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The pool at Hacienda de San Rafael in Seville, Spain
Hacienda de San Rafael

Hotels in Seville and Rural Andalusia

September 18, 2017

Andalusia is as close as Europe gets to Africa, and the region’s capital, Seville, embodies Spain’s rich blend of Latin and Moorish traditions. Its name originated as Al-Andalus, Arabic for “land of the West.” From 711 to 1492, Andalusia was part of the Moorish world. Situated on the Guadalquivir River, Seville is Spain’s fourth-largest city, with a population of 700,000 people. A compact low-rise metropolis, it is a place of vibrant plazas, whitewashed residences festooned with scarlet geraniums and a pedestrian culture that invites exploration. (Although some parts of the city — I’m thinking of the barrios, with their narrow, winding streets — require good map-reading skills and attention to where you are going.)

Hotel Alfonso XIII

Due to a succession of airline delays, we arrived in Seville at midnight, tired and out of humor. But the sight of Hotel Alfonso XIII, dramatically illuminated so as to highlight its arched windows and towers, lifted our spirits. Dedicated in 1929 by King Alfonso XIII, the hotel was part of the Ibero-American Exhibition that thrust Seville onto the world stage. A five-story rococo building, it is a remarkable amalgam of Spanish and Moorish architecture. The lobby is particularly impressive, with its hand-painted tiles, marble pillars, gilded coffered ceiling, arabesque accents and stained and leaded glass. Much of this splendor is the result of a $25 million renovation, completed in 2012.

The entrance to and exterior of Hotel Alfonso XIII Photo by Hideaway Report editor

Our room exhibited a wonderful interplay of materials and subtle colors. Elaborate plasterwork ran the length of the high ceiling, and the spectacular floor featured a herringbone pattern of black, white and tan marble surrounded by a border of diamonds and triangles. Period photographs decorated the walls, while handsome furnishings included an ample desk, a credenza and an elaborate wooden bed. The bath, though on the small side, with a combined bath-shower, came with striking walls of white and copper-glazed tiles. The lighting around the double vanities was unusually effective.

Aside from the lobby, the most impressive public area is the central courtyard, which is set around a fountain and bordered by columns. Overlooking the courtyard, Restaurante San Fernando offers modern interpretations of Spanish classics, with dishes such as sautéed sea bass with Moroccan lemon sauce and asparagus, and Iberian pork cheek in an Oloroso sherry sauce with garlic and paprika. The other dining space, Ena, serves a menu of innovative tapas and is overseen by noted Catalan chef Carles Abellán, who worked with Ferran Adrià at elBulli before opening his own renowned restaurant, Comerç 24. We also enjoyed the art deco-style Bar Americano, a sophisticated and intimate space with midnight-blue walls and large black-and-white photographs.

The courtyard at Hotel Alfonso XIII - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
The staircase in the lobby of Hotel Alfonso XIII - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
Our room at Hotel Alfonso XIII - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
The bath of our room at Hotel Alfonso XIII - Photo by Hideaway Report editor

The weather during our stay was mostly uncooperative, but we did manage a late-afternoon visit to the large outdoor pool, set beneath lovely palms. A small health center with treadmills and free weights is nearby.

Although the Alfonso XIII is quite a sizable property of 151 rooms, the exceptionally solicitous staff provide warm, personal service. This is an eminently distinguished hotel, greatly enhanced by the recent renovations, which we were extremely sorry to leave.

- Hotel at a Glance -

Hotel Alfonso XIII 94Andrew Harper Bird

Like

The extravagant architecture; the combination of historic character and modern conveniences.

Dislike

Although gardens screen the street, traffic noise can be intrusive at times.

Good to Know

The concierge staff proved utterly reliable when it came to restaurant recommendations.


Rates: Grand Deluxe Room, $560; Deluxe Suite, $800
Address: San Fernando 2
Telephone: (34) 95-491-7000


View Hotel Alfonso XIII Listing

Corral del Rey

Corral del Rey, located in Barrio Alfalfa, provides a complete contrast. With just 13 rooms, it is situated in a maze of narrow streets, a five-minute walk but seemingly a world away from the grand public spaces of central Seville. A hideaway that greatly resembles the riads of Marrakech and Fes, it is a new venture by the Reid family, who owns the Hacienda de San Rafael, an idyllic country property 45 minutes south of Seville, which I have long recommended. The hotel comprises two 17th-century buildings, set across the street from each other, which were once private residences.

The bed in our Pool Terrace Suite at Corral del Rey Photo by Hideaway Report editor

Entering the larger of the two structures, we were greeted by a charming young woman, who took us on a tour, pointing out the breakfast area with a bar where tapas are served in the evening. In the second building, we discovered an appealing lounge with a checkerboard floor, chairs, couches and an honor bar. An adjoining public space, decorated in soothing shades of green, came with marble columns, original architectural details and built-in bookcases. The playful mix of styles and colors is the work of Kuky Mora-Figueroa — otherwise known as Mrs. Reid — a designer of considerable taste and talent.

