Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona’s top luxury contemporary hotel

Opened less than two years ago, Mandarin Oriental has a unique location on Barcelona’s leading highstreet  Passeig de Gràcia which is also home to two of Gaudi’s most important creations La Pedrera and Casa Batlló. It is also the city’s number one luxury shopping destination, with all major international luxury brands present, Chanel, Bvlgari, Tiffany’s, Burberry, Dolce Gabbana, Loewe, Hermes and Louis Vuitton are within steps from the hotel. Luxury British shoemaker Manolo Blahnik, Italian luxury menswear brand Brioni and American jewellery brand Tiffany’s are housed within the hotel building thus adding to its prestige.

Formerly a bank, Mandarin Oriental’s building has a solid facade, which might even go unnoticed, compared with many of the lavish architecture buildings on Passeig de Gracia. The rather dull facade comes in contrast with the impressive hallway, a passage guests walk up to arrive at the mezzanine level where the lobby and concierge are. On many occasions I have enjoyed watching well dressed guests walk up the passage as if it was a catwalk.

The hotel interiors are signed by famed Spanish born architect Patricia Urquiola whose vision was to create a bright, cozy and comfortable environment, providing a feeling of understated luxury which is reflected in the quality of materials and finishes. Despite the challenging structure of the building Urquiola has succeeded in giving functionality to the entire space. One such example is the roof top terrace, which is a unique observation point of the entire city.

I have to mention that this was my second stay at the Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona, the previous one being right after the opening, two years ago. I was really looking forward to discovering a more mature property.

Service is as good as it was during my previous stay. What is more impressive is the genuine nature of the service, staff being warm, welcoming and attentive to details, fast in anticipating the needs of the guests. Having stayed at many other luxury hotels in Spain, I must admit Mandarin Oriental Barcelona is one step ahead.

The first impression when entering the hotel is the beautiful woody scent which is filtered through the air-conditioning system, which is a small detail but extremely important and we all know how important first impressions are. The scent can be felt as soon as you walk up the passage leading to the mezzanine level. The scent creates an identity people associate with the hotel and, myself upon my arrival, I felt like coming to a place I know and I remember – It was like coming home, which is this is the ultimate achievement for a hotel in bringing satisfaction to its guests.

Two years from my previous stay, the facilities are very well kept, probably with the exception of carpets in the hallways and elevators which look rather used and some slightly stained. Despite its entirely modern interior design, furniture, lighting, curtains and rugs in rooms look almost new. When it comes to rooms, Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona has some of the most comfortable hotel beds I have ever slept in.

As for views, half of the rooms are facing Passeig de Gracia and the other half are facing the garden, which is actually a terrace open in the summer season and called Mimosa. Rooms facing the garden are not necessarily more quiet as it very much depends on the time of the year you stay. As there is a school adjacent to the hotel, on the right handside, you can imagine the noise kids make, therefore, if its school time, make sure you book a boulevard room. On the left handside, the block of flats looks really bad with balconies in a derelict condition. I do remember suggesting to the hotel staff during my stay that maybe they could either help inhabitants clean out and paint or build a green hedge or a screen to prevent the view.

Unfortunately, location does come with a price for the Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona, and that translates into smaller size rooms in room categories (non-suite). If compared with other luxury hotels in Barcelona which are housed in historical buildings, the rooms at the Mandarin Oriental are quite similar but if compared to the standard of the Mandarin Oriental chain, they are definitely much smaller. Due to the actual size of the rooms, the hotel compromised on the working area, the desk being so small in room categories, one could hardly fit a laptop, not to mention the very uncomfortable chair.

Needless to stay, technology is state of the art throughout the hotel, with Bang Olufsen LCD, Bowers & Wilkins sound sets and high speed wi-fi internet throughout the hotel (complimentary!). The TV system features many HD channels and the quality is exceptional.

As a SPA fanatic, the first thing I did after my arrival, was to check out the SPA and the Orange Ritual treatment I had been reading prior to my arrival. I was really disappointed to find the same disturbing sewage smell through the SPA, as it was during my stay 2 years ago. My enthusiasm in using the facilities or booking a treatment faded and I returned to the room.

Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona is not only impressive for its exceptional service, location and interior design but also for its gourmet restaurant, Moments, which is blazing a trail in traditional Catalan cuisine. Moments is directed by Carme Ruscalleda, the only female chef in the world to have earned six Michelin stars for her restaurants in Spain and Tokyo, and her son Raül Balam.