Wine and design: 2 of our very favourite things, and few places celebrate both so comprehensively as northern Spain. This makes experiencing both a cinch, especially with budget flights available from all over Europe and some great-value hotels waiting when you get there (plus some that are definitely worth the splurge!). Here’s a taster…
This super-cool design hotel is bang in the middle of a lovely Basque Country village, and surrounded by Rioja wine fields. From the outside, Hotel Viura looks like a quirky stack of toppling boxes; inside, light-filled interiors are pure elegance and charm. Enter reception and you’ll discover the whole building is actually cut into the side of a rock, with walls of glass spanning the horizon. Utterly unique.
Top tip: borrow bikes from the hotel to visit the local Rioja vineyards.
For something utterly surreal, head to the Bardenas Reales National Park, where this cool hotel sits on the edge of a dramatic desert. As you’re driving there, you’ll wonder if you’re in the right place – and then you’ll spot the hotel: a bunch of prefabricated cubes with huge glass windows. It’s so unexpected and bizarre, it’s almost filmic. But while the architecture looks stark, you’ll be deeply comfortable. Many rooms have vast outdoor bathtubs and the swanky restaurant serves delicious Navarre food and wine.
Top tip: rooms with desert views are definitely worth splashing out on – we spent hours lolling in the window seat, gazing at the harsh, almost lunar landscape.
Once a much-loved cinema, Astoria7 is now the coolest hotel in San Sebastian, paying homage to the spirit of film. You’ll find Alfred Hitchcock in reception and a different movie star or director in every bedroom, all of whom have attended the city’s famed film festival. There’s also a magnificent library dedicated to the silver screen. Sheer authenticity and originality stops it from feeling kitsch.
Top tip: the Suite is heaven for film buffs, with movie memorabilia, a projector and a large screen.
Designed by Frank Gehry, who gave Bilbao the Guggenheim, this iconic vineyard hotel is extraordinary in every way. Vast sheets of silver and claret titanium have been nailed together to envelop the 43 rooms, all of which feature Bang & Olufsen TVs, Gehry cloud lampshades, Nespresso machines and Artemide lamps. The Marques de Riscal winery is the oldest in the Rioja; you can sit and watch grapes ripen as you try the local nectar, or try grape-based treatments in the Caudalie spa.
Top tip: the wine is very well priced here, so consider coming by car and taking a few cases home. You can take the ferry from Portsmouth or Plymouth, to either Santander or Bilbao (24 hours).
This eco-chic guesthouse in stunning Asturias is an ode to contemporary design. Each piece of furniture was carefully chosen by owners Javier and Dave, and windows have breath-taking views of the Picos de Europa mountains.
Top tip: the Loft Deluxe Double has a seating area under the eaves (reached by a ladder), and a skylight view of the stars.
Just 300m from the famous Guggenheim Museum, Miro Hotel is a popular choice for design buffs and makes a great base for exploring the lovely city of Bilbao. Conceived by Antonio Miró, a Catalan fashion designer, the style is contemporary and minimalist, with smart black carpets, crisp white linens and divine black-marble bathrooms.
Top tip: the bar serves soft drinks free of charge, a great little touch. If you’re passing the hotel during the afternoon, you can drop in for refreshments (there’s usually a tray of patisserie, too).