The allure of Barcelona seems to be unassailable. Neither the terrorist attack on La Rambla last August nor the political uncertainty hovering over Catalonia seems to have diminished the international popularity of Spain’s second city, a place I fell in love with many decades ago. What thrilled me about the city then still excites me about Barcelona today: its vivacity; its stunning seaside setting; its astonishing architecture, including La Sagrada Família basilica and other intriguingly eccentric works by the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí; its animated cafés and tapas bars; and its superb restaurants.
In many ways, Barcelona just continues to get better. The city is well-advanced, with a complete renovation of all of its 39 food markets, including the dazzling Mercat de Santa Caterina and its polychrome mosaic roof; new museums have opened; and formerly shabby districts like El Raval and La Barceloneta have been restored and redesigned without losing their character. In addition, Barcelona’s food scene easily rivals — and often betters — those of London and Paris, and the shopping is first-rate.
Small wonder then that the city remains in the midst of a seemingly permanent hotel boom. These new addresses offer travelers the possibility of discovering a different neighborhood each time they visit. In the past, most of the city’s best hotels were found along La Rambla and the Passeig de Gràcias. Now there are distinctive small properties scattered across the city. These include the 28-room The Serras, which occupies a handsomely renovated stone building on the Passeig de Colom, a street overlooking Port Vell (Old Harbor).