“ Hotel by the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. „
To round off a stay with friends in Spain we decided to spend a few days in Granada, a city about 30 minutes inland, in the Andulucia region of Southern Spain. We'd heard that it was a beautiful city with quaint old streets to explore and plenty of cultural history, with the imposing Alhambra Palaces and gardens being a major attraction. Please see the separate review that I have written about the Alhambra itself, for more information.
Our friends had previously stayed in the hotel, Alixares, and recommended it as a reasonably priced and well positioned hotel for our stay. We did a little bit of online research, just to compare prices and to check there was nowhere else that particularly appealed to us, but ended up sticking with their recommendation and booking two double rooms at the Alixares through Expedia. I like to book hotels through Expedia as I know that the online booking system is very easy to use, but also there is always someone at the end of a phone line to talk to if you have any concerns. You can also use cash back sites alongside Expedia. For our three night stay we paid £58 per night for each of our twin rooms which included taxes and service charges. This was for bed and breakfast. I was pleased with this rate, but I suspect you will find cheaper prices at other times of the year as our stay coincided with the end of the Corpus Christi festival in Granada, so the city was very crowded.
The location of this hotel couldn't be more perfect for visiting the Alhambra - it is a short five minute walk down the hill to the main entrance. It is accessed from the main entrance road into the Alhambra along with several other hotels. This is not as easy as it may sound and my Alhambra review will fill you in more on the difficulties we had trying to locate it. Parking is shared with the Alhambra and is priced at 14 Euros per 24 hour period and is literally across the road. There is a pull in right outside the hotel which is handy for unloading luggage and the hotel provides ramped access for hauling suitcases up and for those with mobility needs.
At reception we were provided with a map and directions to reach the most interesting parts of the city by foot. It also included a simple map showing the best way to travel from the hotel to other destinations avoiding the city centre which we would have found so useful, so it may be worth requesting this or directions from the hotel before travelling.
A twenty minute walk down the hill and past the Alhambra will take you right into the heart of the old town of Granada. Allow a little more time to come back up though as it is very steep, but it's also shady and there is plenty of interest to look at along the way. If this is too much for you then there are buses and taxis that you can catch from outside the Alhambra. There are road blocks between the hotel and Alhambra so if you want to drive down from the hotel or get a taxi from there you will need to take a much longer route.
The reception area of this modern red brick built hotel is reasonably large with grey marble floors and rust coloured furnishings, with a bar area to one side. There always appeared to be several staff on duty at the reception desk and we didn't have to wait at all. After checking the passports of one person for each room we were given our keys (real ones, not swipe cards) by a pleasant gentleman who spoke good English, much to my daughter's annoyance as she wanted to practice her Spanish skills. He also gave basic information about the hotel such as breakfast times and where the pool was and that we could collect pool towels from reception. He gave us the previously mentioned map and marked lots of interesting points on it and also ensured that we knew to collect our pre booked Alhambra tickets before it got too busy. A few minutes later I returned to the desk as the rooms that we had been allocated faced onto a miniscule courtyard with no views at all and to be honest this made them feel a bit like prison cells, all be it large, well furnished ones. A quick search on the computer compared to their hotel plan resulted in us being given another two keys and told to return whichever set we chose not to keep after looking at the alternative rooms. I could not fault the helpfulness of the staff here, although the Spanish way of communicating can generally come across as being quite abrupt. As we were checking out an English lady had obviously had her passport stolen and staff were letting her use the hotel's phone to contact the Embassy and were helping her to search on line for flights to fly there, which was reassuring to see. Check out was also pain free.
The views from our replacement rooms, although not far reaching were a significant improvement. Despite being on the third floor we were slightly below eye level with the pool and had a wrought iron feature separating our window from the pool area. This did mean that we needed to pull our light linen curtains across to ensure privacy, although most people sitting poolside had their backs to our room anyway. The windows slid open fully so we could let in plenty of fresh air, if we chose not to use the air conditioning, and as well as the light curtain there was a black out curtain and pleasant green, yellow and blue patterned curtain. We were disappointed that we had no access to outdoor seating space from our room with no balcony or patio, as I do love to sit out and sit quietly especially if I'm waiting for the rest of the family to shower etc. Fortunately for us we didn't have far to walk to sit by the pool. It appeared that there were only a couple of rooms that did include personal outdoor space.
The reason why the pool is on the third floor is that the hotel is located on a slope, so although there are 5 stories altogether there are only ever three stories visible and the area where our room and the pool was located was actually ground level even though we had to use the stairs or lifts to reach it. The exterior impression of the hotel from all sides therefore is that it is smaller than it actually is.
Our room had two three foot wide beds joined together which is so common now on the continent. We really like this as it gives us a much wider bed and we each have our own sheets and cover, so have more freedom. Our girls could have pushed theirs apart to make twin beds but they were happy to leave them joined. The white sheets were of good quality and the top one was embossed with the hotel's name and a pretty pattern. We then had a patterned top cover, matching the curtains, and there were also fleece blankets in the wardrobe but we had no need to try these out. We did use the two spare pillows though and these seemed newer and more comfortable than the ones that the bed was made up with. We all slept really well in these beds.
