For a long time Spain’s hotel industry has offered mid level properties weighted down in tradition, regulation and poor design with many properties offering only the minimum requirements for 5 star hotels. But over the last few years things have been changing for the better. Hotels are incorporating great design with in demand amenities while truly listening to what travelers want. This momentum has been building and there are no signs of it slowing down. The environment is competitive, pushing each property to make themselves stand out and attempt to exceed the publics expectations.
With that in mind here are three hotels that are on my must visit list. The first two, Serras and Sant Frances Singular opened this past year, having had a chance to work out the kinks and the third, Totem, will open this Summer in Madrid.
In a city that has banned the building of new hotels it is very refreshing to find just that, a new hotel overlooking the Port Vell Marina on the edge of the Gothic quarter. Because of the ban I find that the hotels in Barcelona are really having to reinvent themselves, finding new ways to make the old familiar spaces look new with an inviting atmosphere. Often times they must mix the old with the new and The Serras Hotel is no exception. The building the hotel now occupies dates back from 1846 whose facade was designed by Francesc Daniel Molina, the architect who built Barcelona’s famous Plaça Reial. To add, the building is famous for one of its previous tenants, Pablo Picasso. The artist had his first studio in the building in 1896, when he was only 15. With this in mind the designer Eva Martinez created the Picasso Suite, where the artist painted the view of Basilica de La Mercè, not far from the hotel.
She has incorporated a modern New York look with contemporary Catalan style. The hotel has 30 rooms and suites, a rooftop bar, a pool that overlooks the marina, and a restaurant run by Michelin-starred chef Marc Gascons. The hotel has taken note of a popular request from traveling families. Many hotels in Europe do not offer connecting rooms or family sized suites but that is now quickly changing. The Serras offers special designed family rooms that give parents privacy while ensuring children’s well being, connecting rooms and two-bedroom suites.
Some of the other luxurious amenities the hotel offers are: Hypnos mattresses, Hansgrohe showers, and Malin and Goetz amenities with candles in the suites.
What I love about this smart hotel is that it is near the beach but just on the edge of the gothic district making most of town walkable.
Sant Francesc Hotel Singular is the latest addition to the biggest balearic island, Mallorca. Right in the heart of Palma de Mallorca this one time palace belonged to the Alomar Femenia family. Now a Spanish historic landmark, this architectural treasure was built in the neoclassical style of the 19th century to showcase its owner’s wealth and importance.
The property has 42 rooms and suites, many with wood-beamed ceilings and covered verandas, as well as with original frescos and moldings. Its largest suite “La Torre” boasts over 1000 square feet situated on multiple levels featuring two bedrooms, a living room and private terrace with panoramic views of the Cathedral, old town and views to the sea and Tramontana Mountains. Contemporary art and photographs adorn the walls and many of the works were specifically commissioned for the hotel.
What makes this hotel special is the fact that it is in the old town of Palma de Mallorca and offers superior 5 star service. Sant Francesc is raising the bar on style and service in the city. Don’t get me wrong, there are some beautiful four star hotels and a few other solid five stars right now but this new addition is proof Palma is using its game on elegance, comfort and sophistication. I think any visit to Mallorca should include at least a few night in Palama before moving on to one the secluded resorts.
The hotel industry in Madrid is really starting to get it together. Barcelona has long overshadowed Madrid on contemporary design hotels but that is starting to change for the better. Madrid also suffers from a lack of new building space, so hotels must be designed within the confines of unchangeable facades. This can make the design process difficult. Add the fact that prime locations rarely come available to the mix we see that new hotel opening are far and few in between in Madrid. But just in the past two years we have seen several luxury hotels open that are focused on design, elegance and practicality for the guests. Hotels are no longer just destinations for the travelers but designed so the locals want to visit and enjoy the hotels’ bars, restaurants and roof top terraces.
Not yet completed, Totem will be the newest addition to the Marugal Distinctive Hotel Management portfolio of boutique hotels. It is based on a concept of simple luxury that made its sister hotels – Urso Hotel & Spa, also in Madrid, Torralbenc in Menorca and Cap Rocat in Mallorca – instant successes. I think what Marugal does best is guest service, in every hotel I have visited of theirs the staff goes above and beyond. They are friendly and never stuffy.
Set between the stylish Calles of Serrano, Goya and Velazquez in the fashionable Salamanca neighborhood Totem is expected to be the next hot spot in Madrid. The 67 guest rooms and suites will be large with big windows and wooden floors, bathrooms with black marble, and public spaces buzzing to the beat of Madrid.
Totem Hotel is due to open in June of 2016 in Madrid.
Ron Otto is Onwer of Best in Spain.