Since 1969, restaurant, hotel, travel & other witty reviews by a handpicked, worldwide team of discerning professionals—and your views, too.

Gran Hotel La Florida
Ctra. Vallvidrera al Tibidabo 83-89
08035 Barcelona, Spain
34 93 259 30 00

History Meets Daring Design
Experience the Edgier Side of Barcelona
By Rubin Carson

With the constraints imposed by Franco fading into the past, Barcelona has become one of Europe’s most sizzling destinations. Sure, the palm-lined Mediterranean seaport still greets visitors with a stoic Columbus standing on his pedestal, but the city now melds the sophistication of Paris and New York with exotic Catalan flair. Travelers desiring to experience its edgier side should spend a few days at the Gran Hotel La Florida.

View of Barcelona

Inaugurated in 1925, the Gran Hotel started life as a glamorous luxury hotel. Throughout the years, it served as a summer playground for wealthy Catalan families, European royalty, Barcelona football teams, and—naturally—Hemingway, as well as a military hospital during the civil war. Passed from owner to owner and finally abandoned in 1979, it lay deserted until purchased by The Stein Group, a boutique hotel chain. After four years and a $50 million restoration, it reopened in 2003 as a 76-room urban resort and destination restaurant.

Although your cab ride from the airport to the hotel will take you along steep hills and gasp-worthy curves, you’ll want to save your astonishment for arrival. La Florida is a stone and stainless steel magic carpet that floats over magnificent views of the city and sea. Once you recover from the awe inspired by your approach and step inside, you’ll find the soothing contrast of Dale and Patricia Keller’s mellow, soft-colored interiors.

Stylish Rooms
Dining Above the City

The acclaimed designers of the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay and other stylish properties know how to synthesize old and new. Antique engravings of the hotel from the 1920s and ‘30s compete for your attention with abstract flower paintings by Catalan artist Isabel Cruella. Traditional Spanish carpentry and iron grillwork abound. British artists Ben Jakober and Yannick Vu created sculptures for public areas and terraces. Most spectacular is an "Archimedes Fountain," a seventeen-meter-high, stainless steel, spiral water fountain in the main courtyard that hypnotizes with its dramatic geyser-like spurts.

Cool Design Elements

Although public areas showcase trendy high-tech style, the guestrooms are much warmer. A basic room features high sculpted ceilings, arched walnut-framed windows and a comfortable king-size bed. Among standard amenities are spacious bathrooms with walk-in stall showers, mini bars, Internet access and plasma TVs big enough to satisfy the greediest conquistador. All accommodations have spectacular views of Barcelona and the sea.

Dining at La Florida is a mix of no-rules Mediterranean and Catalan influences. Breakfast puts any pre-war Cunard liner to shame, with heroic sides of York ham, mounds of cheese and lavish displays of smoked trout and salmon, plus every egg dish imaginable. At L'Orangerie, the food, wine list and service match the spectacular surroundings. The upscale international crowd enjoys fresh takes on old favorites like the one we sampled: crunchy Iberian suckling pig with baked apple, coriander onion jam and cooking juice. Nothing to regale the cardiologist with, but absolutely delicious.

Japanese Suite
Club Luna

For being a boutique hideaway, it’s amazing how many services are offered: a striking, 37-meter, stainless-steel indoor-outdoor pool with a backdrop of projected visual effects that would give George Lucas twinges of envy; the ZenZone spa; Club Luna for jazz; breakout rooms for corporate meetings; and free shuttle service to Las Ramblas. A city as dynamic as Barcelona needs a hotel that can match its brazen yet accommodating spirit: Gran Hotel La Florida is that hotel.

Going to Spain? Check our Guide. See also 72 Hours in Barcelona.

(Updated: 01/13/09 HC)

Sip your way through wine country with GAYOT's list of charming inns and resorts, featuring vineyards from Napa Valley to Long Island, New York.
Go off the beaten path and explore GAYOT's Top 10 Extreme Hotels, which feature one-of-a-kind accommodations for a truly unforgettable experience.