Beyond its renowned tourist attractions, Barcelona has unique spaces linked to its history and culture, which are also interesting to the visitor. We review 5 of these spots, so you can enjoy Barcelona to the fullest.
The Royal monastery of Saint Mary from Pedralbes was founded by King James II and his wife Elisenda de Montcada in 1326. Due to the king age and health, the monastery served as the queen's retreat place at the time of being widowed. Open to public in 1983, its facilities (cloister, chapel, church, etc.) are perfectly preserved and enact one of the best Catalan Gothic style examples: Its Gothic cloister is considered the largest in the world.
Mies van der Rohe Pavilion
Designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich, Germany pavilion at the Barcelona International Exhibition (1929) hosted the official King Alfonso XIII reception to the German authorities. It composes an iconic work of the Modern Movement within what van der Rohe (father of modern architecture) defined his philosophy foundations that has inspired several generations. The pavilion was dismantled at the end of the exhibition (1930), rebuilt at its original Montjuïc location in the 80’s and stated a Cultural Asset of National Interest.
Located at the bottom of Collserola mountain (Horta District) and declared a Cultural Asset of Local Interest, this Labyrinth Park is the oldest garden (1792) preserved in the city. Opened to the public in 1971, consists of a neoclassical garden, another romantic garden, several sculptures, ponds, waterfalls and fountains. But above all, it highlights fantastic cypress tree labyrinth, in which the visitor will find it easy to enter, but perhaps not so easy to leave...
With a magnificent location at the top of the Montjuïc mountain at 173m above the sea, in addition to offering Barcelona quay exceptional views, this castle is also an historical place of interest. This former military fortress was the site of relevant historical events at different periods of time. Currently, the Montjuic Castle Interpretation Center proposes a journey through this monument history.
The largest ornamental fountain in Barcelona, located in front of Montjuïc National Palace, is a hydrological work by the architect, engineer and lighting technician Carles Buïgas built during the Universal Exhibition (1929). The fountain was restored for the Barcelona Olympic Games (1992) to once again offer a unique show suitable for all ages. The enveloping choreographies of light, color, water and music receive 2.5 million visitors each year.
For more information, you can ask the Guest Relations team that will assist you in everything you may need to make your stay at Mercer Barcelona and the city, an unforgetable memory.
At Mercer Hotels, we believe in the conservation of the heritage and culture of the buildings of all our hotels. The integration of the old and the new is one of our hallmarks. Andalusian historical legacy converges with modernity at the EME Catedral Mercer Hotel.
A HISTORICAL STREET
EME Catedral Mercer has an unbeatable location right in city center, by the Santa Cruz picturesque neighborhood and just in front of the majestic Cathedral north facade.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, attracted by the prosperity of trade with the New World, merchants arrived to the city and gathered around the Cathedral. In this sense, the ‘Calle Alemanes' [Germans Street] -in which the hotel is located- owes its name to German colony shops established by the street arcades (one of the few examples that are still preserved from the popular architecture of that time), in a multicultural Seville that was the commerce door with the Americas.
"History is the life of memory and the teacher of life." Cicerus
A BUILDING WITH ROOTS
The EME Catedral Mercer Hotel is housed in a historic building from the 16th century, originally composed by 14 typical Andalusian houses set on a land that was owned by Andrés Moro González –‘el Moro’–, a rich, eccentric and popular Sevillian antiques dealer.
The architectural renovation project was directed by the Spanish architect Juan Pedro Donaire, resulting in this modern hotel which combines the building’s Andalusian roots with a contemporary design.
THE FACADE AND ITS BALCONATES
The façade dates from the 16th century and preserves a structure of historic arcades with coffered ceilings and with classic columns redefined as a porch open to the public. Located in front of the hotel, the Giralda is reflected in the balconies windows. These wrought iron balconies date from the early 20th century and their artistic enhancements and cast iron drawings were restored to highlight the traditional Andalusian architecture.
THE ORANGE TREES COURTYARD
As in the Santa Cruz District typical houses (Jewish Quarter of Seville in medieval times), in the heart of the EME Catedral Mercer there is an open central courtyard that vertebrates the access to the hotel rooms.
