In terms of luxury hotels, Barcelona was lagging behind other major European cities until the 1992 Olympic games. The celebration of the Games, and the arrivals of thousands and thousands of tourists forced city planners and developers to think big. The first modern luxury establishment to open its doors in Barcelona was the Hotel Arts, and it still sets the bar in terms of top-notch service. Since its debut, many other hotels dared to target a new upscale clientele, and over the past twenty years at least a dozen great luxury hotels have opened in the city.
In the 21st century the tourism landscape in Barcelona is completely different: the city has surpassed Madrid in number of annual visitors, and every hotel chain is trying to get its piece of the cake. My personal favorites are those hotels that can cater to your every need, without your needing to leave the premises.
Mandarin Oriental Barcelona
One of the latest luxury chains to arrive in Barcelona, the Mandarin Oriental is great in every aspect: location, service, and rooms. The service is characteristic of the brand’s high standards; the hotel also happens to house two of the city's best restaurants, with renowned chef Carme Ruscalleda serving as the gastronomic advisor to both. My recommendation is to try Blanc, where Ruscalleda brings her culinary expertise to dish up some of the city's most delicious Catalan, Mediterranean, and Asian-influenced fare.
Hotel Arts Barcelona
Although this Ritz-Carlton waterfront property opened more than two decades ago, it remains the best choice for a luxury stay in Barcelona. The Arts offers modern, comfortable rooms with exceptional views of the Mediterranean. Staffers are discreet, always available, and let visitors feel they’re in the best possible hands (the concierge service here is perfection).
The best thing about this hotel is that it’s far from the noise of the city, set along the boardwalk in La Barecloneta (although if you like to be central to all the city’s main attractions, its location could also be considered a shortcoming). It is, in any event, a very good, modern-chic hotel with fantastic views, within walking distance of some of the best seafood in the city. The rooms have huge windows and fantastic bathrooms, and the prices, for such luxury, are very reasonable.
This quiet, cozy hotel in the historic heart of the city is a good idea if you want to enjoy an intimate Barcelona stay without sacrificing high-class service. The thing I love most about this place is its garden: big and peaceful. That being said, the rooms are also large and the location (El Gotic) is perfect for a nice stroll.
Another of the city’s classic luxury hotels (and a favorite of traveling businessmen), the Majestic is located right in the middle of Passeig de Gràcia (the largest shopping area in Barcelona), and houses an opulent spa. It’s elegant, traditional, and, as its name implies, you’ll be treated like royalty here.