Behind a 19th-century Molina-designed façade, boutique hotel The Serras has been restored with modern minimalism in mind: all geometric patterns, sea-gray and sand colours, ergonomic furniture and abstract paintings. Take a dip in the rooftop pool, sip on cachaça-based cocktails while watching yachts dock at Port Vell from the vantage point of your private balcony, then make you way down to dinner whipped up by a top Catalan chef in Picasso’s first studio.
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of cava and tapas in your room on arrival
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £273.12 (€305), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €2.48 per person per night on check-out.
Rates usually include buffet breakfast.
If you fancy hiring bikes, taking a private tour of Barcelona, or hiring a boat for a romantic evening meal, just ask: the hotel can arrange all that and more.
At the hotel
Swimming pool, free WiFi throughout, nearby beach, on-site parking, valet parking, fitness room, personal training, laundry services. In rooms: Nespresso coffee machine, minibar with free bottled water, smart TV, Diptyque bath products.
Our favourite rooms
We’d take a light-filled Deluxe Room any day, with those floor-to-ceiling windows, private balconies, and monochrome tiled headboards. And we’d never say no to a spacious Junior Suite, with that cushy lounge area and those private-balcony views of Ciutat Vella.
On the rooftop terrace there’s a float-worthy outdoor swimming pool with sweeping sea views; it’s surrounded by sunloungers and cocktail bar El Sueño is only steps away. Count the yachts pulling into Port Vell Marina as you sip mojitos and snack on salty olives.
Bring your sketchpad and pencils to channel the creativity of this former art studio.
Ask to arrange in-room wellbeing treatments, including therapeutic massage, reflexology, vitamin C facials and mani-pedis.
Little Smiths of all ages are welcome; extra beds can be added to Grand Deluxe and Junior Suites (free for under-twos, €95 a night for ages three and above).
The hotel welcomes children, and many of the rooms can be connected to give families more space. The lift makes pushchair access to rooms and the roof terrace no trouble at all, and the neighbourhood is family-friendly too.
Children of all ages.
A cot can easily fit into the Grand Deluxe Rooms and Junior Suites, and the hotel can provide extra beds too. Under-sevens stay for free, and there’s a daily charge of €40 for seven to 14-year-olds.
Supervised children are welcome in the rooftop pool.
There’s a children’s menu in the restaurant, which will adapt items from the main menu for little palates. High chairs are available, and there are baby changing facilities too.
Qualified nannies and babysitters can be hired for €20 an hour, for minimum blocks of two hours. Additional charges apply from 11.30pm to 6.30am, for bookings of over six hours, and after the second child or first baby.
No need to pack
The hotel can provide high chairs, baby cots, bath toys and towels, kid-friendly DVDs, or tablets. Baby trolleys are available to rent for €15 a day, and nappies are available to purchase too.
The LEED-certificate-holding hotel recycles, and ingredients for the restaurant’s seasonal menus are locally sourced.
Opt for a table in front of the open kitchen in the evening.
To feel like a local, aim for your ‘oh-this-old-thing’ tried-and-true best: nothing too over-the-top, and a pair of espadrilles for Mrs Smith.
All golden toned, with dark steel beams and light wood floors, modern Catalan and Mediterranean restaurant El Informal is helmed by Michelin-pedigreed chef Marc Gascon. You may be able to spot him hard at work through the enormous picture windows to the open kitchen; he’ll likely be cooking up seasonal crowd favourites such as the honeyed potato gnocchi with butter sauce and black winter truffles, or the charcoal grilled turbot with roasted leeks. Buffet breakfast is also served in El Informal; choose from house-made pastries and cakes, yoghurts and fruit, and cheese and charcuterie. Made-to-order hot dishes, including the likes of eggs and crepes, are also on the menu.
