NH Barcelona Centro Hotel (Formerly: NH Duc De La Victoria) (Lodging)
Address & Website: Duc, 15 08002 Barcelona; www.nh-hotels.com
Location: The hotel was located near Placa Catalunya between Portal de l’Angel and Ramblas (the 2 pedestrian boulevards) which was ideally located to sights, restaurants, shopping, Metro, and the airport bus. I will say, though, that at night I wouldn’t have wanted to walk back to our hotel completely alone only because the area immediately around it was quiet and kind of deserted late, but it was really fine. On the reverse side, it was great because it was actually quiet at night (unlike some of the other hotels right on Ramblas). If you’re with someone, it felt safe and was only a very short walk from all of the “action” of the Ramblas.
Overall: This hotel is part of a European chain. I found it to be a very nice, affordable, central hotel and generally a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t expecting that much from it because I got a reasonable rate for a hotel in a good location in the city center in July. I booked a Superior Room Advanced Purchase through the website which got us a cheaper rate.
Hotel Staff: The hotel staff were very thoughtful and helpful. They wished us a happy anniversary upon our arrival (it asked if we were celebrating anything when I booked and I guess they recorded that for check-in). My husband asked the desk for a recommendation for tapas, and the receptionist patiently showed us on a map several locations and provided us with detailed directions on how to get to one after we prompted her for her favorite. (The place she recommended was so good that we ended up eating there 4 times while we were there; see: Ciudad Condal below.) They also allowed us to leave our bags behind the desk after check-out so that we could spend the rest of our day in the city sans-bags before our departure that evening.
Room: Our room was very comfortable with a nice sized bathroom, hardwood floors, and we were on a corner, so we had 2 small balconies (they weren’t really big enough to sit on with a chair or anything, but still nice), and the room was very clean. They had put some candies and a bottle of water in our room complementary, as well. The hotel also gave a password for 30 mins of free internet access (only worked in the lobby) every day, as well.
Ciudad Condal (Tapas Bar and Restaurant)
Address: Rambla de Catalunya, 18, Barcelona (just north of Placa de Catalunya)
Location: This hotel is an easy walk from any of the hotels around the Ramblas. If you follow Ramblas up (away from the water) a block past Placa de Catalunya, then when it splits there, stay right for one more block, it is on the corner of Gran Via de les Cortes Catalanes–across both directions of traffic on the right on the corner next to the place called OBAMA (easy for an American to remember).
Overall: Our hotel receptionist gave us this recommendation, and it was so good that we ended up eating here 4 times while in Barcelona. They had good small pitchers of sangria (makes about 3 glasses), cheap beers and wine, great tapas and specials, etc. They also had several regular meal menu items which looked good (including paella). Our favorite tapas were the potato croquettes (with ham and cheese mixed in), the aubergine (eggplant) dish (that came off of the tapas printed menu), the potato omelet, the brie covered with peanuts and strawberry sauce, and a special they had one day which was zucchini flowers stuffed and fried with what tasted like goat cheese, coconut milk and pine nuts. The bar allowed us to order just one “tapa” to try if you wanted and then if we liked it we would order a few more or a half-ration (media-ración) which came with several. I enjoyed this because it enabled us to try a lot of variety of things.
Atmosphere: We did look around at other tapas places (and restaurants) along the Ramblas and in the surrounding area, but this restaurant seemed to have a combination of the most appealing looking tapas (and the largest variety) and a thriving, buzzing atmosphere that was almost electric as it got later into the evening. The bar gets CROWDED (with locals and tourists alike), but you can also sit at a table, and still order tapas (from the menu–can ask for an English menu if needed) or pick a selection from the bar. To get bar items for your table (good way to try one of a lot of things), you simply push your way to the bar after getting your table, tell them your table number (get from your server), and point our what you want and they will send it over.