Despite the recent independence referendum (Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, a very old and currently autonomous region within Spain), this visitor-friendly city is a major tourist destination. Particularly renowned are the fantastic architectural works of Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Domènech i Montaner, which have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Almost everyone speaks English, but welcomes your experiments in multi-lingualism. Any attempts at Spanish or Catalan are welcomed but not expected. I tried (timorously) a bit of Catalan and Spanish myself and was rewarded with appreciative smiles.
Hotel Bagues 5*: a boutique hotel located in a former jewelry atelier
I stayed at Hotel Bagues 5*, a member of the Derby Hotels Group. Situated on Las Ramblas across from the Cathedral of Barcelona, it’s a great base for exploration on foot or via rapid transit. The staff greeted me warmly as I arrived late in the evening, giving me complete instructions on all the facilities of the hotel. I was given a surprise upgrade, which I gratefully accepted. The building is a former jewelry atelier and shop, and the Hotel pays homage to the history in several unique ways. On the first floor, a small museum shows a sampling of the art produced and sold. And in every accommodation, pieces are displayed within the walls.
Catalan cuisine in an intimate setting
Hotel Bagues has a restaurant, Brasserie El Regulador, hidden in plain sight on the ground floor, and offer their guests a discount for meals. I tried it, and the food provided a great example of Catalan dining. The waiter first offered an amuse bouché, then brought a perfectly done starter of mushroom risotto with truffle and cheese, followed by an Iberian ham piadina with brie cheese tuna with leek and vegetable. I couldn’t resist trying the chocolate lava cake with ice cream for dessert – which provided a perfect exclamation point to a lovely repast. Breakfast is served in the same space, with a complete buffet comprised of fresh fruits, vegetables, yogurts, breads, cured meats, cheeses, and your choice of any hot items from the menu.
A room with a view
My corner room on the 4th floor had two tiny balconies with views of the streets below – great for people watching! Every detail is considered at Hotel Bagues – envision the fresh red rose in the bath and shower room, slippers and linen floor mats at bedside, a small Spanish chocolate on the pillow in the afternoon, sleep spray for your pillow with the toiletries, and more.
What to see on a weekend trip
The Gaudí Museum is an easy walk from Hotel Bagues and offers riveting displays explaining the arc of Gaudí’s life and work, including older art that influenced him, as well as fascinating explanations of his groundbreaking engineering work. You can purchase combined entry to the museum as well as one of the houses designed by Gaudi, or the Sagruda Familia, his famous church. If you want to see the church, be sure to book your entry well in advance – tickets sell out weeks ahead, even in low season. If the weather is fine, the Gaudi-designed Park Guell is a wonderful walkaround, with mind-bending shapes and colours throughout. Admittance to the park is also via timed ticket.
The Gothic Quarter (The Barri Gòtic) also nearby Hotel Bagues, is the old Roman village. The narrow, winding streets create quite a labyrinth amongst a vibrant collection of shops, boutiques, restaurants and bars. I used the walking tour app GPSMyCity to find the highlights of my short stay, and recommend it for any city walker.
Some of the highlights of my walk? Seeing the Roman ruins tucked away in a narrow alleyway, finding a delightful restaurant, Arcano, for a lovely midday meal, and wandering around the Mercat Gotic de Antiguitats.
In summary, I highly recommend a visit to beautiful Barcelona. Easy to navigate, friendly locals, and a colorful art and architecture scene make it perfect for a long weekend. Try this site if you want even more detailed information on specific tours, nightlife, concerts, sporting events, and more.