Le Nine cocktail and lounge bar is open 24 hours a day for all your beverage whims. Cachaça fans will love house specialty the Serras Barcelona, a mix of Capucina Cachaça, Cedilla Liqueur de açai, Pechaud’s bitters, sugar cane, lime and strawberries. The luxury sangría is problematically thirst-quenching; if you’re lounging for a while, order cheese, charcuterie and sandwiches to nibble on, too. El Sueño rooftop terrace bar looks out over the Mediterranean and Port Vell Marina and is mere steps from the pool. Favourite poolside drinks include mojitos, beer, cava and cocktails, and toasties, nachos and an assortment of tapas are available to order from noon to 10pm. (During the summer, there’s often live music on the terrace, too.)
Quench your thirst any hour of the day at Le Nine cocktail bar, and from 8am to 1am on the rooftop terrace. Breakfasts at El Informal run from 8am to 11:30am, lunches from 1pm to 4pm, and dinners from 7.30pm to 10.30pm (11.30pm on Fridays and Saturdays).
When the desire to dine on your private balcony (or in bed) strikes, order sandwiches, charcuterie, cheese and fruit, desserts and drinks 24 hours a day. In-room minibars have Nespresso capsules, all manner of drinks and both sweet and savoury snacks.
The Serras looks out over Port Vell; it’s a short stroll to the beach, a nine-minute walk from the Picasso Museum, and a 10-minute walk from Las Ramblas.
Barcelona Airport is 14 kilometres away; the hotel can arrange transfers in a Mercedes E Class for €95 each way, or van transfers for up to seven people for €125 each way.
Services from major cities – including Madrid, París, Valencia, Bilbao, Seville and Malaga – pull into Sants Estació, just five kilometres from the hotel; arrange one way transfers for €95 in a Mercedes E Class, or for €125 in a shuttle van.
If you’re spinning around Spain in your own set of wheels, the hotel has valet parking for €40 a day.
Worth getting out of bed for
The Serras is part of the Born neighbourhood, in the Old Town. The area has a village vibe and is full of shops; photogenic Santa Maria del Mar church, with its adjacent market, is three minutes from the hotel. You’ll be staying in Pablo’s former studios, so a visit to the nearby Picasso Museum is only fitting. Natural sandy beach Barceloneta is a short stroll away in the traditional fishing district; this Barcelona favourite is open to the public, suitable for swimming and supervised by lifeguards. You’ll also find a games area for children, sun loungers, changing rooms, beach umbrellas, drinks and ice cream kiosks, and restaurants all at the beach.
The second oldest restaurant in the city, Can Culleretes (+34 93 317 3022) is all about unfussy tasty tapas dishes. Stone-walled El Atril (+34 93 310 1220) is a reliable favourite, too; ask to sit under the umbrellas on the Plaça de Sant Cugat. For modernised Mediterranean classics, head to chef Giuseppe Iannotti’s Dine Kresios. In industrial-design dream tapas restaurant Llamber, you'll find intricate gastronomical feats almost too pretty to eat (but do: everything's delicious).
Dainty deli with flair Les Tres a la Cuina (+34 93 105 4947) only has a few tables, but can otherwise do no wrong for laid-back lunches.
Cocktail bar Marmalade (4-6 Carrer de la Riera Alta, +34 934 42 3966) has a swinging Fifties Havana feel, with just a dash of New York City. Behind Paradiso's (4 Rera Palau, +34 933 607 222 sandwich shop front, you'll find a speakeasy style bar; expect theatrical gourmet cocktails and a sense of intrigue.
When Mr Smith and I rock up at boutique hotels, we usually look a bit like Roald Dahl’s the Twits. Travel-worn, rumpled, food-stained clothes are the norm after long, sleepless journeys to far-flung destinations. But this time, thankfully, it’s different… I strut into our beautiful Barcelona bolthole with blow-dried hair, wearing a freshly-ironed dress and smelling rather lovely. This is because it took us precisely 10 minutes to get to boutique hotel the Serras from home – by foot.
Smiley staff rush to hold open the double-height door that leads to a light-filled entrance lobby with wooden floors, mirrored walls and bright pops of colour. As we sit down to check in, Mr Smith is handed a glass of cava, me a freshly-squeezed orange juice (I’m four months pregnant). Oh, it’s all going so well, I think to myself smugly.
