Bold and beautiful, with the perfect bar: My stay at the InterContinental Barcelona

Apr 21, 2022

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There are as many incredible hotels in Barcelona as there are vibrant neighborhoods to explore in the city, which can make it difficult to decide where to stay in the Catalonian capital.

While I would normally veer toward the historic Gothic Quarter or the beachy Barceloneta, during a recent trip to Barcelona for a conference at the Fira Barcelona Gran Via, I booked a two-night stay at the InterContinental Barcelona instead. The hotel is located in Montjuic, between the city center and the convention center.

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TPG named the property one of the best new hotels of 2021, so I was excited to see how IHG had transformed the property from a dated Crowne Plaza into a luxury hotel that looked stunning in photos. I was also curious if its location, away from many of the city’s main tourist attractions, made it worthy of a stay.

In This Post

Quick take

This once humdrum hotel got a much-needed facelift, rebrand and refurbishment that transformed into a design lover’s dream with the help of Spanish firm Brime Robbins. With subtle gold embellishments, a color palette of deep royal blues contrasting with natural woods and bright white stone, plus a hotel bar that could double as the living room in any celebrity’s Architectural Digest spread, this 273-room property felt luxurious without being stuffy.

fresh flowers in hotel lobby
(Photo by Tanner Saunders/The Points Guy)

Walking into the lobby, it’s immediately clear that a lot of thought went into the redesign. There’s hardly a place for your eyes to land that doesn’t feel like an Instagram-worthy moment. That rings especially true at the lobby cocktail bar, Gebre Cocktails and More, which features a monumental series of floating gold shelves and blue velvet bar stools, all framed by a striking black and gold geometric wall.

hotel lobby bar with living room-style seating and beautiful gold bar framed by black, geometric wall
(Photo by Tanner Saunders/The Points Guy)

The industrial-meets-modern-comfort aesthetic is echoed throughout the building, including in the individual floors’ lobbies and ultimately into the guest rooms. In the hallways, blue and tan mosaic-like carpet feels almost like a stream guiding guests to the rooms, which feature floor-to-ceiling wooden entryways. The rooms are large — about the size of my New York City one-bedroom apartment — and have plenty of space to spread out and settle in, from a series of hallway closets that can hold several suitcases worth of clothes to a plush, blue couch nearly rivaling the comforts of the bed.

Although I did not find much of touristic interest in the surrounding streets, taxis were consistently parked outside the hotel, making it easy to get out into the city in any direction. Much of my stay involved long days roaming the halls of a hospitality conference, so getting back each night to unwind at Gebre for great people-watching and an IPA was a true highlight.

Getting there

The InterContinental Barcelona is located in the hilly and scenic neighborhood of Montjuic, near the Montjuic Castle and the National Art Museum of Catalonia. The neighborhood feels mostly quiet and residential, and it’s a roughly 30-minute walk into the city center and Gothic Quarter.

exterior of hotel
(Photo by Tanner Saunders/The Points Guy)

From the airport, expect a roughly 15- to 20-minute car ride via taxi (which you can order on the Uber app) for about $25 to $30. Or, for public transportation, a 10-minute walk to Plaza Espanya will give you access to public buses; the official airport shuttle, Aerobus, which operates 24 hours a day with service from and to the airport; and trains, all of which cost less than $10 each way between the city and the airport.

Booking details

Nightly rates at the InterContinental Barcelona seem to run the gamut in terms of pricing. Nightly rates can be found around $200 but tend to range between $350 and $500 per night.

Award nights with IHG’s recently refreshed IHG One Rewards program also fluctuate significantly, from 41,000 points per night all the way up to 90,000. This is likely due to the fact this hotel has plenty of conference space with event-goers staying on property that will fill up rooms and drive up the prices for the limited rooms left available.

For my Sunday through Tuesday stay I paid 344 euros (about $374) for one night and 396 euros (about $430) for the next in a classic room with a king bed.

Standout features

rooftop bar with sunny blue sky
(Photo by Tanner Saunders/The Points Guy)
  • Luxurious design elements, like a dramatic golden wall installation that looks like dripping paint but is actually a map of Barcelona and a light installation in the lobby that feels like dozens of glass orbs hovering above you.
  • A beautiful lobby bar with floating gold shelves displaying ornate liquor bottles, plus both large booths perfect for big parties as well as smaller, more intimate seating areas for solo travelers or remote workers.
  • At 450 square feet, these are the largest standard hotel rooms in Barcelona — and with a large couch, plentiful lighting and ample closet space they’re very comfortable.
  • A rooftop lounge with 360-degree views stretching from the spires of the Sagrada Familia to the Cathedral of Barcelona and out to the Mediterranean Sea, plus a swimming pool and bar serving cocktails and Catalan-style snacks like coca bread with tomato and olive oil.

