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Hosting an Olympics can be great for the image of a city. Tokyo used it in 1964 to display its post-war modernisation. Seoul 1988 was the harbinger of the Korean culture wave. Beijing 2008 was a display of modern Chinese wizardry. London 2012 proved that the Brits could still do cool. But the poster child for an Olympics turnaround has to go to Barcelona. In 1992, the capital of Catalonia in Spain was still recovering from General Franco’s dictatorship. Hosting the Olympics poured billions in investment and the spirit and joy of Barcelona that we know today can be traced back to the opening ceremony in 1992. With the eyes of the world on it, Barcelona catapulted to being one of Europe’s most visited cities overnight.
Nearly 25 years later, Barcelona is Spain’s most-visited city and anchors international perception of the country – rich in history, fascinating in architecture, sublime in food (Barcelona has been an epicentre of Spanish gastronomy. Much of the city still retains its beautiful, historic architecture – including Gaudi’s ethereal creations – but modern Barcelona also includes the final word is modern luxury. Here we pick the three best luxury hotels to reside at when visiting the Barcelona.
1. Hotel Omm
The moment you step into Juli Capell-designed Hotel Omm, you’re cocooned by the swanky chic of an extraordinary space. A concentrated stream of aesthetic pleasure comes from concepts as diverse as bulbous light fittings to mysteriously dark corridors illuminated by lighted LED strips (the reasoning for the darkness is to ensure guests stay hushed in the aisles).
Beyond its design factor, the hotel’s other opening gambit is a similarly winning one. Just paces into the lobby, you find yourself at the gastronomic temple conceived by the collective genius of Joan, Josep and Jordi Roca – the owners of the much-acclaimed El Celler de Can Roca.
Their culinary annexe at Omm comprises a newish Roca Bar and Roca Moo restaurant, complete with a birch tree garden. At the latter, one may choose to partake in seasonal, vegetarian, tasting and midday set menus, while the former takes on tapas and other street-style food with exquisite pairings such as Spanish omelettes and cava.
Rosa Maria Esteva, Omm’s proprietor, has artfully blended elements of contemporary design, cuisine and culture to express the city of Barcelona at its best. From a humble catering business, she has continued her trajectory of following the Catalan movement which now includes this collaboration with the Roca brothers and Hotel Omm that made the exacting standards to be accepted into the Design Hotels network.
Guests staying at this 91-room hotel quickly fall into the trendy, charged vibe of the place. It’s a vibe that emanates from the buzz of Passeig de Gracia to the club downstairs featuring jazz and soul artists. Visit in the next few months of summer and you’ll also enjoy the rooftop terrace swimming pool, a sushi bar and Jordi Roca’s artisan ice creams – with panoramas of Casa Mila, Sagrada Familia and, in the evening gloam, the twinkling lights of the hilly district of Montjuic.
Carrer del Rosselló, 265
Tel: +34 934 45 40 00
2. Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona
In the throbbing heart of Barcelona’s commercial and entertainment district of Passeig de Gracia, one finds a melange of Antoni Gaudi’s phantasmagorical buildings, high-end luxury boutiques, buzzing Michelin-starred restaurants and innovative wine bars. It is also here where one discovers the Mandarin Oriental; a hotel that immediately welcomes you with friendly doormen and a scent of amber.
As befits a hotel that has tapped into the design nous of Spanish architect/designer Patrizia Urquiola, the notion of style is always at the forefront. Sleek forms then give way to resplendent service (with the thoughtfulness of staff extended to holding on to important documents that one has carelessly left behind upon check-out. True story).
In what used to be the headquarters of the Hispano American bank, Urquiola’s influence adds a modernist and oriental touch with hand-woven carpets, Scandinavian armchairs and wardrobes recalling traditional lacquered Chinese boxes. Inside the rooms, doors slide noiselessly to reveal plush furnishing and, inside the bathroom, a colourful and magical glass shower reimagined with Mutina and Bisazza mosaic.
In warmer months, mimosas blossom in an almost secret garden terrace of 660 sq m, where guests may enjoy cocktails under the Spanish sun. As the day grows long in the tooth, one can then retreat to the Banker’s Bar – awash with wall safes and locker boxes – for reflective moments, live jazz on Wednesdays and one of the best gin and tonics inside and outside of the city.
Passeig de Gràcia, 38-40
Tel: +34 93 151 88 88
3. W Barcelona
With some mid-year malaise starting to set in, it’s only right that one considers the effervescent charms of the W Barcelona to shake off that funk. The hotel’s W Wet Deck Summer Series of pool parties elevates your mood almost immediately. This series capitalises on the prospect of perfect summer days – combining W’s key values of music, design and fashion every Sunday nights, with DJs from Ibiza providing the requisite auditory exhilaration.
Even minus the up-tempo beats and corresponding 1,000 revellers, you would quite likely discover the fun side at this bubbly hotel. Ricardo Bofill, the architect behind this sail-shaped hotel, did well to provide the area with a stunning landmark – as well as capture the essence of this historically rich and culturally prosperous maritime city.
With the W Barcelona as a catalyst and time as an agent, the nearby Barceloneta boardwalk, down the road from the Gothic Quarter and Born, became gentrified with amazing restaurants at Port Vell matched with a pristine beach. That the W Barcelona is sandwiched between this boho-chic district on one side and the endless Mediterranean on the other, means that you easily find a slice of Barcelona that connects with your soul.
Inside the hotel alone, you may find yourself sauntering towards the Bliss spa for Triple Oxygen Treatments and Ginger Rubs in between bites of olives, cheese and fruit. A table at Bravo24 by Michelin Star-winning chef Carles Abellan serves up toothsome oysters, rice dishes, fish cooked on oak coals and an expansive wine list of over 400 vintages.
Upstairs, the rooms offer great views of calming, endless horizons. For pure indulgence, check into the Extreme Wow Suite; boasting three bedrooms, a 59 sq m exterior terrace with a Jacuzzi, and 360-degree views of one of Europe’s most exciting cities.
Plaça Rosa dels Vents, 1
Tel: +34 932 95 28 00