There’s no question that upon arriving at Hotel Palacio de Villapanes you feel a sense of awe and smugness in equal measure. Awe at the magnificent wrought-iron archway through which you get your first glimpse of the splendid interior within. Smugness in the knowledge that you are one of a privileged few who can step in from the cobbled street and have this be your home (for a few days at least).
The beginning of what was to be a trip abounding in surprises began in a novel and most unexpected way – a tour of the hotel and it’s history. The mansion, Mudéjar in style, dates back to the 18th century. Charming original features underpin the hotel’s authenticity. The modern perks you might expect of a classy hotel, the likes of iMacs or flat screens, live alongside their four hundred year old fountain and the grandiose family crest which emblazons the original staircase. The restoration of this majestic building is, without doubt, superb. The potential pitfalls have been masterfully sidestepped offering up a seamless blend of the modern and the antique. The facilities include the cellar breakfast room, gym and spa, roof terrace, restaurant and courtyard bar. It was here that we would catch our first scent of orange blossom, the most delightful surprise of all, and one that will forever remind me of this weekend and Seville.
The rooms are similarly sharply appointed, slick and clean. Our room enjoyed a vaulted beamed ceiling which was a bonus, along with a marble bathroom and new fangled shower. This leads me onto my slight gripe. It feels as though the designer was swept along by the possibilities of his design but consequently tossed ergonomics overboard. Mood lighting is all very well and good until the moment arrives when you do actually need to see and, despite clicking every combination of the 15 or more light switches dotted around the room, you still are stuck in “atmospheric” half-light. More to the point, when you need to stumble to the bathroom in the middle of the night and a switch in the bathroom, counter intuitively, operates one of the main room lights, your poor bedroom companion is in for a rude awakening. The clever key system is ingenious, until you’re stuck outside the room or tugging desperately at the wall trying to leave (there’s a knack but it takes practice). These are a handful of examples there are more but I won’t go on.
Instead, I will say that some aspects of the rooms are fabulous. Tasty bites and a bottle of cava as a welcome gesture is a nod to the generally very high standard of service and hospitality you’ll experience at Palacio de Villapanes. Complimentary soft drinks from the mini bar are always a welcome relief after a day pounding the cobbles on the culture trail in the sunshine and the turn-down service, fresh towels and little chocolate was similarly very much appreciated. The power shower is a definite plus – no limp dribble here, and the cosy customised dressing gowns were the icing on the cake.
Breakfast is my favourite indulgence in hotels. Brimming with confidence in our experience, we popped down to the cellar to treat ourselves. For the handsome price of 20 euros, I confess I expected a little more. The individual bits and bobs of the spread were nice enough but underwhelming in it’s entirety. The à la Carte options didn’t particularly augment the sense of generosity despite being included in the price; portions were small and the quality pretty average.
Geographically speaking, should you want to be immersed in the thick of it all, Palacio de Villapanes isn’t right for you. It’s about a 15 minute walk at least to the cathedral, further to the sights of the river and beyond. On the other hand, staying on the fringes of the old town does bring its own advantages. If you’d rather avoid the clamouring bells that resonate around the centre at all hours then it’s best to distance yourself a bit. This becomes particularly pertinent during Semana Santa, as was the case for our visit, I’ll go into more detail in another post. The Pasos, or parades, are a lengthy and noisy business and wind their way in and out of the centre for little over a week. When you’re stood at a distance the accompanying marching bands add gravitas and melody to proceedings but I can imagine that outside of your hotel window for any length of time they could border on bothersome…
On the whole, we really enjoyed our stay here. I think it’s fair to say that there were a few things we would address and we would think carefully before choosing it again, but I’m extremely glad we chose it on this occasion and I savoured every second soaking up the old world glamour.