W Hotel: Masterpiece or “inglorious beer belly”?

Posted on November 28, 2010

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W Hotel Barcelona (Courtesy: Skyscraper City)

W Hotel: Masterpiece or “inglorious beer belly”?
by AnneLise Sorensen

We just can’t resist starting out with this playful jab: The marketing wizards at the W Hotels have been busy. Check out the W Barcelona website, where the registered trademarks fly fast and furious: There’s Bliss®, Whatever/Whenever®, WET® pool, SWEAT® Fitness Center, and PAW – Pets Are Welcome™ What’s next? Experience the REAL® Barcelona?

Actually, yes. That’s because even though it’s minimally advertised on hotel literature, the W sits just slightly out of the way from the noisy tourist trails, and near one of my favorite, still pleasantly local, neighborhoods: The old fishing quarter of Barceloneta.

Barceloneta Balcony. (Courtesy: Comer con Lila)

The W Barcelona is Europe’s flagship W Hotel, and by all accounts, its maiden first year has been a success. The hotel’s billowing-sail architecture, by Catalan architect Ricardo Bofill, has been roundly praised (except for the El País columnist who compared it to an “inglorious beer belly.”) It’s one of Barcelona’s first major hotels with straight-shot access to the beach, Playa San Sebastià. And, the soaring, 26th-floor Eclipse bar is surrounded by screen-saver-worthy views of the Mediterranean.

But the draw for us is the small Barceloneta neighborhood, which lies a short stroll from the hotel. Explore the backstreets, and you might see avias (grandmas) in floral housedresses and knee-high support stockings sitting on folding chairs. Relax on a plaza bench, as the late-afternoon sun splinters through trees to warm the top of your head. Then, hit the bars and chriinguito for squid and cerveza.

Even better is that tourists don’t often spend much time here. The UK weekenders (who fly down for as little as 32 pounds return – Spain is their Florida) mostly pass by Barceloneta’s fringes on their way to get tipsy on wildly overpriced sangria at the Las Ramblas tourist traps (Hint: Laminated quadrilingual menus are not a good sign.)

So: By all means, stay at the W; let them cater to your needs “wherever and whatever”; swoon at the Eclipse bar views. And then slum it for the evening in Barceloneta. You’ll find us at the bar with the 2-euro glass of wine, sawdust on the floor, and no closing time.

Travel Transforms: What is it about cocktails in the middle of the day? Ahh, the irresponsible, wanton pleasure of getting tipsy under the noonday sun. In Barcelona.

Read my W Hotel Barcelona review on HotelChatter.

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Posted in: Barcelona