Review of Yurbban Trafalgar, Barcelona
It’s too easy to plan every minute of a weekend away when you know exactly what to expect and design the trip down to the smallest detail. In reality, nothing beats the thrill of spontaneity. And there’s no better city in which to exercise ad-libbing than Barcelona – facilitated by the loving embrace of Yurbban Trafalgar Hotel. This boutique wonderland isn’t afraid of a gimmick or two, with a concierge app, bamboo bikes, locally-illustrated maps, portable WiFi, artisanal goods and free sweets. Most of which you practically fall over within five minutes of entering the hotel, and fall in love with about 15 minutes later.
Yurbban’s design is striking – more pimped-up new build than sympathetic Spanish restoration (albeit done responsibly with an excellent sustainability rating). Elegant lighting and soft furnishings suppress any inkling of a chain hotel. The deep blues and copper accents are bang on trend and everywhere I look are enviable interiors. Before my mind whirls down the tunnel of my own interior project, an enthusiastic receptionist thrusts an invite for a wine-and-cheese-fuelled ‘meet and greet’ in our hands, starting imminently and followed by live music.
After rioja and Manchego we retreat to our room, number 205, to freshen up for the evening. Although compact (there are other, significantly smaller, rooms on offer) our double room with a terrace is well thought through. Large panels of coloured glass reflect light throughout, a deliciously squidgy bed dominates the room and a chunky stone sink adds a welcome natural touch. Beyond the bed is the terrace, a little retreat of our own overlooking pretty wrought-iron balconies and the apartments opposite.
But there’s no time to linger. Yurbban Trafalgar Hotel’s roof terrace gives guests an instant hit of the city: the Gothic cathedral pokes up from a warren of townhouses below and in the opposite direction looms the Sagrada Família. Even in mid-November it’s balmy enough to sit outside, and so cava-with-a-view calls. Within a couple of hours of entering the Yurbban world, this Mr and Mrs Smith feel miles away from London, the mundane and an encroaching winter.
Before getting too comfortable, we venture into El Born, moments from the hotel and one of Barcelona’s hippest districts. Equipped with no reservations, guidebook or plan, we step out into the dark maze of alleys. A light mist heightens suspense as light bounces off the cobbled pavements, onto graffitied shop shutters and wooden doors. Everything is closed and quiet until we meander, with some relief, on busy Plaça de Sant Cugat. From then on we stumble (quite literally towards the end of the night) from one square to another, each filled with drinking and eating dens. Forget ‘hyyge’; whatever the Spanish word for cosy-welcoming-village-like-party-atmosphere is, we find it, enjoying white rioja and cod fritters in De Tapidillo; pizza and beers at the impressively eco Ale&Hop; and nightcaps outside La Candela in quaint Plaça de Sant Pere.
Breakfast the next morning is relaxed and plentiful. Local delicacies of Spanish omelettes and Catalan sausage with white beans ‘just as Grandma cooked them’; wholesome organic sheep’s-milk yoghurts, fruits and homemade muesli; Continental Manchego, jamon and salami; and a heap of mini sweet treats and pastries to finish. With such a feast, and the pretty outdoor terrace filled with bamboo furniture, ferns and palms; it’s a welcome respite for sore heads.
Culture calls and Yurbban Trafalgar’s location comes into its own once again. We’re guided by our handy Porter & Sail app to Gaudí’s Casa Milà and Casa Batlló and pass the Fundació Antoni Tàpies, all of which loom up quite unbelievably from already-exquisite boulevards. A token trip to Sagrada Família turns out not to be token at all – the mind of Gaudí thrown up in a never-ending architectural masterpiece is truly inspirational. Full of awe, we linger over a long lunch in the Argentinian enclave, Plaça Jacint Reventós. On the way back to Yurbban, shops like Bon Vent and Le Fortune are too good to resist. Especially when interspersed with watering-holes Aguelo013 and Formatgeria La Seu –- a tiny cheese shop serving a taster of three local cheeses and glass of red wine for all of €3. But pretend I didn’t tell you, because discovering it for yourself is truly magical.
The promise of ’Grandma’s cooking’ lures us back to Yurbban. After Pisco Vermouth cocktails on the terrace we head down to Xibarri (the hotel restaurant) for dinner. All smoky lighting, live soul singers and jazz-band clientele, Xibarri is a destination in its own right. The manager takes pride in offering truly local cuisine – no tapas or paella, but authentic Catalan dishes. Following eager recommendations we start with cod cheeks and coca de recapte (flatbread with seasonal vegetables), moving onto hearty macaroni and Galician T-Bone steak, finishing with cheese and honey. We could almost be deep in the Catalan countryside.
Before returning to a grey London the next day, we stroll down to the port for a gasp of sea air, discovering pretty Parc de la Ciutadella on our way. Meandering past balloon sellers, a samba band, tai chi sessions and kids’ birthday parties under a brilliant blue sky feels like the perfect Sunday morning. Walking back up through La Ribera we glimpse the cultural centre, Born de Cançons, the Picasso Museum and the Catalan Music Hall. It seems there is no end to this city’s charms and, for us now, Yurbban Trafalgar is certainly one of them.