In a striking marriage between old and new, the Hospes Palacio de los Patos yokes a 19th-century palace to an uncompromising modern design scheme. Relying heavily on minimalist materials such as stone, glass and metal, the palace’s alabaster-white interiors are sleek spaces filled with light. The boutique hotel’s twin buildings are well positioned for exploring the ancient Moorish-Spanish city of Granada, and you’ll be glad of the rejuvenating welcome at the Palacio’s Bodyna spa after hot-heeling it around the city’s winding streets all day.
Get this when you book through us:
Bottle of wine on arrival and free dessert with every dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. Superior rooms in the Palace will also receive a one-way transfer to watch the sunset at Mirador de San Nicolás
Noon. Later check-out can be arranged, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £124.70 (€136), including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates exclude breakfast (€18).
Those with an ear for Spanish and a heart for literature will love the Palacio’s regular cycle of poetry nights, when the hotel is visited by contemporary wordsmiths from Spain and Latin America to perform their work.
At the hotel
Spa with Turkish bath and sauna, DVD library, free WIFi throughout, valet parking. In rooms: flatscreen TV, CD/DVD player, minibar, Korres toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
The rooms in the older part of the hotel have more soul to them, and include eye-pleasing original features such as plasterwork ceilings, Doric columns, and ornate friezes. In particular, we loved Junior Suite 40 for its silver-grey domed ceiling and marble-clad bath tub. Number 20 has lovely garden views through its three arched windows, and 43’s black crocodile-print headboard is especially memorable.
The spa has a small pool lined with grey marble tiles and a handful of cushioned white loungers – you can pull across the curtains if you want some poolside privacy.
The Bodyna Spa has a sauna, steam room, Roman baths and three treatment rooms. Pick from wraps, facials, massages and other sumptuous options, all using Cinq Monds products.
A big floppy sunhat to stave of that relentless Andalucían sun while you’re walking around the town (Flamenco skirts and flowers in the hair optional).
Sit outside at one of the few tables in the narrow strip of patio between the glassy restaurant walls and the decorative, fountain-fitted pool.
Euro-chic – smart shirts and trousers for the men and splashes of Gucci for the girls.
Los Patos restaurant serves delicate international dishes with a nod to Granada’s Andalucían culinary tradition. It’s the kind of cuisine that you’d expect to be made with the aid of a geometry set and displayed in a cabinet.
A wide array of cocktails is available from Los Patos during opening hours.
Lunch is on offer between 1pm and 3pm; dinner from 8.30pm until 11pm.
Light bites and drinks are available 24 hours a day.
Fly to Granada Airport (officially known as Federico García Lorca Airport), which is 20 minutes’ drive from the hotel (along the A92). A taxi to the hotel will cost around €30. Buses run from the airport to the centre of Granada for €3 (bus departures coincide with flight arrivals).
The nearest train station is Granada in Avenida de Andaluces, 2km from the hotel; catch bus 333 to get to the city centre, or take a taxi to Plaza Nueva for about €5. If you’re thinking of making a day trip, you can get to Seville by train in four hours, and it takes about five and a half hours to get to Madrid.
The best way to explore the city centre is on foot, and the Palacio de los Patos is well placed to do this. There’s an extensive network of bus routes (use the Alhambra bus for main attractions), but a car will be useful if you plan to visit other parts of Andalucía. Valet parking at the hotel costs €25 a day (plus tax). Use the main east–west A92 motorway for connections with Barcelona, Málaga and Seville.
Worth getting out of bed for
A decadently domed roof and lavishly dressed nave make 15th-century Granada Cathedral (+34 958 222959) well worth a visit; it's a 10-minute walk from the hotel, but be sure to stop on the way to listen to buskers and performers on Oficios outside the Capilla Real. One of the finest examples of mediaeval Moorish architecture in southern Spain, Alhambra fort – a 20-minute walk or 10-minute taxi ride from the hotel – is a great place to lose a day. The richly decorated throne rooms with intricate plasterwork, courtyards filled with fountains, and pools and secluded gardens and towers overlooking the city form an architectural masterpiece that have lost none of their power to charm after 700 years. Even if you’re unable to secure tickets for the Nasrid palaces (visitor slots get booked up weeks in advance), it’s still worth a visit to explore the magnificent grounds and the summer palace.
Towards the end of the day head to the the Mirador de San Nicolas, a small square in Albayzín, where you can watch the walls of Alhambra grow pink as the sun sets and enjoy magical panoramas of the city and the Sierra Nevada. Musical accompaniment is provided by gypsy guitarists singing traditional songs, and there’s always a convivial fiesta atmosphere.
If you want to explore the area further, hire a car and head west to the pretty little white village of Loja, about a 45-minute drive from Granada, and visit Alcazaba (+34 952 217646), a Moorish fortress from the 9th century, and the 16th-century San Gabriel church. A few kilometres outside town on the Rio Genil you’ll find Los Infiernos, a series of impressive waterfalls, set within a protected area of outstanding natural beauty. For lunch, head to the award-winning, creative La Finca restaurant at the Barceló La Bobadilla. (+34 958 321861).
With just 14 covers, reservations are essential at Viva Maria (+34 627 755856) on Calle San Jeronimo – a 10-minute walk from the hotel. This petite establishment serves lovingly cooked Italian pasta and meat dishes and cakes that have made it a firm favourite. La Fábula, a six-minute walk from the hotel, serves typically Spanish dishes with an imaginative twist: pigeon with cassava and tapioca, red mullet with sherry and a chocolate and chestnut volcano with honey and vanilla.