The dressing tables were taken up almost totally with a massive flat screen TV which showed mostly Spanish and French channels , but the list of channels also included the BBC World service and our daughters seemed quite happy watching the Disney channel in Spanish. It was impossible to use this as a dressing table as the TV was where a mirror should have been. Wall mounting would have made far more sense. Two comfort chairs were provided although our daughter's ones were much nicer than ours. They also had a really nice book about Granada in their dressing table drawers whereas we got a phone directory - not quite such a good deal there!
The room also contained a good sized wardrobe with plenty of hangers and shelf space for all of our clothes. A safe was also in here which we chose to pay, I think 5 Euros for. It operated with a key rather than code which was better for us as we always seem to manage to muck up the code ones. Tea and coffee making facilities were noticeably missing, although a fridge was great for keeping bottles of water fresh and an ice cube tray was also included. Both bedside tables and the dressing table had lamps and switches for the main light worked from the bedside too. A swipe card by the room door enabled all electricity to be turned on / off together as you left the room.
The bathroom was adequate with a good sized bath with powerful large head shower and a clean white shower curtain. There is also a white toilet, bidet and sink with a good sized surrounding area of marble type work top on which the normal supply of miniature toiletry bottles is presented. A hairdryer was attached to the wall with a stool to sit at the vanity unit, but with this and the only mirror being in the bathroom, it did mean we always seemed to be waiting to get a turn in the bathroom as it was needed for everything you would normally have done at the dressing table. As with the main room, the bathroom was spotlessly clean and the grout between the tiles was immaculate, but the suite itself was a little tired looking with a couple of bits of enamel missing in the bath and although clean the surface was wearing away leaving grey marks on the toilet seat. In the bedroom there were signs of wear too with a piece of skirting peeling away, although the pretty yellow walls seemed newly painted. Considering how cheap the room was however, I couldn't really expect perfection.
After a long day sightseeing in the heat we were so glad that this hotel had a pool to come back to relax in. The pool area is not huge, but it seemed to be adequate for the number of guests as we never saw anybody struggling to find a lounger and there's definitely no need to claim your lounger with your towel first thing in the morning. I guess this is because most people who come to this hotel and looking to explore the city rather than lay by a pool all day.
The unheated pool is a strange five sided shape and you should be aware that it is very deep throughout. At 5' 2" tall there was only one tiny area that I could stand up in, so no good for non swimmers at all. Access is also all by metal steps to climb down, so can be quite difficult to get in. We did see a few children in the pool, but I would have been very cautious of using this when my children were younger. There is no separate splash pool for little ones. The planting was pretty around the pool and I could usually find some natural shade to sit in as well as the umbrellas that are provided. The whole area was kept clean and we could hear them having a good clean up and rearrange about 9.00 each morning. The pool area is locked outside if its 11am - 9pm opening hours. This was a real shame as other than a few tables and chairs outside of the main entrance this is the only outdoor seating area in the hotel. This was our biggest complaint about this hotel. Although there are some pretty courtyards that could have tables and chairs in them and a rooftop terrace that is a BBQ area in high season, for some reason they really don't want you to sit outside.
Our package was for breakfast only but the hotel restaurant does serve evening meals. A three course set meal cost 14 Euros. There wasn't much atmosphere in the dining room which is decorated completely in white and grey and seems quite stark, so we chose to walk into Granada in the evenings where there is a huge range of restaurants where you can sit outdoors and soak up the atmosphere of the city. We were lucky enough to be able to watch Flamenco dancing on two evenings while eating in the main square near the cathedral, so definitely a far more Spanish experience. Meals here typically cost 11.5 Euros for two courses and then you can finish off with ice creams form one of the mouth wateringly good ice cream parlours.
The roof top BBQ and bar was only open on the last night of our stay. We thought that the prices on the menu that was left in our room on this day looked very high, so again we headed into the city. It is open from 9pm to 2am though and with views into the mountains, I imagine this would be a pleasant place to sit for an evening drink. Peering through the doorway it looked very pretty up there.
We enjoyed our breakfasts in the hotel however, especially those of us who prefer continental type breakfasts. There was a reasonably good selection of cold meats, cheeses, fresh and tinned fruits, cereals, bread, rolls, pastries and a painfully slow toast machine. My husband was less impressed with the selection available for cooked breakfast - small sausages, scrambled egg, not very well done bacon and grilled tomato. Juices and coffee were available from self service machines. Service was quietly efficient. We did feel that the dining area did lack any atmosphere.
Alixares served us excellently as a base for a city break and its location was perfect for exploring Granada and the Alhambra. It lacks character and outdoor sitting space, but with prices in line with some budget hotels in the UK it definitely offered more than these would and I would recommend it for a reasonably priced base to explore this beautiful city but not for a pool based holiday.