‘I’m sorry ma’am but your credit card has been declined.’ Oh, I say.
‘Sir, yours has been declined also.’
’Oh’, says Mr Smith.
Illusions of sophisticated adulthood now shattered, we scramble through bags for proof we’re not fraudsters. Thankfully, the Serras’ staff are forgiving, and if they think we’re a pair of idiots, they certainly don’t show it.
Diego, the friendly reception manager, gives us the grand tour. The Serras was designed by Francesco Daniel Molina, the famous Catalan architect behind Plaça Reial. We also learn it was the site of a teenage Picasso’s studio, and where he painted Science and Charity. I ask about the studio now; ‘It’s a storeroom’, I’m told. Seems a waste, but apparently there are plans to turn it into a grand suite soon.
We’ve booked the Junior Suite that looks out towards the palm tree-lined Passeig de Colom and renovated marina. Years ago, this was a disreputable part of town, now it’s one of the most exclusive, with the Serras one of a handful of new boutique hotels popping up here.
I’m busy nosing around the sleek, monochrome interior of our room: I love the loft-like bathroom with Malin + Goetz toiletries, the minimalist, black-and-white photographs and the oversized headboard with Modernist-style tiling. It takes me a while to work out the enormous TV – at the click of a button, it appears from a cabinet; another click and it rotates 90 degrees (it’s no surprise to learn the hotel owner formerly worked in tech). Mr Smith, on the other hand, only has eyes for the complimentary Cava. Three-quarters of the bottle later, he’s prancing about the room semi-naked. I tell him to go away; I’ve curled up on our insanely comfortable king-size bed with a copy of the latest Vogue. ‘The mattress is the same make as those in Buckingham Palace,’ Diego had been keen to tell us, and I don’t doubt it. I sleep like an English queen that night.
After a fancy breakfast of poached eggs with potato-and-bacon foam, we spend the next day wandering the labyrinthine streets of the medieval Gothic quarter (just behind the Serras) and browsing the funky boutiques of the Born neighbourhood. We’re tourists in our own city again, pointing out things we’ve never noticed before. We hold hands and stop for coffees in sun-drenched plazas; we discuss the merits of staycations and giggle at tourists wobbling about on Segways.
By the time we’re back at the hotel, we’re whacked. Luckily, the Serras caters very well for exhausted (read: lazy) couples. In the mezzanine lounge area, press a button and a bartender appears to take drink orders. For panoramic views of the yacht-filled marina, there’s no need to go further than the glorious rooftop terrace, complete with cocktail bar and infinity pool, all lit up at night. And when hunger strikes, there’s the fabulous tapas restaurant on the ground floor. At Informal, Michelin-starred chef Marc Gascons and his talented team fire out Catalan classics with a twist from an open kitchen.
That night, delicious cod fritters come wrapped in faux newspaper. Our garlicky, roasted monkfish casserole with tomatoes, bacon and black olives was to-die-for. I’m about to tuck into a yuzu flan with mint and caramel ice-cream when I notice an overweight man in a tutu walk past Mr Smith’s head. And… is that Beetlejuice?! In our giddy holiday-at-home mode, we’d completely forgotten it was Halloween. With huge glass windows that look out onto the street, Informal makes for a perfect people-watching spot, and on 31 October, our view proves to be free entertainment.
Belly full of baby and tapas, I suggest a post-dinner walk along the marina. The water glistens under a full moon. Buskers, canoodling couples and ghoulish creatures are out in full force, but Mr Smith and I hardly notice. Damn it, I’d forgotten how romantic Barcelona can be.
We spend our final hours at the Serras soaking up sunrays on the rooftop terrace, jazzy tunes playing in the background. (I love Barcelona – you can still sunbathe in November here). At check-out, we thank the staff for a wonderful weekend and make to leave. ‘Sir, you forgot these,’ says a blushing bellboy holding out a plastic bag of dirty boxers and socks to an even more embarrassed Mr Smith. Fine, so we need to work on our entrances and exits. But the good news? We arrive home well-rested, as fresh and fabulous as we arrived.