Barcelona is one of the most forward-thinking cities for affordable, chic design hotels, although some can be a bit clinical and soulless. So, when I saw the pictures of Market Hotel, I fell in love with its oriental, lacquered wood decor and boutique, zen ambiance.
The Market Hotel is just west of Upper Raval and is about 20 minutes walk from the Rambas – just close enough to the action while avoiding the tourist zone prices.
When we arrived, after a long delayed flight and two coach journeys at the crack of dawn, the hotel lived up to the pictures and was actually larger and even more grand than expected. The check-in at reception took a while, as there was a new member of staff, but it wasn’t a problem, as we took time to pick up some complimentary bottles of water and huge green apples from beside the desk.
Our double bedroom was on the fifth floor extension of the hotel in an old apartment building with original Catalan tiles and a rickety 1920s lift (although guests actually use the modern glass one opposite). The first impression of room 505 was that it was a bit on the small side compared to the website photos but the design of the room was just what we’d hoped for.
The room was filled with black bamboo tables, metal lamps, a black Asian-style lacquered wardrobe bed, a flat screen LG TV and featured gorgeous creaky stripped floorboards. The bed was medium soft and super comfy, with a very thick mattress and a number of sheets and blankets, but as it was Barcelona in the summer, they weren’t really needed.
On the wall was a large framed print that looked like it could have been by Catalan artist Antonio Tàpies and it really suited the bold, monochrome serenity of the room. The room was also filled with some Japanese calligraphy prints and there were even two in the bathroom.
The bathroom was quite small but had some interesting design features – I loved the French ceramic taps – and the shower was like something from a Thai spa resort – all black slate tiles with a powerful rainfall shower head.
A few small niggling factors are that the wardrobe isn’t long enough to hang a dress without folding or bagging at the bottom, storage is limited and that the bed looks on to the door (not a huge problem, but bad feng sui for a hotel room).
On one side of the bed, the floorboards creek pretty dramatically and due to all the wooden floorboards and age of the building, there is a bit of noise from the corridor, as people come and go. We got used to it after a few hours and luckily our sleeping patterns coordinated with our neighbours, but if you’re on a romantic break where you want a bit of…ahem, privacy, you’d be better off booking one of the larger Junior Suites.
However, we didn’t hear any noise from outside, even though the Sant Antoni market stall traders were setting up early in the morning. The air con works like a dream, so there’s no need to even open the windows, unless you want to let in some fresh air while you’re out and about.
The location of the hotel couldn’t be any better – the Sant Antoni metro station is just one block away and it is close to the restaurants and bars of Upper Raval and the MACBA. The area is semi-residential with long, wide streets and plenty of pharmacies, a Mango discount outlet and neighbourhood cafes.
We didn’t take breakfast at the hotel (9 Euros), only for the reason that we were so full from the three course meals of the previous nights that we wanted something lighter.
Around the corner, close to the Sant Antoni market is a wonderful bakery called La Mie Câline, where we had a cafe con leche and a huge slab of crisy madeleine cake filled with raspberry compote for just 2 Euros each. It’s not a posh artisan bakery like the ones you might find in leafy Gràcia, but it’s great for tasty patisserie on the go.
The Market Hotel is perfect if you’re looking for a hotel with character rather than high-tech facilities and slick design. There are some lovely, personal touches such as complimentary water and apples and the stunning restaurant and bar with an outdoor terrace make the hotel more of an experience than just a base for exploring the city.
Staff were very pleasant and helpful, especially the night porter, who came to our room to help us sort out the air con and found me a large bottle of water when there weren’t any available at reception. Just don’t expect room service and a mini-bar – everything you could want can be found at reception or the restaurant and bar.
We booked a double room for two nights (210 Euros) and prices start from 65 Euros per night.