It’s a cold, dark day in Amsterdam… the Christmas lights have been put up on our street, the clocks have gone back, the rain is lashing against the windows as I write. Hard to imagine that three days ago I was bathed in the warm Autumn sunshine of Barcelona, strolling down the Passeig de Gracia, popping into shops and stopping for delicious tapas!
There’s always something going on in Barcelona, and of course, you can’t look at the news without hearing about the Catalonia “crisis”, and the current political turmoil in this beautiful city. On Sunday, the streets were full of pro-Spanish unity supporters, draped in flags, peacefully (at least to my eyes) having their say. We walked among them, quietly observing, acutely aware that an important and decisive part of this country’s history was unfolding around us, whatever happens next.
All in all, it was an interesting time to be visiting one of my favourite cities! I recommend October as a great time to visit – the weather is still glorious, but the city is a lot less crowded. The daytime temperature is in the early 20’s (c) – a lot more comfortable than it can be in the height of summer, with cooler evenings.
Read on to discover my hotel and dining highlights and recommendations from this trip…
Where we stayed
This was another new hotel for us, a luxury 5* establishment on Passeig de Gracia, close to – but quite different from – the Hotel Omm, which I reviewed after my last trip in August, here
Walking past the elegant doormen into the grand lobby of this hotel, adorned with huge chandeliers, Grecian-style pillars and glossy black marble floor, you already know you’re going to be in for a luxurious stay!
The impressive entrance & reception area of Casa Fuster
The check-in experience was efficient & professional. When we were shown to our room, the doorman realised that it had twin beds (pushed together), so he immediately got in contact with the reception team to see if we could move, and was very apologetic. It was a lovely room, but he was determined we should be moved to a “better one”. We ended up on the 5th floor, also a gorgeous room, with a fabulous view down Passeig de Gracia, all the way to the ocean.
The only issue we had was that the room smelled a little of cigarettes (with a lot of Febreze-type cleaner to get rid of the smell!). We realised it was probably coming from the roof terrace of the hotel, and drifting in, so we kept the windows closed, and the smell gradually abated. We had the same issue with the Hotel Omm in Barcelona, so I would recommend requesting a lower room (e.g. 3rd floor) to avoid this.
The stunning view towards the ocean from the hotel balcony (and me being brave with my fear of heights!)
The hotel is in a perfect location, at the quieter end of Passeig de Gracia, close to all the main designer and high street shopping, and an easy place to get a taxi down to the beach area or Old Town & Gothic Quarter. Also very important is that it’s close to Tapas 24, one of my favourite places, which I talked about in my last Barcelona post. We are basically unable to walk past the street it’s on without stopping in!
Overall this hotel is highly recommended for a total 5* experience, in a great location, as well as excellent room service! Possibly my new favourite hotel in Barcelona..
Galaxó Restaurant, Hotel Casa Fuster
On our first evening, we had booked the hotel restaurant, Galaxo. I thought it would be very nice, as the hotel is of a high standard, and we were not disappointed!
The service was very good, and the menu has some interesting combinations of traditional Mediterranean dishes with a modern twist, and inventive flavours.
To start, I had the Raf tomato salad stuffed with quinoa ragout, which was very tasty, but quite large for a starter. The tomatoes are huge, so I think one would be enough for me! The Iberian cod I had for my main course was delicious – perfectly cooked, and paired with fried egg and potatoes. This has become one of my favourite dishes in Barcelona.
Hotel Restaurants sometimes seem to get a bad rap, but if you’re staying in a 5* hotel of this standard, I would always recommend trying out their own restaurant. They usually have incredibly talented chefs and are just as good as some of the Michelin ones we go to. And after a big meal you can just roll upstairs to your luxury room!
Don’t miss: the beautiful architectural splendour of the Cafe Vienes in the Hotel, for fabulous cocktails overlooking the Passeig de Gracia. Every Thursday evening, it is transformed into an exclusive jazz club (details all on the hotel website).
This was my third visit to the Michelin starred Hofmann, which stems from the cooking school, established in 1983 in Barcelona by May Hofmann. The restaurant started in 1992, enabling students to practice their culinary expertise, as well as learning about the running of a real dining establishment.
Because of its roots as a culinary school, the restaurant has an interesting layout, allowing you a full view of the very busy chef-filled kitchen from your table in the elegant dining room. They glide around the kitchen seamlessly in the background, preparing your delicious dinner while you sip champagne.
Enjoying the Confit cod fish & lobster ravioli, both delicious and perfectly balanced. The cod again was cooked to perfection
I’m not sure if the restaurant has been refurbished since my last visit, nearly 2 years ago, but this time I thought the dining area was even nicer, and the atmosphere and service was excellent. I felt like it had improved since the last time I was there (and it was already very good!)
My partner has known one of the waiters, Nacho/Natcho (I’m sure I’m spelling it incorrectly!), since he first started going there a few years ago, and he is always very friendly and welcoming, as well as giving excellent advice on the food and wine.
We started the meal with a lovely glass of Drappier champagne, and ended with this interesting dessert wine from the Penedes region – not too sweet and very refreshing
Botafumeiro, C/ Gran de Gràcia, 81
We stopped into this restaurant on a whim, while strolling around on Sunday looking for a spot of lunch. It looked nice from the outside, with well dressed doormen, but fairly unobtrusive. It turned out to be one of the best random restaurant finds ever! We stepped over the threshold and were whisked back in time into a decadent seafood restaurant of the 1920s or 1930s. after being walked past the huge lobster tanks and the guilded, wood panelled bar, we were seated in an elegant corner in the huge main restaurant area. There was another floor above us, just as busy and bustling as the ground floor.
As the waiters glided around the opulent, nautical inspired surroundings in their crisp white uniforms, I was reminded of the luxurious dining rooms of expensive cruise liners like the Titanic.
Enjoying a delicious sole with cava sauce, and fantastic bottle of Don Olegario Albariño
The restaurant is renowned for being the top seafood restaurant in Barcelona, and it’s easy to see why!
‘When the raw material is the best on the market, the only thing a chef need do is respect the product, using the right amount of heat and seasoning to arouse all its flavour and aroma.’
Moncho Neira, Botafumeiro’s owner and chef
I’m glad we stopped in here for a fantastic lunch, and I would highly recommend it if you love fish and seafood. This place will likely become a “must do” for me in Barcelona.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post about my Autumn trip to Barcelona, and feel inspired to visit this beautiful city for the first time, or to return to an old favourite.
Next stop.. November in Venice!!
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adios for now and travel safe!