Spain proves itself to be an unparalleled choice for a honeymoon, especially for those interested in layering their sun-filled days with equal parts of fascinating history and indefatigable culture. Our 12-day adventure started in Barcelona, and our home base was the five-star Hotel Arts
by the Ritz Carlton, easy to locate next to Frank Gehry's iconic "El Pez" one of the world's largest sculptures built as a focal point for the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. Hotel Arts is an outstanding choice to explore Barcelona's unique wealth of cultural and culinary attractions, especially if sun soaking at the beach and/or a trendy pool is a priority. The staff is uncommonly friendly, knowledgeable and accommodating -- from a welcome Champagne toast, to the excellent concierge recommendations for dining and nightlife, as well as a crack bell-hop staff.
The rooms are modern and plush with top-of-the-line fixtures including a Bang and Olufsen sound system, and ours included panoramic views of the man-made Barceloneta beach as well as the cultural old city. With its four top notch restaurants as well as newly opened Champagne bar, the Arts provides a bevy of on-site culinary and nightlife options catering to the well-heeled international jet set as well as discriminating locals. In fact, our stay was bookended by a Ferrari convention attracting the graceful performance autos from all over the continent. Overall, Hotel Arts is the choice for Catalan bound travelers who appreciate a seamless combination of effortless luxury, contemporary style, and five-star service.
Our next stop brought us to the heart of the Costa del Sol. Marbella and the nearby Puerto Banus are famed as exclusive destinations for wealthy tourists from Northern Europe in search of bikini-clad beaches, high-end boutiques, and nocturnal nightlife. Nestled in Marbella's famous Golf Valley a few miles above the sandy coast, we stayed at The Westin La Quinta Golf Resort & Spa
. Evoking the rich Andalusian style, our tastefully decorated room accented with blue and gold tiles opened onto a private balcony with views of the rolling golf course and post-card perfect Mediterranean Coastline.
The nearby beaches are highly developed, smallish and generally crowded with pale sun seekers. However, the adjacent Casca Antigua, or "Old Town" Marbella provides an excellent balance with its ancient narrow streets, quaint churches, and bustling Plaza de Naranjas.
For the active travelers, La Quinta Golf offers 27 championship holes to challenge and inspire, while the lush tropical gardens, crystal clear swimming pool and rejuvenating spa treatments beckon to those who wish to recharge and transform -- without leaving the resort grounds. The Westin La Quinta offers ample charm and luxury while providing a welcome respite from the yachts and nightlife of the coast.
From Marbella, we drove north through the historic and picturesque "White Hill Towns" on the way to the historic, cultural, and financial capital of southern Spain, Sevilla. We chose another Starwood property, Hotel Alfonso XIII
-- a landmark since 1928, the hotel symbolizes the city's Moorish influences and provides unsurpassed access and proximity to nearly all of the city's cultural gems including The Cathedral, Alcazar, and Guadalquivir River. The hotel itself could easily be mistaken for a tourist destination with its richly appointed interior paying homage to various Spanish eras past, and rooms varying between Isabelline Baroque, Castilian, and Moorish-style, all house authentic antiques and vibrant walls covered in a luxurious blend of silk and linen (the hotel is scheduled for a working renovation over the next two years, to provide a welcome but not essential update to the building infrastructure as well as in-room furnishings).