Ask for a suggestion on where to take your next vacation, and most people willingly offer colorful options for beach holidays, mountain retreats and cultural escapades in a myriad of vibrant city scapes. But, there are often a select grouping of places that seem to always “make the cut” in suggested get-aways. Perhaps it depends on your crew of travelers, but Barcelona has been mentioned as one of those cities not-to-be-missed, appropriate for lovers, “the girls” and the family (albeit the family with the older kiddos).
Our luxury travel connoisseur, Ms. Risa Feldman, had the opportunity to visit this magical city in the Spring when the winter has finally said good-bye to chilly temps and cool breezes and the landscape opens up to a busier schedule of outdoor events and patio dining. During April, tourists are not as rampant and the Spanish heat hasn’t quite hit the pavement…allowing for wonderful hours of strolling the historical city streets and enjoying quiet moments in neighborhood haunts.
The Mercer Barcelona lies, conveniently, in one of Barcelona’s most beloved and centrally located neighborhoods: the Gothic Quarter. Known also as the Barri Gòtic, the picturesque area houses old European streets and alleyways; it offers a beautiful combination of Spanish history with an exciting modern assortment of retail shops and outstanding Catalan delights. Quaint watering holes and plazas provide a home to local musicians who keep the night alive.
The Quarter is made up of some of the oldest parts of the city of Barcelona. Included are the remains of the city’s Roman wall in addition to other historical landmarks. Most of the area is pedestrian-friendly; alleys are reminiscent of labyrinths that call to the wanderer to get lost…and experience the city center, slowly. And, the Mercer hotel is in the middle of it all! The superb location enables travelers to discover some of the main city attractions: the Cathedral, La Rambla, Boqueria Market, El Born District, the Picasso Museum and El Palau de la Musique are minutes from the hotel.
The cozy, 5-star boutique hotel (only 28 rooms!) is considered a historical monument and offers contemporary design and exceptional service; guests enjoy a refined atmosphere amidst the bustling medieval streets. The integration of the old and the new is one of the hotel’s hallmarks. The Mercer occupies a collection of buildings with great architectural significance on Carrer Lledó, built on top of a section of the Barcino Walls – the Ancient Roman city. It also has medieval arches and original 12th century paintings, architectural pieces that surprise and captivate guests. It’s a space with a strong personality and a great reputation in the city and, literally, built within the historic Roman walls. History lovers, with a taste for luxury, will enjoy pampering after perusing some of the city’s greatest nearby attributes.
The stylish rooms at the Mercer Barcelona have chic décor with original wood beam ceilings and exposed brick walls. Elements of serenity, abound; light floors, modern art and simplistic design seem to fit right into the medieval architecture. Some interior rooms have courtyard views with overhanging balconies where you can peer down on delicate orange trees and gathered guests. The bathrooms have modern amenities and feature spa-like showers for those weary few who have over-exerted themselves in the artistic city. As a bonus in the warm summer months, there is also a rooftop swimming pool, poolside bar and a terrace with lounge chairs for sipping clara con limón (beer with a splash of lemon – yum!) or, the expected, sangria.
And, to make it easy, the Mercer offers a beautiful variety of dining options, on-site! The Mercer Kitchen (aptly named) offers traditional Mediterranean recipes incorporating the freshest of local products. Designed by Chef Xavier Lahuerta, the Mercer Restaurant menu offers a selection of dishes where the product is the main character. Catalan cuisine, coupled with French influences, are showcased in traditional recipes with avant-garde techniques and local, high quality products.
Catalan cuisine maybe a new introduction to most guests. Most menus include a variety of cheeses, meats and seafood. Examples of some popular dishes include:
- Pa Amb Tomaquet (Pan Con Tomate): bread rubbed with fresh tomatoes and drizzled with oil and salt. A Catalan staple!
- Butifarra: an uncured spiced sausage
- Fideuas: similar to a seafood paella, but served with noodles, rather than rice
- Alioli: a sauce made from garlic and olive oil
- Mel I Mato: a soft, unsalted goats cheese served with honey and, sometimes, walnuts
As a special note: The beautifully balanced and well-executed menu is accompanied by a vast wine cellar.
Le Bouchon offers classic tapas based on the best local products. “Bravas” spicy potatoes, croquettes, crunchy chicken nuggets, Andalusian style squid, fried peppers from Padrón, cod omelet, eggs with Iberian ham or meatballs with cuttlefish are local specialties. Icelandic cod fritters are a favorite; they are crispy on the outside, pleasingly soft on the inside and served with roasted garlic dressing (“allioli”).
And, to not be forgotten…the Mercer Cocktail Bar. Between stone walls with centuries of history, an elegant and intimate space where you can enjoy a selection of original cocktails. It’s a place that puts perfection into each of their artistic craft cocktails. They excel in gin-based cocktails; choose from a variety of gin & tonic combinations or choose another Spanish classic: cava. It’s a wonderful ending to a busy day in Barcelona.
Fortunately for Risa, and her guest during that stay, there was an added touch – a special event – that made Barcelona even more spectacular. The festival of Sant Jordi is celebrated as the day of books and roses, also referred to as the Holiday of Roses. On April 23rd, the streets of Barcelona swarm with people buying and selling books and a myriad of rose peddlers. Those in blissful love seek for the most fragrant rose to give to their a woman…and, in turn, memorable books are gifted to their men. The city center remains packed with people throughout the day while locals and guests, alike, enjoy hours of shopping and canoodling in the streets.
Total client satisfaction is the goal at the Mercer Barcelona. Service is hushed and polished. It goes beyond fulfilling their demands; it is to exceed each guest’s expectations, surprise them, make them “fall in love” or make them feel at home. And all this, with a professional, unpretentious, sincere and discreet service. It’s truly a peaceful oasis in the heart of the old city and a special memory to share with others.
Hospitality by Mercer Barcelona
LOCATION: El Born district, one of Barcelona’s most cosmopolitan areas, is less than 5 minutes walking distance from the Mercer Barcelona. Monuments, palaces, museums, galleries, restaurants, terraces, shops, fashion and design abound. Located just 8 minutes walking from Mercer Barcelona, La Rambla runs 3/4 mile: A pleasant tour from Plaça Catalunya to the sea. More than 78 million people a year stroll along the most famous street in the city.
LANGUAGE: In offices and schools, Catalan is the dominant language. Road signs and labels e.g. in museums are usually bilingual. Visitors to Barcelona do well with Spanish, although the locals are happy to receive a greeting in Catalan. Many employees speak English in the tourism area of Barcelona. Even the younger people usually know some English. With elderly residents, French should be attempted, because some words of the Catalan are very similar to French.