During my first visit several years ago, I knew that Barcelona would become one of my favorite cities. This was despite what was otherwise one significant negative: the Hilton we stayed at was about as far as possible from the city. So I was determined to stay someplace convenient to all that Barcelona has to offer. The logical option for someone traveling on points and miles is Le Meridien, where we were able to book a five-night stay for just 48,000 Starpoints, getting our fifth night free.
Note: I’ve skipped an installment on my transfer experience at Heathrow. I’m okay with grumpy posts, but I don’t want to write angry posts. So I’ll revisit it when I can find a way to make it more lighthearted. Because Spain is awesome, and no one should ruin a trip to Spain by visiting Heathrow first. 😉
Trip Report Index:
- Two Weeks in Spain
- Is the British Airways Travel Together Ticket a Good Deal?
- British Airways Concorde Room – New York
- British Airways First Class – JFK to LHR
- Transferring at London Heathrow
- Le Meridien Barcelona
- Restaurants and Sights in Barcelona
- Vueling Airlines – Barcelona to Granada
- AC Palacio de Santa Paula Granada
- Hotel Alfonso XIII Seville
- AVE Preferente Class Seville to Madrid
- Day trip to Cordoba
- Westin Palace Hotel Madrid
- British Airways Concorde Room – London
Arrival at The Hotel
Our taxi dropped us at the front door, but if you’re looking forward to the colorful windows you see in online photos, those have been removed or replaced. The lobby still looked very clean and modern like most Le Meridien properties, and you can see the back wall remains painted. There was a cafe to the left, concierge to the front, and check-in to the right.
We were first in line for an agent, but I thought service was generally slow throughout our stay. I would hope that more than two counters would be staffed in a hotel of this size. Often it was just one. Even once we had an agent’s attention it seemed to be a difficult task to check someone in or issue a new room key.
Fortunately I don’t need a lot of help once I’m settled in. As an SPG Gold elite (a benefit of my American Express Platinum Card), I did receive a coupon for a free welcome drink in the hotel’s restaurant, Cent Onze, and another for a free bottle of wine if we chose to eat dinner there. No real upgrades were available beyond a preferred room.
The room assigned to us on the fourth floor was still very nice despite the lack of an upgrade. Those facing the back just overlook the roof of a Carrefour supermarket. We had a view of the shaded street across from the Hotel 1898 across the street, a more historic building. If you’re lucky enough to get a suite, most of them appear to be very nice with historic views and even a few with private patios. It may be worth paying more or redeeming extra points.
Great, Modern Space to Stay when Visiting Barcelona
I am generally a fan of Le Meridien hotels for their more modern furnishings and good maintenance. It’s not as nice as a St. Regis, but they deliver on expectations every time (Sheraton and Westin properties are much more variable). Given that my wife is an architect and wanted to visit Barcelona specifically for the city’s adventurous design, it was a fitting choice. I also didn’t mind that La Boqueria was two blocks away. 😀
Our room opened into a narrow hallway with cabinets for our luggage and a separate closet. Opening the cabinets revealed a coffee and tea set and a relatively large safe.
We were most impressed by the bathroom. The vanity area had good lighting and a potted bamboo plant, while the dark stone on the floor and walls was very attractive. Megan strongly prefers a separate room for the toilet, which we didn’t have, but at least the sliding glass door on the bathroom closed securely. Such doors are often more finicky and roll open on their own. I’m sure the fluffy robes helped mollify her.
Toiletries were by Cinque Mondes, a brand we hadn’t heard of before but which had a pleasant, spicy smell. Water pressure in the tub/shower was excellent. If I could make one suggestion it would be to remove the tub. The room was well appointed but not large enough to “relax” in, so I don’t see the point of taking a bath.
A king sized bed, reading chair, and desk filled out the main space. A small nook with accent light appeared to be set up for displaying art but was left empty. As we planned to spend most of our time outside, this was plenty of space and really more than we expected. WiFi was also the best we experienced on the entire trip, and the bed was the most comfortable out of all five hotels we stayed at on this trip.
The positive elements of this review mostly stop there. We enjoyed our stay and would be happy to stay here again. But there were some other areas where I think Le Meridien may not be competitive with other options in Barcelona.
Where I Was Less Impressed
The restaurant and bar were normally half empty or worse. Several promotions were available to us as guests, including a free bottle of wine with dinner and a discount on pre-paid breakfast, but I generally stick to a rule of only eating at places with a crowd. Given that many other hotels we passed had busy restaurants, this was not encouraging. But one should never rely on a hotel restaurant for food, especially in Barcelona. There were lots of attractive options nearby, and that was one reason we chose to stay here.
The coffee bar was actually quite good. We had our complimentary espresso there one morning with a couple of croissants. I love that Le Meridien offers these freebies like Illy coffee and local museum admission to all its guests, and this is one reason I rank them among my favorite Starwood brands.
We would also have appreciated a pool to escape the summer heat. Or maybe a furnished roof deck. The property only has a small tub on the roof associated with the spa, and the rest of the area felt very exposed to the sun. How much this matters depends on what season you visit.
I was left with the impression that this is a good hotel, and one where we certainly got a great deal using our Starpoints with a fifth night free. In a pinch I would stay here again without complaint. But I have been thinking more and more about becoming a free agent. If I were paying cash I could probably find some competitive options elsewhere.
Other Suggested Hotels in La Rambla
I don’t normally spend a lot of time discussing other hotels when I’m writing a review, but Barcelona has many excellent choices — so many that the mayor announced a moratorium on new permits earlier this summer. Here are two hotels I’m thinking of for my next visit to the city.
Hotel 1898 — Across the street from Le Meridien, Hotel 1898 seemed to have a great lobby bar and rooftop restaurant. Several other good restaurants (independently operated) are located on the ground floor of the same building. Rates appeared comparable to Le Meridien, but public spaces were a notch above. If anything made this hotel appealing, I would say it’s the rooftop pool, which most hotels lack.
Hotel DO — Just off La Rambla and facing Plaça Reial, Hotel DO bills itself as a gastronomic hotel. It is not associated with the famous DO & CO in Vienna (as far as I can tell), but perhaps it should be. Our meal here during the first night in Barcelona was one of the top five of the entire trip. Rates appear to be a little less than Hotel 1898 and Le Meridien and include additional benefits if you book online (e.g., welcome beverage and snack).
Don’t feel that you have to stay in La Rambla, either. The neighborhood is noisy and crowded no matter which hotel you choose. There are many excellent hotels along the beach and among the shops on Passeig de Gràcia. But remember the importance of location. The city is much larger than you may be used to in Europe, and if nothing else La Rambla is central to most tourist sites.
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