Spain is an alluring mix of uncharted mountains, sun drenched coastlines, vivacious cities and diverse cultures. Time-honoured Spanish traditions and echoes of a Moorish past resound into the present through impressive monuments, narrow alleyways and ancient sites. While tapas have become a popular eating option worldwide, no country on the planet can match its county of birth. Madrid, especially, offers a truly authentic tapas experience, where eating, drinking and socializing in a friendly, unpretentious atmosphere is a way of life. Discover the personal side of Spain by staying at a boutique hotel situated in converted palaces, historic mansions and revamped manor houses.
Art imitates life: Best boutique stays in Spain
Artistic expression in Madrid & Castilla-La Mancha
Boutique hotels in Madrid mirror the captivating individuality and rich culture of Spain’s capital. Art aficionados will feel right at home in the Golden Triangle in the heart of Madrid. Marvel at the vast collection of masterpieces by Goya and El Greco spanning from the 12th to the 19th centuries in Museo del Prado, artworks from the Renaissance all the way to pop art at Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza and 20th century works by Spanish artists including Dali, Picasso and Miro, in Museo Reina Sofia. Madrid is one of the trendiest European capitals and there are many great places to go shopping or bar hopping thanks to its maze of charming streets. You’ll find everything from high-end designer stores to unique boutique shops where you can pick up one-of-a-kind items in the Spanish capital’s chic barrios, particularly in Salamanca which is on par with Fifth Avenue in New York. At the end of a long shopping spree, beautiful plazas invite you to enjoy a quick bite to eat or a cup of coffee. If you fancy getting out of the city entirely and into the big outdoors, you can head to the mountains, La Pedriza, which will delight rock climbers and hikers alike. To the south east of Madrid, Castilla-La Mancha is the windswept fertile region where Cervantes set the fictional, 17th century journeys of Don Quixote. Reminders of the books are dotted everywhere, from castle ruins to solitary windmills, surrounded by olive plantations and vineyards and set against mountainous backdrops. This is the place to sample Manchego cheese, which has a protected geographical label of quality. Gourmets and art lovers will be delighted by a boutique hotel in Cuenca, far away from mass tourism. Famous for its casa colgadas or hanging houses built into the side of a gorge, Cuenca is a fascinating mix of convents, abstract art venues and interesting restaurants. Be sure to buy a bottle of Resoli, a coffee, anise and orange flavoured liquer, as a souvenir.
Art, Gastronomy & Culture in Barcelona
At a boutique hotel in Barcelona you’ll find buzzing energy, eclectic tapas, and an art gallery to suit every taste. At the Quadrat D’or (Golden Quarter), an open-air museum of sorts in the center of the city, you can admire the legacy of Gaudi and see stunning architecture boasting neo-gothic details. Enjoy the whimsical atmosphere of the Raval district, where art, photography, cinema and modern skateboarding collide. This is one of the most eclectic parts of town, home to the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art and the Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona. All the sightseeing is sure to work up an appetite. Wash down delicious seafood and paella with cava while you contemplate that the first book written in Spain about gastronomy dates back to 14th century and was written in Barcelona. The first home designed by Gaudi, Casa Vicens, is finally open to the public. Be sure to check out its Moorish arches, multicolored tiles and the documents he wrote detailing the construction and his vision. If you visit Barcelona in the summer, you might be lucky enough to catch a truly fascinating glimpse into Catalonian culture – a castell or human tower. Meaning castles in Catalonian, castells is a cultural phenomenon and deeply rooted Catalonian tradition originating in the 18th century in the small town of Valls. The Castellers de Barcelona, founded in 1969, brought the tradition to the city and demonstrate their skills at local festivities as well as other popular events.
Refined rural retreats in Mallorca
Forget the beaches, a boutique hotel in the hinterland is where you want to stay when you travel to Mallorca. You’ll fall in love with Mallorca’s quiet side while staying at a finca nestled amongst olive, almond or carob groves. This is where you will find true rest and relaxation, lounging poolside by day and gazing at the stars at night. Like everywhere else on the island, summer is one long party, and you must take part in one of the many village festivals for an appetizing slice of island life. Head north to find pockets of silence away from the tourist swarms where you can relish in trekking up to hilltop monasteries, cycling through picturesque villages, going for country walks and wine tastings. Known for its literary and musical residents, Deia will enchant you with gorgeous mountain views and its serene, laid-back atmosphere. Nestled in a valley at the foot of the Teix mountain, Deia also boasts views of the Mediterranean below. This is where post war writer, Robert Graves, found refuge and it’s also his final resting place. His home, Can Alluny, has been transformed into a fascinating museum definitely worth a visit. Mallorca’s most treasured mountain village forms part of a landscape that is awarded World Heritage Site status for the way nature, culture and traditions merge. It also boasts a Michelin-starred restaurant. The island of Mallorca might well be a cocktail of hot sun, warm sea and golden sands but the hinterland is where its heart beats strongest.