BACKGROUND W Barcelona was the Starwood brand’s first foray into Western Europe when it opened in 2009, and it is also one of the largest W properties, at 473 rooms. While its beach location might lend itself to a predominantly leisure audience, the hotel has also been popular with business travellers – it was voted second in the Best New Business Hotel in the World category at last year’s Business Traveller Awards.
WHAT’S IT LIKE? Designed by Ricardo Bofill, the architect behind Barcelona El Prat airport’s Terminal 1, the hotel is known locally as La Vela (“the Sail”) owing to its glistening curved shape. From speaking to residents, the 26-storey building appears to split opinion between being an iconic piece of modern architecture and a blot on the city’s landscape, but there’s no doubt it has breathed new life into what was a quiet area of the beachfront. The expansive lobby consists of a large cube-shaped atrium attached to the main tower, with a glass roof. The lobby features a DJ and funky seating, and when I visited in mid-June, the public areas were buzzing with local and international guests.
WHERE IS IT? At the south end of the beach, known as Barceloneta, on the edge of Port Vell, a regenerated harbour area with an Imax theatre, boutiques, bars and restaurants. It’s a fair walk from tourist areas such as La Rambla but there is a taxi rank outside.
ROOM FACILITIES The entry-level category is Cosy but there are only 22 of these – next up are Wonderful rooms (average size 38-40 sqm), with chaise longues by the windows, 32-inch LCD TVs, iPod docks, Tivoli radio alarm clocks, wifi (€19 for 24 hours or free in the lobby) workdesks, mood lighting, robes and slippers, an iron/ironing board and Bliss amenities. Similar to the recently opened W London (click here for a review), the bathrooms are open-plan with closets for the toilet and rainshower.
All rooms have sea views, though Fabulous ones and suites, which look north towards the Port Olympic development, have by far the best vistas. Higher room categories, including the Marvellous suite in which I was staying, have bathtubs in the bedroom itself, which may not be to your taste. Marvellous suites and above also have outdoor terraces and Illy coffee machines. Décor is minimalist – bright and white with splashes of purple and red – but you’ll really spend most of your time looking out of the window.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS W bar is located between the lobby and outdoor terrace, and offers DJ music and retro games including noughts and crosses. Ground-floor all-day diner Wave serves “light, healthy Mediterranean delights with a seafood focus”. You can take breakfast here or in the signature restaurant, Bravo, headed by Michelin-starred chef Carles Abellan. Located on the second floor, it has an outdoor terrace. Dishes are cooked over wood, with an emphasis on meat, fish and seafood.
There is also the poolside Wet bar, and Eclipse, a 26th-floor establishment that is one of the highlights of the property. A funky space with views across the city, Barcelona’s beautiful people can be found here sipping cocktails and dancing to the latest mixes. There were frequently queues to get in when I visited. It’s open until 4am at the weekend.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES The hotel has one of the most extensive meeting offerings in the city, with 2,100 sqm of space across 13 rooms and three floors. The largest venue is the 1,000 sqm Great room, with a seven-metre-high ceiling and sea views. The outdoor deck can also be hired for events, as can Eclipse, and the 59 sqm terrace of the Extreme Wow suite can be used for smaller gatherings.
LEISURE FACILITIES The Wet deck is spread over two floors overlooking the beach, with a 20-metre pool and loungers, cabanas and sofas, making it a perfect place to soak up the sunshine. However, the constant loud music could be wearing. The 700 sqm Bliss spa occupies two floors and offers eight treatment rooms, relaxation areas, a steam room, sauna and spa bath. There is also a 300 sqm workout space with Technogym equipment and beach views from floor-to-ceiling windows.
VERDICT An excellent addition to the Spanish city’s hotel scene, with extensive business facilities and wonderful views along the coastline. Starwood’s W brand seems almost tailor-made for the city, with its youthful, trendy approach and buzzing on-site nightlife.
HOW MANY ROOMS? There are 473 – 22 Cosy rooms, 207?Wonderful rooms, 18?Mega rooms, 159 Fabulous rooms, plus 20?Fantastic suites, 38 Cool Corner, four Marvellous, two Spectacular, two Wow and one Extreme Wow suite.
ROOM HIGHLIGHTS The fantastic views and great shower, although the open bathroom won’t be to everyone’s taste.
PRICE Internet rates for a midweek stay in October started from €346 for a Wonderful room.
CONTACT W Barcelona, Placa de la Rosa dels Vents; tel +34 932 952 800; whotels.com