Gran Hotel La Florida

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 September, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 September, 2006, 12:00am

Where is it? Overlooking one of the world's great vistas. Including the gothic towers of Antonio Gaudi's Sagrada Familia - unfinished after more than a century - and the brilliant white Olympic beacon marking the site of the 1992 Olympic Games, the panorama from the hotel takes in the entire Catalan capital of Barcelona as it unfurls down El Monte Tibidabo to the edge of the Mediterranean Sea.

Who goes there? The hotel has long been a haven for global jet-setters. After a brief spell as an army hospital during the Spanish civil war in the 1930s, La Florida was soon back on form, playing host to the likes of Ernest Hemingway and James Stewart. These days you're more likely to catch a glimpse of FC Barcelona players taking cocktails on the patio or dining in the acclaimed Orangerie restaurant - but the idea is the same.

What about the ambience? A self-styled five-star resort recently ranked by Conde Nast as one of the world's top 100 new hotels, its cream-coloured hacienda design is classic Spanish architecture. Extensively redecorated by Dale and Patricia Keller, the rooms maintain the traditional Spanish simplicity of cool colours and hard surfaces. The design is also not without homage to the greats of Catalan art (Miro, Picasso, Dali, Gaudi), whose work inspired the custom-designed suites and surrealist sculptures.

What's on the menu? The hotel eschews typical Spanish cuisine in favour of full-on gourmet. A bowl-sized layer of creamy foie gras with a caramelised topping and the chef's speciality, clay-pot-cooked lamb in cumin sauce, are two outstanding dishes, and the wine selection ranks as one of the city's best. But for those seeking Barcelona's famous tapas or fresh seafood, it's a taxi ride downtown.

Anything else we should know? Though the rooms overlooking the city go for premium prices, the scenic, tiered patio and pool area is where most guests, and occasional day-trippers, hang out. The centrepiece is a grandiose, stainless-steel-lined, L-shaped 40-metre swimming pool. Swimmers can glide between indoor and outdoor sections, and one end is next to an ice shower for cooling off. Apparently the pool was a nightmare to build.

What's the bottom line? Room rates start at Euro220 (HK$2,190) a night.

Gran Hotel La Florida, Carretera de Vallvidrera al Tibidabo, 83-93, tel: 34 93 259 3000; see