Barcelona’s design hotels; five of the best

by Sally.Davies

World-class architects and the cream of interior stylists have brought Barcelona's hotels sashaying into the 21st century

It’s a ceaseless task, maintaining the mantle of the Mediterranean’s most stylish city, and yet until a few years ago, Barcelona had little to show in the way of boutique or even reasonably attractive hotels. Even at the very top of the range, decor tended towards the stuffy, with chintz the only vestige of cheer in an otherwise beige landscape.

These days, it’s almost impossible to imagine. Hotels are springing up in every twisted and fanciful form imaginable, even in the least prepossessing of business districts. Look out, for example, for two architectural gems on the road in from the airport; the looming grey and red construction on the left, apparently topped with a UFO, is Lord Richard Rogers’ Hesperia Tower Hotel, while closer to the centre, on the right in the trade fair district, are the fluid, ethereal towers of Toyo Ito’s Porta Fira hotel, due to open in February 2010.

These are perhaps best enjoyed through the cab window unless you’re here for business, but the wave of designer exuberance has also washed over the city centre, leaving a trail of urbane and playful hotels aimed also at those here purely for fun.

Bear in mind that the prices given here are the official rack rates, and prices can dip considerably lower – hotels in Barcelona, as everywhere, are feeling the pinch.

W Hotel (Plaça de la Rosa dels Vents 1; doubles from €295)

Barcelona’s newest and most glamorous hotel, the W is often compared to Dubai’s Burj Al Arab, and shares its distinctive sail shape, towering over one end of the beach. The rooms are simply done out compared to the sequinned walls and breathtaking chic of the lobby, but the real protagonist here is the view; all rooms have spectacular vistas over the sea, the city or, in the case of the Cool Corner suites, both.

Style credentials: Designed inside and out by postmodern Catalan architect Ricardo Bofill, who was also behind Barcelona airport.

Barcelo Raval (Rambla del Raval 17-21; doubles from €120)

Bucking the trend of taupes and slates that dominate the hotels in its class, the Barceló lets rip with fuschia and lime green in its rooms and some very now flock wallpaper and a vast hot-pink undulating banquette in its otherwise monochromatic lobby/bar, the B-Lounge. The rooms become more expensive the higher the floor – book the highest you can afford for the best views, not to mention proximity to the fabulous roof terrace and plunge pool.

Style credentials: The architects and designers may not be well known outside Spain, but the elliptical building, shrouded in black wire mesh, has become a favourite of international design mags.

Omm (C/Rosselló 265, Eixample; doubles from €195)

The Omm was arguably the first of Barcelona’s hip hotels, and its futuristic black corridors and light-filled minimalistic rooms have been much imitated. Few places can match it for comfort or friendly service, however, and none offers the same view of the warrior-like chimney stacks atop Gaudí’s La Pedrera (if you can’t afford a room on a higher floor, you can still check them out from the terrace and pool). A small club in the basement attracts respected DJs, and there’s a peaceful spa and excellent hairdressers.

Style credentials: Details right down to the plates in the exquisite Michelin-starred restaurant bear the stamp of the best of local designers, such as Frederic Amat and Antonio Miró.

Murmuri Hotel Barcelona (Rambla Catalunya 104, Eixample; doubles from €129)

Another recent opening, the Murmuri is the sexy younger sister of the starchy Hotel Majestic (, and almost as luxurious while considerably cheaper; frequent offers mean that even the suites aren’t only for millionaires. Rooms are decked out in pale shades of grey and taupe, with huge, comfortable beds and toiletries from Molton Brown or the White Company. The sleek Marfil cocktail bar is worthy of a Bond movie (as are the cocktails) and guests can use the pool, gym and sun terrace at the nearby Majestic.

Style credentials: The hotel’s interior and cocktail bar were designed by British designer Kelly Hoppen.

Suites Avenue (Passeig de Gràcia 83, Eixample; apartments from €235)

At ground level, Suites Avenue looks like another residential building, and its entrance is easy to miss. Step back and look up, however, to appreciate the undulating iron strips that form its facade and pay homage to the marine feel and kelp-like balconies of Gaudí’s La Pedrera across the road. The apartments are spacious and contain sitting rooms and fully equipped kitchens, not to mention priceless antique artworks (owner Jordi Clos is a fervent Egyptologist). Primitive materials such as wood and leather are fused with brickwork, marble and fur throws to create something startlingly original.

Style credentials: The facade and interior patios were designed by RIBA Gold Medallist Toyo Ito.


I came to Barcelona ten years ago for a long weekend, and showed a horrible lack of originality in deciding I couldn't leave. I made it back to London for as long as it took to pack up my things and hand in notice to my landlord, and that was that. Fortunately I was able to take my job with me – I edit Time Out's guides to Spanish cities and work as a freelance journalist for newspapers and magazines including the Guardian, the Observer, the Sunday Times and the Daily Telegraph.

My Barcelona

Where I always grab a coffee: there are lots of terrace cafés along the pretty Passeig del Born, but my favourite is Rosal (no.27), which largely escapes tourist notice. Autumn update: though it's kept the name, Rosal has recently been subsumed by the faceless tapas bar next door. I'm back on the prowl for a regular haunt. Watch this space.

My favourite stroll: I’m lucky to live near the Parc de la Ciutadella, a storybook park with a boating lake, ducks to feed, a Gaudí-designed waterfall, playgrounds, sculpture and a thousand trees under which to read a book on hot summer days.

Fiction for inspiration: Cathedral of the Sea is never going to win any great literary prizes, but it’s a rollicking beach read, with a plot verging on Gothic and a fantastically detailed portrayal of the Born neighbourhood in medieval times, and particularly the construction of the 'People's Cathedral', Santa Maria del Mar.

Where to be seen: With a mixologist and DJs imported from London, the Eclipse bar on the 26th floor of the W Hotel is the current hot ticket.

The most breathtaking view: One for the brave, this one, because it does have a bit of a wobble when there’s a wind up, but the Monument a Colom (Columbus Monument) at the bottom of La Rambla has unmatched views over the city and out to sea.

The best spot for some peace and quiet: Again, it would have to be the Parc de la Ciutadella, although the gardens of the Antic Hospital in the Raval are also a lovely retreat from the crowds along La Rambla.

Shopaholics beware: Passeig de Gràcia has most of the flagship stores for Zara, Mango, Diesel et al, along with some very gorgeous designer stores. It’s also a wonderful place in which to simply stroll and take in the Modernista architecture; even the lamp-posts are works of art. For quirky boutiques and eccentric specialities, though, you'll need to lose yourself in the maze of the Old City.

City soundtrack: There’s a Raval-based band called 08001 (the Raval’s postcode), made up of a floating membership of great musicians from around the world. Its mestissa (ethnic fusion) sound is very typically barcelonin.

Don’t leave without... fer vermut (‘doing vermouth’). Sunday morning, tall glass, red vermouth, lots of ice, slice of orange, splash of soda water, a saucer of boquerones (fresh anchovies) and a couple of friends. My favourite Spanish habit.