The Orange Trees Courtyard is covered by an imposing structure whose design is inspired by Islamic ornament and reminds of a modern Moorish-style lattice. Its central fountain and its orange trees honor the Islamic culture.
The Arabic-inspired ornament can be found in different hotel areas, both in the rooms, in the corridors and even in the panoramic rooftop bar.
THE LOBBY ALTARPIECE
Symbol of the deep religiosity of Seville that followed the Catholic Kings reign, a Baroque altarpiece clad in gold leaf stands out at the hotel lobby area. This altarpiece was acquired from a Madrid antiquarian who said that it was bought years before in Seville from Andrés Moro, a reputed Sevillian antiques dealer and also the former owner of the buildings where EME Catedral Mercer Hotel is located nowadays. If this story is true, the altarpiece has returned to the same place where it came from...
ROMAN TERMS SPACE
It is a hidden treasure: This private space has a spectacular glass floor from where guests can view the remains of Roman terms discovered during the hotel restoration work. A unique space in Seville, perfect for holding private events and celebrations for up to 15 people.
Rooms and common areas walls are plastered with lime mortar and covered with sandstone, in the manner of traditional Andalusian constructions: A material with a bioclimatic behavior highly appreciated in warm countries since it contributes to the temperature regulation.
Definitely, EME Catedral Mercer Hotel offers its guests a concept of fusion, respectful with history but fresh and vibrant at the same time, as well as a cosmopolitan atmosphere in a monumental environment.
Barcelona is a city of culture. City museums received more than 4.5 million annual visitors in the latest years, according to Barcelona’s Culture Institute. We review some of the most interesting museums in the city.
National Museum of Catalan Art
Montjuïc National Palace is one of the iconic buildings built for the occasion of the International Exhibition of 1929 and it’s the current headquarters of the National Museum of Catalan Art. Sculptures, paintings, drawings, prints, posters, photography, etc. They shape into one of the most complete collections of Medieval, Roman and Modern Catalan art. MNAC is located at the bottom of Montjuïc Mountain, a privileged environment from where to enjoy beautiful panoramic views of the city, as well as Montjuic’s fountains show.
Joan Miró Foundation
Joan Miró Foundation is located 10 minutes away from MNAC and in the heart of the Montjuic Park. Set in the beautiful building from the architect Josep Lluís Sert, it’s the most important Joan Miró public collection. There are more than 10,000 pieces including paintings, sculptures, tapestries, drawings and sketches that allow us to understand and admire this artist, considered one of the greatest surrealism representatives.
"I never dream when I sleep, I do dream when I'm awake." Joan Miró
More than 4,200 works compile the most complete collection worldwide of Picasso's youth works. Opening in 1963, the museum reveals the Andalusian artist's link with Barcelona. Works are arranged in chronological order inside 5 Catalan gothic civil style palaces(13th and 14th centuries): Exceptional content and continent for one of the most important museums in the city, located in the picturesque Born District, only 5 minutes away from the Mercer Barcelona.
"Art is the lie that allows us to understand the truth." Pablo Picasso
Barcelona History Museum
The “Plaça del Rei” (King’s Square) Monumental Complex -next to which the Mercer Barcelona is located- is the main headquarters of the Barcelona History Museum (MUHBA) dedicated to the city's historical heritage spread. The Gothic Quarter underground has an impressive archaeological tour, whose remains include the Roman Barcino (1st century BC), the Visogothic Barchinona (7th century) and the Medieval Barcelona (13th century), with streets, villas or oil and wine warehouses, among others.
MACBA & CCCB
The spectacular MACBA and CCCB buildings are located right in the city center, only 15 minutes walking from the Mercer Barcelona. The Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art or MACBA (1995) occupies the American architect Richard Meier extraordinary building at ‘Plaça dels Àngels’ (Angels Square) also known as a skaters meeting point. Contemporary creation and artistic debate are articulated through visual arts, performance, dance, cinema, music or events. The Center of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona or CCCB (1994), which occupies part of the ancient ‘Casa de la Caritat’ (Charity House), is a multidisciplinary institution with exhibitions, debates, festivals, concerts, cinema, courses or workshops programs around the urban phenomenon from all points of view and all cultural disciplines.
