If New York City and Paris had a baby, it would be Barcelona, a city at once chic and unapologetically grungy. It’s a melting pot, appropriating cultures left and right, and, at the same time, adamantly Catalonian. The architecture goes from strict lines to undulating concrete waves, from beautiful to opinion-instigating. It’s a city that demands a reaction, but also seems ambivalent to how you react to it. This city feels like a teenager, actually, like a “where” that’s still evolving and deciding what it wants to be (which I think is why, beyond the architecture and “grunge” vibe it reminded me of NYC), and then you hit a street that looks like it’s been struck by that exact angle of light for hundreds of years (& likely has) and you feel like you’re in Paris again on a side street off the Champs-Elysees, breathing in history.
I wasn’t expecting to feel passionately about Barcelona. I thought it would be beautiful and fun to be in an urban capital for a week and probably have some awesome Spanish food, (I was right on that account) but I just didn’t look at the list of everywhere we were headed in Europe and hang over it; it felt more like somewhere we were stopping between places than a destination in and of itself. Again, I’m not sure why I felt this way, probably just a mix of being distracted and not knowing a whole lot about the city.
I was wrong. Very wrong. Our time here has been intermittently interrupted by one continuous phrase: “when we come back.” I love this city. I love the people, who are warm and friendly and seem to stop to make every small child / baby laugh just because it makes them happy (not just waiters in restaurants, but people of all ages on the streets). I love how young it is and how intent it feels to be on the cusp of every food trend, but still make them their own. I love how dinner rarely starts before nine and no one seems in a rush to have the night end. I love how it’s absolutely massive, but still walkable, and how just when you really do feel like you’re lost somewhere in Brooklyn a single palm tree will stretch out of a street corner to remind you you’re definitely not.
During our time here we’ve been lucky enough to be staying at a hotel called Omm. As the name entails, it’s been the kind of place that calls you back to your center (to use a yoga-phrase that Porter just said is cringeworthy and too crunchy). It’s simultaneously peaceful and modern, and has the most kick-ass indoor spa we’ve ever experienced (sorry for swearing, but it really is the best possible adjective). There’s a pool-sized jacuzzi and a series of showers you walk through all at different temperatures prior to entering the steam room that are supposed to increase blood circulation (kind of like a car wash, but if they were built for people to walk through and ultra-luxurious).
This hotel is in the centre of the heart of Barcelona and doesn’t separate itself from permanent citizens. Instead, their restaurants (one is Michelin-starred with phenomenal decor) is a hub for business-dressed locals and the kind of chic twenty-somethings that look like they’re deciding between a job offer in Hong Kong or art school. The whole hotel is very dependent on darkness and open space, which I’ve realized are two qualities I’m really drawn to in big-city, modern hotels (again, like New York). The hallways are almost completely dark and the floors glow when you step out into them. The bedrooms are incredibly spacious and sparsely furnished, as are the bathrooms, and there’s lots of drawers and closet space all done in light-wood and low to the ground that make you want to put all your stuff away to maintain the minimalist “Omm” vibe.
The staff are so so so kind, and I usually hate repetition of unimaginative adjectives, but they truly made us feel at home and as if we were the nieces or cousins of someone high-up in management, not just visiting photographers. They sat with us at breakfast just to check-in and chit-chat, they noticed the kinds of things we liked to eat and said oh my goodness you need to try so-and-so….which brings me to one of our favorite things about this hotel : the group that owns Omm also happens to run 16 restaurants in Barcelona and they happen to be some of the very best restaurants (if not the best) in the whole city.
For our first four nights we stayed within the Grupo Tragaluz restaurant list because once you go to one you want to try every single one, and they range in style (we went to their Japanese-Spanish fusion restaurant, El Japones, the first night and the more classically Catalonian, Mordisco, the next). You realize pretty quickly when you’re staying in Omm, actually, that they haven’t overlooked little things that hotel’s which aren’t run by anyone in the restaurant business might. The chocolates they leave on your pillow are the kinds of boxed intricate truffles you’d find in Switzerland and the attention to ambience in every corner (in particular, soft lighting) is unfailingly on-point.
We’re going to be sharing some of our favorite places we visited and ate at tomorrow in quick-list form, for those who think my writing on cities I’ve fallen for is a little bit swoony (I know they must be out there, and I want you to know, I sometimes feel this way, too, and I’m working on it). If you’re planning a trip to Spain soon, we hope this post will give you a good jumping point for where to stay & where to start booking some reservations. We’ll work on fleshing out that itinerary in the morning.
Anna Lisa & Porter
*A huge thank you to Hotel Omm for sponsoring this post. As always, all thoughts & opinions remain our own.