Stay The Night: Hotel El Palace, Barcelona

A facelift that took two years and cost millions has put this luxury landmark back on the map, says Simone Kane

The Barcelones still call it "The Ritz".

Well, it's hard to break a habit of more than 90 years – after all, this recently revamped and renamed hotel has been a luxury landmark in the Catalan capital ever since César Ritz opened it 1919. But the grande dame of Gran Via needed a little TLC and succumbed to a £27m facelift – and a two-year closure. A phased reopening began in 2009 and in January this year, the final stage of the extensive refurbishment was unveiled, leaving only the finishing touch – the Mayan Luxury Spa – which was completed and launched in June.

The grand public spaces – once graced by notable figures such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Sophia Loren, Pierre Cardin and Woody Allen – have been restored to their former glory. The superior guest lounge – the Hall – with its double-height ceilings and squishy velvet sofas, is an exercise in tasteful yet opulent style and features a combination of specially sourced antiques and bespoke furniture. And the fabric library of the renowned Florentine Rubelli manufacturing family was consulted to renew the luxurious silky drapes and upholstery throughout.

In the queen of the five ballrooms – the Gran Via Salon – the original crystal chandelier was taken down and cleaned by hand, piece by piece, while decorative wall-light sconces have been retained and the gold-leaf revitalised to highlight the heavenly trompe l'oeil clouded ceiling.

It might have necessitated a two-year loss of business, and a lot of effort to woo back the elite clientele, but it's easy to see where the £27m was spent. The result? The restoration of the hotel to its Belle Epoque splendour. Now that would have brought a smile to the face of the "king of hoteliers, and hotelier to kings".

The rooms

El Palace now offers 125 exquisitely redesigned bedrooms and 48 suites – including the Salvador Dali, where the surrealist often stayed with his wife and muse. Some of the rooms have restored mosaic-tiled, sunken baths. Styling is classic, featuring antique and reproduction furniture, but with contemporary twists, and each floor adheres loosely to a red, beige or green colour scheme.

If you can't stretch to a suite, the standard rooms – most with their original fireplaces – are a good size, with spacious bathrooms. The Spanish don't take rules lying down, so, typically, there's even a bedroom where guests can smoke.

The food and drink

Caelis, which celebrates French nouvelle and Catalan cuisine, is the star eating experience here. The menu features egg carpaccio (fried egg, grated potato, fried prawns and dried fruit) alongside local "peasant" soup with homebaked rosemary bread. Head chef Romain Fornell helped the nine-table restaurant to regain its Michelin star within weeks of reopening. An extensive Spanish and international wine list and unintrusive, attentive service sealed the award. Expect to pay around €80 per person excluding drinks.

Romain also oversees the more casual AE brasserie, while buffet breakfasts and Sunday brunch are served in the canopied courtyard, El Jardin. (Strangely, the service – and the coffee – here weren't so well executed.) Post-dinner, head down to the sultry Bar Rien de Rien, in the basement, which has become the evening haunt of live jazz and cocktail-lovers.

The extras

The Mayan Luxury Spa offers a choice of treatments inspired by ancient Mexican culture. In its traditional pre-Hispanic Temazcal Sweat Lodge – unique in Europe to this hotel – hot volcanic stones and medicinal herbs are combined to purify the body and ease the mind. Ask for the Mayan rebirth ritual and you can even include a ceremony led by a shaman. Guests can, however, ditch the spiritualism and choose from a selection of more day-to-day pampering sessions, as well as make use of the fitness room.

The access

There are two rooms suitable for guests with disabilities and a number of interconnecting ones for families. Dogs are treated well, too; there might be a 5kg weight limit, but they get their own bed and snacks.

The bill

Deluxe doubles start at €220 (£187). Simone Kane travelled to Barcelona with BA Cityflyer (020-7111 8454; britishairways.com), which has daily return flights from £217.

The address

Hotel El Palace Barcelona, Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 668, 08010 Barcelona (00 34 93 510 11 30; hotel palacebarcelona.com).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
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: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This airport parking organisation are looking...

    Recruitment Genius: PCV Bus Drivers

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Do you enjoy bus driving and are looking for ...

    Day In a Page

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea