Barcelona, Spain: The Mandarin Oriental
One of my absolute favorite European cities is the timeless and tasteful,Barcelona. The beat of the city is electric, as the exciting energy of the vibrant culture flows through your veins, emulating the effortless elegance of this thriving destination. The region modestly holds nearly 5 million people however, the wide spacious boulevards ensure that the populous city always feels welcoming and leisurely. Adding distinct dynamic charm to this renowned setting, the city center is seated at the crown of the Mediterranean Sea and offers a striking contrast yet intriguing synergy as you seamlessly travel between the stunning streets and the seductive shore. In less than a 10-minute drive, you can enjoy Barcelona’s many architectural wonders, art exhibits and metropolitan attractions, and swiftly retreat to a beautiful beach promenade for seaside dining or outdoor relaxation. Barcelona in all its glory, is simply beautiful from the inside, out.
Elevating the city’s standard of luxury, the birth of the Mandarin Orientalin 2009 marked a crucial milestone for Barcelona’s hospitality scene. A renewed interpretation of the historical context, the renovated structure and rectilinear facade are flawlessly integrated into the stately aesthetic of Passeig de Gràcia. Upon arrival, I was promptly greeted car side by two butlers who escorted me into the building. The double-height doors of the grand entryway open up to a multi-story atrium, white-washed with geometric screen accents, dark wood focal points branded in gold and traversed by a glowing ethereal catwalk that leads to the posh lobby. Highlighted by a minimalist yet warm aesthetic, the space features cozy modern furnishings and a classy mirrored ceiling. Ushered past the lobby for a brief in-suite check-in, I was issued the phone number for my assigned personal butler and assured that any and all requests could be expediently accommodated through this single convenient contact. The staff’s proactive approach, comprehensive follow-through and thoughtful customized details exceeded my highest expectations.
Housing nearly 100 beautifully appointed accommodations, every room’s design and décor is guided by the sleek luxurious standards of the Mandarin Oriental brand. The hotel has a very interesting combination of rooms with city vistas, balconies, garden/atrium views, junior suites and specialty suites. Staying in a first-floor terrace suite was an absolutely amazing experience. Composed for optimal comfort and an immaculate spatial sequence, the pristine spaces flow seamlessly into one another from the separate living area flanked by a half bath, through the bedroom with low lying couches and neatly tucked beds, the massive bathroom, dining area and sliding glass panes framing a private outdoor retreat. This tremendous terrace space was overflowing with lush hanging greenery, an open dining area for up to eight guests, and an over-sized covered daybed for lounging. It was a magical moment being in the heart of the urban landscape, a short distance from miles of pavement, with access to this beautiful private garden oasis.
Whether visiting for business or pleasure, the hotel’s pool offers a divine and refreshing treat after exiting a lengthy meeting or concluding a long day of exploration. For more advanced rejuvenation, the famed spa provides personally curated wellness journeys featuring techniques such as aromatherapy, scrubs, massages, body sculpting, detoxification, reflexology and beauty treatments - for men, women, and couples. The streamlined indoor pool is lined with lounge chairs for tranquil relaxation, which is overlooked by the adjacent glassed-in steam room. The treatment area is equipped with very special beds for an immaculate and nontraditional experience. The stone seating comfortably warms with the environment and is contoured to the body with an upward curvature to elevate your feet. “Pleasurable” becomes an understatement, as this transformative session captivates the senses.
The impeccable hospitality that is characteristic of the Mandarin is perpetuated flawlessly throughout every department of the entire property. From room service and the expert concierge, to the front desk attendants and restaurant servers, their attention to detail, limitless services and cordial coordination is very impressive. The grounds are home to a handful of highly-rated gourmet dining rooms. Boasting two Michelin stars, Moments is a culinary treat with Catalan specialties served a la carte or as portions designed for tasting. The hotel’s central atrium is occupied by a phenomenal seafood bistro composed of nautically inspired décor and floating white ephemeral screens, which is flooded with sunshine from overhead. Open for breakfast through dinner, you can peer down into this decadent dining area from the lobby’s balcony above. The ultra-romantic alfresco setting of the Mimosa Garden is the epitome of casual Catalan style. The unconventional wispy plantings are gathered into aromatic artistic follies, adding privacy around the high-backed wicker furnishings. Here, you can enjoy international cuisine inspired by Peruvian and Mediterranean cultures. As night falls over Barcelona, the Banker’s Bar sparkles with life and light as the steel-plated ceilings, twinkling accents and lively staff add vigor and charm to this classy lounge. Serving small plates and a list of specialty cocktails, a live DJ also makes anticipated appearances during the latter half of the week. Perched atop the Mandarin’s roof, Terrat is the perfect place to culminate your evening with a diverse menu of extraordinary tapas fused from the tastes of Japan, China and Peru as well as unique beverage concoctions. Looking across the edge of the rooftop infinity pool, the entire city is framed as a dramatic backdrop for lounge music and mingling. Though the hotel hosts an excellent array of culinary options, Barcelona has much to offer including a myriad of local surprises to explore and discover.
It is so easy to fall in love with the fascinating historic landmarks, colorful artistic culture, beautiful people, grandiose streetscapes, gorgeous coastline and of course, the food. By far, Barcelona is a top global destination for cuisine. Aside from tantalizing tapas and an incredible assortment of fresh seafood, the molecular gastronomy cuisine and everything in between is simply incredible. Touring La Boqueria food market can be an overwhelming journey for the senses with the sight of colorful sea fare, the aroma of picturesque produce, rows of high-hanging meats and tastings of artisanal wine, culminating to characterize the authentic Spanish experience.
To visit the many local attractions, there is no need for a taxi as the Mandarin Oriental is walking distance to just about everything. Barcelona’s people are warm, welcoming and quick to boast of their heavenly beaches and a wide spectrum of sites including world-renowned museums, parks, high-end shopping, theaters, sports stadium, the Barcelona Pavillion, Arc de Triomf and much more. The natives are prided by the wealth of award-wining architecture by Mies van der Rohe and Gaudí such as Güell Park, Casa Mila and the temple of Sagrada Família that after construction, will likely be the tallest religious structure in Europe.
With breathtaking accommodations, a diverse assortment of luxurious cuisine, deluxe pampering and incredible service, it was very difficult to conclude my visit. It came to feel as though Barcelona was my home. Highly recommended for families, couples, singles, friends and those on business, the city sets the tone to welcome all kinds of guests. It is very possible to return to Barcelona every year and discover something new, charging the city with a consistent current of anticipation. And as you know from my previous travels, I am definitely a fan.