When it comes to a holiday destination such as Barcelona, it may seem tricky to come up with a new way to experience a city that has been so well trodden. Yet beyond the bustling Ramblas with its many hawkers and the famous beaches of Barceloneta, Barcelona offers a host of undiscovered treasures and it is these lesser-known sights that the movers and shakers in the travel industry are bringing to the surface. Amidst this ever-evolving city landscape lies Primero Primera, a boutique hotel that rests contentedly in the less-explored Tres Torres neighbourhood.
‘The hotel was built five years ago and it pioneered a new concept in Barcelona at the time,’ explains manager Alicia Cardomo. ‘It was also a challenge in this area, where there are not many hotels of such high-star calibre. It offered a really different experience to anything I have seen before.’
It is this forward-thinking attitude that tempted Cardomo towards working at the hotel and Primero Primera is a destination that knows how to make the most of its surroundings. The Tres Torres neighbourhood is not one that many people will even have heard of but it offers a host of fascinating sights that are all beautifully concealed behind its wealthy, residential façade. ‘There are many things to do but it is all very subtle,’ explains Alicia. This all helps to retain the sense of the authentic and offer visitors the opportunity to experience Barcelona as a local, an experience over which previous guests to the Primero Primera have waxed lyrical.
Indeed, the beauty of the area is that it remains untouched by Barcelona’s tourist scene but still offers plentiful opportunity to enjoy the city’s true personality. Within easy walking distance of the hotel, you will find Mandri Street with its many restaurants, organic food stores, artisan bakeries and clothes shops. The hotel is also located beside Sarria – a part of the city that used to be a separate town but is now considered part of Barcelona.
‘Sarria still retains the sense of the small village,’ explains Alicia. ‘It’s like old Barcelona, with a church that is really worth seeing, small shops and the Terrasian School which was built by Gaudi but is not very well known. There is also the Bellesguard Tower up the hill, another Gaudi structure. This is where they hold concerts in the summer and it’s wonderful to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy an experience just like the natives.’
The hotel’s roots are firmly established in Barcelona’s heart and spirit. Its name translates to ‘first floor, first door’ and it is behind this door that the matriarch and grandmother of the hotel’s founding family, the Perez-Salas, still lives today.
‘Many generations of the family have lived here,’ explains Alicia. ‘There was a mother and father and eight children. They had a great influence on creating the establishment that is Primero Primera. They wanted to build the type of hotel they like to go to when they travel. One of the daughters did almost all of the decoration of the hotel which accounts for the very personal touch, another was involved in the construction and the refurbishment.’
The Perez-Salas family is well know and highly influential across Barcelona; one of the sons, Luis, was a Formula One driver back in the 1980s and is a cult figure in the community. This just adds to the authentic experience, where every aspect of the hotel offers another way to soak up authentic Barcelona, to discover and celebrate everything that is beautiful about the city in a unique way.
The hotel also exudes a substantial dose of natural charm, thanks to the 1950s-era building within which it resides. Originally used as an apartment block, the building boasts acres of space. ‘This is an unusual feature compared to many other luxury hotels in the centre of the city.’ Each of the 30 rooms and suites is flooded with natural light thanks to the huge windows, and this abundance of space and light offers a soothing, serene ambience.
Every part of a stay here is an experience and this is exactly how Primero Primera was designed. ‘Guests always talk about the atmosphere, the relaxing quietness, and how the service is so personalised as we are not a large property,’ Alicia explains. ‘Everyone feels very comfortable.’
To complement the experience, the hotel recruits staff with a great sensibility of their surroundings and Barcelona itself, as well as those who really embody the values of the hotel to offer guests an unforgettable experience. ‘Just today, a guest entered our hotel and said that it felt like a spa,’ explains Alicia. This is thanks to the comfort and sense of calm within the hotel that sits in stark contrast to the vibrant atmosphere and buzzing urban streets outside its doors.
Everything is designed to offer guests a sense of freedom, allowing them to move around the hotel. ‘We want guests to feel as comfortable as if they were at home, staying in a relaxed place with good service but where they are not being bothered all the time,’ explains Alicia.
Every guest is given their own key to the fitness room. There is also 24-hour self-service snacks and drinks and an honesty bar. A cosy library offers a collection of books on Barcelona as well as fiction novels, which guests can enjoy in the comfort of their room or by the roaring fireplace in the lounge. There’s even an outdoor pool, should you wish to soak up the atmosphere of the city in truly decadent style. And, after all, that’s what the Primero Primera is all about.