Opened in 2001, W Barcelona Hotel popularly known as the Hotel Vela (Sail Hotel) due to its shape, is a landmark building designed by Catalan architect Ricardo Bofill is located in the Barceloneta district of Barcelona, right on the beach, in the expansion of the Port of Barcelona. The building stands in 7 hectares of land reclaimed from the sea surface in the construction of the new entrance to the harbour.
W Barcelona was among the first W Hotels which Marriott International opened outside the U.S., as a funky, hip and glamorous lifestyle hotel positioned as luxury. The five-star hotel comprises 473 rooms, 67 suites, 400 employees, a bar located on the rooftop, a spa and fitness centre, indoor and outdoor pools (including an infinity pool), terraces, beaches, restaurants, rooms dance, and other facilities grouped under a platform of terraces. The hotel is also home to La Barra restaurant led by the Michelin-starred Chef Carles Abellán.
Nowadays, W Hotels is one of the most successful luxury hotel brands in the world, with a attractive and most feasible concept for investors and developers, which has also, most importantly, proven to be profitable. Despite initial controversies about W Hotels properties not being designed by a renowned architect and many doubting the brand will maintain its attractiveness and desirability, the recent renovation of W Barcelona reflects an aesthetic which is undoubtedly luxury, with superb quality furnishings and finishes, but also with utmost attention paid to comfort – exceptionally comfortable beds and exquisitely appointed bathrooms.
Beyond the interior design aesthetics and unquestionably the most spectacular uninterrupted views of the sea and the city, W Barcelona has retained its desirability also among the staff – it is the confidently shown sense of pride and excitement to work for the W Barcelona which has been essential for shaping the brand and its positioning it as luxury. Another important pillar of the brand DNA is the mix of different guest target profiles, attracting both locals (non-residing) customers, families with children, couples, group of friends and business guests too – all of whom who be drawn by the ‘freshness’ and ‘hype’ of the hotel.
The dining concepts, the variety of foods (always with a local flavour), the quality of service which is warm and friendly and the overall sleek ambiance make up an effortless luxury feel, which is uniquely both laid back and casual – but which can easily transform into a ‘shiny’ / ‘sparkling’ mood in the evenings, especially for those wanting ‘to be seen’, many venues becoming ‘catwalks’. In spite of the sheer size of the property, prepare to be surprised that staff would recognise you and address you by name, not asking for your room number.
The best example was one of the young doorman who not only remembered by name by genuinely showed care, making sure the taxi driver understands my desired destination and on another day mentioning that although it was sunny, the location of the hotel by the sea may be slightly ‘fresh’ advising I should maybe take a jacket or a sweater with me.
Quentin P., a ‘W Insider’ (Guest Relations) in charge with V.I.P. probably embodies the skills and manners which make up the W Hotels brand DNA – he was a genuine Concierge, with an impressive knowledge of the city, and an incredible positive energy, although he had already been working for the W Barcelona for 3 years. Many luxury hotel brands nowadays encourage staff to no longer wear a uniform and, instead, be their own stylists – we all know that this takes innate talent. I complimented him of the all-black ensemble, including a leather shirt with flexed sleeves showing off some quirky tatoos. Without me even asking he said ‘Oh, thank you. Isn’t it beautiful? It is Zara without any negative ‘hint’, on the contrary, highlighting that taste is not about expensive clothing.
During my recent stay at W Barcelona, earlier in March 2021, when pandemic restrictions were eased, the versatile desirability factor of the hotel has become once again evident, this time attracting locals for ‘staycations’, especially considering that for the Spanish staying in a hotel in their city would be considered as odd, unlike other countries where people are very much used to such staycations regardless of a context such as the pandemic. With many privately owned and run boutique hotels downtown, locals would easily opt for the W Barcelona which is about 15 to 20 minutes drive from downtown.
And I could not help and remember how controversial the first years after the opening of W Barcelona, with locals complaining that the hotel complex alters the sea currents due to the extension of the breakwater, as well as altering wind currents, affecting Catalan catamaran competitions and the practice of windsurfing. Another controversy derived from the fact the building was less than 100 meters from the coast and merely 20 meters from the sea. Guess what – during my stay, I could not get enough of the spectacle of surfers in the closest bay of beach in the proximity of the hotel.
Barcelona’s beach becomes the hot spot of the city during the warm months of the year, extending over 4.5 kilometers stretch of coastline. Whether sunbathing at the WET Deck by one of the two pools (including an infinity pool) hotel guests can also opt for a most enjoyable day on the beach – I was privileged to enjoy a Marvelous Suite with its expansive direct sea-view private terrace and a most pampering jacuzzi. Look out for the amenity line in all rooms and suites, with Italy-based, luxury sustainable beauty brands, Davines and /skin regimen/ of the same company.
There is room for improvement, which I am certain will be implemented / resolved, such as the renovation of the lobby / reception area and the atrium, but also improve on the Spa, especially the look & feel of the indoor pool and the whirlpool area. Treatment rooms feel a bit cold and empty and even on a busy day and despite limitations on capacity, therapists should be more attentive and focused, the ‘chemistry’ with the guest being essential.
Mention must also be made that the hotel has strictly implemented pandemic measures, both the Clean Marriott protocols as well as the restrictions imposed by local authorities. From check-in to all public spaces, venues and accommodations, one can feel the hotel has taken very seriously all these measures to protect both guests and staff. The structure and layout of the hotel, especially the generously sized ample spaces do not make one feel restricted. Despite reduced capacity across many outlets, one will not feel service has been compromised!
At the heart of the coastal area and within walking distance from the hotel is the bohemian neighbourhood of La Barceloneta with an array of small restaurants, wineries, bars and shops. Europe’s largest aquarium is one of the attractions of Barceloneta, with 20 large tanks and a transparent tunnel by which one can pass through sharks. Gastronomy is at its finest at every corner in Barcelona, from a casual bite to fine dining.
WOW factor achieved! Well done Stijn!
Oliver Petcu in Barcelona
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