Barcelona Maritime Museum
For centuries, Barcelona history is linked to the sea, the navigation and the maritime culture. The Maritime Museum (MMB) is located the ancient Barcelona Royal Shipyards (‘Drassanes’) used for shipbuilding between the 13th and 18th centuries, being one of the most important monuments of Civil Gothic style for industrial usage. After visiting the museum, visitors can take a walk from the Rambla to the Columbus Statue and the ‘Port Vell’ (Old Harbour).
With this new addition, the group specialized in the luxury market sums up eight establishments, three of them under renovation, and will achieve a portfolio of twelve hotels in the following three years.
Currently the company is redefining the luxury hotel industry in Spain with an innovative approach that is perceived in each of its properties. Mercer Hoteles commitment is to create hotels where the hospitality takes place in historical settings, signed by great architects, accompanied by an outstanding service and haute cuisine.
In 2012 the first 5-star establishment of the chain was inaugurated. The Mercer Hotel Barcelona is located in the heart of the Gothic Quarter. The Mercer Hotels flagship occupies a medieval palace on part of the Roman wall of Barcino and was restored by the prestigious architect Rafael Moneo (Pritzker Prize).
In 2016 a new opening takes place in Sevilla. The Mercer Sevilla is an innovative 5-star hotel located in the Casa Palacio Castelar, a 19th century bourgeois palace in the historical Arenal district. Architects Cruz and Ortiz are responsible for the hotel renovation, responsible of Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum rehabilitation within other projects.
This autumn of 2018 sets the beginning of an ambitious expansion project for this Spanish hotel chain that starts with the incorporation of the renowned EME Catedral Hotel in Seville.
EME CATEDRAL HOTEL
EME Catedral Hotel opens its doors in 2008, being the first hotel in Seville combining history and modernity, with the impressive background of La Giralda and the Seville Cathedral (the largest Gothic church in the world), in the picturesque Santa Cruz district, city’s old Jewish quarter.
EME is placed in a historic building, originally composed of 14 defined typical Sevillian houses from the 16th century, which restoration result is a modern and young hotel, with a design that reflects the contemporary Sevillian lifestyle.
Due to its excellent location and unique views over the Cathedral and the Giralda, the hotel's terrace quickly becomes popular among Sevillians, becoming a must do along these ten years.
From December 2018, the EME Catedral Hotel management passes into Mercer Hoteles hands. So during 2019, the hotel will experience a series of updates to adapt it to Mercer Hoteles standards, respecting the identity and character of the building.
Without losing the Mercer Hotels luxury and sophistication characteristics, the new EME marks the starting point of an innovative hotel concept, more vibrant, young and urban.
“Services will also be adapted to contemporary luxury. The spa, the panoramic restaurant or the cocktail bar will take a new main role”, explains Amanda Molina, Mercer Hoteles Projects Manager. “The interventions in the hotel will be light, decorative and especially respectful with its architecture, surroundings and history. This will allow maintaining its doors open during the process”.
We interview Mamen Bonet, Pastry Chef at the Mercer Hotel Barcelona who creates the treats that surprise our guests every morning...
Bringing together the tangible with the intangible to transform the stay of each guest into an unforgettable experience: This is the philosophy of Mercer Hoteles. In this sense, the Mercer Barcelona pays special attention to the breakfast service where every detail is taken care of to make each morning a gift for the senses.
Breakfast is served daily from 7.30-11.00am in the unique setting of the Mercer Restaurant, with part of the original Roman wall of the ancient Barcino city as a backdrop. In spring and summer seasons, guests can also enjoy breakfast at the Orange Tree Courtyard, an oasis of absolute tranquility in the heart of the Gothic Quarter.
Mamen Bonet (Barcelona, 1985), Pastry Chef at Mercer Barcelona, is in charge of the 5-star hotel gourmet breakfasts. Since she joined the Mercer's kitchen, this young baker has added a series of delicious novelties to the breakfast buffet: An assortment of small pieces of art -both sweet and savory- freshly made every morning to make guests fall in love. Mamen is a discreet professional who prefers her creations to speak for herself. Her key principle is "work, work and humility". We chatted with her to discover the sweetest details of Mercer Barcelona.
