Tried & Tested

Hotel check: Hesperia Towers

25 Oct 2006 by business traveller

What's it like? The quirky, futuristic Hesperia Tower is the brainchild of a partnership including renowned British architect Richard Rogers (also responsible for the Pompidou Centre in Paris and London's Millennium Dome). Standing at 150 metres tall, it has become a landmark in the newly developing conference area of Barcelona as the Catalan capital gradually spreads westwards, absorbing the city of L'Hospitalet de Llobregat into its sprawl.

Inside,the hotel lobby is airy and minimalist and feels half hotel, half art installation, playing up its construction features with shiny painted nuts and bolts locking the glass conservatory to the main tower, giving a trendy, echoey warehouse feel. As well as this hotel, the Hesperia hotel group has properties throughout Spain as well as several elsewhere, including two in Brussels and one in London: the four-star Hesperia London Victoria.

Where is it? In L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, west of Barcelona's city centre. L'Hospitalet is the second-largest city in Catalonia but is starting to feel more like a suburb of Barcelona, the centre of which is only 20minutes away by subway. The hotel is in Bellvitge, next to the main highway that heads into Barcelona, and is an up-and-coming conference district. The new Fira de Barcelona convention centre is under construction close by, and much of the area of Bellvitge is set to be transformed into green space similar to the nearby Olympic park, making it a much more pleasant environment. The airport is less than 10minutes away by car, and the hotel operates a free shuttle service every 30 minutes from the airport, with a pick-up point to the left of the taxi rank outside Terminal A.

How many rooms? 280, including 42 suites. Rooms are split into deluxe, superior andclub, and suites into business, junior, executive, executive duplex and presidential (of which there is only one). The two highest suite categories have spa baths with external views. Club rooms are on floors 21-23.

Room facilities Rooms are modern and decorated in deep, muted colours with retro-seventies touches like deep purple sofas and lampshades, and honey-coloured velour headboards. All rooms have a minibar,electrically operated curtains, air conditioning and 24-hour room service. One big plus is that complimentary wifi access is available throughout the hotel – including the guestrooms. Guests who are not ina club room can pay €60 per day to have access to the club lounge, open7am until 11pm. It has a private check-in and checkout area, two boardrooms for meetings and free snacks and drinks available all day. Guests are entitled to four hours a day in the boardroom and there is a plasma TV with a DVD player that guests can use to make presentations,plus a long boardroom table which has two built-in laptops in case guests have not brought their own. From 7am to 11am breakfast is available, with pastries, fruit, cereals, meat and cheese, plus freshly squeezed juice and hot drinks. Later this service is replaced with tapas.

Restaurants and bars The Evo restaurant is the hotel's crowning glory – literally, as it's perched like a small spaceship at the very top of the tower. Its decor is stylish and understated and the views of the surrounding area are great. Head chef Santi Santamaria is well known in Spain and has two other restaurants (El Racó de Can Fabes in Barcelona and Santceloni in Madrid) and has a formidable reputation and a collection of five Michelin stars. On my visit the restaurant, which serves Catalan cuisine, was booked up almost two months in advance, although this was shortly after the hotel's opening in June. Another restaurant worth visiting is Bouquet, which is connected to a trendy bar suspended on a platform above the lobby. Bouquet offers a treat for wine lovers, with many of the dishes cooked in wine, and the sommelier recommending the perfect wine to drink with each choice.

Business and meeting facilities These are the hotel's strongest asset. As well as being situated a couple of minutes' drive from the Fira centre, the Hesperia Tower has an impressive array of its own meeting spaces on the ground floor,mezzanine floor and lower level. An auditorium holds up to 500 people and has six simultaneous translation booths and full audio-visual equipment. The largest function room, the Great Hall, holds up to 1,600people and has access to an outdoor terrace, while 21 other meeting rooms can take meetings of between 20 and 2,000 and all have modern high-tech equipment and free wifi access.

Leisure facilities Guests on the club floors and suites can use the reasonably well-equipped Metropolitan Health and Spa for free. You have to ask reception staff to give you a card which you present to the reception of the club (other guests can use the facilities for €12 per day).

Verdict Hesperia Tower is in a good position for conference visitors, with close proximity to both the airport and extensive conference options –and central Barcelona only 20 minutes away. The spare, concrete design is more cutting edge than cosy, but the facilities are excellent.

Prices Best flexible internet rate for early November was €166 for deluxe and €225 for a Tower club room.

Contact Hesperia Tower Hotel and Convention Centre, Gran Via Bellvitge, 08907 L'Hospitalet de llobregat, Barcelona, tel +34 93 413 50 00, hesperia-tower.com.

Sarah Catchpole

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