Hospes Palacio del Bailio

Malaga & Cordoba, Spain Book from

Reviewed by Liz Simpson
A fabulous mix of 21st-century style and 16th-century architecture offering chic rooms, ancient frescoes, great food and Roman baths
When you book a holiday, you tend to choose your location, then find a hotel. But sometimes a hotel is a destination in its own right - like the Hospes Palacio del Bailio in Córdoba. Hidden amongst narrow back streets in this pretty Moorish city, the 16th-century building is a serious stunner. Set around a series of courtyards, it has white marble corridors, keyhole windows, faded frescoes and tall wood shutters. Silver and bronze chaises longues line the walls; fairy lights are woven into funky white balls.

The bedrooms tick all the boutique boxes and then some. Marble bathrooms with double sinks, fluffy robes, rain showers and Korres products; kingsize beds with velvet headboards and crisp white linen; trompe l'oeil murals and soaring arches - they’re gorgeous. But it’s the dining area that really blew us away, set in an indoor courtyard, with a glass roof... you’re wowed even before you look down to see floodlit Roman ruins peeking through the glass floor. As for the food, it's equally divine. And the fact you've got a UNESCO-listed Roman Moorish city on your doorstep is the icing on the cake.

Highs

  • There’s a glorious blend of old and new in the décor: cool lighting and stylish flower displays contrasted by arched architecture, keyhole doorways and the Roman ruins below
  • There are tranquil outdoor courtyards filled with orange and lemon trees, and a small swimming pool
  • The food is fabulously experimental (both dinner and breakfast were excellent), plus there's a tapas bar on-site
  • The Bodyna Spa has Roman baths where you can wallow in thermal waters, and guests booking through i-escape get a free 15-minute massage
  • It's within walking distance of the Mezquita, one of the world's most stunning examples of Moorish-Christian architecture

Lows

  • Although our room was very quiet, the street-facing rooms can be noisy
  • It's hard to find, even with a map. Consider parking on the outskirts of town and taking a taxi to the hotel, especially because...
  • ...charges for hotel parking are hefty; a bit of a shock when you check out
  • Córdoba can get very busy - and very hot - but the hotel's courtyards are a godsend
  • Space by the pool is limited - get there early if you want a lounger

Best time to go

Southern Spain is lovely at any time of year, though bear in mind that in the summer months it will be very hot (possibly over 40C!) and full of tourists. We went in February and it was sunny and mild. The shoulder months (March, April, May and September) are the best times to visit, especially because the orange blossom in spring is stunning.

Our top tips

Córdoba will easily keep you entertained for 2 full days, more if you want relaxation time at the hotel. If you have longer, consider combining 2 days in Córdoba with 2 days in Granada or Seville. Driving between the cities is easy, and there are regular train services too.

Great for...

City Style
Foodie
Honeymoon
Spa
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 53
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
  • Bicycles Available
Room: Grand Suite

Rooms

The 53 rooms are spread out over 2 floors, some overlooking one of the tranquil outdoor courtyards, some facing the street, and some with private patios. There are 5 categories of room but even the lowest on the ladder - the Dreamer's - is beautiful, so you don't need to splash out to experience top style. At around 22sqm they're a little small, but i-escape guests will be upgraded to a Deluxe if available.

All rooms have crushed velvet headboards and very comfy kingsize or twin beds clad in Egyptian cotton sheets. The marble bathrooms are equally lovely, with walk-in power showers and heaps of Korres toiletries (most have tubs, too). Fluffy bathrobes, piles of towels, slippers, a hairdryer and a turndown service that brings bath salts and orchids to float in the water make you feel seriously pampered, even if you don't visit the spa.

We stayed in a Junior Suite and loved the sense of tranquility and space. Our bed was enormous and there were leather armchairs for us to curl up on, plus a writing desk for old-fashioned correspondence. The full-length wooden shutters opened onto an orange tree-filled courtyard and an exposed stone wall revealed the history of the building. The only criticism would be that the hall lights stay on all night and shone in around the doorway, so bring an eye mask if this sort of thing bothers you. Another Junior Suite has wonderful trompe l'oeil murals and high corniced ceilings, while the 4 Suites come with 18th-century paintings, frescoes or ornate plasterwork.

