Elegant Alma Barcelona boutique hotel in the upscale Eixample district is a stylish little number, wrapping its minimally chic interior within a fab Forties building. Design fans will go ga-ga for the pared down but poised assets of this Barcelona beauty, from its sculptural staircase to its sexy rooftop bar with Gaudi-glam views.
Peaceful, city-centre location, just off Passeig de Gràcia
Minimal-chic rooms with luxe marble bathrooms and smart design details
Cracking cuisine and cocktails, including home-made limoncello
A bottle of cava and cupcakes
In the know
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Smoking is allowed in outdoor areas only. If famed minimalist sculptor Donald Judd turned his hand to spa design, the result would probably look like Alma's sleek offering. The day-bed-flanked pool is a cool aquamarine rectangle in a serene cream space, and the treatment rooms are cutting edge and calming. There's a sauna, a small fitness room (with a static bike, treadmill and TRX suspension-training equipment), and a range of massages, reiki, reflexology and immersive sensory experiences are all offered. The Alma is also putting the final touches to its romantic roof terrace, handy for lofty views of the area's gawp-worthy Gaudi architecture.
Bring your iPod if you've booked a room with a dock, but leave space in your case for your shopping booty, as you're just a sashay from fashionable boutique-lined Passeig de Gràcia.
Stylish yet subtle threads will sit well with Alma's low-key allure. If you're hitting the bar, a cocktail dress won't go amiss, but bring a cardy for alfresco evenings.
Mr and Mrs Smith reviews
‘When the first thing you see is a palm tree, you know you’re in for some fun.’ Mrs Smith’s wise words as we step out of Barcelona Airport. Sun beating down, we hop into a cab to take us the Alma in the upscale Eixample district. Driving down the Diagonal, the main boulevard running through the city, we spend the next 20 minutes admiring the architecture and how masterfully this city throws in modern with 19th century.
A former Forties’ apartment block, Alma’s façade is discreet, reminiscent of a townhouse off Madison Avenue in NYC. Past elegant black wrought-iron gates, the grey wash is accented by perfectly sculpted topiaries. Snappily dressed staff await and we’re greeted warmly. Mrs Smith muses that they’re all perfect these Stepford-esque men or women, whose etiquette, knowledge, English – is all perfect. Without skipping a beat, these flawless folks even know my name. Talk about a nice ego boost – and that’s before they’ve indulged us further by bringing over some bubbles.
I’ll be honest, check-in takes a few minutes: but that’s understandable when your fingerprint scan serves as your key. Hey, I’m fine to linger sipping bubbles and reclining like James Bond… especially when there’s even a Moneypenny standing by to predict my next need. If only I had an Aston Martin. I am sure that could be arranged.
After ascending a small flight of stairs we enter a internal courtyard that has a ceiling height of 10 stories. It’s grey, it’s stone, it’s glass – it’s minimalist. In my mind somewhere in the background Darth Vadar’s themesong is playing; I fully expect to see Princess Leia turn the corner. Mrs Smith is standing in awe. ‘Do you think we can use the word ‘orgasm’ in this review? Because if we can, then I’m having one – an architectural orgasm. I’m never leaving. Have my mail forwarded and bring me more bubbles.’ Beyond this impressive atrium, rooms resonate with clean-cut contemporary style, some boasting views of Catalan architect Gaudi's monumental La Pedrera building.
Fingerprints zapped, the door to our room opens. ‘It’s the little things,’ she says, the interior designer in her scrutinising all the little details, such as room number displays inspired by graphic typewriter keys. I, on the other hand, notice that everything is spacious. The shower comprises its own room. You simply walk in. No need for glass, no need for a curtain – the rainspout showerhead doesn’t stand a chance of getting the floor wet, it’s that big. ‘Ooh,’ she squeals. ‘They even have bath products from our fellow New Yorkers Malin + Goetz.’
After surveying our home for the next three days, we grab a late lunch (normal time for Spain) at Bar Mut just around the corner, where they have an extensive selection of cava, wines and a few delicious plates of whatever is fresh that day. Next we hit the main Fifth Avenue equivalent, the Passeig de Gràcia, and we window-shop our way down to the Gothic Quarter, where the labyrinth of alleyways is like a life-size Pac Man game. Before you know it, we are at the port and heading to 7 Portes, a Barcelona institution for more years than I’ve been alive. A classic version of what the Wolseley or Balthazar is now, this restaurante is the real deal.
As it starts to rain the next day, we shelter in the hotel. We hit the spa and head for the wet steamroom, which revives and thaws our wintery bones. There is a new 18-metre two-lane waist-deep lap pool too. Warm and people-free, I relish the rare chance to swim uninterrupted laps. A basic gym has most things one actually needs, so after a splash, for New York second I think about a workout. But come on, who are we kidding? That would interrupt the fantastic late breakfast we’ve ordered via room service. We head back to the room and luxuriate in showers under a rain-style downpour so generous it could irrigate the whole of the south coast of England.
Dinner is served in a streamlined restaurant and bar area beside the lobby, with a small, carefully curated menu that is served by a genuinely sincere and enthusiastic bartender. You see, it really is like having your own personal Jeeves at your fingertips. Each course, as much of a cliché as it sounds, is delicious. Portions are sensibly sized and we manage four courses with ease. Mod-Med food, and a taste of local cuisine care of spaghettini with Catalan butifarra (black sausage) and egg is accompanied by a bottle of their very reasonably priced wines (€20–€30); afterwards we enjoy whiskies and a cigar in the serene courtyard. In warmer months this must have quite the scene.
Now, you can image as time to leave approaches, Mrs Smith has decided that she does not want to leave – after all, Alma hotel has all the convenience, comfort and accommodation of home. And more. When I raise this with the receptionist, she just smiles, then says: ‘Maybe you could move in with the gentleman we have had living here for six months...’
Mallorca, 271, Barcelona, 08008
0.6 mi / 0.9 km from city centre
- Valet parking
- Exercise gym
- Internet services
- Complimentary in-room coffee or tea
- Room service
- Onsite laundry
Helmed by chef Sergio Humada, relaxed Alma restaurant dishes up delectable mod-Med food, which you can munch indoors or out in the swish garden. We can recommend the salmon tartare, Dover sole à la meunière and the chocolant fondant, all of which arrived looking dreamily decorative – or if you fancy something local, order the burnt butter spaghettini with Catalan butifarra (black sausage) and egg. Don't leave without trying the heavenly home-made limoncello. Beautiful blooms throughout are picked by the hotel's green-fingered gardener.
Snaffle one outside on the terrace or in the garden to make the most of the Spanish sun. Tables are scattered around, so choose your own seductive spot amid the foliage.
This is Barcelona, remember, city of night owls, so dinner is served until 11pm, and the house bar keeps pouring until 1am.
24-hour room service is yours to command, with à la carte offerings available from the restaurant menu.
Adjoining the open-plan restaurant, Alma's bar offers cracking cocktails, including a moreish kiwi Bellini, with a bespoke soundtrack of chill-out and acoustic tunes. There are plenty of pews for two, or grab a stool at the bar itself to watch your drink being shaken and stirred.