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Monday, Apr 28, 2014

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Hotel steeped in history

The Business Times | Jaime Ee | Monday, Apr 28, 2014

The Antonio Machado suite, named after the acclaimed poet from Seville.

Visitors to Barcelona may think of Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi's Casas Batllo and Mila as emblemetic of the city's famous Passeig de Gracia strip, but those looking for a bit of history with their accommodation can settle in at the equally iconic Hotel Majestic.

The neo-classical building dates back almost a century and has hosted the likes of Joan Miro and Ernest Hemingway, but it's in no way the stuffy, musty dwelling that mistakes crumbling old fixtures for vintage charm. Instead, while the exterior retains its original visage, the interior was given an extensive overhaul last year at the cost of more than 30 million euros (S$52 million).

Even so, much care was taken to retain as much of the classical architecture while the existing rooms were retrofitted into brighter, contemporary spaces. If money is not an issue, check into the Antonio Machado suite, named after the acclaimed poet from Seville who stayed at the hotel during the Spanish civil war in 1938. It's not a shrine as such but a modern outfitted abode that is also the largest room in the hotel. While it wasn't part of the main renovation, the room has been updated and is a tribute to the poet and all things literary, with framed photos and poems of Machado presiding over a collection of books.

Food-wise, the hotel's signature restaurant Drolma was moved from the top floor to the first level and re-invented as an all-day dining space which features one of the largest breakfast buffets in the city. Don't forget to load up on its addictive bikini sandwiches - thin toasted bread slices encasing a salty, gooey filling of jamon and melted cheese. Otherwise, indulge in modern Spanish tapas at its slick Majestic Bar with its comprehensive list of local wines and cava, as well as international big names. The menu features Catalan produce, including the "best anchovy-stuffed olives in the world", avocado and tuna tartare cannelloni and prawn carpaccio.

The main attraction of the Majestic is also its location on Barcelona's "Orchard Road" - Passeig de Gracia and its collection of upscale boutiques and proximity to star attractions like Plaza de Catalunya with its giant El Cortes Ingles department store, and La Rambla with its famed market La Boqueria.

And, of course, it's just a stone's throw from the Gaudi landmarks. So after viewing your fill of art history, you can go back and sleep in a hotel that's steeped in it.

What: Majestic Hotel

Where: Passeig de GrĂ cia, 68 - 08007, Barcelona

Tel: (Spain) +34934881717

Website: www.hotelmajestic.es

This article was published on April 26 in The Business Times.

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