Ever fallen in love with an apartment in a design magazine and wished you could click your heels and just live that life for a while? With the city-central self-catering pied à terre DestinationBCN on the scene, nothing’s stopping you.
10am, but flexible, depending on availability. Check-in is from 2pm; late arrivals can be arranged with prior warning for €30 (from 9pm) or €50 (after midnight).
Double rooms from £81.93 (€93), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €2.48 per person per night prior to arrival.
Rates don't include the €66 fee for final cleaning – this must be paid on arrival. DestinationBCN does not offer breakfast.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout. In room: Smart TV with satellite and Apple TV, minibar, tea- and coffee-making facilities, kitchenette with washer-dryer, dishwasher, oven and grill.
Our favourite rooms
The Paso Doble suite on the fourth floor exudes stylish comfort: designed in dark, chocolatey shades with rustic hardwood furnishings and exposed brick walls. There’s a generous living space with a floor-to-ceiling bay window giving great views of the Barcelona backstreets. The two bedrooms are huge and each has its own private French balcony.
Pack some loose white linens and designer shades – you’ll want to stay comfy during those sultry summer afternoons. But leave enough room for some market-stall souvenirs.
Housekeeping is available for an extra charge, just ask the concierge.
Welcome. Cots can be added to all rooms except Naoko for €7 a night; extra beds for older kids can be added to some apartments for €35 a night. Apartment Principal can sleep up to six, with two on fold-out beds.
Although there is no restaurant at DestinationBCN, there is a fantastic food market, La Boqueria, just a 10-minutes walk away, and enough speciality delicatessens in the area to encourage use of the fully fitted kitchen. You can also arrange for a chef to come and cater for you.
There’s no bar in the building, but you’re never far from a tavern in this town. Feel free to fill the fridge with some Mestre Mas Via cava from the local market, too.
None, as such, but you can arrange catering and deliveries with the concierge.
Set in the centre of Barcelona, seconds from Eixample, DestinationBCN is perfectly positioned for exploring all the city has to offer.
The closest airport is Barcelona El Prat (www.barcelona-airport.com), at just 11km from the city. Being the second biggest airport in Spain it is served by most major airlines such as easyJet (www.easyjet.com), British Airways (www.britishairways.com) and KLM (www.klm.com) from across the UK and mainland Europe. There are also three flights arriving daily from New York. You can hop in a cab outside arrivals for around €20. Buses to the city centre run every 15 minutes; a ticket costs about €3.
The 18-minute train journey from airport to Passeig de Gracia (10 minutes walk to the hotel) costs around €3; trains run every half an hour. Spain also has a reasonably priced national network but book ahead as trains get busy (www.renfe.com).
Navigating Barcelona’s one-way system can be tricky, as can parking, but follow signs to Plaça de Catalunya, the city’s main square. The suites are located just off the square on Ronda Universitat. You can hail cabs from anywhere on the street, or ask the DestinationBCN concierge to order a car for you.
Worth getting out of bed for
Just 10 minutes’ walk from the hotel in the historic Ramblas district of Old Town,La Boqueria is the king of Spanish markets, selling everything you could conceivably want in your kitchen. The vibrant atmosphere alone is well worth an afternoon’s amble. Plaça de Catalunya is just a three-minute walk away, where some of Barcelona's most important streets converge, so it's a good starting point for exploring. Take the little train from Estacion del Norte that runs along the beaches of Sitges, Platja Mar Bella and Sant Pol de Mar, stopping at each of the small towns along the route. Just hop off at whichever takes your fancy. Barcelona's a great cyclist's city – rent a bike and take a cycle tour with Cruising Barcelona. Offering enchanting views of the city's port and by far the best place to soak in the sunset, La Caseta at Mirador de Migdia is the coolest place in Barcelona to spend an alfresco evening.
To get a taste of the city’s sensational seafood, head to Botafumeiro on Carrer Gran de Gràcia. In the wee hours of each morning, the dedicated team is haggling at the seafood markets of Catalonia and Galicia to make sure they bring back the freshest and most flavoursome fish. To sample Barcelona’s renowned café culture, a trip to Cafés el Magnifico on Carrer de l’Argenteria is the best way to go about it. These caffeine connoisseurs have compiled a menu with a whopping 30 different choices of coffee. Probably best to take it to go, though, as there’s always competition for seating space.
Gimlet on Calle Santaló is one of the buzziest bars in Barcelona and is known for its Manhattan-rivalling cocktails. Its art deco design has a modern twist but is an old-timey nod to the speakeasies of yesteryear. The charismatic staff can also serve up a fine selection of tapas-style snacks.
