Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I Barcelona hotel review: luxury city resort fit for a king or queen
As Freddie Mercury said… Barcelona, it’s ‘like a jewel in the sun’
Freddie Mercury certainly had a way with words. As the legendary frontman of Queen, Mercury was not only a genius when it came to writing lyrics, but also in the way he performed them on stage.
From multiple epic sections in Bohemian Rhapsody to the booming chorus of Somebody to Love, songs written by Mercury and his bandmates Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon will go down in musical history.
While best remembered for his time with Queen, Mercury also wrote a string of huge hits as a solo artist, including Barcelona, a collaboration with opera star Montserrat Caballé that was the theme song for the 1992 Olympic Games, held in the Catalan capital a year after the singer’s death.
The games, and song, helped introduce Barcelona to new audiences the world over - including this writer who has been wanting to visit ever since.
From Queen to a king
In preparation for the 1992 Olympic Games a number of hotels were built in Barcelona to house the dignitaries and thousands of international sports fans wanting to watch the action.
One property that was specifically constructed for the games was the Rey Juan Carlos I hotel, named after the King of Spain who reigned from November 1975 until his abdication in June 2014. Located on Avenida Diagonal and a few minutes walk from the Zona Universitaria Metro station (line 3 for the city centre and line 9 direct to the airport), the Rey Juan Carlos I is not your usual city hotel.
Owned and managed by Fairmont, this five-star property is more akin to a countryside retreat. Set in 25,000 square metres of gardens, it boasts outdoor pools, The Royal Club Fitness & Spa and has access to a number of tennis courts. In keeping with the monarchy theme, the hotel’s grounds are also home to the Royal Polo Club of Barcelona.
Glitz and glamour
While the outside of the hotel has a sport, fitness and equestrian feel, the property’s interior is designed to a very high spec.
Walking through the front entrance the first thing every hotel guest does is look up. All rooms are located on the sides of the building, leaving the view from the atrium to the top floor completely clear and unobstructed.
The ground floor lobby is also home to the check-in desks, the Market Restaurant and the hotel’s 24-hour bar, B·24, which serves a superb range of wines and cocktails. I really recommend visiting B·24 for its tapas and local food options.
Camp Nou views and a beautiful horizon
Spain has its monarchy but in this corner of Catalonia the real royalty is the city’s football team.
Captained by “king” Lionel Messi, FC Barcelona is a European football giant with millions of fans across the globe. With the iconic Camp Nou stadium only a 15 minute walk from the Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I, the hotel is perfect for a weekender of football and tapas.
Even though we did not get to see Messi in action we did have amazing views of the Camp Nou from our spacious suite on the 15th floor. It wasn’t just views of the stadium that we enjoyed from our vantage point. Overlooking the polo club, we were also able to watch the riders and their horses prepare for the dressage and showjumping events that were being held in the facility that day.
The hotel views of this magnificent city were so good that it’s clear to see how Barcelona inspired Freddie Mercury to write such a great song. Because of this, it's only fitting to give the great man the final say...
"Barcelona, such a beautiful horizon. Barcelona, like a jewel in the sun."
Never a truer word has been spoken.
Standard room rates in low season at the Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I Barcelona start from €269 (£229). For more information see fairmont.com
Travellers looking for an end of year trip to Barcelona should also note that the Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I has a number of overnight festive packages from 25 December to 2 January. See fairmont.com/barcelona