Seville’s most celebrated hotel, the Alfonso XIII Hotel is an architectural landmark in its own right, and — its blandly decorated bedroom aside — the property’s Alfonso XIII Suite must be the most enviable place to reside in the entire city.
It’s vast, filled with light, endowed with balconies (though no Giralda views), and suitably traditional – expect beautiful, intricately carved wooden furniture, lashings of marble, parquet flooring and blue azulejo tiles, rather than modern art or gimmickry.
A small entrance hall leads to a magnificent main living area, an imposing pronouncement of dark wood and white marble. Three lavish chandeliers adorn the high ceiling, while a pair of pillars prop it up and split the room in half.
On one side is an antique dining table for eight, overlooked by a fabulous wooden cabinet, immaculately handcrafted with mother-of-pearl inlay and colossal in size.
On the other is a sofa; two crimson velour armchairs providing a dash of colour; a coffee table and a television; and Moorish lanterns perched in an ornamental fireplace, all watched over by a six-foot portrait of the eponymous Spanish king who commissioned the hotel. So far, so palatial.
The bedroom is just as generously proportioned, with space for a chaise longue, desk and reading chair alongside the comfy four-poster. However, it is far less eye-catching than the lounge, with a dowdy canopy on the four-poster bed and drab curtains.
The bedroom lacks the wow-factor found elsewhere in the hotel
The bathroom comes ensconced in more marble, with twin sinks, tub and separate shower, and Acqua di Parma toiletries.
There’s a small kitchen with a microwave, Smeg fridge, Krups espresso machine, cocktail-making kit, and a selection of wines and spirits, a second WC, and heaps of wardrobe space — even the most fashion-conscious long-term guest couldn’t hope to use it all.
A second adjoining bedroom can be added for your kids, friends, disciples or groupies.
Built at the behest of Alfonso XIII to mark the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929 (and to house VIP attendees), the hotel has been Seville’s most opulent hotel ever since. Expect envious glances from the steady flow of tourists that stroll past the entrance on Puerta de Jerez.
San Fernando restaurant
A renovation in 2012 has kept the property looking fresh, but the original features, including the grand lobby with its splendid stucco arches, monumental staircase and wooden lifts, remain.
The best place to soak it all up is the courtyard restaurant, San Fernando, where breakfast, lunch and dinner are served while small birds flit around the balconies above. Retreat to the art deco American Bar for live piano and cocktails after dark.
A second restaurant, Ena, on a terrace above the hotel’s garden, is a little less formal. Poolside Taifas (open in summer) serves light meals and snacks.
There’s also a gym and sauna, while the hotel, with its partner Mimo Sevilla, offers excellent tapas tours and cookery lessons.
What to expect
As one would expect of such a historic hotel, there’s a preoccupation with heritage. In addition to the Moorish-inspired design, you’ll find paraphernalia on the walls such as bullfighting programmes and a list of hotel prices circa 1950 – when double rooms at the hotel, “sin bano”, started at 60 pesetas.
There’s also more on Alfonso XIII, including photos and biographies — I learned of his passion for football (he gave royal patronage to seven clubs, including Real Betis, based in Seville, and Real Madrid), support for tourism (he established Spain’s “parador” hotels) and, rather less impressive, his string of illegitimate children.
It all adds up to something that feels truly authentic to its destination. Combined with a trip to the Alcázar palace, and a tapas tour led by a local, it’s a perfect immersion in both the Seville of today — and of yesteryear.
The suite’s bathroom
Service is excellent – and not too overbearing. Lights, taps and switches are in the right places and easy to use.
Suite guests are offered free transfers to and from the airport or the train station.
The space. Those high ceilings keep the room cool and airy. The suite is not only palatial, but a refreshing place to retreat to after a day of summer sightseeing.
Not so keen
The view — of a taxi rank, rather than a city landmark — was a disappointment.
Our bathrobes and towels had lost their fluffiness, the shower lacked power, and the, ahem, loo roll was not very luxuriant.
The artwork might also have been more imaginative. While touring the property, I spotted the same painting of a silhouetted bull in several different suites, while our own room contained two identical photographs our old friend Alfonso.
Seville’s Alfonso XIII hotel
Hard to beat. The hotel is sandwiched between the Royal Alcázar and the river, just a five-minute stroll from the cathedral. It’s a 20-minute taxi ride to the airport.
The Alfonso XIII Suite costs from €2,200 (£1940) per night, including breakfast. Standard doubles at Hotel Alfonso XIII start from €275.