“An immensely friendly and perfectly manicured small hotel at the heart of Granada's enchanting Albaicín”
Santa Isabel's accommodation fans out on 3 levels around its columned, inner courtyard. The rooms have been furnished with antiques collected by the family over the course of many years: there are ornate Castillian dressing tables and writing desks, intricately carved Indian tables and stacks of oil paintings and engravings along with a collection of framed embroidery: these are rooms with a warm and cared-for feel.
Each room has crisp white bed linen with a double bank of pillows, hot and cold air-conditioning, a TV, fitted wardrobe and a safety box whilst lower rooms benefit from free WiFi. And you can expect your bathroom, like the rest of the hotel, to be as clean as the newest pin. Most have baths with overhead showers, surrounded by all-marble walls. Expect a magnifying mirror, a heated towel rail and Damana bath products: body and hair gel as well as moisturising lotion and soap.
Rooms are graded according to their size, the extent of their views and whether they face in or out. On the patio floor, facing in towards the central fountain, are the Basic Rooms. Both of these are twins, 1 with a bath, the other with just a shower. Being the closest to the sitting room and reception they can be a little noisier. There are 3 Classic Rooms, 2 of them twins - these also face the patio - and the other a double with an exterior window. The Superior Rooms each having enough space for a sofa and occasional table, and all but one face outwards.
The undisputed leader of the pack is Santa Isabel's Deluxe Suite. This room is the highest in the building and has windows on 3 sides: the one that faces south takes in a gorgeous sweep of the Alhambra's crenelated outer walls, which are floodlit at night. This room has to be your first choice if romance is on the agenda.
Many of the smaller Albaicín hotels use their basement levels for dining rooms, which I find a tad claustrophobic. However, Santa Isabel has its breakfast room on the ground floor where a triple row of windows bring the sunlight flooding in. A buffet breakfast is laid up from 7.30-10.30am: you're offered freshly baked bread, cold cuts and cheeses, hard-boiled eggs, yoghurts, olive oil and tomato (to prepare your Andalucian style tostada), cereals, fruit, a bottled fruit juice and thermos flasks of coffee, hot milk and hot water for your tea. A jug of chilled lemon water was an extra treat: this is substituted for one with a sprig of mint during the hotter months. Should you have an early flight you can head off with a light breakfast box: a sandwich, fruit and bottled water.
During the day, light snacks can be prepared on request: a plate of manchego cheese or cured ham, sandwiches and salads. But with so many restaurants and bars all around, you'll probably eat out.
If you're after views of the Alhambra you're just a 5-minute stroll from La Estrella de San Nicolás. The menu is a mix of trad' Andalucian and international dishes and the prices reasonable: ask Elena or Lola to book you a table close to the window. Should you fancy a change from Spanish cooking, a little further down the hill is the Moroccan quarter where there are several tea shops and small restaurants. Los Arrayanes is up with the best and does a great couscous royale. Alternatively, head for the charming leafy square of San Miguel Bajo where tables spill out into the street whenever the weather is fine. El Ají is our favourite, family run and with trad' Andalusian menus.
If you're a lover of fish, head for Cunini, which is tucked away behind the cathedral. The place is a real institution in the city so be prepared to squeeze your way to the bar past masses of well-heeled Granadinos. It's always packed and always great fun.
If you're looking for a droolingly romantic dinner experience book a table at either El Mirador de Aixa or La Estrella de San Nicolas. Both restaurants are within an easy stroll of Santa Isabel and have terraced gardens that look out across the Darro gorge to the floodlit Alhambra. This is Granada dining at its narcotic best.
As in any Spanish hotel, children are welcomed with open arms, though the logistics can be tricky here; there are no extra beds available and if you require a baby cot you will have to bring your own. If staying with children you will have to book and additional room. That said, there's a highchair and babies stay for free.
Babies (0-1 years), Teens (over 12)