When I first visited Barcelona, over fifteen years ago, I was on an art and architecture tour. It was one of those experiences when you’re younger that eventually creates a definition to your career and cultural interests. The Sagrada Familia was of course being built at this time, as it still is, although then it was at a very different stage. For one, it certainly wasn’t functioning as a Basilica. The interior was full of scaffolding rather than the columns and stain glass that forms that magnificent light filled space now. Barcelona has developed significantly over the years and since 1992 when it hosted the Olympic Games the city has stamped itself firmly on the tourism map of the world. Yet as many Catalans will tell you and something you discover after multiple trips to this seaside town, there’s far more to the city than La Rambla and Gaudi, although of course they both form integral parts of its colourful identity. The area of Glòries to the east of the city was certainly a different beast fifteen years ago and was definitely not on the tourist map. Boy, do times change. We had the pleasure last week of staying at Hotel Diagonal in the Glòries neighborhood next to the recently renamed Torre Glòries. Clearly the district is now so up and coming, that it’s surrounding architecture is changing its name! (The colourful skyscraper and city icon designed by Jean Nouvelle used to be called Torre Agbar). Yes, Hotel Diagonal is further away from the airport than the hotels in the Gothic Quarter but Barcelona is so manageable in scale it’s an easy 25 minute taxi journey away from your arrivals hall. Plus who doesn’t enjoy taking a taxi journey through a city they have just arrived in. It’s a chance to see the place from your own car seat, with a (sometimes friendly) local to practice your Catalan with. Of course, it should be mentioned that there is a tram and a metro stop almost immediately outside the front door of the hotel, so access to anywhere in the city is certainly not an issue. The beach? It’s just a short 15 minutes hop away. That’s one thing I’ve always loved about Barcelona, not only is it a city that’s packed with culture and things to do but there’s a beach too. There’s only a handful of cities in Europe with offerings so rich on par with Barcelona.
Arriving inside the lobby I was visually greeted by a room with walls covered in copper. Overlapping tiles created a scaled finish, reminding me initially of Frank Gehrys seafront sculpture, although on closer inspection a much different technique. The desk staff told us we would be staying on the top floor, overlooking this cultural city. They weren’t wrong. From up there we could see the Sagrada Familia, the sea and mount tibidabo. Not to mention the adjacent Torre Glòries. The hotel suite was comprised of three rooms, a living room with a corner aspect, the bedroom and an ensuite with a jacuzzi bath and shower. The rooms at Hotel Diagonal are modern and comfortable, taking advantage of the nearby cityscape with large windows, that have automatic blinds when you wish for a little privacy. The following morning I had left the blinds up for sleeping and was awoken by a stunning sunrise, glistening up Diagonal (a lengthy road cutting through the city for miles) and awakening the tree lined boulevard with its touch. Time to get down to the breakfast buffet and plan the day over a cooked breakfast, coffee, fruit and a map. It goes without saying that Barcelona is famed for Gaudi sights but there’s so much more to this city, the markets, the beaches, the shopping, not to mention the day trips. They’re all within easy reach from Hotel Diagonal. The door staff are more than happy to call a cab, point you in the right direction with a map or by making sure you’re on the right Metro line to reach your final destination.
In the evening at Hotel Diagonal you can experience the roof terrace, spending the last sunlit hours of the summer’s day lounging by the pool, before getting changed ready to have a few Martini’s as the sun descends over the Catalan capital. It’s quite a sight to see, as the sun sets and the lights of the city’s monuments ensure that their presence is all the more felt long in to the night.
So if you’re in Barcelona give Hotel Silken a visit. You’ll be far enough away from La Rambla to avoid the crazy crowds of tourists, but near enough to all the sights that your trip is sure to be an excellent one.
Hotel Silken Diagonal Barcelona
Avenida Diagonal, 205. 08018.
T: +34 934 895 300