Why did you decide to work in pastry?
Actually, it was like “to let myself flow". When I was studying Fine Arts, I realized that I wanted to be a cook, so I studied Hospitality and Pastry at the Hofmann School in Barcelona where I lay the foundations of everything I currently know.
Mamen, tell us a bit about your trajectory until you reached Mercer Hoteles...
While I was still, studying at Hofmann School, I did two stages: At Mugaritz and Celler de Can Roca. After that, when I finished my studies, I went to Akelarre again as a stagier. At this point I realized that I wanted to specialize in pastry... First I did an internship in the Dolç Pastry from Yann Duytsche and from there I went to work in several bakeries like Melissa (Athens), Pomme Sucre (Gijón), Moulin Chocolat (Madrid) or Baluard (Barcelona).
How would you describe your profession?
It is often said that pastry is the sweet and measured version of cooking. For me it’s also "a bottomless pit" of tests, knowledge and amusement. Actually, it’s magical to be able to make clients happy or surprise them through your work and the pastry is often associated with happy moments...
What are your creations at the Mercer Barcelona based on?
I’m basically inspired by the classic pastry cookbook, as well as recipes from my previous experiences that seems delicious to me and from creations of other pastry chefs who share their work in books or social media. And I also like to investigate on my own and try new ideas.
What attributes should have a good pastry chef?
A good pastry chef must have the same characteristics as a good cook: He/she must be disciplined, orderly, responsible and a good colleague. In addition to this, I think it's important to be curious and to learn a bit more each day.
What do you like most about your job?
I love working with doughs and chocolate (of course!), making fruit tartlets and petit fours. All my elaborations are handmade as pralines, chocolates, brioches... I like to have time to fuss over everything I do. I try to pay attention to details so that guests have a good memory of sweet moments at the hotel.
What are your favorite ingredients?
I love working with good raw materials. I really enjoy working with chocolate (I also love to eat it!) and all its utilities or subtleties. I am also a fruit lover (such as raspberries, pineapple or apricot) and nuts (especially hazelnut and pistachio).
What do you think a good dessert should contain?
Balance and sobriety, especially in sugars, fats and jellies use.
What is the essential utensil in your work?
In pastry there are many indispensable utensils, but I think that brain, hands and a good oven are primary...
We interview the Guest Relations Managers regarding the customer service at Mercer Hoteles
Location, architecture, design, gastronomy and above all, the excellence of a service exclusively focused on exceeding our guest highest expectations. Mercer Hoteles takes care of the smallest detail to turn each guest stay into a memorable experience: A way of understanding customer service by which Mercer Barcelona and Mercer Sevilla have become a luxury hospitality reference in both cities.
GUEST RELATIONS, GENUINE DESIRE TO SERVE OUR CUSTOMERS
Joan Manel Salamanca and Javier García are Head Concierges of Mercer Barcelona and Mercer Sevilla respectively. Both are professionals with large experience as Guest Relations and “Les Clefs d'Or” members (International Association of Hospitality Concierges).
What does the Mercer Service consists of?
JOAN MANEL (JM): The Guest Relations department manages any requirements (legal and reasonable) that the guest has before, during and / or after their stay at the Mercer. This global and expert service is one of the main Mercer philosophy pillars. We give a close, professional and trustworthy service for guests to enjoy a relaxed and memorable stay.
Do we find the same level of service in all Mercer 5*GL hotels?
JAVIER (JG): Of course! Both at Mercer Barcelona and at Mercer Sevilla, guests will find the same service standards. Being boutique hotels with few rooms, we have the opportunity to provide a completely personalized service. Not only Guest Relations but all departments are focused on offering excellence.
How does the Guest Relations Department work?
JG: We contact the clients before their arrival because many times they need prior attention, as a private car, a restaurant reservation or tickets to a monument or show in the city. On the first day of the stay, we introduce ourselves personally for whatever they may need. And after the departure, we keep in touch with many guests...
What do you do to keep up to date with the city latest news?
JG: We love our city and we are interested in everything that happens there. And obviously, we have our information sources got over the years (friends, colleagues or contacts).
