This is where you go to live really, really well
Editor’s note: See other Escape Plan stories here.
I dislike idle chat about the weather as much as the next person, but an exception has to be made here. Spring in southern Europe is a gorgeous time. With daytime temperatures hovering between the low and mid-20s, it feels like high summer in the sun, yet the air carries a chill that provides relief in the shade or with a passing breeze. This season in this region may be the only time and place on Earth where the meteorological forces have bestowed the best of both worlds.
No doubt, the weather had a big part to play in making my early-June trip to Barcelona as pleasant as it was, but at a property like Hotel Arts Barcelona, good weather could almost be the superfluous cherry on the cake.
Located in the Port Olímpic neighbourhood and towering 44 storeys above the city, the hotel’s glass facade reflects the deep blue of the Mediterranean Sea on one side and the neat grid plan of downtown Barcelona on the other. Home to the two-Michelin-starred Enoteca Paco Pèrez, a bar helmed by award-winning mixologist Diego Baud, a rooftop spa, and two pools, the property describes itself as an urban resort.
Indeed, one could just as easily turn up for the sun, sand, and sea, as one could city exploration. Most guests probably enjoy a little bit of both. Like the spring weather, Hotel Arts Barcelona provides the best of both worlds, but if the best could be bettered, then it’s certainly not when it’s bestowed by a temperamental force, but orchestrated by thoughtful, manmade design.
The hotel’s 455 well-appointed rooms leave nothing to be desired, but for a truly exceptional experience, the penthouses are where it’s at. These luxurious two-storey apartments are cocooned in their own private sanctuary on the 34th to 41st floors, accessible only by a single discreet button in the lifts, and attended to by a private reception, concierge, and butler service.
The pièces de résistance of these top-range rooms are The Royal Penthouse and The Presidential Penthouse. Both offer a terrace, a private gym, and two bedrooms, all fully kitted out in furniture by renowned Spanish designer Jaime Tresserra in 400 square metres of space. The main bathroom is a sublime, all-white, marble-clad sanctum.
It was impossible to get away from the view, which followed me everywhere through the expansive windows—not that I minded. Like two giants locked in an eternal stare down for lordship over the city, the hotel stands in a direct line and several blocks down on the same grid as the Sagrada Familia. There’s poetry in the contrast; an old icon versus a new, sandstone versus steel, and Antoni Gaudi’s art nouveau vision against Bruce Graham’s modernist sensibility. Everything else, from the endless ocean views to the east, to the cityscape in the northwest, felt like a mere backdrop for Gaudi’s masterpiece, albeit a very beautiful one.
Naturally, one would feel disinclined to leave the penthouse, but the spa is worth venturing out for. 43 The Spa is, as its name indicates, located on the 43rd floor. From its lofty height at the top of the building 150 metres above sea level, it offers more of the same amazing views, with the best vantage point being from the relaxation zone to which guests are ushered after their spa sessions for cups of tea or juices. The comprehensive menu of treatments uses products by Spanish professional skincare brand, Natura Bissé.
I decided that the Personalised Facial was exactly what my tired skin needed after a flight, putting good faith in the therapist to create a customised treatment based on my skin’s needs. She was a maestro; I walked out an hour later, looking like I’ve had eight hours of sound sleep the night before rather than five.
The earlier part of my second day was spent exploring the city—the Sagrada Familia demands admiration—before the feet put up a protest against the step count and took me back to the hotel. The Marina Coastal Club beckoned.
Recently reopened in time for the summer season, the Marina Coastal Club is a 1,500-square-metre al fresco space made up of two pools, and two food and beverage venues. The Marina Pool is a family-friendly spot set in the shadow of El Peix, Frank Gehry’s stunning 52-metre fish sculpture. Nearby, the Marina Infinity Pool is the adults-only area with a more sophisticated private beach club atmosphere.
Providing poolside dining is the Marina Restaurant, which serves up sharing platters and Mediterranean comfort food during the day, and grilled fish, tapas, and rice dishes at night. Post-meal, the Marina Sunset Lounge Bar offers drinks, light bites, and live entertainment.
Admittedly, I did not partake in much of what the poolside restaurant and bar had to offer, because I had bigger gastronomic ambitions that night: a reservation at the two-Michelin-starred Enoteca Paco Pérez.
Enoteca is chef Paco Pérez’s love letter to Mediterranean cuisine, but it isn’t heavy-handed about demanding the same devotion from its diners. Tucked away discreetly behind the hotel’s reception, the unassuming space, clad in white and accented by mid-toned woods, is light, airy, and casual. The tapas that kicked off the tasting menu (which changes seasonally) were eaten with hands, sans cutlery; several courses were served not with the requisite knife and fork, but simply with a spoon. The message is clear: let loose, have fun, and by the end of the meal, you are likely to come to understand Pérez’s passion.
Understanding did dawn on me, and quickly, with the Lobster “Salpicón”, Rocoto, one of three tapas that opened the tasting menu. Blue lobster was served with tomato gelatin and mango in a crispy pastry shell, topped with a Peruvian red pepper sauce for a little kick of spice, and strawberry and basil for freshness. It was sweet, savoury, tangy, crispy, and smooth all at once—a whole lot of textures and flavours for a bite-sized morsel.
Another standout was the Lobster, Corals, Tomatoes Salad, Enoteca’s interpretation of a Mediterranean salad. The lobster pieces, cooked sous vide at 70 degrees Celsius for seven minutes, were perfectly tender, but it was the tomatoes that stole the show. Cured in anchovy salt, they burst in the mouth like oversized caviar to release a refreshing, savoury-sweet juice. I have half a mind to plead Enoteca to bottle and sell them, would gladly eat a large bowl of them like popcorn, and request for them as my last meal should I ever commit a crime and get sentenced to death.
But let’s not end this article on death, because Hotel Arts Barcelona is definitely a place to enjoy the luxuries life has to offer. I went home with my mind enriched by the city’s culture, my body well-rested, my palate broadened, and my skin slightly sun-kissed. If this is what just 48 hours can do, I’d have to come back for more.