-manufacturing families. Within easy walking distance of La Sagrada Família and La Pedrera, this boutique bed and breakfast is designed to feel homely, with simple, delicate touches that welcome you in after a long day exploring the city. Wake to traditional pá amb tomáquet – bread rubbed with olive oil, garlic, tomatoes and salt – and a breakfast spread including freshly baked bread from famed bakery Baluard.

Address

Calle Roger de Llúria, 125-127 08037

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Casa Gracia

Barcelona, Spain

Located in Gràcia, a meeting point for grumpy grandpas and wealthy hipsters, Casa Gracia feels more like a house than a hotel (the clue is in the name). Great for groups and solo travellers, it offers a series of room types ranging from single or superior to dorm and apartment. In the summer, hang out in hammocks or chill on the sun-dappled terrace and when temperatures drop, make use of the private yoga room and library.

Address

Passeig de Gràcia 116Bis 08008

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Hotel Pulitzer

Barcelona, Spain

Centrally located, cute and “curated”, Hotel Pulitzer is a great affordable option. Despite being pegged just off busy La Rambla, tourist trapping this not. Both design-conscious and pocket-friendly, Pulitzer’s arty feel (a nod to the city’s outputs) appeals. Check in at the ornate front desk (reclaimed from gilt-edged panels taken from a Sicilian church) and eye up the Brompton bikes for rent as you wait for your room key.

Address

Carrer de Bergara 8 08002

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Room Mate Hotels

Barcelona, Spain

Scattered all around downtown Barcelona, Room Mate’s modern abodes are decked out with loud decor and quirky designs. If rainbow-hued curtains and lacquered surfaces aren’t your vibe, we suggest giving Room Mate Hotels a miss. The collection does offer some more subdued options, but where’s the fun in that? This is the land of Gaudí after all.

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Casa Bonay

Barcelona, Spain

Thanks to Casa Bonay’s cosy living-room feel, come evening you’re just as likely to find one of the hotel’s 70-year-old neighbours dancing on a sofa to DJ-spun tunes as you are a millennial tourist. It’s a hotel but there’s also a juice bar, coffee roaster, independent book store, 24-hour shop and a two-in-one restaurant all under one roof – so expect a lot of day guests. In contrast to Casa Bonay’s shared spaces, bedrooms are minimalist and modest.

Address

Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes 700 08010

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Magatzem 128

Barcelona, Spain

This former furniture warehouse has had quite the makeover. Simple, box-style rooms are given a lift with works by local and up-and-coming artists positioned on most walls, while The Salon in the lobby begs guests to linger (the free coffee helps too). The Duplex Loft sleeps up to four people (draw straws for who sleeps on the sofa bed) and adds up to one of the most affordable (while still design-forward) hotel options in town.

Address

Carrer de Calàbria 128 08015

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Casa Camper

Barcelona, Spain

We really hope you like the colour red; there’s lashings of it at Casa Camper. Situated in the El Raval area, Casa Camper is your launchpad into a neighbourhood full of galleries, local restaurants and wine bars. Inside, rooms are paired back, letting the downstairs Michelin-starred Dos Palillos take centre stage. Enjoy your fill of oriental cuisine and Spanish tapas prepared by Albert Raurich, former chef de cuisine at El Bulli.

Address

Carrer d'Elisabets 11 08001