Regrettably, Barcelona trips are all too often for work. Nevertheless, I have spent enough time there to be able to make some recommendations for your weekend away. It is a city I love, and compared to other European cities it is too often overlooked, as far as I am concerned. Usually I like to stay in the centre of Barcelona, because it makes it easy to travel to my meetings. ‘Central’ for me is the Passeig de Gràcia; my favourite hotel there is the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona, which is also, in my opinion, one of the best city hotels I have ever stayed in. It is a converted bank and retains a lot of the individual character, and the breakfast buffet is fantastic, which is crucial for a good hotel. The rooms blend modern and quirky Catalunyan touches, which makes them smart but comfortable at the same time. A room or suite with a terrace is a must. The spa is fantastic, with the added bonus of a Bastien Gonzalez mani-pedi studio. Charlotte the therapist can do wonders to your hands and feet. Before the Mandarin opened, the other place to stay on the Passeig de Gràcia was Casa Fuster. This is more gothic and gaudy in its design but equally comfortable, and with excellent service. A new contender is the recently opened Soho House Barcelona, which overlooks the Port Vell Marina in the Gothic Quarter. This would be my choice if I were in Barcelona for leisure. The hotel is very Soho House but, again, it manages to capture the Catalunyan essence very well. Their signature rooftop swimming pool and patio is fabulous, as is the in-house Cecconi’s restaurant, one of the best I have been to.
One has to be careful with Barcelona restaurants. For a city that is a major tourist attraction and commands huge numbers of international visitors, there is an abundance of restaurants that are ‘tourist traps’ and must be avoided... Below is a list of my go-to places:
For authentic tapas…
Bar Mut:Excellent tapas and seafood.
Cal Pep: Legendary tapas institution, which has been copied several times around the world but never to the same standard. Their tortilla with aioli is to die for.
Tapas 24: The tapas is average but their breakfast bocadillos are fabulous!
Cervecería Catalunya: Consistent tapas and very popular with locals and tourists alike. The restaurant always has a buzzy atmosphere.