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Review: W Barcelona, a Marriott Bonvoy hotel

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This is our review of the W Hotel in Barcelona.

It is the first part of our review trip to Barcelona and Madrid in partnership with Marriott Bonvoy. Marriott provided the hotel stays but we paid for all other expenses, including flights and testing.

The W Barcelona is possibly the most iconic hotel in Barcelona given its size and location on the beach front. The sail-like building rises out at the port end of Sant Sebastia beach and is reminiscent of the Burj al Arab in Dubai, albeit clad soley in shimmering blue glass:

W Barcelona

Barcelona has very few tall glass buildings, so W Barcelona makes a statement and is a landmark in its own right. It is also one of the very few hotels with beach access – another is the Hotel Arts, a Ritz Carlton-managed hotel, which Rob reviewed a couple of years ago.

The hotel website is here. Our guide to W Hotels is here.

Location

As mentioned above, the W Barcelona perches on the spit at the southernmost tip of Barcelona’s run of beaches:

W Barcelona location

Whilst it is a fantastic location, it does mean you are quite far removed from the historical core of Barcelona. There is no metro service near the hotel so you are stuck with buses or taxis.

(Barcelona has a bit of a tourist transport problem. The metro is not amazing and, whilst they have bike rental system like the Santander Cycles in London, these are only accessible for residents. There are no e-scooter rental companies like Lime or Bird. It is not particularly convenient to get around, especially considering that many of the sights are spread out across a large area.)

On the other hand you are right on the beach and can take the cable car across the harbour to Montjuic.

W Barcelona lobby swings

Check in

Arrival at the W Barcelona is surprisingly, well, plain. There is no grand entrance, unlike at the W Ibiza, just a couple of revolving doors set into the glass extension of the hotel. It is remarkably understated for a W.

W Barcelona entrance

Porters are immediately on hand to greet you and take your luggage before check-in.

The hotel was extremely busy when I arrived. I was told it was at 100% occupancy that weekend. The queues were much longer when I checked in:

W Barcelona reception

In the end, I had to queue for at least 45 minutes. Reception was clearly understaffed – there were just three staff members – and for some reason it seemed like they spent an extremely long time with each guest.

My room, and indeed many of the rooms, weren’t ready at check in which meant a further wait, albeit at the pool or bar.

The hotel really struggled to handle the amount of guests arriving. I’m not sure if Barcelona is suffering from the same hospitality staffing shortage as in the UK and elsewhere. It has been a hard year for hotels, who have had to contend with massive flip-flopping of travel rules and in many cases massive jumps in occupancy and last minute booking which make it really hard to plan ahead. Guests were getting visibly frustrated, and it is certainly not the level of service I imagine the hotel hopes to give.

Rooms at W Barcelona

There are over 400 rooms at the W Barcelona, which makes it one of the larger Ws around. (In contrast, W Ibiza has around 150 rooms.) The vast majority of rooms are in the main ‘sail’ building, although there are several floors of rooms in the shorter adjoining building around the atrium.

W Barcelona atrium

In the main building a central corridor bisects the building, with guest rooms off the left and right. The corridor is blood red:

W Barcelona corridor

I was given a ‘Fabulous Sky Room’ with two beds and a view of the Barcelona skyline. The room is large:

W Barcelona twin room

…. with an open plan bedroom bathroom. It can be partly separated with a half-width curtain:

W Barcelona beds

The toilet and shower are behind frosted glass, and there is a dual head shower:

W Barcelona shower

Toiletries are MOMO branded, which has been in use at W hotels for a year or two now. You get a large 100ml bottle of shower gel and half-measures of shampoo and conditioner:

W Barcelona Momo toiletries

I really like the bottles which are made of a softer plastic, making them easier to squeeze. You also get the accompanying Skin Regimen:

W Barcelona skin regimen

…. although the facial cleanser is notably missing. However, I called up reception and they were happy to send one up to me.

Opposite the bathroom you’ll find several wardrobes including safe, ironing board, and mini bar:

W Barcelona Nespresso machine

The fridge is fully stocked and chargeable, and you also get larger bottles of spirits and snacks in a pod in the room:

W Barcelona minibar pod

Apart from the carpet the room is suprisingly plain for a W, with lots of white. Along the wall is a console and desk with more than enough room to spread out:

W Barcelona TV

Finally, a chaise-longue and armchair are against the floor to ceiling windows which have a spectacular view:

W Barcelona chaiselongue

Look closely and you can spot the Sagrada Familia:

W Barcelona view

All things considered the rooms are surpisingly understated, with just the carpet adding a splash of character to the rooms. I suppose there’s no point competing with that view ….

Gym, pools and beach

W Barcelona has two pools (or ‘Wet Decks’ as W Hotels likes to call them) as well as a beach club. The main pool faces the beach and gets sun throughout the day. The second pool is further east and gets overshadowed late afternoon as the sun sets in the west.