Drawbacks

  • Though the hotel is near attractions like the National Art Museum of Catalonia and the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc, it’s farther away from major sights like the Sagrada Familia, Park Guell and the excitement of La Rambla.
  • The room’s gleaming white bathroom felt sterile and hospital-like compared to the calming deep blue and tan color scheme flowing around the rest of the hotel.
  • Despite having an early reservation and being one of only three occupied tables for dinner at the lobby restaurant, Arrel, the majority of dishes I wanted to try were “sold out” — and for a farm-to-table restaurant, the produce was evocative of microwaved vegetables.

The room

The InterContinental Barcelona’s guest rooms are touted as “the largest in the city” on the hotel’s official website and I’d have to say that’s probably true, as my room felt absolutely massive at roughly 450 square feet. As someone who is always trying to make my own apartment feel like a hotel room, this room could serve as my blueprint: Every inch of the room, every surface, texture and every light served a purpose.

large hotel room
(Photo by Tanner Saunders/The Points Guy)

My classic room featured a large closet section on one side of a small entry hallway with the bathroom opposite it. Down the hall leading into the bedroom, a door divided the space in two, meaning someone getting ready could flow between the bathroom and closet area with privacy or without disrupting someone in the main part of the room.

hallway looking into hotel room
(Photo by Tanner Saunders/The Points Guy)

In the living area, I felt immediately relaxed thanks to the earth-toned color scheme featuring calming pops of deep blue. A large couch with a chaise lounge in the same shade helped me feel more at home as I was able to watch TV and put my feet up without getting straight into bed.

blue couch
(Photo by Tanner Saunders/The Points Guy)

The bed’s floor-to-ceiling headboard with built-in reading lights was flanked on either side by equally tall mirrors that made the space feel even larger and brighter than it already was.

One thing I find hotels consistently get wrong is forgoing a proper, full-length mirror somewhere in the room. Luckily, this hotel got that (mostly) right, as the room had one on the side of the bed — though its proximity to the bed itself meant I could never stand as far back as I’d like to properly give my outfit a once-over. Still, it was a great spot for selfies.

person sitting on hotel bed
(Photo by Tanner Saunders/The Points Guy)

Across the room, a skinny but long wooden desk floated on the wall while two framed canvases with abstract, wavy designs leaned on a shelf above. A bright light strip illuminated the entire working space and USB and European-style plugs were built in, all working together to make an inviting and practical place to work. The leather desk chair was comfortable, with a padded seat, and didn’t overpower the room the way many rolling desk chairs often do.

One morning during my stay I used the desk to get some work done, but the hotel’s power went out two separate times. Though it came back on immediately in each instance, it was frustrating to have to reconnect to the internet. (When asked later about what was going on, a kind receptionist told me it was a temporary issue that had been resolved.)

large desk with lighting
(Photo by Tanner Saunders/The Points Guy)

Set back from the long window, a medium-sized cart housed a Krups coffee machine, an electric kettle, drawers with glassware, a bottle opener and snacks such as potato chips and nuts. In the minifridge, your standard soda, beers, wine and juices were front and center. (Bonus points for the number of sugar-free options available in such a small space.)

Another thing I loved about this room was that the television, mounted on a wood-paneled wall, had Chromecast, so I could stream content from my phone. And despite the ample closet space, a luggage rack under the television was ultimately where my suitcase lived.

tv on wood panel wall
(Photo by Tanner Saunders/The Points Guy)

Back in the bathroom, I found a space that had clearly been updated but felt too white and sterile — almost like a hospital operating room. The small bathtub was too cramped to stretch out in for an extended relaxing soak, but the rain-style showerhead and Byredo Bal D’Afrique-scented bath products more than made up for that shortcoming. (Seriously, that stuff is expensive at department stores.)

A toilet and bidet enclosed in a frosted glass room rounded out the otherwise clean but generic space.

Food and drink

Barcelona is a city that does food well, so don’t feel bad for wanting to skip the hotel’s food and beverage options for one (or many) of the city’s famed restaurants and tapas bars.