JM: I agree with Javier. We try to have a wide network of professional contacts, plus the information we get from press, blogs, Social Media and “Les Clefs d’Or” Association.
Tell us about a special moment or a curious story...
JM: An important achievement is that guests remember us. For example, last Christmas I received a postcard from guests from USA who remembered us even several months after their stay... and invited me to visit them. This is a very special detail!
JG: From my side, during the last “Feria de Abril” (April Fair), I met by chance a couple who where staying at the hotel (a little disoriented) and took them to my private stand, to eat ham, drink wine and even dance some “sevillanas”.
What is it like working with guests at a 5*GL boutique hotel?
JG: The Mercer Hoteles team reason to be is the client total satisfaction. In this sense, our main goal goes beyond fulfilling their demands. Our purpose is to exceed their expectations, surprise them, make them “fall in love” or make them feel at home, perceiving they have a "friend" or "allied" in the city, willing to support them during their visit. And all this, with a professional, unpretentious, sincere and discreet service.
JM: I think that guests who decide to stay at a boutique hotel are clients who expect a direct, calm and personal treatment from the hotel team.
What is the best thing about dealing with guests?
JG: Dealing with guests is a task as demanding as rewarding. We love to see that guests are happy when they leave the hotel, because they enjoyed their visit. It’s also nice to read guests reviews on TripAdvisor, of course, customers who appreciate our work and recommend us to their friends and family.
JM: Exactly, a customer who becomes a prescriber of our brand is a great reward. The best feeling is to check how some guests return to the hotel year after year.
What do you like the most about your job?
JM: I like to share my city and make other people see it "through my eyes", by creating wonderful experiences.
JG: Definitely what I appreciate the most is the human touch and the multiculturalism.
OUR GUESTS REVIEWS ON TRIP ADVISOR
The best thing about the hotel? The incredible staff! [USA]
The only thing that could compete with the building is the staff: they were without exception first class in their attentiveness and helpfulness. [United Arab Emirates]
Even before our arrival at the Mercer we were contacted by Guest Relations with a request to personalize our stay. That was only the beginning of the incredible service we received at the Mercer. We've stayed at many five star hotels and his service is by far the best ever. [USA]
Some of the most accommodating, professional and service oriented personnel we've ever enjoyed! [USA]
Of all the boutique hotels we have stayed at many locations around the world, the Mercer is a standout high achiever. This reflects the professionalism and warmth that all the staff provided throughout our stay. The Mercer is a leader in luxury boutique hotels. [Australia]
Perhaps the best feature of all is the incredible staff. We could not have felt more welcomed and really missed some of their faces when we returned home. [USA]
Service and staff attitude is close to perfection: They give you the feel of the comfort of home but at the same time show the professionalism of a house of this category. [China]
Everything about this hotel was excellent except the staff which was superb. [Canada]
The staff is some of the best in the hospitality industry. [USA]
Seville has several dozen stately palace-houses, great past and present lineages residences.
With the discovery of America (1492), the port of Seville becomes a strategic enclave for trade with the Indies. This represents an important economic development as well as a cultural and artistic transformation, known as the “Sevillian Golden Century”. Some of the most prosperous families, enriched by trade with the New World, commissioned the construction of beautiful manor houses in which they set their new residences (XV-XVI centuries). Currently there are about 25 palace-houses in Seville, some of which remain private residences.
1. “LAS DUEÑAS” HOUSE
Founded by the Pineda family in the 15th century and owned by the Duchy of Alba since the 17th century, the house occupies the space of the old monastery of “Santa María de las Dueñas”. In the 19th century, the Palace is converted into a neighbor's house. One of the dependencies is rented to the parents of the Spanish poet Antonio Machado (who was one of the 1898 Poetic Generation main exponents), who was born and spent his childhood here. Years later, the palace becomes a witness to the Dukes of Alba illustrious guests such as Jacqueline Kennedy, Grace Kelly or Rainier de Monaco. Its buildings and courtyards range different architectural styles and stands out for its historical value and its collection of paintings, tapestries, sculptures, photographs or furniture.
