With a façade of exposed glass and steel that climbs 44 stories high, the five-star Hotel Arts Barcelona is the tallest building in this capital city of Catalonia. (Columbian architect, Bruce Graham, designed the structure.) At its base is a huge, eye-catching fish named Peix, made of stone, steel and glass. Renowned architect Frank Gehry designed the iconic sculpture for the 1992 Olympics, which was held in Barcelona and spurred the revitalization of this part of the city.
The panoramic views from inside the hotel—each room faces the city, the sea, or both—are even more dazzling. When we stayed at the hotel last year, our windows offered portrait-like views of Gaudi’s Sagrada Família. This time, we overlooked the picturesque sailboat marina and the golden sands of Barceloneta (one of Barcelona’s most popular beaches) with its walking promenade beloved by residents and tourists alike—especially on Sundays.
It’s hard to imagine that the hotel was built in 1994 because its smart design still looks ultra-fresh and contemporary. The high-efficiency reception lobby, artistically adorned with colorful flowers changed weekly by the in-house florist, is scaled down in size and relaxed. There were never any waits upon checking in or checking out. The hallways and public areas are museum-like with more than 1000 paintings and sculptures by contemporary Spanish artists. Although the hotel has 483 rooms, it feels like a much smaller property with none of the hustle and bustle of a large urban hotel.
The hotel has five different room categories: Deluxe Rooms, The Suites, The Club, Executive Suites, and to-die-for Apartments with one, two and three-bedrooms located on the top ten floors of the hotel. All of the rooms are spacious, tastefully furnished, and offer every convenience (including minibars, Wi-Fi, twice-daily housekeeping, remote-controlled lights and window coverings, etc.) and breathtaking views. Every bathroom is done in marble with a separate stall shower.
Families can take advantage of the 75 connecting rooms; guests planning on longer stays will appreciate the space and comfort of the Apartments. We visited a two-level, one-bedroom apartment with a full kitchen, dining room, with furnishings by award-winning, Catalan interior designer Jaume Tresserra (who has showrooms in Barcelona, Paris and New York). A glass shower in the round that could fit at least six people connected the oversized bathroom, split in half for him and her. If you could afford it, you will probably want to move in.
Like other Ritz-Carlton properties, the hotel is defined by its personalized service. Helpful, but not overbearing, staff seem to pop out of the cracks any time you have a question and respond immediately to any request. When I inadvertently left a pair of slacks in the closet of my room on my last visit, they were overnighted and arrived home almost before I did.
Although there are scores of restaurants nearby, many with water views, the hotel offers a variety of attractive dining options. At Enoteca, which just received its second Michelin star, chef Paco Perez cooks Mediterranean specialties in a lovely room that also has tables on an outdoor patio. At Arola, diners can enjoy small plates prepared by Michelin-starred chef Sergi Arola who uses fresh ingredients from the Boqueria market.
For snacks or more casual dining, the beautifully renovated Bites is open all day and the Café Veranda offers breakfast daily and an exquisite Sunday brunch, which offers a taste of Catalonia. For 70 euros per person, guests can enjoy a buffet of beautifully presented local meats and cheeses, fresh seafood, and hot dishes, served inside or outside on the patio. The cocktail lounge, Frank’s Bar (named for Gehry, not Sinatra) overlooks his wonderful sculpture.
Guests staying at The Club level have keyed access to a special lounge located on the 33rd floor, which offers complimentary light refreshments and bar service throughout the day in a serene, Zen-like setting. It has its own private reception area and dedicated concierge staff.
The Six Senses Spa on the 43rd floor has dramatic views of the coastline. The hotel also has a modern gym (that offers 25-minute Spa Express treatments), and an outdoor swimming pool and whirlpool in a garden-like setting. For the compulsive shopper, don’t miss Pretty Ballerinas, located inside the hotel. Although the firm is U.S.-based, all the shoes are made in Menorca, one of the Balearic Islands, and each one in the line is named after a female celebrity.
Who should stay here
Luxury is never cheap but the Hotel Arts is a sweet indulgence. With the Port of Barcelona only minutes away, its location makes it ideal for cruisers. When arriving at or leaving the city, it’s only 20-minutes away from the airport (10-minutes by high-speed train) so it’s a perfect layover for embarking on a cruise or after disembarking when it is too late in the day to catch a plane home.
It is also a great option for families with children or teens. When the brood gets weary of visiting museums and walking The Ramblas (about a 30-minute walk from the hotel), they can take a few hours off and enjoy the pool and the beach in a resort-like setting. Whether you need a bottle warmed or snack for a child, the hotel staff is accommodating and kid-friendly.
Warning: Your visit at the Hotel Arts will likely feel far too short. You’ll hope to return to stay longer, to relax on a hammock by the pool or to while away hours at the beach after you have visited the city that is the heart of Modernism.
IF YOU GO
Hotel Arts Barcelona
Marina, 19-21, Barcelona, Spain