A 10-minute walk from the hotel, Bodegas Espadafor (+34 958 202138) has barrels full of heady sherries behind the bar and a tapas menu with tempting pork dishes and tostadas with roquefort, and carne asada for the hungry.
The story goes that Boabdil, last of the Moorish kings of Granada, wept when he lost his city and infamously beautiful palace to the conquering Castilian armies. Five hundred years later and our invasion is a quieter affair; we slip into the city at night, arriving at our palace, the Hospes Palacio de los Patos, as darkness cloaks the city from view. Our bellboy ushers us into our junior suite. I glance around the vast period beauty of a room, at its original plasterwork Doric columns and corniced ceiling, wide bay window with sheer silver voile drapes and huge expanse of pale-grey marble floor. An enormous bed dominates the space, flanked by mirrored bedside tables and modern silver lamps; it’s gloriously romantic and a wonderful place to begin our foray into the wonders of Granada.
It’s late and we’ve booked a table at the hotel’s Los Patos restaurant, so we execute a quick change and head down the grand marble staircase, through a maze of elegant salons with white-leather furniture and industrial steel lighting, and out to the garden. Suddenly we’re faced by the new wing, an uncompromising and impressive building whose façade, made up of squares of grey marble, reminds me of the mashrabiya or pierced harem screens of an Arabic palace. We cross the terrace, intersected by long low pools with playing fountains, and find the restaurant, a symphony of minimalism with bright lighting, stark white tablecloths, exotic floating flowers and a low soundtrack of modern jazz. A few other couples glance over appraisingly as we enter and I’m glad we’ve dressed up for the occasion.
We shake off the travel fatigue with a cool glass of house rosé for me and a frothy tumbler of Alhambra beer for Mr Smith. An amuse-bouche of tiny bread morsels on skewers, wafer-thin cheese crisps and ham mousse arrives, and Mr Smith – a lover of simple food in large quantities – voices his concern about the portion sizes. Luckily his starter of scallops with caviar, followed by a main course of crispy golden pork served on a bed of puréed potatoes do enough to satiate his hunger. I opt for seared tuna and then melt-in-the-mouth duck and oriental rice. We share a despicably rich chocolate tart for dessert before heading out for a moonlit stroll through a nearby square. A small crowd of students are sitting under an orange tree, singing and playing guitar in front of a pretty church. Granada, it seems, has already begun to weave its magic on us.
In the morning we have a late breakfast on the terrace – more tiny morsels of Spanish omelette and the smallest rolls I’ve ever seen. Mr Smith eats about eight. In the light of day, we discover the hotel is tucked on the corner of a central shopping street, a pale lemon-yellow 19th-century mansion in sharp contrast to the modern buildings that surround it. Palacio de los Patos literally means ‘the palace of the ducks’ but there don’t appear to be any mallards in sight, unless you count the quirky swan sculptures in the fountain by the entrance.
Arming ourselves with a map of the city from reception, we spend the morning wandering the streets and squares around the cathedral, overshadowed by the towers and ramparts of Boabdil’s Alhambra palace. Walking back toward the centre, we pass through the Albayzín, the ancient Moorish quarter that still feels more North Africa than Southern Europe, and stop for tapas of fresh bread, broad beans, and ham and cheese close to the tiny Plaza Larga. Later, dusty and dishevelled, we while away two twilight hours in a candlelit hammam just underneath the Alhambra hill, wallowing in steaming water and being pummelled by a masseur.
Intent on finding some low-key and typically Granadan fare for dinner, we head to a small rustic bodega on Calle Elvira, were we fill up on tabla ibérica, lots of small tasting dishes of local cheese, ham, shrimps and venison, and a plate of hot, hearty stew. We’ve eaten our way though tapas, Moroccan-style pastries and enough jamón to feed a small army today and dessert is definitely off the menu. We finish up with a nightcap in a little bar a few doors down, and then amble back arm in arm through the orange-scented city to our gloriously romantic modern-baroque palace of the ducks.
Our last day in the city and I have begged and borrowed to get Alhambra tickets. It’s no easy task with timed entry and queues that snake around the block from the early hours of the morning at the ticket office. My advice? Book weeks in advance or, even better, the hotel will arrange it for you. Thankfully we wangle our way in and it’s more beautiful than I could have imagined: a dream of a palace, perched high above the city, the peaceful courtyards filled with fountains and pools. Incredible decorative plasterwork arcs up to the carved wooden ceilings: thousands of prayers to Allah are repeated in mesmerising calligraphy interwoven though flower motifs.
We walk into the rose gardens and peer through the wooden screens and heat haze to the terracotta-roofed city below. Suddenly Boabdil’s grief makes sense; if this were yours you’d never want to leave. We stay until the very last moment and then make our run for the airport. The hotel has arranged everything, so we breeze in, pick up our luggage and are ushered into a waiting taxi with zero effort. This gorgeous hotel, such a style-clash of old and new, with touches of Arabian palace, 19th-century grandeur and stark modernity, is a huge reflection of the city itself. Our stay here has been magical and, as we bid the staff goodbye, I offer up a silent insh’Allah that, unlike unfortunate Boabdil, we will come back soon.