Have you ever wondered what happens to historic buildings that are no longer in use?
European cities are rich with them; you’ll see palaces, medieval churches, castles, and ancient monasteries and convents that stand empty, with some falling into ruins. The size of these structures make it very expensive to maintain.
Historic buildings are especially numerous in Spain, with its very rich cultural heritage.
While churches and cathedrals remain in use due to the people’s strong Catholic faith, some castles, palaces, convents, and monasteries in Spain have been turned to hotels, partly to help with the maintenance and also as part of the country’s heritage tourism.
Here are a few of the historic hotels I’ve tried in Castilla y Leon, a region in Spain particularly known for its rich culture.
Parador de Turismo de Avila (Avila)
If you want to know what it feels like to stay in a palace, stay at a parador in Spain.
No, I did not just tell you to stay in a closet (which is what a “parador” means in the Philippines). In Spain, a parador is a luxury hotel which makes use of castles and palaces, convents and monasteries, fortresses and other similar structures.
The Parador de Turismo de Avila is in a 16th-century stone palace located just inside the walls of Avila, in itself a UNESCO World Heritage site.
There are a total of 61 rooms, each modernized to meet the needs of travelers. There’s free Wi-Fi and tile floors, and other rooms have sofas, bathtubs, and 4-poster beds. They have really nice keys too.
For this once-stone palace, key cards are a no no. Your hotel keys come attached to a heavy bronze keychain marked “Paradores Desde 1928: Calidad Amabilidad Leyenda.” It certainly fits the ambience of the place.
What I liked most about it (aside from the facilities) is its Spanish balcony — you know, just railings to keep you from falling off. It’s easy enough to imagine standing in your room with the door wide open, holding on to the railing while watching whatever’s going down in the streets below.
Make sure to book the room with views of the garden and the walls. That would make for a very lovely stay, indeed!
Hotel Hospes Palacio de San Esteban (Salamanca)
One of the most sought after historic hotels in Salamanca is the 16th-century, convent-turned-hotel Hotel Hospes Palacio de San Esteban.
Originally built as the Convent of San Esteban, this hotel now offers beautiful accommodations in the Old City, just a few minutes’ walk to the plaza mayor. It is also very close to the New Cathedral (“new” meaning it was built in the 16th century) and the Old Cathedral (built in the 12th century).
The stone walls and archways of the original structure remain intact, but rooms are modernized and provided with all the amenities needed by travelers, from free Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs to minibars, sitting areas, and even Nespresso machines.
The hotel has a business center and a fitness room, too, although given our hectic schedule, I wasn’t able to make use of either.
Castilla Termal Monasterio de Valbuena (Valladolid)
There is something about convents and monasteries that make them a great experience when converted into historic hotels.
The Castilla Termal Monasterio de Valbuena, in particular, is certainly a very good example. It was in fact my favorite accommodation in Spain. Previously a monastery, it is now one of the first hotel-spas that achieved a five-star status in the whole of Castilla y Leon.
The hotel’s spa is, in fact, the highlight of this already magnificent accommodation option in Valbuena del Duero.
The spa is more than two-thousand square meters in size, equipped with sixteen treatment rooms, thermal pools, a children’s pool, and a water contrast circuit — all packaged together with a very good-looking and historically rich hotel.
Note: Call to reserve a place at the thermal pool or with the spa in advance of your visit. By the time we arrived, everything was fully booked!
One note about the location, though: this hotel is not in the city of Valladolid, but in the outskirts. The town itself, San Bernardo, is very small. It’s the hotel-monastery that’s the primary attraction in the area.
If you want to stay at a more central location, I would recommend Hotel Boutique Gareus where we stayed one night. It lacked the charm of a monastery, but it more than made up for it with its strategic location and modern ambiance.
Hotel Gareus is walking distance to Los Zagales Restaurant where you can have some of the most creative tapas in the city.
Hotel NH Zamora Palacio del Duero (Zamora)
Another beautiful historic hotel is the lovely Hotel NH Zamora Palacio del Duero, part of a 14-century convent. It had the biggest and softest bed of the hotels I’ve tried in Spain, and its wooden flooring has a very nice finish. No hotel slippers needed!
Its strategic location, within walking distance to the Zamora Cathedral and the Museo de Zamora, make it perfect for those who want to explore the city.
As with the other historic hotels in Spain, the rooms in this hotel offer free Wi-Fi and other modern amenities. Get the rooms with balconies and church views.
The are a number of hotels like these in Castilla y Leon and in Spain as a whole. If you’re visiting there, and if budget is not an issue, it would be a nice idea to do some heritage tourism and try to stay in different historic hostels, from palaces and castles, monasteries and fortresses.
Indeed, in Spain, even your accommodation can have a rich history.
Have you stayed at a historic hotel in Spain?