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Wednesday, 13 March 2013 11:35

Spain and Portugal Luxury Hotels

Written by  Buzzy Gordon

Spain

Barcelona is now the fourth most popular city in Europe, trailing only London, Paris and Rome in number of annual visitors. There are plenty of hotels in the city, but only one - The Arts Hotel (www.hotelartsbarcelo
na.com)
, distinguished by its imposing Frank Gehry fish sculpture - has been named to the Conde Nast Traveler’s gold list for 2012. Located in the former seaside Olympic Village, this Ritz Carlton property has 483 guest rooms, suites and duplex apartments with panoramic views of either the city or the Mediterranean. Touches of elegance include beds with feather mattress pads and duvets, marble bathrooms and entertainment systems by Bang & Olufsen. 

The Arts Hotel is also home to five restaurants, most notably the Michelin-starred Enoteca, serving Mediterranean cuisine, and Arola, featuring regional Catalan specialties. The open-air Jacuzzi whirlpool is set amid terraced gardens, while two-person sun lounges surround the outdoor pool. The Six Senses Spa is yet another place to relax, with features such as color therapy treatments, and a sauna overlooking the sea from a height of 43 stories. 

Madrid is hot on Barcelona’s heels as the #2 tourist destination in the country; indeed, Spain is the only country in Europe with two cities on the continent’s “most visited” list. The iconic Hotel Ritz Madrid (www.ritzmadrid.com) actually played a role in cementing the Spanish capital’s place as a leading tourist destination: it was built in 1910 under the direct supervision of King Alfonso XIII, who gave legendary hotelier Cesar Ritz a mandate to create a world-class hotel that could meet the rigorous standards of visiting royalty and trend-setters. Accordingly, it was allocated a superb location, right opposite the Prado Museum, and leading architects were commissioned to design an elegant building in the tradition of a baroque palace. The result is one of the great classic hotels of Europe, situated in the heart of the “Golden Triangle of Art” (encompassing the Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza and Reina Sofia Museums) and walking distance to Retiro Park, the Botanical Gardens and the city’s financial district. In addition to being a Ritz Carlton partner hotel, the property is one of the Orient-Express collection and a member of the Leading Hotels of the World. The hotel’s 137 rooms and 30 suites - the latter come with private butlers - are decorated in belle Èpoque style, with antique furniture, embroidered bed linen and handwoven rugs. Of course, all the modern amenities are there as well: complimentary wireless internet access, LCD televisions and
CD/DVD players. 

The cuisine is on a par with the accommodations, whether the occasion is fine dining at the Goya Restaurant, high tea in the lobby bar, or tapas or brunch al fresco in the Terrace and Gardens. Full spa services are offered by the Bodyna Wellness Centre. 

The considerably smaller city of Bilbao - although still the country’s fifth largest, and the capital of the autonomous Basque region - has also broken into the tourism big leagues, since the 1997 opening of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Considered to be one of the architectural masterpieces of the 20th century, the Guggenheim in Bilbao was designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry and houses one of the world’s great collections of modern and contemporary art. Fittingly, the aptly named Hotel Miro (www.mirohotelbilbao.com) is one of Bilbao’s most popular hotels -- although it is named not for the famous artist but rather for the Barcelona fashion designer Antonio Miro, who oversaw the decoration of the interior. 

The luxury boutique hotel is ideally situated opposite the city’s greatest attraction, on Bilbao’s Golden Mile. Its 50 rooms come in a variety of sizes, including singles, doubles, junior suites and master suites. Not only is the buffet breakfast complimentary, there is even a courtesy bar serving guests free drinks. While most of the hotel is decorated in sleek, contemporary style and neutral tones, there is an old-fashioned library with plush leather chairs where one may check out reference books on the city, the region and the local museums. 

With hundreds of miles of sun-drenched beaches, Spain also boasts world-class resorts. La Manga Club (www.lamangaclub.com), in Murcia on the southeastern Costa Calida (“warm coast”), has won numerous European and international awards for excellence, especially in the categories of golf and family vacations. The resort boasts three championship 18-hole golf courses, 48 tennis courts and facilities for just about every land, water and air sport imaginable. La Manga’s Junior Club offers a wide range of indoor and outdoor activities all day for kids, from toddlers to teenagers; academies for sports instruction are also on premises.

A wide variety of accommodation options includes rooms, suites, townhouses and even villas. For those not wishing to take advantage of the kitchens to cook for themselves, there are no fewer than 20 restaurants on the grounds offering a global array of cuisines: Spanish, Mediterranean, Asian, Indian, seafood and more. The huge spa is open 365 days a year, affording repeated opportunities for pampering or relaxation. 

 

Just 20 miles from Portugal’s capital city of Lisbon, Cascais was once the beach destination of the royal family. Today, the Pousada de Cascais Cidadela Historic Hotel (www.lhw.com), set inside the walls of the city’s 16th century fortress - the king’s actual residence - evokes the majesty of the country’s imperial past. The Pousada de Cascais has the distinction of being a restored historic property that is affiliated with The Leading Hotels of the World. 

With 108 rooms and 18 suites, the Pousada Fortaleza de Cidadela (www.pousadas.pt) is the largest of the heritage properties in the Pousadas of Portugal chain. Most of the rooms are in the area of the former barracks; others offer choices of views over the sea and marina, or the internal plazas. Restaurants with both fine dining and informal dining options, bars, shops, art galleries, an indoor pool, wellness center and business center complete this unique complex. 

The Algarve region of Portugal is emerging as an Iberian vacation hotspot, as reflected by the 2012 World Travel Awards designation of the country’s southern province as both Europe’s Leading Golf Destination and Europe’s Leading Beach Destination. Moreover, the WTA recognized the Martinhal Beach Resort and Hotel (www.martinhal.com), near the historic port city of Sagres, as Europe’s Leading Villa Resort and Europe’s Finest Luxury Family Resort.

The resort’s selection of villas and houses is designed to accommodate families large and small, with all the comforts of home, including full kitchens and laundry rooms; couples might prefer the hotel’s guest rooms, each of which comes with ocean-view verandas. All units are equipped with satellite television, Bose iPod docking stations and complimentary WiFi.

Children are especially catered to at Martinhal: all of the property’s restaurants have kids’ corners, with special menus and activities for the younger set. Even the luxurious Finstera Spa offers mother and child
massage treatments. 

 
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