W Barcelona Wet Deck pool

Neither pool is particularly big given the size of the hotel, although there are a lot of loungers.

W Barcelona loungers

The pool staff were not terribly useful. On two ocassions I asked them for a towel and they said they didn’t have any, without offering to find me some or tell me where I could go to get some. A little proactivity could go a long way.

W Barcelona pool

To access the beach you take the stairs down from the hotel atrium / pool level to ground level. The beach club is just opposite the hotel across the promenade. Again, this area is not the biggest considering the size of the hotel and it is operated on a first-come first-served basis.

If you don’t get a deck chair you can always spread yourself out on the many, many kilometres of beach.

The beach club doesn’t have water access as it is just behind a low breakwater. It is a 30 metre walk around to get into the sea. This is a slightly more relaxed crowd whilst the pools are sometimes surrounded by what feels like a TOWIE casting call ….

SPA by W Barcelona

As you’d expect there’s also a spa. It is lovely and quiet given most people will want to be outside – and when it is 35 degrees you don’t need a sauna!

You get a heated pool and jacuzzi:

W Barcelona spa pool

and

W Barcelona spa jacuzzi

As well as steam room, sauna and resting area:

W Barcelona spa loungers

Whilst most hotel saunas are sadly on the cooler side, these were hot and very spacious.

Dining at the W Barcelona

W Barcelona has several different restaurants and bars. A number of these are on the ground floor by the promenade, underneath the hotel so to speak. This includes SALT, the beach club restaurant and one of the more casual restaurants at the hotel:

W Barcelona Salt

and

W Barcelona Salt table

It is mostly tapas focussed and we shared the Salmorejo (a cold soup like gazpacho), calamari, croquetas, garlic prawns and heritage tomato salad.

W Barcelona Salt calamari croquettes

We finished off with a dessert of ‘watermelon osmotized in vermouth rosso with mango sorbet’:

W Barcelona Salt melon dessert

FIRE at W Barcelona

We also dined at FIRE, which is the fine-dining restaurant at the hotel and overlooks the main pool:

W Barcelona Fire restaurant 2

The menu here comprises mosty of steak and seafood and the menu also includes items from guest chefs.

The meal starts with an amuse bouche, in this case a watermelon gazpacho:

W Barcelona Fire amusebouche

I had the steak tartare to start:

W Barcelona Fire steak tartare

Followed by the lobster:

W Barcelona FIRE lobster

To round off, I had a peachy chocolatey dessert:

W Barcelona FIRE peach dessert

Service at both SALT and FIRE was excellent and outshone the rest of the service at the hotel which was patchy at best.

Breakfast

Breakfast is served at FIRE with a mixture of indoor and outdoor seating:

W Barcelona Fire restaurant

There is a buffet, although it is currently staffed due to covid:

W Barcelona breakfast buffet

…. and here is the hot buffet:

W Barcelona breakfast buffet hot

A range of juices, smoothies and yoghurts are also available:

W Barcelona breakfast juices yoghurts

There is also an a la carte menu which includes avocado toast, pancakes, eggs benedict and other fresh egg dishes.

Conclusion

W Barcelona is clearly doing something right given the huge diversity of guests, from older couples to young families and those who think they should be on Love Island.

After the W Ibiza I was expecting something a bit flashier. This is not necessarily a bad thing, however, as it broadens the appeal of the hotel.

W Barcelona is a great base if you plan to spend more of your time soaking up the sun by the beach and pool whilst making the ocassional trip to see the sights. There is enough variety at the hotel that you can easily spend several days here, walking up and down the promenade to catch a few of the other restaurants in the area. You also get those unbeatable views across Barcelona.

If you plan an activity-packed stay then you may want to be somewhere a little more central such as the new EDITION Barcelona. This is the next stop in this review series in a day or so.

The W Barcelona hotel is a Category 8 hotel which means you need between 70,000 and 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night, depending on seasonality. Cash rates start at €283 for a midweek night in September, meaning that cash is possibly the best option given our target 0.5p valuation per Bonvoy point.

You can find out more, and book, on the hotel website here.


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Comments (73)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • AndreasJ says:

    Not sure what issues you have with the Metro system in Barcelona: it is modern, affordable, has air conditioned carriages, high frequency of trains all day, no random stops in between stations, no delays, very few black spots around the whole city, unfortunately the W being one of them but that is not the metros fault… can’t compare it to the Tube.

    • Rhys says:

      Another issue: you can’t pay for a bus ticket to get on a bus (or use contactless). Have to go to a Metro, buy the bus ticket, resurface and board. It’s annoying.

      • Dimitri says:

        Single bus ticket can be bought from your mobile and used right away as QR code: https://www.barcelona.cat/infobarcelona/en/tema/mobility-and-transport/single-electronic-bus-tickets-with-contactless-validation_961172.html
        You need tickets selling machines only for carnets/season tickets. Also, you can buy metro tickets from press kiosks and tobacconists, but this is probably local knowledge 🙂

        • John says:

          I don’t want to download an app for one trip (unless I decided on this during my travel planning before leaving home).

          Are you still allowed to buy a ticket on board with cash? I did the last time I went to Barcelona before covid.

      • ChrisBCN says:

        Rhys, if you want a bus ticket, you can buy them digitally on the TMB app, no need to go to a metro. You can also buy the 10 journey ticket for 11.35 to use on bus/train/metro/tram – cheap as anything!

        • Rhys says:

          Still not as frictionless as contactless payments like on the tube.

          The big issue is that, as a tourist, I didn’t know any of this. Being able to tap in and tap out with contactless is both simple and idiot-proof. No need to know where or how I can buy tickets, or download an app, or anything.

          • ChrisBCN says:

            Contactless is coming! They’ve been putting machines on the buses. Agree that it will be a vast improvement when it’s switched on

          • WaynedP says:

            In-laws visiting London from Liverpool last month highly impressed with contactless.

            “Why don’t we have anything similar in the North yet ?”

            London seems far ahead of the game, even in the UK.

          • John says:

            Doesn’t Liverpool have the walrus card?

            Liverpool remains a hole in my travel coverage of the UK, which I have to rectify at some point, but plenty of buses in “the north” take contactless

          • Dimitri says:

            Contactless was supposed to be rolled out on BCN public transport a few years back. It’s called T-Mobilitat and was even showecased it at the MWC (https://www.tmb.cat/en/about-tmb/transport-network-improvements/t-mobilitat ). But then the launched was postponed a few times (as it happens! :). Current expected launch date is early 2022. They did install the contactless readers on all modes of public transport and it seems to undergo testing. So it does look very promising, but no one really knows when it will go live. So let’s hope in 2022 Rhys can just tap in and tap out with his card (or a phone) and without any hassle! :))

    • Swifty says:

      Yes it was easy to get around Barcelona. And so cheap. Lovely city! Nothing better than to be able to be in the city and then go to a lovely lively beach and home all in quick journey

    • Harry T says:

      I mostly just walk around Barcelona tbh. Metro has been very good when I have used it.

      • Rhys says:

        We did a lot of walking too. But sometimes you don’t want to walk in 35 degree heat!

        • Harry T says:

          I feel you, Rhys. We suffered a bit in Seville and Madrid in August 😂. Did you like the Barcelona EDITION?

  • Bagoly says:

    Although better than unfrosted with a curtain that doesn’t go properly across!
    Try googling: IBB Poznan bathroom.

  • Colin MacKinnon says:

    Good review – especially the honest bits about check-in and pool staff.

    Family were in Barcelona for a few days a few weeks ago and thought about this hotel, but I’m glad they didn’t go (they were thinking of a bit of peace and quiet away from the Gothic quarter and Las Ramblas).

    But all Barcelona was hot and heaving!

    For me, all around the world the big name tourist areas are just too popular!

    • Harry T says:

      When I stayed in July, there was a separate desk for elite checkin but unfortunately I had the impression that this wasn’t policed in any way. They really need to open up more of the desks and also prevent non elite members from using an elite desk. Perhaps they should have a separate checkin desk for Platinum and above…

  • GJB says:

    A very interesting and honest review, thanks for sharing.

  • Paul says:

    Great hotel, albeit maybe due a little refresh now in areas (imo)

  • Triath5 says:

    As an avid traveler, I’m selfishly glad to read all these misguided comments about Barcelona being tourist unfriendly and even ‘hideous’ as one reviewer called it. The human psyche is fascinating.

    You’re right, please stay at home and don’t visit Barcelona! Brighton/Bournemouth/InsertOtherDepressingEnglishTown is more attuned to your needs.

    • Jeff Greene says:

      There’s nothing depressing about Brighton!

      Great place!

      (People should be more patriotic rather than hate this great country!)

    • Harry T says:

      I’ve been to Barcelona twice this summer and never found it anything less than completely welcoming and friendly.

    • ChrisW says:

      There are wonderful places in Spain. I don’t count Barcelona as one of them.

    • Rui N. says:

      “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded!”

  • Nick says:

    The conclusion of the review (“clearly doing something right”, “a great base”) seems to be the complete opposite of the body of the review.

  • Lady London says:

    Hotel will date quickly.

    It’ll probably be supported by the ground floor bar trade.

    Thanks for such an honest review Rhys.

    • Rhys says:

      The hotel is 10 years old! Not sure it will date quickly given how plain the rooms are. Not much to date!

      • Lady London says:

        Well….that silly arrangement with the bathroom glass doors into the room and curtain, for a start. Already a concept with a use-by date.

    • Harry T says:

      Hotel is pretty “old” now as Rhys says. I didn’t notice any marked deterioration in the hard product. It’s very simple and plain, as Rhys remarks – not what you expect at a W. It’s the most understated decor I’ve seen at a W – contrast with the glitzy Leicester Square, for example.

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