Tucked enticingly away amid the narrow, winding alleys of the Gothic Quarter, Mercer Hotel Barcelona shows off its historic architecture and its up-to-the-minute attitude. Remnants of its 1st century origins are everywhere, but within its ancient walls the decor is as stylish as the cool young staff, and the terrace plunge pool is the perfect place to admire the Catalan capital’s pleasing jumble of rooftops…
Cool central location
A glass of wine for all members. For BlackSmiths: a welcome drink and a tapas selection from Le Bouchon. For SilverSmiths: a bottle of cava in Le Bouchon. For GoldSmiths: a bottle of cava and a tapas selection from Le Bouchon
In the know
Also need to know:
All common areas but the library are wheelchair accessible, and one Superior Room has been specially adapted for wheelchair users.The library, a few steps up from the bar, used to be on the sentry path between the 28th and 29th Roman watchtowers; the frescoes were uncovered during hotel’s renovations.
Bring your Catalan phrasebook, not Spanish – a few words in the right language will endear you to locals.
To match Mercer Restaurant’s understated style, go for something simple but classic.
Mr and Mrs Smith reviews
The blue dotted line informs us that the Mercer is a six-minute walk from my apartment – but Google Maps doesn’t account for culinary deviations. It’s really just over 10 minutes if you stop to gorge on a Michelin-starred mascarpone croissant at the nearby Hofmann Bakery.
I live in Barcelona. It might seem loco to go on holiday just three bakeries, two Chinese supermarkets and seven tapas places away from where I bed down every night, but Mr Smith is visiting from London and flatmates aren’t sexy. From experience I can tell you that Mr & Mrs Smith hotel suites are. As is Barcelona.
It doesn’t matter how many times I wander through the familiar narrow pavements of the Gothic quarter, passing original boutiques, restaurants, dive bars and ruins, I never get desensitised to its whopping great basílica. If you look at Barcelona from a vantage point such as Montjuïc or the secret bunkers of Guinardó, its cathedrals appear as if in quicksand punctuating the landscape. They’re not shy.
Neither is the Mercer. Its cavernous stone arch entrance appears down a cobbled side street. ‘Welcome to Barcelona!’ We’re handed a cold, crisp glass of cava in a chic lobby, which reveals Roman ruins dating back to the 1st Century AD. The manager informs us, ‘These Roman ruins date back to the 1st Century AD!’
His enthusiastic tour reveals a considered interior of Gothic and modern architecture offsetting the historic walls, a busy tapas joint behind Lynch-y velvet curtains, a Mad Men-style bar, a sophisticated restaurant with a glass courtyard of orange trees, and a rooftop pool. To top this off, we’ve been upgraded to the best suite, all because I’m craving the one thing Barcelona apartments are seriously short of – a bath tub – and had requested a room in which I could soak the night away.
Jesús wept! The bath is as big as my bed, the bed more sizeable than my bedroom, and the suite is larger than my apartment. We sack off visiting the decadent Aire Arabian-style Baths in Born for now, as we’ve got our own private bathing zone – and it’s enshrined within a suite of gold Gothic arches, exposed brickwork and deep-purple furniture… plus there’s no old man watching us in Speedos from the corner.
Things get mediaeval. That night we dine on rabbit, pork, ham and mussels in one of my favourite tapas places – Bar Angel – which you’ll find hidden down a side street behind the ornate Estació de França. I’m not ashamed to admit that Mr Smith and I are catching zeds in our oversized bed by the time most locals go to dinner. I fall asleep fantasising that this suite is my apartment, in denial that I kip just the other side of Via Laietana on a glorified camp-bed which catapults Mr Smith across the room if he ‘sits’ on it too excitedly.
The next morning cathedral chimes signal time for more gastronomic joy. Ever since I moved here I’ve been dying to try out the nearby Cal Pep, the traditional tapas place that inspired London’s Barrafina. On this magical Friday afternoon there is no queue. I can tell you now that I’ve finally tasted it, I’d happily stand in line for its tuna tartare. We wash it down with a stop-off at Can Paixano, a one-of-a-kind champañeria down a side street of electrical goods. Hams and chorizos swing above our heads as we get toasted on 4 euro bottles of pink fizz and laugh at any tourists wearing white as it flies over heads.