2. “PILATOS” HOUSE OR MEDINACELI DUKES PALACE
Built in the 15th century, it is owned by the Duchy of Medinaceli. Its history is as important as its heritage value. Courtyards, gardens, galleries, fountains, columns, plasterwork, tiles, pavilions, halls, furniture, together with a large collection of classic art and a series of bullfighting paintings by Goya, constitute the largest of all Sevillian palace-houses. Declared a Property of Cultural Interest and Spanish Historical Heritage, this house has been the scene of productions such as "Lawrence of Arabia" (1942).
3. “LEBRIJA” COUNTESS PALACE
Built in the 16th century, it passes through different owners until in 1901 it is acquired and restored by the Countess of Lebrija (illustrious lady and archeology lover). Considered “the best paved palace in Europe”, it stands out for its collection of Roman mosaics (especially those that cover the central patio floor), its arts collection, as well as a library with 4,000 volumes. This Renaissance palace is a Cultural Interest and Spanish Historical Heritage Property.
4. “LA ALGABA” MARQUISES PALACE
This Renaissance palatial residence was built in the 15th century by the Marquises of La Algaba, and it is one of the Sevillian civil Mudejar style best exponents. During its history, the building has different owners and it was intended for different uses (theater, neighbors' house and summer cinema), until it is acquired and rehabilitated by the Seville City Council, to house the Mudéjar Art Center of Sevilla.
5. CASTELAR HOUSE-PALACE
Another of these Sevillian architectural treasures is the Casa Palacio Castelar, located in the historic center and in which the Mercer Hotel Sevilla is located. It is a bourgeois small palace dating from 1880, carefully restored by the Sevillian architects Cruz and Ortiz. The Mercer Hotel Sevilla preserves the original structure around the central courtyard or patio, the marble staircase or the high ceilings in the rooms situated in the "noble" floor of the old palace-house.
El Born district -one of the Barcelona’s most cosmopolitan areas- is less than 5 minutes walking distance from the Mercer Barcelona. Monuments, palaces, museums, galleries, restaurants, terraces, shops, fashion and design: We find out some of its secrets.
Originally, this was a sailor and craftsman neighborhood of humble families settled outside the Barcelona’s wall. From the 13th century, aristocrats and merchants -enriched by maritime trade- settled their residences in beautiful palaces. The neighborhood became the city economic center until the 15th century. The 'Santa María del Mar' basilica construction (14th century) consolidates the Born identity.
THE 10 SECRETS OF THE BORN DISTRICT
1. Catalan Music Palace
Built for the 'Catalan choral group' by the architect Domènech i Montaner (1905) and defrayed by popular subscription, the 'Palau' became part of Barcelona's symbolic heritage and the city’s cultural and social life setting. Declared World Heritage (UNESCO), this impressive modernist building and its excellent acoustics are a reference in the international artistic scene.
2. Picasso Museum
More than 4,200 works form the most complete collection in the world of Picasso's youth works. Inaugurated in 1963, the museum reveals the artist's link with Barcelona. Works are shown in chronological order, along 5 palaces of Catalan civil gothic style (13th and 14th centuries): Exceptional content and continent for one of the most important museums in the city.
3. Santa Maria del Mar
Built in only 55 years (14th century), it’s the only church in pure Catalan Gothic style. Known as the 'Cathedral of the people', the history of this Basilica is linked to the Born neighbors, who contributed to the construction of their basilica, with their own money and mostly with their work. For example, in their free time, dock unloaders ('bastaixos') used to load stones destined to the church from the 'Montjuïc' quarry, one by one. In fact, a tribute to this 'bastaixos' can be observed in the church main door.
Curiosity: The story of this wonderful basilica and the neighborhood was immortalized in the novel 'The Cathedral of the Sea' written by Ildefonso Falcones, whose book we recommend you to read.
4. Paseo del Born
Delimited by the old Born market (now the Born Cultural Center) and 'Santa Maria del Mar' Basilica, the promenade has 14th-century buildings, trendy terraces and bars, designer shops and a lively atmosphere. In medieval times it was tournaments and jousting of knights (which give the neighborhood its name), celebrations and fairs.
