Tried and Tested: A Barcelona City Break at Retrome
In my own experience as an avid city breaker, unusual and affordable places to stay in buzzing metropolises like Barcelona (or 'Barna' as the locals call it!) tend to be quite hard to come by, or compromised by a poor location, so upon my recent visit to one of my favourite cities I was delighted to come across Retrome - a self-styled urban retreat that handpicks mid-century furnishings so that each of its rooms is completely individual and unique. This little gem is also based in Eixample, one of the well-heeled and quiet parts of the city with stylish bars and restaurants on your doorstep and still an easy 10 minute walk into the central old town - it really seemed to tick all the boxes!
Upon arrival at Retrome we were instantly met by smiles and a warm welcome from the team and nothing was ever too much trouble for these guys. Indeed we had arrived early and needed to drop our bags off while our room was being prepared which was dealt with speedily and with zero fuss. The attractive lobby and lounge of Retrome is seriously cool, and your first impression of the place - it really stops you in your tracks! The Calatan art nouveau style of the space includes contrasting patterns, elements and colours, and includes a glass-fronted office on the first floor that looks over the main bar area, with a moped in the window - which looks almost as if it is suspended. There is certainly no shortage of quirkiness here!
Every guest at Retrome who books directly receives a welcome drink, so we enjoyed a perfect cold cava before being shown to our room. We were also given further vouchers for another drink in the afternoon - nice touches to make you feel instantly at home, especially as the ambience in the lounge is so relaxed and friendly; the staff were multi-lingual and as well as locals there were staff from the UK and Netherlands who were all happy to pass on their own recommendations for the city and their experiences whilst you have a drink on them.
We were shown around a few different rooms, and it was great to see the two different buildings where rooms are located; one was actually the original reception and now is a spacious communal area with a good-sized space for dining and generally chilling out. You're never too far from a piece of eye-candy mid-century furniture or light fitting at Retrome, and tile lovers will rejoice in this place - it feels as though there are different designs of tile at every turn. I even made a (slightly geeky) tile collage for Instagram, there was that much choice.
Our room was a good size, and I think what surprised us most was the quality of the fittings, proving that vintage does not mean old fashioned touch phones and ancient TVs. Quite the opposite really, as Retrome has installed Viggo smart TVs that allowed us to stick on our favourite music via Spotify and YouTube as we were getting ready to go out and explore. We played a couple of Gaudi video guides through the internet and browsed a few Instagram accounts from Barcelona Citizen and others. The smart TV technology really added that extra dimension, and Retrome had even added their own tour information and advice; you could also contact the team through it! The bathrooms too had recently been refitted, with a slick and stylish black tile walk-in shower and the rainfall shower head - so refreshing!
Next it was time for us to head out and explore the city. We were a short walk from Passeig de Gracia where two of our favourite Antoni Gaudi buildings were. We first came to BCN some twenty or so years ago as young Erasmus foreign language students and our most vivid memories were of the Gaudi architecture, in all its distinctively vibrant and striking mosaic splendour, so it was great to revisit some of these spots, including Parc Guell, Casa Batllo, Casa Mila (or 'La Pedrera'), and of course the awe-inspiring La Sagrada Familia. This was perhaps the most exciting for us as previously the interior was still being worked on, so we were able to see the end result of Gaudi's lifetime of planning after taking over this immense architectural project from another architect in 1883. The sheer magnitude, scale and light that floods into the space is quite spectacular.
Our busy day of sightseeing ended back at Retrome's lounge where we relaxed on the cosy mid-century armchairs and sofas and enjoyed their bar; the retro decor takes on another dimension at nighttime with low lighting adding to the atmosphere.
That evening we were lucky enough to catch the Llum Festival in the city, a series of extraordinary light installations and exhibits all scattered around the quirky Poble Nou district, similar to the London Lumiere festival yet with much milder weather of course, being in Spain! After a good few hours exploring 3D projections and audio-visual delights it was back to our comfortable bed for one of the best sleeps we've had in a long time.
Breakfast the following morning included a good range of local produce, hams, cheeses, eggs, fruit juices, home-made waffles and more, setting us up nicely for our last day in the city. We were lucky as it was a glorious sunny Sunday so a perfect chance to bask in some sunshine down at Barceloneta beach, before heading home. We were reluctant to check out of Retrome - we'd had such a perfect time there and they really do what they do perfectly, but at least we knew we would be heading back there again for another Barna fix; it sure is an addictive place.