Set on Rambla de Catalunya in Barcelona’s fashionable Eixample district, Casa Sagnier occupies an ornate townhouse that’s within walking distance of the Sagrada Familia and Gothic Quarter.
Barcelona-El Prat Airport is around 30 minutes’ drive from the hotel, and somewhat longer if caught in rush-hour traffic. The hotel can organise private transfers at a cost of around €100, or taxis are available at the airport.
Diagonal metro station is just around the corner on Passeig de Gràcia, with connections to destinations and attractions across the city. Its punctual services and air-conditioned carriages make it near-essential for sightseeing in the hot Barcelona summer.
Driving in Barcelona can be frightening and frustrating at the best of times, but seasoned drivers may enjoy the challenge. Cars are available for hire at the airport and Casa Sagnier has an arrangement with a local parking garage 100 metres from the hotel. However, the comprehensive metro, bus and tram network means you really don’t need your own wheels.
Worth getting out of bed for
Aficionados of fine architecture will find much to enjoy both in and out of Casa Sagnier. Eixample’s many (ahem) examples of art nouveau design and Catalan modernism include several Gaudí masterpieces, chief among them the curvaceous Casa Batlló on nearby Passeig de Gràcia. This hallucinatory edifice, with its bone-like exterior, creepy skull-mask balconies and shimmering blue-and-green-tiled facade (assumed to represent the skin of a dragon) is 100 per cent certified bonkers.
There’s a great deal more fine architecture to ogle along this fine Parisian-style boulevard, as well as credit card-melting boutiques from the likes of Massimo Dutti, Stella McCartney, Chanel and Gucci. Head to Mercat de la Concepció, a cavernous indoor food and flower market built in 1888, where the heady scents of fresh blooms and rustic bloomers may send you into a further spending frenzy. Drown your financial sorrows with a quick cava in one of the market’s smattering of bars. If you’re still in the market for a Gaudí fix, big hitters including the Sagrada Familia and Parc Güell are both a manageable walk (or easy air-conditioned metro ride) from here. Who knows: it may all start to make perfect sense after that second bottle of fizz.
The Gothic Quarter east of Las Ramblas promises much adventure. Lose yourself in its labyrinthine lanes, where secret courtyards, blind alleys and further architectural feats await. A baker’s dozen of resident white geese haunt the cloisters of Barcelona Cathedral, an elaborate, gargoyle-toting confection that gives the Sagrada Familia a decent run for its money.
Spend some time hanging out on Carrer d'Avinyó where Picasso’s fledgling career first took wing, then pop over to the nearby Picasso Museum, which houses a collection of more than 4,000 of his works – including many early pieces – within five adjoining mediaeval palaces. Decadent much?
If fine art and mind-boggling feats of architectural design have whet your appetite for yet more artistic triumphs, look no further than Disfrutar, a multi award-winning restaurant located opposite Mercado del Ninot in Eixample. Here, a light-filled dining room serves as the gallery in which dishes are first displayed… then devoured. These include a Picasso-esque multi-spherical pesto with smoked eel and pistachios, deliciously fluffy deep-fried panchino buns filled with sour cream and caviar, and frozen lychee served on a rose petal bejewelled with droplets of gin. The word ‘disfrutar’ translates as ‘enjoy’, but with more than 25 courses on the basic tasting menu it’s possible you may also ‘explode’.
Its location along Passatge de la Concepció (less than a minute’s stumble from the hotel) gives you free reign to dive into Pur’s exhaustive wine list. Pair a citrusy verdejo with fish dishes served au naturel, without the need for overbearing sauces: think grilled Cantabria anchovies served with tomato bread and tuna tataki with fresh summer salad. A robust red like tempranillo marries well with the meat options, which include suckling lamb ribs and bone marrow with steak tartare. Look out for the feature wall festooned with stark 3-D plaster-mould imprints of fish, squid, shrimps and more.
Between Las Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter, you’ll find Carrer de Petritxol, an impossibly narrow lane lined with chocolate emporia hawking cocoa-based edibles (and drinkables) in formats Willy Wonka could only dream of. The reassuringly old-school Granja Dulcinea has remained largely unchanged for nearly 100 years and was once a favourite hangout of Salvador Dalí. Drop by to sample their all-conquering churros and hot chocolate.
Nearby Granja M. Viader dates back further still, to 1870, and can lay similar claim to some of the best desserts in town. Step into its old-fashioned dining room, all tiled floors, marble-topped tables and wooden chairs, and order their signature suis: molten chocolate topped with whipped cream and sweet sponge fingers for dipping. If it’s good enough for the Surrealists…
Designed by Gaudí contemporary Lluís Domènech i Montaner, the Hotel Casa Fuster is a Modernista masterpiece and star of the show at the north end of Passeig de Gràcia. Head to its top-floor Mirador Terrace for sundowners and views of the Sagrada Familia and Tibidabo mountain, or chill out in louche Café Vienés downstairs, where grand Grecian columns, decadent cocktails and occasional live jazz set the scene.
Over in the Gothic Quarter, Las Cuevas de los Rajahs is just made for late-night cocktails. Descend the narrow staircase to a grotto-like space where candles flicker against stone walls and order up a fruity Pretty in Pisco or dark rum and espresso-infused What’s Kraken. Renegotiating the stairs may prove something of a challenge afterwards, but a quick sharpener as you bid farewell at the upstairs bar should see you right again.