From the day it opened in 1919, the Hotel Ritz was by far Barcelona's smartest, and most expensive, choice; the kings of Spain and Italy, and the president of the French Republic, all stayed here during the early years.

The very name, the Ritz, conjures up up-market aspirations. From the day it opened in 1919, the Hotel Ritz was by far Barcelona's smartest, and most expensive, choice; the kings of Spain and Italy, and the president of the French Republic, all stayed here during the early years.

Not that it's been all plain sailing. A few days after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, the Ritz was taken over by the trade unions and turned into the "Gastronomic Hotel No.1". A picture of Lenin was hung in the hall and "collective dining rooms" were established. A few years later, guests included the likes of Heinrich Himmler and Marshal Pétain. However, after the Second World War, it was back to business as usual with a return of the princes, grand duchesses, kings, archdukes and princesses, who chose the Ritz for their balls and grand receptions. The least conventional visitor to date has been Salvador Dali, who ordered a horse to be brought up to his suite, either stuffed or dissected, according to which story you believe.

Location, location, location

The Hotel Ritz is at Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes 668 08010, Barcelona (00 34 93 318 5200, www.ritzbcn.com).

The Ritz is on the wide and leafy Gran Via, just off the Passeig de Gracia, about 10 minutes' walk from the central Plaza de Catalunya.

Time to international airport: It's a half-hour taxi ride and costs €25-€30 (£16-£19).

Are you lying comfortably?

Expense and exclusiveness are the hallmarks of this hotel, rather than attention to detail. The doors don't quite fit perfectly and some of the fittings look as though they haven't been changed in 80 years. Yet, this is all part of the charm. When you see the pink marble floors of the eccentrically shaped bathroom you won't care if the showerhead is slightly wonky.

Keeping in touch: the telephone cable can connect to your computer, but may not be able to transmit a message. The Ritz was not built for the internet.

The bottom line

Doubles start from €385.85 (£243.50). If you book in the UK through The Leading Hotels of the World (00 800 2888 8882, www.lhw.com) you might get a better rate.

I'm not paying that: the Ramblas Hotel, La Rambla 33 (00 34 93 301 57 00), has doubles from €154.08 (£97.25).

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