Cruise, as we did, from the residential Gràcia district in the north of the city, down the Villa Augusta and onto the Passeig de Gràcia, and it was exciting to ride into the thronging, diverse city proper. Here in its heart, Destination BCN is a five-minute amble from Plaça de Catalunya at the top of that most well-trodden of attractions, Las Ramblas.
Anne and Miklós are the switched-on Dutch duo behind the nine suites at Ronda Universitat 11. Less a hotel, more a portfolio of unique apartments that resembles a hotel in design, in provisions and in layout, yet there’s a seclusion of sorts to BCN. The apartments feel concealed from view of the street in a building you’d probably never notice if you didn’t know it was there. We had trouble finding it, partly because the plaque is tiny, but also as there’s not much fuss about the entrance, and no foyer or reception to speak of. It’s as though you’ve been invited to pretend you live in this city, and you have always done so. A tiny, pretty mechanical lift falls into the entrance of the hallway and typifies the understated elegance. We were waiting for Vicky and Cristina to emerge from behind one of the other gigantic-handled wooden doors.
As quiet as this tucked-away spot seems, in fact you’re within walking distance of many of Barcelona’s most interesting places to eat, drink and shop. Journey on the Barcelona Metro and you soon get a sense of the sprawl; BCN’s centrality thankfully makes anything further out – such as the extraordinary la Sagrada Família cathedral – easily reachable via either of the two stations on its doorstep, Universitat and Catalunya.
Barcelona may today be a more watercoloured version of its hippier times marked by itinerant artists, but it remains architecturally exceptional thanks in most part to the father of Catalan Modernism, Antoni Gaudí. The obvious Latinate quirks are offset by this Spanish city’s edgy urban mindset, with a grid-like street plan not unlike Manhattan’s. Here the boulevard-like streets carve distinct districts or barrios. BCN too, is a marriage of both old and new Barcelona.
Luxury furnishings with rustic accents dominated our ‘Ghost’ apartment, which had been advertised as bathed in natural light. (It was more brilliant white and airy in décor: dimmer switches and eclectic lamps let us manage the atmosphere.) Even being there in winter, amid unusual daily downpours (hence the absence of sunshine), the open-plan space was serene and cosy. In what might be called the master bedroom – yes, there’s another bedroom, and two bathrooms in total – an exposed brick wall dominates, daintily embellished by small hanging plants. And if there were 10 in the bed and the little one said, ‘Roll over! Roll over!’ and they all rolled over – not one would even fall out. Two separate dressing areas ensure utmost privacy, and there’s a sliding partition wall, so you can even reconfigure the room if that’s your wont. The space is clearly designed for living much more than it is for staying with stylised magazines the only noticeable product placement and little emphasis placed on branded cosmetics or other more obvious ‘luxuries’. We liked its functionality – the real perk is the spacious living area.
The kitchens these suites have are a highlight, and ours could step in just fine for a World Of Interiors shoot. So well equipped is it that on the few occasions we cooked, we were not left wanting for any appliance. It happened to be my birthday when we stayed and Mrs Smith popped out one morning without me knowing, returning with a bounty for breakfast. Fresh ingredients from the famous Mercado de La Boqueria off Las Ramblas led to a spread of plump gambas, juicy tomatoes and grilled bread with garlic and parsley. I can’t recall a more vivid or memorable plate to wake up to.
Ahead of the trip, we’d tapped one of London’s top Spanish chefs for a list of must-visit restaurants. (Sadly, as with lots of popular cities, it can be easier to eat badly than to eat well. We refused to make this mistake.) How could I not share some of our tried-and-tested tips? El Quim’s (Las Ramblas) famous baby squid, eggs and cayenne pepper – a dish so good, so comforting that it is hard to suppose anything more restorative after a night committed to the caña. Other than some dud service from tourism-jaded staff in Bar Cañete (El Raval), we ate extremely well: at Succulent (El Raval) we devoured stunning pan con tomate and tortilla; El Xampanyet (El Born)’s nautical aesthetic and seafood specialism offered up the best anchovies and tuna; and at Paco Meralgo (Les Corts) it was a temple of tapas involving stunning sautéed wild mushrooms and delicious, fiery patatas bravas.
Then there’s always your own BCN kitchen in which to experiment. Time in felt extended by the domestic comforts and roominess of the apartment. Less tempted to go out, and without real reason to do so, the two of us had fun staying ‘home’. There are hipper, buzzier, grander, and cheaper hotels, but here we lived and acted like locals, popping out for food and returning to our luxury home in between. We read, we slept, we cooked, we chilled. It’s an obvious, if uncommon, way to travel – and we recommend it.