I only had one opportunity to dine at the hotel, so I made a reservation at Arrel, a restaurant with an open kitchen serving seasonal farm-to-table fare. To say it was disappointing would be an understatement.

As one of only three tables occupied at the restaurant for an early-by-Spain-standards 8:30 dinner, I was bummed that two of the four main dishes were already sold out, as were some of the starters and shareable plates.

I ended up with smoked eggplant baba ganoush with ancient mustard creme fraiche, herbs and nuts served with some pita for 14 euros ($15); potato gnocchi, smoked eel carbonara and Oxtail stew for 16 euros ($17); and the fresh fish of the day served with vegetables (27 euros, or about $30). While the baba ganoush was fresh and filling and the oxtail was tender and rich, the sea bass was bland, overcooked and served over an unexpected green sauce that I couldn’t quite identify but likened to mushed peas.

At a restaurant that touts itself as farm-to-table, it seemed more like the very, very sad broccoli and carrots were just steamed in a cafeteria microwave.

Luckily, the lobby bar, Gebre Cocktails and More, made up for the poor dinner experience with its beautiful space, friendly and knowledgable staff, a local IPA (10 euros, or $11) that hit all the right marks and a bowl of perfectly salty and spicy nuts.

For more curious cocktail connoisseurs, explore an impressive array of bespoke libations from 16 euros ($17.50) such as the Insulum, a mixture of rum from the Canary Islands macerated with Canarian bananas, raspberry syrup and lemon juice; or the Fumo, the bar’s take on a Negroni made with Spanish whiskey, smoked vermouth and Campari Cask Tales and served in a glass with dripping chocolate and an orange peel.

beer and nuts on table
(Photo by Tanner Saunders/The Points Guy)

For breakfast, I ordered a set room service meal of avocado toast, fresh fruit and a meat and cheese plate alongside coffee and orange juice for 43 euros ($47), which turned out to be enough food to feed myself a few times over. While it was a simple meal, it was fresh, hearty and filling — exactly what I needed before a full day of walking.

The hotel’s other dining venues include a coffee bar, a rooftop bar that was closed during my stay but had stunning views when I went up to check it out, and Quirat, led by Victor Torres — the youngest chef in Spain to helm a Michelin-starred restaurant — featuring set menus of fresh produce, seafood and more, which opened shortly after my stay.

Amenities and service

In the basement, guests will find the Spa InterContinental, which offers treatments such as Le Facelift facial for 220 euros ($239) and shorter appointments like an hour-long, personalized massage for 155 euros ($168). For someone simply looking to enjoy the facilities, the “Thermal Circuit” has people moving between waterbeds, water jets, a sauna and the hydrotherapy spa pool for 40 euros ($43).

The hotel also has a 24/7 gym with weight machines, free weights and all the other standard gym equipment you’d want from a luxury hotel, like treadmills and stationary bikes, according to the hotel’s website. I, however, never found the gym thanks to confusing signage that had me lost in the basement. It seems, in hindsight, that the gym itself is located past the entrance to the spa — but exhausted and jet-lagged, that was lost on me.

There’s also a private deck overlooking the gorgeous National Art Museum of Catalonia that would be perfect for weddings, and event space for up to 1,000 people, though that area was occupied with a conference while I was visiting.

Overall, I found the staff beyond accommodating and ultra-friendly. When I realized I’d left my international power adaptor at home, someone at the front desk loaned me one for a small deposit. I also overheard a concierge going above and beyond to help a guest, rather late into the evening, arrange some last-minute plans for a birthday when other arrangements seemed to have fallen through.

view of Barcelona from hotel room
(Photo by Tanner Saunders/The Points Guy)

Checking out

Considering what it was before, the InterContinental Barcelona is a nice business hotel that has benefited from a surprisingly sophisticated redesign, though someone looking to experience the real heartbeat of Barcelona might enjoy being closer to the action. Yes, there were a few minor hiccups, but I found the staff beyond friendly, the rooms more than comfortable and the lobby bar the perfect place to relax after a busy day.

Despite its historical roots as a luxury brand, lately InterContinental seems to comprise a hodgepodge of hotel experiences ranging from serviceable airport locations to landmark European properties. In Barcelona, this new addition seems to sit somewhere between the two but could ultimately be used as an example of how IHG can breathe new life into older hotels that deserve to be updated.

Featured image by Tanner Saunders/The Points Guy.

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