What’s so special?
The Hotel Claris, in Eixample in Barcelona, just a minute’s walk from Gaudi’s buildings, is perfect for those looking for a break from identikit hotels. Remodelled from an 18th-century palace, the hotel now features Egyptian and Roman artifacts belonging to the hotel chairman Jordi Clos, a keen art collector and Egyptologist who also runs a museum around the corner featuring one of Europe’s most important private collections of Egyptian art.
How they rate it
Sally Davies in The Daily Telegraph says its “unique” interiors are down to the “eclectic approach to design” that is found in both the public areas and in the individually designed rooms, which mix hardwoods, silks, and antique and modern objets d’art.
The junior suite has a living room, marble bathroom with hydromassage bath and shower, and a wonderfully comfortable bedroom, all featuring various artworks without feeling like a museum.
La Terraza del Claris serves modern Mediterranean food by the pool on the retro-styled rooftop. The East 47 Cocktail bar on the ground floor serves tapas.
From £85 per night (see www.designhotels.com).
Eric Vökel Gran Via Suites
What’s so special?
The Eric Vökel apartments make an excellent alternative to a hotel stay. Vökel has converted a number of buildings into Scandinavian-designed boutique apartments in Spain, New York and Amsterdam. The Gran Via Suites is in the heart of the city, close to popular areas such as Plaça de Catalunya, Las Ramblas and the Gothic quarter, with a metro station nearby.
How they rate it
Whether you’re alone, with friends or with family, the apartments are “ideal”, says Spanish Vogue, with everything you could need for a comfortable stay in a location that is ideal for exploring the city. The apartments are simply furnished with everything you could need and charming staff on hand to help. Wifi, local calls and international television channels are all freely available.
Breakfast is available on request and teas, coffees and sundry necessities are freely available in reception. There’s no restaurant, but there are plenty nearby. Don’t miss the wonderful bakery next door to the apartments.
Apartments start from €99 a night, depending on the season. The two-bedroom apartment during the recent half term cost €195 per night (see www.ericvokel.com).
The Caribbean’s best guest houses
If you’re looking for a more intimate Caribbean experience than that offered by the big beach resorts, try a guesthouse. The Admiral’s Inn (pictured) is in a quiet corner of Nelson’s Dockyard in Antigua. It “balances quirky charm with bygone-era majesty”, says Hannah Somerville in The Independent.
It has 14 “tasteful” rooms that were once home to British officers stationed at the dockyard, and a large infinity pool with “beautiful views”. Meals are served on a tree-shaded terrace overlooking the water. Doubles from $145, without breakfast.
Fond Doux is a 19th-century, French-colonial property that is “the jewel in the crown” of Soufrière on Saint Lucia’s west coast. It has a 250-year-old cocoa plantation and large gardens.
The 12 cottages each have wooden shutters and private verandas surrounded by gardens “rich with tropical foliage”, and activities include zip-lining, snorkelling or treatments at the organic spa. Doubles from $230, with breakfast.
Tent Bay in Barbados is home to the Atlantis Hotel, which offers “simple but chic accommodation off the beaten track”. It was built in 1884 and has just eight guest bedrooms “guaranteeing peace, quiet and dramatic cliff-top views”.
The less developed east coast of Barbados is “ideal for scenic walks and surfing” and the beach is just a ten-minute stroll from the hotel’s door. Doubles from $255, including breakfast.