Seville’s Palacio de Villapanés, a Royal Residence Turned Hotel
by Geri Bain
The Hotel Palacio de Villapanés embodies the enchantment of Seville, a city where winding streets suddenly open onto captivating squares and grand edifices. After following a seemingly incomprehensible trail of narrow medieval streets, our cab stopped suddenly. If not for the doorman standing at the entry and a small plaque with the name of the hotel to the right of the doorway, it would be easy to mistake this for yet another of the lovely balconied private homes in this historic residential neighborhood.
Entering through archway, my husband and I found ourselves in an open courtyard with a lovely fountain encircled by greenery. Ushered into a small sitting room that served as the front desk, we were offered a choice of exotic fruit drinks and a wonderful orientation to the city, complete with a personalized list of sightseeing and dining suggestions that included a tip on avoiding the long lines at the Seville Cathedral (buy combined ticket for no added cost at the Church of El Salvador) and arranging the mandatory reservations for the Real Alcazar (which I’d forgotten to book in advance).
We almost turned down the offer for a short guided tour of the hotel; but that would have been a mistake. Like Seville, the hotel’s attractions are easy to miss if you don’t know where to look. Up one staircase was a rooftop garden with sweeping views of the city and a plunge pool; down another set of stairs was a small workout room and a tranquil spa that includes a sauna, steam bath, alternating hot and cold massaging shower and relaxation room—all free to hotel guests. We also learned to recognize the coat of arms of the Villapanés family, who built this Baroque palace in the 18th century and lived here until 2007 when it was converted to a 50-room hotel.
The renovation did a great job of preserving original architectural features such as coffered or beamed ceilings, wall moldings, Baroque stone carvings and tile floors while adding contemporary conveniences such as fast—and free–Wi-Fi, sleek bathrooms with rain showerheads and optional wall jets, flat-screen tv’s and complimentary stocked minibars. Minimalist decor allows the history to shine. Many rooms have terraces and the spacious suites are individually decorated to preserve their unique historic character.
The hotel has an intimate restaurant set in the former palace winery but our favorite spot was sitting in the Courtyard of the Orange Trees under a big white sunbrella, sipping vino tinto (red wine), munching on tapas and listening to live music. Depending on the evening, there might be a Flamenco or classical music performance. We also looked forward to breakfasts, an elegant feast with a choice of buffet and menu items.
One of our happiest discoveries was that despite its location in the quiet Santa Cruz neighborhood, the hotel was a ten to fifteen minute walk from the Real Alcazar, the Cathedral and Seville’s other main sites. And practically at our doorstep were great neighborhood tapas spots, including El Rinconcillo, among the oldest and most traditional in Spain. Best of all, with its historic paintings, hidden courtyards and lovely terraces, our hotel felt like an attraction in its own right with new discoveries to be made at every turn.
For more information, visit www.slh.com/hotels/palacio-de-villapanes