5. El Born Culture and Memory Center
This cultural space is integrated into the Born old market building (1876). Its exterior structure is an example of the iron architecture. Its interior houses an imposing archaeological site excellently preserved: A testimony of neighborhood life and city history, from Roman times to the early 18th century. Exhibitions and cultural activities take part in the offer of this singular center.
6. France Station
Inaugurated by King Alfonso XIII on the occasion of the International Exhibition (1929), this modern station needed to live up to the expectations of the first line that would connect Barcelona with France. The elegant lobby and the metallic structure of the routes (one of the main exponents of the modernist iron architecture in Barcelona) stand out.
Curiosity: This station has often been compared with the Parisian 'Gare d'Orsay'.
7. Citadel Park
At the end of the 19th century, due to the industrial development, the city demanded a large green space for public use. Built on the Citadel old fortress terrain, the park was inaugurated a few years before hosting the Universal Exposition (1888). Currently, in addition to its biodiversity, the Park stands out for its sculptures, waterfall, band-stand and buildings such as the old Citadel Arsenal (nowadays the Catalan Parliament headquarters), the Geology and Zoology museums, the Greenhouse and the Barcelona zoo.
8. Triumphal Arch
Built at the main entrance of the Universal Exhibition of 1888 (Citadel Park), this monument of 30 meters high and classical proportions symbolizes the respect of the city towards the nations participating in the Exhibition. The Triumphal Arch represents the gateway to Barcelona’s progress in the late 19th century.
9. 'Santa Caterina' Market
Built on the grounds of 'Santa Caterina' old convent, it was the first covered market in Barcelona (1848). In 2004 the market is refurbished by Miralles and Tagliablue architects. The current market stands out for its undulating roof and its mosaic inspired by Gaudí.
Curiosity: During the works, old convent archaeological remains appeared in the market subsoil.
10. And our Concierges advices!
Joan Manel Salamanca and Xavier Sanchís, Concierges of Mercer Barcelona and 'Les Clefs d'Or' members, are a city great connoisseurs. They reveal some of their favorite places in the Born distric:
“If you travel with children, we recommend you to visit the Chocolate Museum (Calle Comerç 36). If you want to relax, we suggest you to book a water circuit and a massage at 'Aire Barcelona' (Paseo Picasso 22). And if you fancy a real Barcelona aperitif, you should go to 'El Xampanyet' (Calle Montcada 22). But in any case, this historic district can be enjoyed simply by walking and discovering the medieval guilds of the street names. We especially like the 'Plaza de las Ollas' [Pots Square] where ancient kitchen utensils artisans were settled.”
Desserts and sweets have an extensive trajectory in the national cuisine. Pastry is linked to Christian religious celebrations, as is the case of the Holy Week in Seville.
HISTORY OF PASTRY IN SPAIN
Each culture that has inhabited the territory has left its mark on the traditional sweet recipes. The first cakes date from the time of the Roman Empire, when the precious honey from Hispania is mixed with wheat flour for sweet preparations.
Afterwards, the Arab culture encourages the Spanish pastry-making with the sugar cane importation (in the East sugar cane was refined since the 9th century) and the use of nuts (such as almonds) in many cakes.
With the discovery of America, spices such as cinnamon, vanilla and coffee are introduced. But the ingredient that revolutionizes the European pastries is the cacao coming from Mexico. The first to use it are the Spanish confectioners who add sugar to compensate for their bitterness. Quickly, chocolate becomes an essential recipes ingredient, much appreciated socially.
In the 18th century, the national confectionery is influenced by the modern pastry started in France (with the development of puff pastry). At the end of the 19th, the proliferation of specialized stores open to the public and the new machinery development contribute to the popularization of sweets.
THE SWEETEST CALENDAR Nowadays, the confectionary specialties are very assorted according to the geographical area and are closely linked to the Christian religious celebrations. Throughout the year, visitors can taste a variety of typical sweets, but Christmas and Easter are the dates with the greatest number of sweet preparations in the whole country.
THE SEVILIAN HOLY WEEK ‘TORRIJAS’ The ‘torrija’ is one of the Holy Week stars in Seville. This traditional sweet dates from the 15h century. The base of the ‘torrija’ is a slice of bread (traditionally bread from previous days) soaked in milk or wine, which is later coated in beaten egg, fried in a pan with olive oil until browned and finished bathing in honey, sugar or cinnamon: As simple as delicious. Don't miss our recipe!
