Barcelona has shaped itself into the quintessential citybreak destination. Compact and culture-rich, it invites you to expand your agenda and take a ‘just one more activity’ approach. And the winding streets of the Gothic Quarter, with its grab-bag of world-class sights, restaurants and shopping, is the beating heart of it all.
The Barcelona EDITION
If you’re looking for one of the more upscale accommodation offerings Barcelona has to offer, the Barcelona EDITION delivers. At street level, its unassuming facade gives little clue to the top-end services, decor and features contained within. Stepping through the door, however, the plush lobby and warm glow of Bar Veraz beckon you into a lavish world.
Luxury is the order of the day in the EDITION’s corner suite; a chic space, glamorous in its scale and finish. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the wetroom. The EDITION encourages you to think big in the clean lines and open space of the combination shower and bathroom. The tub in here? Worth the trip just for a soak in the marble bath and to take in the views of the city.
But you can only sip champagne and admire the views for so long, and when you’re able to tear yourself away from your room, more than 15 of Barcelona’s main attractions are within walking distance from the EDITION. If you’re looking to scope out your surroundings beforehand, many of these sights can be witnessed first over the rim of your martini glass from the Mediterranean rooftop terrace – not a bad way to plot your next adventure or unwind after a day of exploring.
We tackled the city on foot, setting off from the EDITION to visit first the Parc de la Ciutadella to enjoy the sun and to get our bearings, then on to the Sagrada Familia. The industry which has arisen in the immediate vicinity of the ongoing construction of the basilica is vast. It could accurately be described as a tourist trap, which has put me off buying a ticket in the past. But from the moment you step inside the Sagrada Familia, it’s easy to understand why Gaudí’s magnum opus is such a draw.
From within, the scale of the structure falls away to the warm technicolour and unique interplay of light from the church’s stained-glass windows. What should be ostentatious and overpowering, especially with the constant influx of other visitors, is an invigorating and introspective experience.
Exploring La Rambla
If crowds aren’t your cup of tea, or you’re put off by the touting of cheap pizza, souvenirs and caricature artists, it might be wise to steer clear of La Rambla. But for our trip, these tree-lined streets provided plenty of fun distraction on the way to other attractions. It helps that unique sights like Gaudí’s Casa Batlló rub concrete shoulders with the relentless commerce, making a ramble down La Rambla worth the time.
From this central drag it’s easy to peel off into more interesting territory, such as the delightful sensory overload of Mercat de la Boqueria and its rows upon rows of meats and sweets, or into the bohemian neighbourhood of el Raval to sample the culinary joys of Bar Cañete.
Bar Cañete is locally-focused and world-class, from the food to the service to the atmosphere. As someone who is somewhat critical of fine dining, eating at Bar Cañete left me feeling, without hyperbole, jubilant. Their chefs deliver pristinely prepared, bold but unpretentious dishes, all with character and personality. If you can (and it’s a big ‘if’ – reservations are hard to come by), book a seat at the bar and watch the chefs at work while you eat. Don’t leave without trying the oysters and Galician baby scallops.
Kimpton Vividora Hotel
The Kimpton Vividora Hotel puts visitors in the centre of the action, situated along a narrow Medieval street in the middle of the Gothic Quarter. For those looking to explore the oldest and most diverse neighbourhood in Barcelona, the location is hard to fault.
But the location is just the start. In its room design and facilities (a gym, restaurant and bars, all contained handily on the premises) the Kimpton Vividora Hotel has been designed for the active, the interested and the engaged traveller. Our room is bold and beautiful, in a colourful Mediterranean style, and functional in ingenious ways, from its furniture design to the room layout. It’s considered, smart, and packed with charm. The space could just as easily be used as a remote working space as it could as a base of operations for seeing the sights.
Beyond our room, both the lobby and the downstairs bar, Cafe Got, are filled with people, a mixing pot of guests and locals, socialising, working from laptops or enjoying their drinks. More than a hotel, the Kimpton Vividora Hotel is also a genuine spot in the area. There’s ‘buzz’ here; perfect for meeting new people or decompressing after a day of taking in the Old City. And for those looking for a combination of the above, plus a view, the hotel also boasts a rooftop bar and pool.
Exploring the Gothic Quarter
Just steps from the doors of the Vividora, visitors can find a treasure trove of vintage shops and high-end outlets, along with cosy bars and cafes tucked away in shady alcoves. Brunnells, which is just a couple of minutes’ walk away, became our breakfast spot of choice, serving up pastels and pastries to keep us going.
An unexpected highlight of the trip was an impromptu visit to the Palau de la Música Catalana. Knowing little about the music venue, we stopped in due to its proximity to the Vividora and were immediately taken aback by the Art Nouveau stylings of the lobby, and the stained glass of the skylight, fringed with the intricate ironwork and sculpture of the main auditorium. The longer we stayed, the more detail we uncovered, while the space was awash with music from the central organ.
The final highlight we came across in our limited time in the Gothic Quarter was the polka-dotted Casa Lolea. In search of the best tapas in Barcelona, Casa Lolea came highly recommended, and was only a hop from the Vividora. Rather unwisely we decided to chance it and stop by without making a reservation – the staff were extremely accommodating to our tourist ways and managed to squeeze us in on a heaving Wednesday night.
While the menu presents a range of delicious tapas classics (try the Pan Con Tomate), the highlight of a visit to Casa Lolea is really their range of sangrias. Lolea serve sangria in five varieties, each delivering a different flavour profile, from the cinnamon edge of classic number one, the dark cardamon hit of number four, or the floral sweetness of number five’s rosé variety.
Grant Bailey was a guest of The Barcelona EDITION and the Kimpton Vividora Hotel. For more information visit: www.editionhotels.com/barcelona/ & www.ihg.com/kimptonhotels/hotels/us/en/vividora-hotel-barcelona-spain/bcnki/hoteldetail