Financial TimesFinancial Times

How Barcelona lost its way

By Barney Jopson

09 Feb 2023 · 9 min read

Editor's Note

Barcelona is one of Europe's most-visited cities. But the FT reports that the city is in a malaise due to an exodus of businesses—and its related to the contested referendum on Catalan independence.

Pau Guardans’ grandfather gazes down from the wall, his portrait separating the shelves of a wood-panelled library inside Barcelona’s Grand Hotel Central. The luxury establishment was opened in 2005 by Único Hotels, a group founded by Guardans, which added a rooftop infinity pool to a building whose stone entrance still bears the ruts of horse-drawn carts. Francesc Cambó, a Catalan politician and Guardans’ forebear, built it as his home in 1922.

So selling the hotel was a wrench. When Único cut it loose in 2021, it was not only offloading a €93mn asset but severing a family bond. Guardans decided, however, it was time to move on. In Barcelona, one of Europe’s most visited destinations, politics had fostered a deep sense of malaise.

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