Meets Daring Design
Edgier Side of Barcelona
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.
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
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.
Above the City
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.
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.
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
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.