If you're here for a special occasion, the loft-style Grand Suite is wonderful; spacious and light, with an open-plan layout and a free-standing bathtub.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cd player
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Slippers
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

The dining room of the hotel's restaurant, Senzone, is incredible. Tables fill a glass-roofed courtyard set in the centre of the building - a lovely space for a meal. The ceiling is very high, allowing great acoustics, and the walls have an ancient fresco painted on them. Best of all though, the glass floor gives a bird's eye view of Roman ruins below you, floodlit at night for full effect.

The menu is typically Spanish, with lots of meat and fish and a few unusual twists: shellfish gazpacho stew, bone marrow soup with prawns, suckling pig's head. A complimentary cocktail and an amuse-bouche of red-pepper foam with parmesan straws provided an unexpected (and very welcome) start. We followed this with goats' cheese salad, then the adventurous one of us tried stuffed bull's tail and patatas bravas, while I had a succulent red steak. Both were excellent, and really got the juices flowing. Talking of which, there's an extensive wine list, though we found the house red more than a match for our meats: full-bodied and very drinkable.

Breakfast the next morning was equally hearty: a buffet of salamis and chorizo, manchego and brie, mini pastries, freshly baked bread and a choice of cooked dishes (scrambled eggs, omelettes, churros). But what really set this apart from other hotels was its experimental flair. There was a choice of butters - normal, garlic, thyme; the marmalades were either rose or violet (both delicious); and the fruit bowl was filled with fresh kiwis and figs rather than the ubiquitous oranges and pretty-but-tasteless apples.

For lunches and light meals, there's a cool tapas bar on site, serving a mix of Spanish specialities: beef carpaccio with lime vinaigrette, salmorejo with ham and egg, fried anchovies, foie gras with roasted apple, and fried aubergine with honey. Drinks are available all day in the bar, the courtyards and by the pool.

If you'd prefer to eat out, there are plenty of great restaurants and tapas bars within easy strolling distance. Just around the corner is a hectic and friendly tapas restaurant with a big menu and a great atmosphere.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Wander the narrow streets of Córdoba - the largest city in Western Europe in the 10th century and now a UNESCO World Heritage site - admiring the tight-packed, white-and-yellow houses, and stopping for a drink at one of the pavement cafés

  • Visit La Mezquita, the world's only mosque-cathedral: Córdoba was the capital of the Moorish kingdom of Al-Andalus, and seat of its 'Grand Mosque'. When the city was reconquered by Christians in 1236, Ferdinand III found it so beautiful that he left it standing and built his cathedral in its midst... purists may tut-tut, but the forest of arches and columns, echoing the Patio de los Naranjos outside, is a site to behold

  • Check out La Judería (the Jewish quarter), with one of Spain's only synagogues. There are traditional artisan stalls in the Zoco, plus nightly flamenco performances in the summer

  • Walk over the Roman Bridge, through Plaza de las Tendillas (the central square) and around the Alcázar, the palace of the Christian kings. Inside are Arabian baths, Roman mosaics and a marble sarcophagus, and it's surrounded by beautiful gardens and ancient fortifications

  • For a glimpse of 10th-century Moorish society take a trip to the ruins of Medina Azahara, a sprawling palace and city complex 8km outside Córdoba. Buses run daily to the entrance (buy tickets from the tourist information kiosk in Plaza de las Tendillas)

  • Back home, treat yourself in the Bodyna Spa: there are underground thermal baths for an invigorating Roman experience (free for guests, but book a slot in advance). Afterwards, choose from a range of indulgent therapies: Ayurvedic, Shiatsu and Thai massages, natural mud wraps, and hydrating and oxygenating facial masks

  • Reception can arrange various activities: golf, horse-riding, yoga classes and guided hikes. Please enquire when booking

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cycling
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Private guided tours
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Well being
  • Yoga

Kids

Children are welcome, but the whole joy of this hotel is its peacefulness. If you had rowdy or boisterous kids, you might feel self-conscious. However, the hotel does offer extra beds for a supplement, and cots and babysitting can be arranged. Children under 12 stay for free, with half-price meals.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Babysitting:

Babysitting is available by arrangement.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots are available on request.

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
8/
Food
9/
Service
8/
Value
8/
Overall

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