The Kimpton Vividora is in Barcelona’s historic Gothic Quarter — just a couple of minutes off Las Ramblas and five minutes from the cathedral — and is something of a sanctuary amid the crowds of sightseers, winding streets packed with skateboarding shops and endless branches of Zara and Mango.
The city’s favourite neighbourhoods, from El Raval and El Born to the Gaudi-filled Passeig de Gràcia, are just a few minutes’ walk away. While quieter areas, like Eixample, are easily doable from the nearby Metro station.
Basically, it’s all on the doorstep — which ordinarily might put me off from staying somewhere so central, but which the Kimpton Vividora manages to neutralise the moment you walk through its doors.
The interiors are the work of award-winning Catalan designers El Equipo Creativo. Sure, there’s lots of brass, wood, marble, and leather. But what could come off as a bit generic is given warmth and personality by the use of colour — shades of terracotta, ochre, blue, white, and grey — while the floors and some of the walls are covered in beautiful Spanish tiles. The vibe is that of the sort of incredible Mediterranean townhouse you wish one of your friends could own and invite you to enjoy. Often.
It helps that there’s an emphasis on sociability: from the downstairs bar to the roof terrace and pool (more on which shortly), the whole thing has been designed to feel like you’re staying in a home, not a hotel. A lofty aim, given the 156 rooms and the fact that Kimpton Vividora is part of the IHG group, which owns some big hitters: think the Crowne Plaza, Six Senses, and InterContinental hotels. But it somehow manages to feel characterful and smaller than its pedigree would suggest, helped by the friendly service.
The hotel describes its rooms as being inspired by Barcelona’s elegant luxury apartments, but I think that might be doing them a slight disservice. As well as the standard fare — minibar, desk, clothes rail — my guestroom had a vintage phone (which I used to request some sunscreen and a razor from housekeeping from a handy menu), some arty magazines, a coffee machine, yoga mat, and a rose-coloured linen robe by LA-based family business House of Hiatus, which donates well-loved hotel dressing gowns to a local women’s centre. Toiletries and snacks have an emphasis on sustainable Catalan producers.
My Juliette balcony — there are also suites, some with wraparound balconies — looked over a small side street; a snapshot into the lives of locals on their own terraces and tourists sipping cerveza at the café below. It all felt welcoming and comfortable, and made the undoubtedly expensive black-tiled shower seem less Playboy mansion than it might otherwise have been. Pets are welcome: the hotel’s policy is that if it can fit in the lift, it can stay. Clearly, they haven’t seen The Hangover.
Food & drink
Let’s be honest, any visit to Barcelona is about how much tapas and how many aperitivi you can consume. I’d usually beat a hasty retreat from my hotel on this front, but the Kimpton Vividora surprised me — in a good way. I arrived at around 6pm to check in, only to find the ground-floor bar — Cafe Got, right by the entrance — buzzing with people enjoying the complimentary wine hour; a nice touch.
Fauna is the main eatery, where you’ll find the really excellent breakfast menu, both à la carte and buffet. I’ve never eaten so much pan con tomate before 9am, made with excellent arbequina olive oil. Come evening, it transforms into a stylish restaurant, its interior of Scandi-style wood, ceiling frescoes, blue and white tiles, glossy marble tabletops, and architecture books taking on a more grown-up feel, with chilled house music playing in the background and natural Spanish wines on hand. Ingredients are seasonal and sourced as locally as possible, and there’s some classic French cooking mixed in: think morels with quail’s egg and braised leeks. I was still thinking about the delicious sobrasada with honeycomb and homemade bread several days on.
And there’s more: Terraza de Vivi is the seventh-floor rooftop bar, serving small plates and with its own very Instagrammable bar, next to the small swimming/plunge pool. Weekends mean DJs and bottomless brunches — you know the vibe. This was the place to be after a day’s sightseeing, with groups of friends and couples enjoying cocktails in the evening sun, overlooking the cathedral. Try the Carpano Antica vermouth, as recommended by the head barman: you won’t regret it.
As well as the small rooftop pool, the hotel has a well-stocked gym (particularly if you’re into weights), open 24 hours, as well as bikes and skateboards for the brave, to hire so you can explore the city on wheels. There are free yoga classes by the pool at 8am on Fridays. If that all sounds too much like hard work, the spa and wellness area offers a dizzying array of different facials, massages, rituals, and ‘love experiences’ — which turn out to be couples’ massages. Phew.
The location is undeniably great for getting just about anywhere in Barcelona. With that in mind, it’s easy to look beyond Gaudi (although I did enjoy revisiting the Sagrada Família and seeing the recently installed huge 12-pointed glass star atop its towers).
A highlight was the Art Nouveau Hospital de Sant Pau — a Unesco World Heritage Site that was the city’s working ‘garden hospital’ until 2009, when a major restoration project began. Some of its 20 pavilions were closed when I visited, but there was plenty to see — a fascinating cross-section of Barelona’s social history and architectural brilliance, with a garden perfumed by orange blossom. And, remarkably, not overcrowded with visitors.
The castle, Miro Foundation, and cable car on Montjuic hill offer some of the best panoramas of the city. While the tapas bars of hip Poublenou are the perfect pitstop for croquettes after pounding the streets.
A Spanish-style sanctuary, with Las Ramblas on the doorstep.