Detailed review by koshkha
Northampton, United Kingdom
The Gallery is a hotel that I've stayed in many times on business and it's my first choice with my own money whenever I go to Barcelona for fun - but only if I can get a half-decent deal on the room rate.
When I first started staying there about 8 years ago, we used to pay about £60 a night. Since the advent of the Euro and the increase in cheap flights to Barcelona, the prices of hotels throughout the city have shot up and this will now set you back a lot more. Just running a quick check on some of the price comparison sites, they were throwing up prices in the 200-250 Euro range, which in my book is a lot more that it's worth.
If you are thinking of a DIY weekend break in Barcelona you really should check out hotel availability before you book your flights. Don't bag a cheap EasyJet and assume you can find a deal on a hotel because it's not that unusual for there to be absolutely NOTHING available at certain times of year. I have friends who foolishly booked flights without checking for hotels and ended up staying in Girona because of a trade show in the city taking every single room.
Also watch out for festivals - there are a lot of them - which can suck up all the rooms. Priority - book the room then the flight!
Circumstances of Visit
Our last visit to the Gallery was the weekend before Christmas 2005. My poor husband had to work through Christmas last year - the downside to a life catering to the whims of those retained at her majesty's pleasure. I decided to treat him with and early Christmas in one of his favourite cities. I didn't want anything too complicated so since we know Barcelona pretty well and wouldn't have to do too much thinking or planning we booked dirt-cheap flights with EasyJet for £45 each and two nights at the Gallery for £80 per night. OK, I agree that's not the cheapest of cheap breaks but it's pretty good.
The Gallery is in a great location and that's why I love it. It's on Rosello - a block south of the Av. Diagonal and half a block from the Passeig de Gracia - my favourite street in the city. Half a block the other way takes you to one of the broad semi-pedestrian ramblas. It's a good location for Gaudi lovers too - with La Pedrera (the building with the star wars storm-trooper chimneys) just around the corner and Casa Batillo just a couple of blocks further down the Passeig de Gracia. It will take you 5-10 mins to walk to the Placa Catalunya if you walk like a steam train (like I do) or 10-20 if you are going to stop and look in all the windows of the fancy shops on the Passeig de Gracia which is a nice way to get a feel for the area.
The Gallery is apparently slap bang on top of a metro station although I'm ashamed to confess I've never really got the hang of the B'lona metro and I tend to walk everywhere. Some rooms will vibrate when the trains go under - I hadn't actually noticed it until this last visit which probably suggests I'd drunk too much on previous occasions. However, I quite like the vibro-room effect and it doesn't happen during the night once the trains stop running.
Getting there from the Airport
Cabs are still pretty good value in Barcelona but it's worth being aware that there are several surcharges applied for journeys from the airport. So don't freak when the driver keeps pushing his buttons and the price is sailing up - he's not conning you, it's all kosher.
You can take the train to Sants station and then the underground - but to be honest, that's a pain. Back in December the Airport train station was undergoing 'work' of some kind and so we took the airport bus - just a few Euros, frequent service and it takes you right into the heart of the city, dropping you at the Placa Catalunya a few minutes from the hotel. I believe the bus also makes a stop on Passeig de Gracia but I was too excited to stay onboard by that point.
The lobby is bright and stylish. They have some deco-style black sofas and chairs that have been there a long time but are still looking pretty good. There are usually nice flowers and newspapers on the tables in the lobby. The reception desk is a big wooden counter on the left as you walk in, with a bank of pigeon-holes behind. The staff are dreadful - you really do feel like you are interfering with whatever else they were planning on doing that day.
In most Spanish hotels you have to show your passport - sometimes they keep it for a while and copy the details - so again, don't freak if they do this, it's normal. Because I have stayed many times I am in their computer so once they realise this, sometimes the reception gets a little less frosty - but never ever reaches anything you could describe as 'gushing'.
The hotel has 115 rooms on 5 or 6 floors. This includes some suites but I've never stayed in anything other than a standard room. There are plenty of non-smoking rooms and one of my 'top tips' for anyone staying in any hotel is to always ask for non-smoking. The non-smoking rooms are always the nicest and the first to get re-furbished in any re-fit. There's always a better chance that the hotel will run out of non-smoking rooms and have to upgrade you.
The hotel has had a bit of a re-fit since the previous times I've been there and it's all rather pleasant. Definitely in the masculine 'Elle-Deco' vibe - quite minimalist, lots of dark wood, browns and creams and black and white images on the walls. They've also introduced some nice touches like flat screen TV (with lots of channel choices) and a small Hi-Fi unit next to the bed, complete with a CD of soothing ambient music in case you didn't bring your own. You should get maps and tourist info in your room as well and this will help you plan your activities.
There's lots of storage space, a safe for your valuables, generally some nice touches like a bag for your excess shopping or an umbrella to borrow when it rains. There's a mini-bar of course, a desk with internet access and enough chairs to cover your needs.
The bathrooms have marble surfaces - the kind that make you really mad that they are cheap in Spain but would cost you a few body parts back home in the UK. There's a really good power shower over the bath, plenty of space and good lighting and being Spain I think they have a bidet as well as the loo but don't quote me on that. They are generous with the toiletries - you can expect a toothbrush, razor and a pack of tissues in addition to the normal shampoo and showergel.
CHOCOLATE - there, thought that might catch your eye -shall I say it again? CHOCOLATE - they give you the best hand made yummy chocolate. And if you've been there before like I have, you get LOTS OF CHOCOLATE as a thank you for coming back. I think we got a big bar each on top of the standard squares on the pillow.
We didn't eat in the hotel on this trip because I'm far too tight to pay hotel prices for breakfast. However, when I've been there on business, the breakfast was always worth getting up for. Spanish hotels excel themselves at the breakfast buffet and the Gallery does a really good spread. I've only eaten in the evening when I've arrived too late or too tired to go out. You'd be a fool to eat in a hotel restaurant in a city like Barclona where there are so many alternatives on your doorstep.
The bar is also quite reasonable and I have often drunk there.
For food - you have all the bars and restaurants of the surrounding streets. One recommendation if you arrive late and don't want to go to far, go out of the hotel, turn left to the end of the street where it meets the Passeig de Gracia, and try out the little bistro called Samoa. It's good any time of day and great value too.
There's a gym - but I've never used it and I can't comment on the quality. They can help you out with car hire, hail you a taxi, store your luggage and all the other things you'd expect from a decent hotel.
I went to the desk to check out - I'd prepaid so it should have been a 30 second job. There was nobody else in the lobby and two desk staff were on the telephones. I waited and then I waited some more. I coughed - in that nice English way that means "if it's not TOO much trouble, maybe you can actually acknowledge my existence". Nothing. A third desk chappy appeared, avoided my eye and picked up another phone.
At this point I took my key, placed it on the desk, waved and flounced off. A friendly welcome and a cheery goodbye? Neither, but the chocolate compensates!
But you know the funny thing - I'll still be back next time!