Apparently there is an art to eating tapas – ‘tapeo’. If it’s artistic to stuff your face at every given opportunity – little and often – then give me a ‘montadito’ and call me El Gordo, because we’re already thinking about what to eat next.
That night we dine in the stunning wine-lined Mercer Restaurant, blinded by a crisp, white tablecloth, followed by an even crisper and whiter waiter. After a decadent one-two punch of goat, then fish, served in the Catalan style (slow), we imbibe a wickedly strong ‘gintonic’ at the adjoining cocktail bar and have a slightly boozy browse through the hotel library, the choice being random and eclectic (covering roof design, birdwatching and vampires).
Spurred on by the finest in food and booze, we venture into the Gothic area to an archetypal cosy Catalan bar called Andú. As is often common in Barcelona, the drinks are large and plentiful, yet the bill is only 15 euros each. Fast forward to daylight as we emerge from a late-night dive bar somewhere in the neighbourhood. It’s confusing, but in the best possible way.
Back at the hotel, it’s time for a game of musical chairs as Mr Smith and I shift from designer chairs as comfortable as a La-Z-Boy, to plump purple couch, to sumptuous bed. Never have we been happier to have such a large mattress on which to flop. A few hours later the blue skies of Barcelona encourage us up and out. Hola, Sunday.
I love a Sunday mooch. With such a central location the Mercer’s Gothic location is ideal. On one side you have the Rambla, the gritty Raval barrio and up-and-coming Poble Sec, and on the other, the chic Born and Parc de la Cuitadella (which I call Hyde-Park-on-acid). That’s not forgetting Barceloneta beach.
We hum, hah and then hire bicycles from Ride or Die (looking likely we’ll do both as more cava is involved). Cycling like born-again tourists in my adopted home city gives me a renewed appreciation of the place as we make our wobbly way along the coast. With Mr Smith here, the port’s local musicians sound like perfect soundtrack to an exotic Latino film of our lives. The next scene opens on a sandy beach, the two of us sunning ourselves with waves shimmering in the distance.
On the journey back, we stop in on Lost & Found vintage market, an infinitely Instagrammable collection of the city’s tat-and-beard brigade. It’s a monthly must see and out-does London for ‘hipsta please’ moments. Fashionista-watching over, we weave our way back to the hotel.
Upon checking out we reflect upon the luxuries of the Mercer Hotel. I ponder again how it might seem loco to holiday in the city in which you live, when Mr Smith, in a rare moment of insightfulness (or a more regular moment of drunkenness) points out it’s not the journey but the destination that counts. When the destination is the Mercer Barcelona, any journey, no matter how short or long, is worth it.
PD. (That’s PS. In Spanish). Do I get props for not mentioning Gaudi?
Carrer dels Lledó 7, Barcelona, Catalonia, 08002
0.3 mi / 0.4 km from city centre
- Onsite laundry
- Valet parking
- Complimentary in-room coffee or tea
- Internet services
- Room service
Dine Kresios, where the ancient architecture and top-class cuisine are the focus; Chef Guiseppe Iannotti serves modernised takes on Mediterranean classics. Or, enjoy excellent tapas or fresh oysters in Le Bouchon.
Book the private dining area on the terrace for extra-special celebrations.
Tapas is served in La Bouchon from noon to 4pm and 7pm to 11pm. Breakfast is served in the Mercer Restaurant and Patio de los Naranjos courtyard 7.30am–11am Monday to Friday, and 8am–11.30am at weekends.
Order anything you like from the restaurant menus during restaurant hours, and snacks, sandwiches, desserts and drinks can be ordered to your room anytime, day or night.
Mrs Smith's first choice in the chilled-out, dark Mercer Bar is a negroni, but there’s a range of Spanish beers and choice cavas and champagnes on offer, in addition to the handcrafted-cocktail menu and extensive gin array.