Barcelona is the capital city of the autonomous community of Catalonia and it’s glittering crown jewel. Described as “the flower among the beautiful cities of the world” by Cervantes in Don Quixote, Barcelona has since been championed and immortalised by many – in the literature of Laurie Lee and Carlos Ruiz Zafón and by the architecture of Antoni Gaudí. Barcelona is famed for its art and architecture; from the Barri Gòtic (“Gothic Quarter” in Catalan) the centre of the old city of Barcelona to the Catalan modernisme architecture (often known as Art Nouveau in the rest of Europe) that includes the work of architect Antoni Gaudí, Barcelona is a feast for the eyes! Now since the constructive work done for the 1992 Summer Olympics and with grand-scale urban regeneration taking place in time for the 2004 Universal Forum of Cultures, Barcelona has become a center for avant-garde architecture, starting with the Hotel Arts and its twin the Torre Mapfre. It was after a hop, skip and a jump from London Gatwick Rachel and I were to find ourselves at the base of the impressive Hotel Arts, designed by Bruce Graham, this hotel features 44 stories of exposed glass and steel, making it the tallest building in Barcelona and a prominent feature of the city skyline.
Hotel Arts Barcelona boasts a unique location on the waterfront within 300 feet of the beach, in the heart of the city’s Olympic Village area. Even before entering the hotel you are bombarded with high design and modern art including the 52m long golden fish sculpture El Peix, by Frank Gehry, which can be seen outside the hotel looming over the boardwalk of Barcelona’s beach and Marina. Soaring high above the seafront 44 stories of blue glass and exposed steel house 455 rooms, 317 of which offer King-sized beds and 138 are twin bedded rooms, plus for families traveling together, the hotel features 75 connecting rooms. Every one of the 455 guests’ rooms offer panoramic views of Barcelona’s city skyline as well as the Mediterranean Sea!
Upon entering the hotel Rachel and my luggage was expertly taken by the door staff before we made our way to reception using the elevator. Upon reaching reception we were told that as “The Club” guests we had our own private reception further up the tower . . . with intrigue Rachel and I got back in the elevator and headed up. Exiting on to “The Club” reception floor and entering the breathtaking lounge Rachel and I suddenly felt like celebrities, greeted with a glass of Laurent-Perrier, our private check in assistant went through our check in forms while cozily seated on a plush sofa, I could get use to this treatment! The Club is billed as a hotel within a hotel – a secluded area high in the upper floors of the building offering a more exclusive, personalised experience. The lounge’s double-height windows gave exceptional views over the Mediterranean and the Port Olimpic another view we would appreciate from our Club Room.
The Club rooms combine all the comfort and amenities of hotel’s deluxe rooms but with a range of exclusive services only available to Club guests. As the Club rooms are situated on the upper floors of the building, they all offer wonderful views of the sea or the city. As we entered our room we were greeted with beautiful light penetrating the room through the vast glass windows. The view was amazing, from the beach to the marina and beyond to the cityscape of this cultural hotspot, a view that became even more magnificent at night as the neon lights came alive as the sun went down. Our room was fully stocked when it came to amenities: Marble bathroom with separate shower stall, bath and luxury bathroom essentials, private safe-deposit box, plasma screen television with all major satellite channels and DVD, Bang & Olufsen audiocenter with CD and radio, In-room refreshment bar and high-speed internet connection. We made ourselves at home, unpacking our necessities for the next few day but we did not stay in the room for long as “The Club” guests have a world of extras awaiting them including separately keyed floors for security, a private lounge, and an exclusive meeting room and concierge staff. The lounge presents complimentary food presentations throughout the day, including continental breakfast, afternoon tea, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, and MOST importantly champagne on tap! I was one happy lady!
With innovative design and contemporary interiors, the hotel also showcases a 20th Century collection of exclusively commissioned works by contemporary Catalan and Spanish artists. Plus you are on the doorstep of further design and architecture in the historic city center of Barcelona, which features fashionable bars, restaurants and shopping avenues, The Ramblas, Picasso Museum and the wide waterfront promenade are also just a short stroll from the hotel. During our stay Rachel and I found Hotel Arts to be the perfect base from which to explore Barcelona from, whether on foot, by metro or an Uber or two!
One of the most amazing experiences had while in Barcelona was visiting the world famed Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família which looms over the city exalted by its spires and grand facades. Construction of Sagrada Família commenced in 1882 by architect Francisco Paula de Villar with Gaudí becoming involved in 1883 after Francisco resigned as the head architect. Taking over the project, Gaudí transformed it with his architectural and engineering style, combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms. Gaudí devoted his last years to the project, and at the time of his death at age 73 in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete. Sagrada Familia’s construction progressed slowly, as it relied on private donations and was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War, only to resume intermittent progress in the 1950s. Construction passed the midpoint in 2010 with some of the project’s greatest challenges remaining and an anticipated completion date of 2026, the centenary of Gaudí’s death. Upon a recommendation by Visit Barcelona Rachel and I headed there at 4pm on a cold Decembers day, with our press passes we entered the complex and starred in wonderment at the Passion façade to the West, cold, stark and foreboding this façade shows the death of Christ and the events that lead to his Crucifixion. We then entered the building using the large doors of this façade and this is when the recommendation of 4pm hit us for the sun was setting and the result was truly magical. The light hit the stained glass windows perfectly allowing the colours to come alive, starbursts of pink, red, orange, yellow and beyond filled the vaulted Basílica mesmirising both Rachel and I. Now neither of us are religious people but in that moment we could understand the serene beauty of faith for this entire building exists because of the people, people who believe in God and all that he created. Despite the queues I would highly recommend visiting La Sagrada Família, religious or not, the architecture and design is worth the visit alone, maybe some of Gaudí’s best work.
Back in Hotel Arts it was time to hit the spa, 43 The Spa at Hotel Arts Barcelona is oasis of calm and spiritual wellbeing in this bustling city and a duplex located on the 43rd floor of the hotel (as the name would suggest). 43 The Spa offers open-air terraces offering panoramic views, eight fully equipped treatment suites, hydrotherapy pools, saunas and steam baths and extensive menu of treatments by the prestigious luxury Spanish skincare brand Natura Bissé. I opted for the Relaxing Massage, which is an exceptional massage that will help you to reduce stress and improve circulation. Considered the most universal massage, my session deeply relaxed my body with long and gentle pressure maneuvers performed by my skilled therapist. Upon leaving the treatment room I was not only mentally on cloud nine but being so high up in the hotel I was almost physically floating in the troposphere! Taking the elevator back down to “The Club” I meet up with Rachel for pre dinner champagne and nibbles before heading to Enoteca Paco Pérez for what was a truly mouthwatering dinner!
After three wonderful nights at Hotel Arts including lunch at Arola, dinner at Enoteca Paco Pérez and floating in nirvana at 43 The Spa, Rachel and I were VERY sad to leave. Checking out at “The Club” lounge we sipped our last glass of Laurent-Perrier before heading out to the sun drenched streets of Barcelona. Hotel Arts is truly a blissful retreat, cultural hub, meeting space and fine dining destination rolled into one. A place where exceptional service comes as standard, and whether you are in The Club rooms, The Penthouses, the restaurants or the spa every guest is made to feel part of the family. Hotel Arts is an architectural wonder in itself but is also the perfect hub from which to explore the city of Barcelona that bursts with culture, fabulous food and marvellous Catalan hospitality.
Carrer de la Marina
19-21, 08005 Barcelona