In our Northern European city below sea level, a February outing will invariably entail braving biting wind that threatens to pierce flesh and bone. In a climate like that, walks through town are about getting somewhere, anywhere, quickly. By contrast, our recent wanderings over a few warm February days through Barcelona‘s elegant boulevards and mysterious alleyways were deliciously slow.
And of the many leisurely promenades we took around Spain‘s popular Ciudad Condal the ascent up the broad and elegant Paseo de Gracia has to be one of our favorites. Heading uphill, one breathes in the perfume emanating from luxury boutiques and restaurants while taking in the sights of some of Barcelona’s most iconic architecture. On the left, Gaudí’s Casa Batlló with shapes that assure you that many a masquerade ball has taken place there. On the right, Gaudí’s Casa Milá also known as “La Pedrera” that looks like it leapt out of a stone quarry of its own volition. And at the apex of the Paseo, rising like a modernist castle on the hill, our hotel, and UNESCO World Heritage site, Lluís Domenech i Montaner’s Casa Fuster.
Upon our approach to the hotel entrance we were greeted by a towering doorman cheerful and cordially determined to relieve us of all impediments. Originally Casa Fuster was designed as a family home for the daughter of a Marquis in the first decade of the 20th century, the most expensive home in Barcelona at the time. Today, the feeling that the building was built to house landed gentry and well-heeled bohemians remains.
After years of use as an office building and social club the building was refurbished as a hotel in recent years conserving its modernist legacy and reputation as a meeting point for Barcelona’s intellectual elite.
Casa Fuster’s cool, cozy, jazzy Café Vienés.
By far the highlight of our stay was attending the Thursday night jazz event in the hotel’s plush Café Vienés. The decor, music, champagne, and presence of some minor celebrities created an atmosphere with echoes of the roaring twenties. We were told, if you’re lucky, you can catch a performance by Woody Allen and his band, who from time to time grace the place with their presence.
The space has an art deco feel, strong in velvet, that is consistent throughout the hotel. This appropriateness to the period architecture could feel dark and heavy at times, but high ceilings and creative lighting relieve the weight. The light fixtures in the presidential suite are of particular artistry.
Situated at the intersection of two major boulevards, yet far up the hill enough to keep the crowds and traffic at a comfortable distance, Casa Fuster is a perfect base to explore Barcelona. There are so many things to do in this city of delights and much of them have to do with cuisine.
Here’s a slice of our plate:
Lunch at Bar Central in La Boqueria market off Las Ramblas. If you wish to taste some of the tantalizing produce on offer at the market, hop on a stool at what looks like a typical bar de tapas at the back of the market and order fresh seafood and meats to your heart’s content. We did.
Dinner at Komomoto, a Japanese-Peruvian spot where ceviche meets sushi. A great location to stop off and check out some good Nikkei fare while exploring the fashionable El Born neighborhood.
Dinner at Quatro, a true diamond in the rough. While the sign outside says “bar”, it isn’t so much a bar as a beautiful dining experiment. Located in the sometimes seedy El Raval district, it offers creative variations on typical Catalan dishes that take your palate by storm.
Drinks at Boadas, Barcelona’s oldest and most well known cocktail bar is an experience not to be missed. Some of the clientele look like they’ve been there since Hemingway taught the owner to mix drinks.
Casa Fuster is a great hotel for leisurely couples and businessmen planning to do deals over champagne lunches. It is an unhurried place that exudes an effortless luxury. – Geraldine Lorijn and Haim Samuels
Geraldine Lorijn is an Amsterdam-based creative director, kids and baby connoisseur, and avid day dreamer. Haim Samuels, an Amsterdam-based, but rather not based anywhere, producer, director and ardent conversationalist.