Sunborn Barcelona, purpose-built floating hotel, is due to open next year
Economic meltdown in Europe may not have halted the flow of visitors to Barcelona and beyond, but the hotel industry is finding ever more inventive and eye-catching ways to take a slice of the tourist pie.
Bedevilled by delays, purpose-built floating hotel Sunborn Barcelona (+34 93 364 4040, sunbornbarcelona.com) is expected to open at the beginning of 2013, as part of the new marina in the Fòrum area, to the north of the city. Described as a "yacht", but with the proportions of a cruise liner, this sleek behemoth will have 180 luxurious rooms and suites and everything you'd expect in a five-star hotel: spa, swimming pool, gym, restaurants, cocktail bar and club. Set in the business district of the city, the Sunborn offers little by way of nearby sightseeing, but with countless decks and terraces looking over the Med, it is not without its compensations.
Treading a more traditional line, but with some distinctive touches, is the new Hotel Mercer (+34 93 310 7480, mercerbarcelona.com, rooms from €200), a deceptively grand space hidden down a narrow medieval side street near the town hall. The building incorporates elements from various periods, including a gothic gallery and part of the defensive wall of the Roman settlement of Barcino.
Spanish über-architect Rafael Moneo was drafted in to create luminous spaces within the constraints of such a building, and the bedrooms that don't face the street have floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the interior hanging garden. Beams and other original features have been sympathetically preserved, and gothic arches and stone lintels are visible in the bare stone walls.
Treehouse interior at Cabanes als Arbres
Outside the city, the romantic, adventurous and unique Cabanes als Arbres in Sant Hilari Sacalm, (+34 625 411 409, cabanesalsarbres.com, from €97) are a scattering of luxury treehouses in the wooded hills of Montseny national park, an hour north of Barcelona. At their core is Masia La Vileta, a traditional Catalan farmhouse, with five rooms (shared bathroom), a large rambling garden, a swimming pool and a bar. The treehouses themselves are simply but prettily decorated, and reached by rope bridges and ladders. Each is built around a tree trunk - in most cases a Douglas fir - and though they don't have electricity or running water, a basic sink is provided, along with composting toilet, torches and candles. Breakfast (and dinner, by arrangement) is delivered via a basket hoisted up on a pulley.