Hotel Olivia Balmes opened in the heart of Barcelona, Spain on August 12, 2013. The building was all-new from the ground up, something of a rarity here. The hotel’s ultramodern facade, a checkerboard of glass and metal, strikes a contrast with the smudged neoclassical surroundings on Carrer de Balmes. But equally as pleasing as its contemporary design is its location, giving visitors to this fascinating and monumental city an excellent choice of accommodation near some of the most important tourist sites in Catalonia.
The incomparable Basilica de La Sagrada Familia, one of best attractions on the Iberian Peninsula, is just a 20-minute walk straight out the hotel entrance, heading down Carrer de Provença. What is missing on the premises — for example, a spa — can easily be found in the immediate neighborhood (we noticed two within a few blocks).
The Balmes is one of three Olivia hotels in an expertly managed chain. Beautiful, unfussy design infuses every aspect of the new building. The lobby, glowing and warm, takes on a special spirit after sunset. Wood and stone are enhanced by the subtle use of accent lighting. It’s immediately seductive, never strained, and we felt very much at home. From top to bottom, the property has just the right amenities for an urban hotel. The lovely rooftop swimming pool was inviting even on a cool autumn day.
The seven-story building encompasses 128 rooms, all with exterior views. Twelve of the 60 doubles have a balcony. Our double room made efficient use of available space thanks to a folding desk and a sliding cover for the recessed flat-screen TV. It may have been the standard Euro-shoebox hotel room, but an airiness pervaded it. The use of bold orange accents spiced up the space that’s otherwise dominated by aqua and white, with a dark wood floor.
Lounging in the sculptural white chair and occasionally looking out over the busy street was a pleasant way to relax after shuttling from the airport. And when it was time for a shower, we found an array of house-labeled products and fluffy white monogrammed towels (but no face cloth). With such a compact room, there was no bathtub, but the walk-in shower enclosed by glowing green panels offered a massive downpour from the fixed head, as well as a detachable sprayer for those hard-to-reach spots. Unlike our homes in California, there were no drought-friendly, water-saving showerheads here.
Downstairs is Restaurant Seventeen, featuring Mediterranean and Catalan cooking. Our meal consisted of delicious cream of celery soup with a dollop of goat cheese, beef sirloin with caramelized chestnuts, and a gorgeous rice pudding. For 19 euros, including drinks and coffee, the meal even seemed like a good deal.
That Hotel Olivia Balmes has the right touch in every way was proven when we checked out early one morning to head for the airport, and the front desk clerk offered a glass of juice para llevar–that is, to go. The superb location and accommodating service made us determined not to wait so long until our next visit.
Hotel Olivia Balmes Official Website