When your clients have “done” Madrid and the Costa del Sol, suggest they head north to Bilbao, where the glittering Guggenheim Museum is only the beginning. This enticing city is the perfect base for exploring the beaches and Basque heritage of Spain’s north coast, as well as the famed Rioja wine district.
Advise clients to linger in Bilbao at the stylish Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao (www.hoteles-silken.com/gran-ho tel-domine-bilbao) opposite the Guggenheim, in a room eye-to-eye with the Puppy, a giant terrier sculpted entirely in live flowering plants, part of the museum’s outdoor art (www.guggenheim.org/bilbao). Guests eat breakfast on the hotel’s rooftop terrace, watching the morning sun shimmer off the museum’s golden titanium skin.
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.