Originally published in Travel Age West
If you are lucky enough to visit Barcelona, Spain, during a city-wide festival, staying at a luxury hotel overlooking the Catalan capitol’s main square, Placa de Catalunya, is certainly an unparalleled spot for viewing (and easily accessing) the celebrations.
I was in town for the largest event of the year, Festes de la Merce, which honors the city’s patron saint, the Virgin de la Merce. With festivities and parades over the weekend, Iberostar Paseo de Gracia was a prime home base.
Sophisticated and stately, the property has a lot to celebrate on its own, as it is the brand’s first hotel in Barcelona. Opened in early 2018, this newly refurbished historical landmark was constructed more than 70 years ago, before leading other lives as a hotel and a bank. It features a neoclassical facade, created with local stone, while the building’s tower showcases neobaroque design and sculptures by artist Frederic Mares.
Located in the affluent Paseo de Gracia neighborhood, the hotel is ideally situated for tourists, as it’s a short walk to many of the city’s main attractions, such as Antoni Gaudi’s famous Casa Batllo, the Gothic Quarter, the city’s Las Ramblas and a variety of buzzing restaurants. There are shopping options galore, with a massive department store, a supermarket and plenty of boutiques just steps away.
The lobby of Iberostar Paseo de Gracia is airy and white, offering an immediate (and air-conditioned) tranquil oasis from the city’s bustle just outside. The hotel’s 119 rooms — including some with terraces in addition to two large duplex suites — are spacious and light-filled, with soaring double-paned windows (that unlock and open), an abundance of mirrored walls and a light-hued palette with pastel accents and dramatic splashes of color.
Furnishings are minimal, with blonde-wood tones and streamlined closets that blend seamlessly into the walls. The in-room artwork consists of grey-and-pastel murals created by the brand’s design team, depicting landscapes with flowers interspersed with an artistic version of lizards (considered a tribute to Gaudi’s legendary tiled “dragon” sculpture in Park Guell).
My standard guestroom’s floorplan was completely open — including the bathroom — so privacy was at a minimum, although the shower and toilet areas were each separated by a door. In-room amenities included a large, mirrored flat-screen television, a minibar, a safe, a desk, an iron, convenient power outlets, a makeup mirror and a hair dryer. To my delight, the room even included a straightening iron — a blessing for those, like myself, who have hair that does not react well to humidity.
Guests will immediately notice the large bottles of refillable toiletries in the room. They are a component of the company-wide, environmentally focused program called “Wave of Change.” Starting with Spain, Iberostar Hotels & Resorts pledges to eliminate single-use plastics throughout its 110 hotels across the globe in the next several years.
The crown jewel of the 15-story Iberostar Paseo de Gracia, however, is the lovely, picturesque rooftop pool deck and surrounding terrace, open to the public until 11 p.m. Offering incredible 360-degree views of the city — including, of course, Gaudi’s architectural marvel, La Sagrada Familia — the terrace is relaxing and offers plenty of lounge chairs, couches and sunbeds. The infinity-style pool stretches across the majority of the rooftop, and the pool area also features the Sky Bar, which serves an array of craft cocktails and casual food options. It’s an ideal spot to enjoy the sunset or, during my visit, fireworks.
On the first floor, the hotel’s main restaurant, Ca’s Menestral, offers a robust breakfast buffet daily with eggs, cheeses, breads and the like; additional hot items can be ordered off the menu. For lunch and dinner, the restaurant’s menu includes a variety of choices, ranging from club sandwiches to grilled fish. During my visit (and perhaps due to the festival outside), the dining room was very quiet.
The Iberostar Paseo de Gracia staff is lovely and accommodating; there was always a bellman at the entrance who greeted guests and offered to assist with luggage, which was often a necessity due to the short flight of foyer steps.
At the same time, on occasion, I found the customer service to be a bit slow. For example, I needed to request multiple times (over several days) for someone to repair my television — but then again, perhaps a TV isn’t needed when this vibrant city offers unlimited entertainment just outside.
Iberostar Paseo de Gracia