Best for the high life: Barcelona

I knew nothing about the Gran Hotel La Florida in Barcelona other than I once met a man who stayed there and said it had "seriously the best bedrooms – EVER". He repeated this whilst looking up at the sky. "Ever. Ever. Ever." And it has stayed with me ever since. So when we had four days free over the Christmas holidays I booked it. I know. Crazy.

It's worth saying straight upfront that the hotel is not in the centre of town. Not even a little bit. It's a very beautiful building and it sits rather proudly atop a hill and overlooks the whole city. I just feel I need to let you know the way that you get into town is by driving through lots of bendy roads, in other words, if you get to the Sagrada Familia and you've left your camera on your bed, it's staying there.

The lobby of the hotel is large yet cosy and the man who spoke of the bedrooms with wonder was bang on the money. The bedrooms are IMMENSE. And I should say that I'm using both current uses of that word – indeed, they are very large, but they are also "cool". The bathrooms are all low-level lighting and thick caramel marble. The bath is enormous and the shower is gargantuan and could hold a family of six. We had a terrace that could host a party of 20 and the views of Barcelona are properly breathtaking. Suddenly the mere fact that it takes 30 minutes to get into town seems highly unimportant.

We swam in the pool (just ever so slightly too cold) and the kids ate delicious tuna and patatas bravas (the six-year-old said that they're called that because they could fight a dragon. I didn't argue).

The brilliant things about the hotel massively outweigh what isn't entirely perfect about it. The breakfast is completely and utterly magnificent and you can eat hot, delicious pastries or waffles and the selection of cheeses is actually awesome (I never use this word but they had more than TEN hard cheeses and fresh rye bread). They'll also make any kind of eggs and bacon and egg combo you fancy. The food at dinner can tend to be a bit fancy (the chef likes making swirly patterns but order the straightforward dishes and you'll be safe from foam).

The bar is tiny and lovely with etched glass shelves holding heavy tumblers and the huge wall fountain just outside the spa is beautiful and very nice to look at while you sip local red wine and eat smoked almonds. The spa itself is very beautifully done and if you're looking for a city break that also boasts a freakishly good back rub then this might be the perfect hotel for you.

The downside is that the concierge isn't great. Some of the people working at the desk were incredibly kind but a few were a little stony. I just thought it would be unfair of me not to share this, so if you're reading this and you're going to the Gran Florida, just remember that the service is fine but not amazing. Here's a taster ...

"Hello. I'm so sorry to bother you. I'm desperate to find a pair of water wings for my three-year-old. Do you have any here?"

"No."

"Oh. I see. It's very stupid of me to leave them at home. Is there any way I could give someone some money and they could get some? Maybe by tomorrow or the day after?"

"No."

"Right. Of course. Would you mind letting me know where I could get a pair. Are they available in most department stores?"

"No."

You see what I'm getting at? All in all, it's a great place to stay. Just remember your water wings...

Rooms from £117 per night if booked in advance. See hotellaflorida.com

High-end hotels

# Owned and designed by Colombian fashionista Silvia Tcherassi, the new Tcherassi Hotel and Spa (tcherassihotels.com) is a converted colonial mansion with an Italian restaurant, vertical garden and a spa with traditional South American therapies. Rooms from $295 (£181) per night.

# Surrounded by 29 Alpine peaks over 13,000ft, the Kulmhotel Gornergrat (matterhorn-group.ch) has been a meeting point for high society since 1907. Take Europe's highest cogwheel railway to see some of Switzerland's most dizzying views. Ski, climb and stargaze (both celestial and celebrity). Doubles from €270 (£234).

# White, sleek and curvaceous, the towering Hotel Habita (hotelhabitamty.com) in Monterrey, Mexico has jaw-dropping 360-degree views of the city and Sierra Madre mountain backdrop from the beautiful roof terrace pool; sharp black-and-white interiors by Parisian designer Joseph Dirand abound. Doubles from $165 (£101) per night.

# The Vigilius Mountain Resort, 1,500m up in the South Tyrolean Alps, is only accessible by cable car or on foot. This eco-spa is fed by natural spring water, has a breathtaking mountain-ridge infinity pool and the hotel's grass-covered roof hints at the ecologically sound design at its heart. Doubles from €330 (£286).

# Borgo San Pietro is a 13th-century estate that has been elegantly transformed by its Danish owners into a luxurious Tuscan retreat nestling in the hills of the charming Valle Serena. Bespoke interiors, charming 13-acre gardens and innovative cuisine from the hotel's organic gardens. From £308 per night; borgosantopietro.com

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

    £12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Knaresborough ...

    Beverley James: Accounts Payable

    £23,000: Beverley James: Do you have a background in hospitality and are you l...

    Recruitment Genius: Cleaning Manager - York and Bradford

    £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The post holder is a key member of the V...

    Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Drivers

    £18000 - £28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Driv...

    Day In a Page

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003