Travel guide: Spain for the culture vulture
Stay: The Hotel Hesperia ( hesperia.es) in Madrid reflects the imperial grandeur for which Spain’s capital city is known. Designed by famed interior designer Pascua Ortega, Hesperia features a Michelin-star restaurant and rooftop fitness centre with panoramic views of the city. Since the hotel is within walking distance to all of the city’s best galleries and gardens, don’t forget to stop at the Prado for a look at the Goya exhibit.
Eat: Sure, you could do the traditional Hemingway tour of Madrid and visit the author’s favourite dives—or, you could turn to foodie Anthony Bourdain for suggestions. Through an episode of No Reservations, we found Le Cabrera ( lecabrera.com), an under-ground (literally!) restaurant that’s a favourite hangout for chefs and sommeliers. Try the patatas bravas. To die for.
Do: No visit to Madrid is complete without the pilgrimage to Ernest Hemingway’s favourite bars. Sure, they’re mostly dives—and if you try and hit all the drinking holes on the circuit, you may end up in the hospital—but hey, by the end of your trip you’ll have a story that even Hemingway would approve of. Cheers!
Spa: Check your cell phone at the door—the two floor Chi Spa on Conde de Aranda ( thechispa.com) is a tech free zone. Try the Intraceutical oxygen facial, which targets fine lines and invigorates skin. (Apparently, Madonna is a fan.)
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The Prado museum in Madrid
Travel guide: Spain for the history buff
Stay: Hotel Neri ( hotelneri.com) is a medieval palace that has been transformed into a minimalist boutique property in Barcelona’s gothic quarter. Start with a kiwi mojito in the library, and then take a stroll in the square behind the hotel. It’s riddled with shrapnel holes from a bomb exploded there by fascists in 1938; the holes have been left unrepaired in memory of those who were killed. It may sound macabre, but it’s a fascinating part of Barcelona’s history.
Eat: Cal Pep ( calpep.com) doesn’t have a menu, and you’ll likely have to wait in line for over an hour to get a table. But it’s worth the wait: The tapas- style restaurant, which places an emphasis on fresh seafood and traditional Spanish cuisine, is a must-do for any serious foodie. Try whatever they recommend—you’ll thank us later.
Do: Check out the Gaudi House museum in Barcelona’s Park Güell ( casamuseugaudi.org). The former residence of visionary artist Antoni Gaudi is an adult’s wonderland, which displays Gaudi’s signature Catalan Modernist style (translation: super ornate, colourful, and architectural) and is bound to dazzle even the most discerning critic.
Spa: The Bliss spa at the W Barcelona ( w-barcelona.com/en/bliss-spa) is aptly named—five minutes after you enter their seaside sanctuary, you’ll feel the stress drain from your body. Try the Elemis exotic lime and ginger treatment, where your skin is drizzled with Camellia oil and buffed with Elemis’ lime and ginger tinged salt scrub—leaving it soft, supple and ready to be displayed in a scandalous bikini.
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Beach bums rejoice -- Barcelona's the hot spot for lounging ocean-side on the next page ... The Arola restaurant at the Hotel Arts Barcelona
Travel guide: Spain for the beach bum
Stay: The Hotel Arts Barcelona ( hotelartsbarcelona.com) is one of the most impressive spots in Spain. This beach- front property boasts sculptures by Frank Gehry, an award-winning spa and a hotel within a hotel. That’s right: Elite guests are upgraded to the club, a posh area on the upper levels that includes complimentary food and drinks as well as free use of one of the club’s electric smart cars.
Eat: Wander down the beach to the w hotel’s salt ( w-barcelona.com), where you can enjoy oysters and cocktails on an ocean-side patio. Don’t worry if the temperature dips—the restaurant has a stash of fluffy blankets on hand for late-night chills.
Do: Soak up the rays on Barcelona’s famed Barcelonata beach, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, try your hand at windsurfing, kayaking and kite surfing. ( basenautica.org).
Spa: Check out the Seven Day Detox program at the Hotel Arts Barcelona’s Six Senses Spa. This custom made program includes the type of nutritious meals, personal training sessions and spa treatments usually favoured by celebs who need to slim down quickly (and painlessly) in time for awards season. When you leave, you’ll feel spiritually rested and physically revitalized—not to mention a couple pounds lighter!
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