Economic meltdown in Europe may not have halted the flow of visitors to Barcelona and beyond, but the hotel industry is finding ever more inventive and eye-catching ways to take a slice of the tourist pie.
Bedevilled by delays, purpose-built floating hotel Sunborn Barcelona (+34 93 364 4040, sunbornbarcelona.com) is expected to open at the beginning of 2013, as part of the new marina in the Fòrum area, to the north of the city. Described as a “yacht”, but with the proportions of a cruise liner, this sleek behemoth will have 180 luxurious rooms and suites and everything you’d expect in a five-star hotel: spa, swimming pool, gym, restaurants, cocktail bar and club. Set in the business district of the city, the Sunborn offers little by way of nearby sightseeing, but with countless decks and terraces looking over the Med, it is not without its compensations.
Treading a more traditional line, but with some distinctive touches, is the new Hotel Mercer (+34 93 310 7480, mercerbarcelona.com, rooms from €200), a deceptively grand space hidden down a narrow medieval side street near the town hall. The building incorporates elements from various periods, including a gothic gallery and part of the defensive wall of the Roman settlement of Barcino.
Spanish über-architect Rafael Moneo was drafted in to create luminous spaces within the constraints of such a building, and the bedrooms that don’t face the street have floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the interior hanging garden. Beams and other original features have been sympathetically preserved, and gothic arches and stone lintels are visible in the bare stone walls.
Outside the city, the romantic, adventurous and unique Cabanes als Arbres in Sant Hilari Sacalm, (+34 625 411 409, cabanesalsarbres.com, from €97) are a scattering of luxury treehouses in the wooded hills of Montseny national park, an hour north of Barcelona. At their core is Masia La Vileta, a traditional Catalan farmhouse, with five rooms (shared bathroom), a large rambling garden, a swimming pool and a bar. The treehouses themselves are simply but prettily decorated, and reached by rope bridges and ladders. Each is built around a tree trunk – in most cases a Douglas fir – and though they don’t have electricity or running water, a basic sink is provided, along with composting toilet, torches and candles. Breakfast (and dinner, by arrangement) is delivered via a basket hoisted up on a pulley.
Housed in a former monastery on a hilltop overlooking the Costa Brava, Sant Pere del Bosc (+34 972 36 1636, santperedelboschotel.com, from €300) is a new, luxurious retreat for those wanting to be far from the madding crowds at Blanes or Lloret de Mar with themed rooms ranging from the Elly Beinhorn (named for the German aviator, with leather fittings intended to evoke the seats of early aircraft), to the África (decked out in ivory hues, with colonial furniture) and the peppy, burlesque-inspired Pauline, named for a Moulin Rouge star. A salon and spa offer Ayurvedic massage and beauty treatments. In warmer weather, however, you’d be unlikely to stray far from the outdoor pool, ringed by daybeds and with a breathtaking view over countryside and out to the Med.
Not, strictly speaking, in Catalonia, but in the Catalan-speaking border area of Aragón known as the Franja de Ponent (western strip) is the Consolación in Monroyo (+34 978 85 6755. consolacion.com.es, from €135), an architectural delight. The main building is partly a converted 14th-century hermitage, and now contains an excellent restaurant. Bedrooms include the fiercely modernist Think Blue room, and the Baroque room. The real pleasure, though, is to be had from waking up in one of the Kubes – glass-fronted boxes tucked into the hillside. Stark but outrageously decadent, these have deep, sunken, slate bathtubs from which to gaze across the hills of the Matarranya region next to a roaring blaze from the suspended iron fireplace. You’ll need decent walking shoes and a stack of books, since there is a seductive lack of anything else to do. For miles.
Sally Davies is a travel writer based in Barcelona
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk