Words by Jonathan Chambers
The Palacio de Villapanes is a converted 18th-century palace, successfully capturing the essence of old Spanish aristocracy while bringing it right up-to-date with modern design principles. Extravagant marble and dark wood plays host to exquisite minimalist furniture and a multitude of luxury amenities. This is a hotel that embraces and shares its unique local culture with a forward-thinking attitude.
Coaxing you in from the city’s narrow streets, a lofty central atrium sets the tone nicely; majestic arcades, cool, marble flagstones and a leafy water fountain centrepiece provide a calming space to recharge and chill out. There is a harmonic simplicity to the grand aesthetic, which has been complemented by the careful choice of modern furniture pieces. This is exemplary of the hotel’s ethos to combine history with contemporary design.
The palace dates to the late 1700s during the Spanish enlightenment, when the emerging Bourgeois class were marking a departure from the lavish ostentatiousness of Baroque aristocracy, instead, preferring a return to the purer, balanced forms of ancient Greek and Roman architecture, very well suited for a modern conversion such as this.
The property has only recently been acquired from the hands of the Spanish nobility and it retains many of its special original details: the grand family coat of arms still adorns the main staircase and the mastery of the parquet flooring in the bar is a marvel worth taking a moment to admire.
There are 50 rooms in total at a range of price points. The suites are where all the action happens having been considerately retro-fitted into the main hallways of the palace. The essence of period high-society is still conveyed through marble fireplaces and hand-carved doors, but these are contrasted with modern design principles: clean minimalist lines, muted wall panelling and soft lighting. This is a stately home that you would actively choose to live in, not just a museum piece. There are even iMacs!
Deluxe rooms are found in the newer wings surrounding the rear courtyard. These are more contemporary but with subtle design motifs in keeping with the style of the main palace. Bathrooms have large double vanities decked out with Molton Brown goodies, rainfall/steam showers and delightful freestanding tubs.
The famed Andalusian cuisine is proudly showcased in the restaurant (think tapas and rustic meat dishes), served in the old wine bodega and open-air in the orange tree courtyard. The fresh local produce is again on show at breakfast with the daily-changing menu. Attentive staff, many native to Seville themselves, will gladly offer their insights into the city so that you can make the most of your stay.
There are a good amount of amenities packed into the hotel’s modest footprint. A gym and spa, equipped with saunas, occupy the basement level: massages and a host of beauty treatments are available upon request. There is additionally a roof terrace bar with a sun deck, allowing guests to bronze (or bake) in the infamously ferocious sun – a plunge pool to cool off is welcome relief. It’s also a perfect spot to catch the sunset over the city’s ancient skyline.
Outside of the hotel, old Seville is a compact delight formed from the unique cultural influences throughout its storied history. Pretty little architectural motifs catch the eye on every corner. The Palacio is nestled in a good location, slightly away from the central tourist throng while close enough to take advantage of the city on foot. You are spoilt with one of Spain’s great wonders in the form of Seville’s Cathedral, a Gothic goliath built upon an even older mosque. The best view of the city can be found here at the top of the towering Giralda – the ancient minaret of the original Muslim site.
The local Alfalfa area has a good number of bars and eateries that feel a little more authentic than the bewildering number of tourist spots in the centre. For committed foodies, I recommend an excursion across the river where you’ll find many establishments frequented by the Sevillanos themselves. Day trips to the nearby Cordoba, Jerez and Cadiz are also doable. The best times to visit are in the cooler months of late spring / autumn as the summer temperatures are increasingly punishing.
In a nutshell
A stylish choice for a city break packed with culture. Expect an enriching stay at this period property that is an excellent reflection of the historic city it inhabits.
Deluxe rooms start from £200 per night, with the more exclusive suites at around £500 in low season.
Address: Calle Santiago, 31, 41003 Seville, Spain
Phone: +34 954 50 20 63