Hotel Santa Isabel la Real

Granada & Sierra Nevada, Spain Book from

An immensely friendly and perfectly manicured small hotel at the heart of Granada's enchanting Albaicín
The Albaicín quarter of Granada rises steeply up a hillside directly opposite the Alhambra: the views from its leafy squares across the Darro gorge to the exquisite Nasrid palaces have long been a magnet for travellers, romantics and dreamers. Hotel Santa Isabel lies at the heart of its plexus of narrow alleyways, and nudges up to the convent of the same name: arriving in its sheltered patio you get that same sense of cloistered retreat.

The creation and management of the hotel is very much a family affair: managed by 2 friendly sisters - Elena and Lola - the hotel was created by their father after 3 years of inspired and meticulous restoration. The building turns around its columned patio where a trickling fountain and a double tier of balconies evoke its 16th-century origins. The 11 guest rooms are exceptionally pretty and very spick and span: those at the top of the building grab a slice of that narcotic Alhambra vista. Santa Isabel really proves the rule that small is beautiful, and the Castillo family treat you as a guest of honour.

Highs

  • There's a real sense of inner sanctum, of being far removed from the cut and thrust of the city
  • A cosy sitting room with comfy sofas to slump into after a day of sightseeing
  • You're just around the corner from the lively bars and restaurants of Plaza San Miguel Bajo and a short stroll from the lively Moroccan quarter
  • The Castillo family's gentle, ever helpful manner will make your stay here doubly memorable
  • You're at the heart of the Albaicín, one of Europe's most fascinating medieval quarters
  • The hotel has half a dozen off-street parking spaces right next door

Lows

  • Apart from breakfast, only light snacks are available. But with so many bars and restaurants virtually next door, this is hardly a problem
  • If you walk up from the Darro gorge be prepared for a steep haul, albeit through a fascinating labyrinth of narrow alleys
  • None of the rooms can accommodate extra beds, and if you want a baby cot you'll have to provide your own

Best time to go

Granada is worth the journey at any time of year. In winter, if it's raining in the town it'll be snowing in the Sierra: if you ski don't miss the chance of hitting the amazing network of runs that lead out from the Sol y Nieve resort. The Alhambra is at its narcotic best in spring and summer when it's also possible to visit the palaces at night (load Manuel de Falla's Noches en los Jardines de España onto your iPod before you go!). The city looks amazing when bathed in the soft light of autumn; watch the forest of elms on the Alhambra hill change colour (the trees were a gift from Wellington to the city after the French were sent packing). And because there's so much to see and do in the way of galleries, churches and museums your enjoyment of the city is less dependent on what the weather is doing.

Great for...

City Style
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 11
  • Breakfast only (walk to restaurants)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room: Classic Room

Rooms

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.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Central heating
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Tv
  • WiFi

Eating

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.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurants nearby
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Wander the labyrinthine streets of the Albaicín: you're bound to get lost but if you keep heading downwards, you'll soon be back on track

  • Spend a whole day at the Alhambra - Spain's biggest surviving piece of Moorish architecture, and one of the most romantic and spectacular sights in Europe. Even though your ticket obliges you to enter the palaces at a certain time, you can visit other parts of the complex throughout the day

  • Jump on a No 8 bus by the cathedral and head for La Cartuja, the Carthusian monastery, which contains a collection of remarkable paintings and artefacts

  • Go skiing at Sol y Nieve. Regular buses leave from the Paseo de Salon and most years there's snow between December and late April

  • Break for afternoon tea at one of the many teterias (tea shops) at the lower end of the Albaicín

  • Explore the Sacramonte caves, perhaps staying on for one of the nightly flamenco shows

  • While away an hour at the Mirador de San Nicolás; great for people watching and looking out to the Alhambra's golden battlements

  • Head for the amazing hammam to one side of the Plaza Nueva and soak away your aches and cares

  • Take an intensive Spanish course; enquire when booking

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Historical sites
  • Language courses
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Shopping / markets

Kids

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.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Teens (over 12)

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
10/
Overall

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Rates for Hotel Santa Isabel la Real