MODERNISM, MEDIEVALISM AND MICHELIN STAR MEET UPON THE MED

MERCER HOTEL, BARCELONA

It transpires that behind the spires of Barcelona Cathedral and the Catalan capital’s Roman walls stands a hotel with stones older than those of the attention-grabbing basilica – but the Mercer’s attitude is anything but ancient. Listed as a historical monument owing to the gorgeous 1st century walls integrated in its architecture, it was designed by prestigious Spanish architect Rafael Moneo. He brought the new hotel smack bang up-to-date in 2012 by creating light, airy spaces around the original features, from a cavernous stone entrance to incorporating the watchtower in its library and private dining area (often reserved for Presidents of Football Clubs). It might be concealed down a narrow medieval side street, but the Mercer houses a deceptively large interior courtyard of columns and cute orange trees, around which 28 bright rooms allow you to wake up within this impressive ode to the history of Barcino. Get lost amongst the boutiques, cafes and museums in the surrounding bustling gothic hub and end the day by taking in historical Ciutat Vella from the rooftop pool with one of the city’s infamous gintonics. The perfect place to embrace Barcelona’s past and present – or lose all sense of time in the cocktail bar.

I love…

  • Mix of glass and original stone walls and original Roman pillars act as time machine between the 1st and 21st centuries
  • Amazing sense of space and light within Barcelona’s maze-like Gothic Quarter
  • A refreshing pre-lunch glass of cava in the sun-filled orange tree courtyard
  • Elegant tasting menus with paired wines from Michelin-starred Jean-Luc Figueras

Need to know 

  • Head chef Figueras sources the finest ingredients from the Boqueria and you can too on Mercer’s ‘Foodies and Markets’ tours
  • Specify if you want a bathtub as not all rooms feature the oversized Antonio Lupi-designed corian pools of joy
  • Mercer Restaurant is closed on a Sunday and Monday, but Le Bouchon’s tapas are available every day

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What to see and do 

  • Book the world’s top restaurants El Cellar de Can Roca and Tickets through the hotel to avoid extreme waiting lists
  • Take advantage of the Mercer’s partnership with the W Hotel and rent their poolside sunbeds by the beach
  • Take a wine-tasting trip to family-run vineyards in Penedès such as Can Feixes or Celler Pardas, or simply work your way through the Mercer Restaurant’s 240 wines
  • Finish the day off decadently with a sensual soak and a massage at Aire de Barcelona, the restored Arabic Baths in Born near Parc de la Cuitadella
  • Wander the gothic streets to the Picasso Museum in Born and after a day of museums and architecture treat yourself to high-class restaurant Montiel

When to go

It’s only a ten-minute walk to the beaches of Barceloneta, but being so immersed within the cultural museum-filled streets of Barcelona, the Mercer is a hotel for all seasons. As a general rule, March-May is ideal climate-wise and August is the most humid month, which means less tourists. It is quite common to wander into a square to discover locals forming human towers, putting on a pyrotechnical extravaganzas or playing jazz so the Mercer has a fortnightly newsletter featuring an agenda of festivals, live music, football and events so you don’t miss out.

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SLEEP WELL

Let history seep through your fluffed-up pillow in one of the hotel’s oversized Egyptian cotton-adorned beds. Minimal with exposed stone walls contrasting with glass partitions, the 28 rooms overlooking the patio’s orange trees or towards archaeological ruins echo the hotel’s historical entrance. For royal luxury, suites are enshrined by Roman columns, gold gothic arches and deep purple couches. Add abstract canvases by Catalan artist Agustí Puig, who taught Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem to paint for Woody Allen’s ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’, and it’s a true Barcelona experience.

Room to book

The Premium Junior Suite features original Roman walls and has it’s own private terrace with sunbeds to flop on after you’ve had your fill of culture-hunting. If you’re coming with the family, or just like a massive amount of space, at 150sqm the Suite is larger than most Barcelona apartments.

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EAT WELL

Known as Barcelona’s most elite chef in the 80s, and with a Michelin star to prove it, Jean-Luc Figueras was the man behind 1992’s Olympics, Hotel Mandarin’s Blanc, and now the sophisticated wine-lined Mercer Restaurant. Every Tuesday the acclaimed French-Catalan chef goes to the Boqueria to source seasonal ingredients for his changing daily menus of ‘lifelong cuisine’. For sheer decadence go for the tasting menu with paired wines, with regional and KM0 offerings explained by sommelier Armau ‘We are what we drink’ Marco. For casual dining, sample creative tapas in Le Bouchon and for poolside classics head up to the terrace. There’s nothing wrong with a club sandwich when it’s got the Figueras touch. 

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Favourite Dishes

  • Suckling pig complete with crispy skin, rhubarb jam and sour apple ‘tatin’
  • Langoustine cannelloni with tomato confit and Kalamata olives
  • Filo bread with sweetened onions and sardines at Le Bouchon

Favourite Drinks

  • A glass of Lagar do Merens Cosecha – a delicate Galician Ribeiro
  • A complex and elegant oak barrel aged Grappa di Nebbiolo
  • Furvus, a full bodied red wine from the Montsant region in northeast Spain

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