Located just 8 minutes walking from Mercer Barcelona, La Rambla runs 1.2km: A pleasant tour from Plaça Catalunya to the sea. More than 78 million people a year stroll along the most famous street in the city.
"The street where the four seasons of the year live together, the only street on earth that I wish it would never end". [Federico García Lorca, Spanish poet]
HISTORY OF LA RAMBLA
The demolition of Barcelona walls which surrounded the city began in the 18th century. La Rambla (which for centuries was just a torrent of water to supply the city) is urbanized and transformed into a promenade in which the Catalan bourgeoisie built up beautiful palaces as their main residences. The locals turn La Rambla into the new main city axis, in which one could rent a chair and contemplate the spectacle of life.
POINTS OF INTEREST: LA RAMBLA FROM NORTH TO SOUTH
'Canaletes' refers to the waterway which supplied water to the city (15th century). The current fountain was created for the occasion of the Universal Exhibition (1888). According to the legend, whoever drinks water from this fountain is destined to return to Barcelona. Another peculiarity is that F.C. Barcelona supporters celebrate Barça’s victories around this fountain.
This neoclassical style manor house was built in 1774 by the Marquis of Moja, where one of the entrance doors of medieval Barcelona used to be located. Declared Heritage of Cultural Interest, nowadays it’s the Catalan Heritage House.
A public fountain of drinking water to supply the city was placed in one of the access doors to the fortified city (the 'Porta Ferriça' or Iron Gate) and it became very popular among the neighbors. Today, both the fountain and the street keep the name of the old door that was decorated with iron bars (unit of measure of the time). Nowadays on the ceramic tiles of the current fountain scenes from the everyday life of that time can still be seen.
LA BOQUERIA MARKET
From the 13rd century, merchants installed their stands in this location of La Rambla (they did it outside the walls to skip the goods entry tax to the city). The market opens in the 19th century on the emplacement of an old convent ('Sant Josep' or Saint Joseph). Nowadays it’s the largest local market in Catalonia with more than 200 merchants and one of the most emblematic points of the city.
BRUNO CUADROS HOUSE
Inspired by the modernist style that was beginning to be fashionable at that time, the architect Josep Vilaseca refurbished this building and the Bruno Cuadros umbrella store located on the ground floor in 1883. Also known as 'Umbrellas house' it brings an oriental touch to the eclectic Ramblas.
JOAN MIRÓ MOSAIC
Miró’s pavement was inaugurated in 1976 at 'La Boquería' Square on the Rambla. One of the main international abstract surrealism representatives, Joan Miró designed the mosaic as a greeting to travelers arriving by sea. The work has no protection and Rambla visitors walk daily on its pavement, expressly indicated by the artist.
The 'Liceu' is one of the most important opera houses in the world. Since 1847 it has been the stage of the most prestigious works. It has also been the meeting place of the Catalan upper class (in the lower floors of the theater), while the less opulent classes shared their opera passion on the upper floors. After its fire in 1994, it was rebuilt by incorporating notable technological improvements which made it one of the most modern theaters in the world.
A year after the beginning of the “Liceu” construction, the Royal Square urbanization starts where the old Capuchins Convent used to be located. Important families of the time chose this square as their new residence. Currently, it has a more bohemian and crowded atmosphere.
Eusebi Güell (an important industrialist, politician and patron from Barcelona) orders Antoni Gaudí the construction of his new family residence (1886). The result is a unique mansion adapted to the private and social needs of the Güell family. The modernist palace was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Located at the confluence of La Rambla and the “Port Vell” (Old Harbor), Columbus Monument was built for the occasion of the Universal Exhibition (1888). It measures 57m high and an interior lift allows you to go to its viewpoint. Columbus's finger points out to the sea (initially it was said that it pointed out to America, which is located in the opposite direction).
Other points of interest in La Rambla, near the Mercer Hotel Barcelona: Virreina Image Center, Wax Museum, “Bosc de les Fades” (Fairy Forest Café), Santa Mònica Art Gallery, Maritime Museum and Aquarium.
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