With its beautiful Roman-style paintings and ornamental façade, the Hotel Catalonia Berna (opened in 2003) occupies one of Barcelona’s oldest buildings in the city’s famous mid-19th century expansion (Eixample) district. Built in 1864, the building is classified as a historical monument –precisely because of the fact that it’s also the only building that conserved (and fully restored) the exterior’s 19th century paintings and kept the decorations from its original front.
In striking contrast, when you step inside the hotel, the interior is loaded with an airy, sunlit-filled elegance and an open modern style that curves softly around its check-in center. Like the wonderful capital of Catalonia itself, it makes for an artistic mix of the old and classic blended with the fresh and hip.
Reception is friendly and multi lingual (the city’s a world-wide prime tourist destination, after all). Guest rooms number 124 over six floors; each feature polished hardwood floors, air conditioning, marble bathrooms, plus satellite tv. Rates start around $100 for a standard double and upward for a double superior room with a balcony or terrace (depending on season). Rooms at the front have balconies while top floor rooms have terraces. If you want extra peace and quiet, request an interior room on one of the top floors. My room was a double, small by U.S. standards, but I felt I had plenty of space—with a comfortable bed, desk area, bathroom and decent amenities. The furniture was well-designed and I had no noise issues. The hotel is in a fairly quiet area, and I would guess that it probably caters to more business travelers than tourists (there are several big meeting rooms). Wi-fi is available and free of charge.
While I did not eat there, the hotel’s Les Finestres de Llúria restaurant serves up Mediterrean-inspired cuisine. For a late afternoon drink, the lobby bar is a good place to relax and re-charge—with plenty of comfortable seating and a nice vibe.
In the morning there’s a bountiful buffet breakfast—complete with Spain’s traditional potato omelettes and/or stations for made to order items. For those inclined, there’s also a small fitness/workout room. But in this walkable city, I found I got plenty of aerobic (and much more scenically enjoyable) activity on its streets.
Speaking of: the best part about Hotel Catelonia Berna in my opinion is its location. Set in the historic center of Barcelona, the hotel is within walking distance of many of its major attractions. My first day out, I happily discovered the fantastic Sampako Cacao chocolate shop (begun in 2000 by the brother of superstar chef Ferran Adria of El Bulli fame) is approximately only three blocks away. (Score!) Not surprising to find this high end shop in the neighborhood though; it’s near the Passeig de Gracia –Barcelona’s famous shopping avenue that’s filled with many other chic and specialty boutiques. All about a 5-minute walk from the hotel.
Hotel Catelonia Berna is also not far from its hometown boy and Modernist artist, Antoni Gaudi’s amazingly designed apartments—both the Batllo and La Pedrera (Casa Mila) are a short walk away. Or head towards the Plaza de Catalunya (about a 10-minute walk) which is the square at the top of the Ramblas. Then make a day (and/or night) of strolling the city’s most famous tree-lined boulevard, Las Ramblas. On the people-packed Las Ramblas—locals and tourists wander between flower stalls, bird sellers, street performers, sidewalk cafes, and of course, the wonderful food market: Mercat de Sant Josep (aka La Boqueria) just off of it. For the really ambitious, you could actually meander all the way down to the waterfront, and then dine at the usual hour– for those in Barcelona– of around 11 pm.
Review by Donna Tabbert Long who was hosted by the Tourist Office of Spain (Chicago). Photos (except where noted) courtesy of Hotel Catalonia Berna.