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Built for the 1992 Olympics and perpetually beached, El Peix — Frank Gehry’s glittering, golden fish — anchors one end of the city’s seemingly endless strip of sand.
It hovers over the Mediterranean like an idol for the sun worshippers who gather daily to soak up rays through the day, then enjoy the Catalonian party scene long after the sun has set.
Constructed at the same time, the nearby Hotel Arts Barcelona has long stood for luxury by the water. Managed by The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, the 483-room hotel recently has undergone numerous significant updates , completed March 2018, including new culinary outlets Lokal, a new breakfast buffet, and Bites, an all-day restaurant with casual fare. But, in my opinion, the best improvements are the ones that have furthered the carefree, fun-in-the-sun lifestyle that has long unfolded under the fish.
The biggest addition is a brand-new infinity pool and lounge set right behind El Peix and amid almost 11,000 square feet of landscaped outdoor space. This is where I spent most of my time during a recent two-night stay, sipping rose under an umbrella.
Set on an elevated terrace, the adults-only pool features cabanas as well as cushy, comfortable and modular outdoor furniture — perfect to pull together if you’re in a group. The vibe is relaxed, with plenty of young servers providing bar service During my stay, Moet & Chandon in a bucket of ice seemed to be the beverage of choice. Fantastic views stretched past my toes to a clash of colors, from the aquamarine pool, past the green palms and the golden El Peix, out to the deep blue of the sea.
Later, I gathered with a few friends at Parallel 41 (also known as P41 Bar & Coctelarium), a sunny space off the lobby that’s another major addition to the hotel. The server explained that the establishment’s cocktail list is curated by award-winning mixologist Diego Baud, who uses a specific geographical coordinate — the 41st parallel — as his muse. Drinks draw upon classic cocktails grounded in cities all along the 41st parallel, including Rome, New York, Istanbul and, of course, Barcelona, which is represented with a “Mediterranean mule” made from fresh lime, ginger and bitter peppers as well as homemade gin and ginger ale. Guests order from little cardboard menus which were inspired by old-school boarding cards, complete with airport codes. Even the glassware is playful: For example, the “smoking razz” — a gin-based cocktail based on Lapsang Souchong tea smoked through pine embers and representing Taoxian, China — is served up in whimsically giant pipe.
Once I was done with the pool and the drinks, I felt tempted to wander. Barcelona’s beach boardwalk, which rocks all through the night, was just steps away. Instead, however, I took two separate elevators up to 43 The Spa and enjoyed a massage in a treatment room with sweeping views on the 43rd floor.
Later, I learned that hotel also delivers on the culinary front. It’s home to Michelin-starred Arola Restaurant and the two-Michelin-starred Enoteca Paco Perez. On my last afternoon in Barcelona, I decided to dine at Arola, which serves up inspired tapas.
Seated on the restaurant’s sunny open-air patio, I chatted with Juan Manuel Leal, Arola’s chef de cuisine. He explained that he works with local fishermen and sources his catch daily, and very early, at the local fish market. In collaboration with Michelin-starred, celebrity chef Sergi Arola, Leal prepares dishes that reflect the area’s history, culture and natural environment.
I proceeded to eat patatas bravas (fried potatoes with hot sauce), which, according to Neal, is the most famous dish of the restaurant. I also tried tuna tartar, crisp and crunchy monkfish croquette and paella, which was topped with a big langoustine lobster. Finally, after a dessert of Catalan (the Spanish version of creme brulee), I struggled to my feet. Home called, but I had a feeling I wouldn’t be hungry for a very long time.
The DetailsHotel Arts Barcelonawww.hotelartsbarcelona.com