We encountered the same flair in our Pool Terrace Suite. Although snug, it embodied style and comfort, with cream walls, arched windows flanked by blue shutters, a bed with a striking blue-and-white-patterned headboard and a built-in fridge. A well-conceived closet that had ample storage despite its relatively small size and a cozy bath with dual vanities and a rainfall shower only added to our contentment. Recessed lights bordered the staircase up to our wonderful terrace with its plunge pool and table and chairs. It proved a perfect getaway for a soothing dip and a drink at day’s end. (There is also a rooftop pool for use by all guests.)

We encountered the same flair in our Pool Terrace Suite. Although snug, it embodied style and comfort, with cream walls, arched windows flanked by blue shutters, a bed with a striking blue-and-white-patterned headboard and a built-in fridge. A well-conceived closet that had ample storage despite its relatively small size and a cozy bath with dual vanities and a rainfall shower only added to our contentment. Recessed lights bordered the staircase up to our wonderful terrace with its plunge pool and table and chairs. It proved a perfect getaway for a soothing dip and a drink at day’s end. (There is also a rooftop pool for use by all guests.)

At breakfast, we were served a profusion of breads and pastries, accompanied by excellent butter and preserves. The croissants were exceptional. Some may not like the seclusion of the barrio streets and the small scale of Corral del Rey, but I found the property to be utterly charming. After the grandeur of the Alfonso XIII, it was a delight to stay in a place of a more intimate character.

- Hotel at a Glance -

Corral del Rey 91Andrew Harper Bird

Like

The feeling of seclusion; charming staff; the cozy atmosphere.

Dislike

You have to use a security code to enter late at night.

Good to Know

The Reids are extremely well-connected, and almost any kind of tour or excursion can be arranged.


Rates: Deluxe Room, $415; Junior Suite, $490; Pool Terrace Suite, $710
Address: Corral del Rey 12
Telephone: (34) 95-422-7116


View Corral del Rey Listing

Hacienda de San Rafael

Having enjoyed seeing the Reid family’s latest effort, we drove south to its first venture, the Hacienda de San Rafael, which is located about halfway between Seville and Jerez, surrounded by 350 acres of olive orchards and sunflower fields. On arrival, we were greeted by the effervescent Anthony Reid, who with his brother, Patrick, runs the properties, their parents being semiretired. Eleven duplex deluxe rooms are arrayed around a cobbled central courtyard, bright with bougainvillea. In addition, there are three casitas — which have recently been refreshed — that have their own dedicated infinity pool.

The exterior of Hacienda de San Rafael Photo by Hideaway Report editor

Our accommodations were done in a rustic Andalusian style, with terra-cotta floor tiles, and were decorated with old farm implements, contemporary art and souvenirs gathered by the Reid family on its world travels. The ground floor was divided into a large bedroom and a very comfortable living area with a kitchenette; a staircase led up to a gallery-lounge. The marble bath had two vanities and a deep tub with a hand-held shower.

In the mornings, a generous continental breakfast is served on the veranda outside each room. While there is an indoor dining room, all of our meals were, to our delight, alfresco, whether at tables arranged in the courtyard or near an open-air bar. The simple but delicious Mediterranean food was always market-driven and could not have been more varied and satisfying. Before dinner, we liked to go to the stylish lounge in the original part of the 200-year-old hacienda to sip a Fino.

Our Deluxe Room at Hacienda de San Rafael - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
The bath of our Deluxe Room at Hacienda de San Rafael - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
The pool at Hacienda de San Rafael - Photo by Hideaway Report editor
The courtyard at Hacienda de San Rafael - Abran Rubiner

During the day, we invariably found ourselves poolside. For those looking to be more active, the ever-obliging staff can arrange outings to Jerez for sherry tastings, as well as golf, horseback riding, hiking and, in season, excursions to the beaches of Costa de la Luz, about 45 minutes away.

The Hacienda de San Rafael is as relaxing and charming as ever under the management of a younger generation. The Reid family’s deep hospitality infused every moment of our visit and made me extremely reluctant to leave.

- Hotel at a Glance -

Hacienda de San Rafael 94Andrew Harper Bird

Like

The deep rural calm and tranquility.

Dislike

The hacienda is surrounded by a working farm, so most activities require a drive.

Good to Know

The stunning white village of Grazalema, an hour to the southeast, makes for a memorable day trip.


Rates: Deluxe Room, $360; Casita, $780
Address: Carreterra Nacional IV Km 594
Telephone: (34) 95-422-7116


View Hacienda de San Rafael Listing

By Hideaway Report Editor Hideaway Report editors travel the world anonymously to give you the unvarnished truth about luxury hotels. Hotels have no idea who they are, so they are treated exactly as you might be.
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