Review: Starwood's Hotel Alfonso XIII in Seville
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On his recent romp through the South of Spain, TPG Points & Miles Editor Peter Rothbart stayed at the Hotel Alfonso XIII in the romantic city of Seville. Here's his take on this famous property in Starwood's Luxury Hotels Collection.
With an elegance that suits its royal origins, the Hotel Alfonso XIII will make a visit to Seville luxurious and exceptionally comfortable. Set just beyond the narrow, winding streets of the city's bustling center, the 151-room hotel is only a few minutes' walk from popular attractions like the Royal Alcázar, the Cathedral of Seville and the Plaza de España.
I was fortunate enough to visit this hotel on my recent two-week trek through Spain's Andalucía region — inspired in part by dispatches from TPG International Contributor Lori Zaino — and once I was there, I did not want to leave.
The Hotel Alfonso XIII is a Category 6 Starwood property, costing 20,000 - 25,000 points per night depending on when you go; redemption amounts vary with demand as well as seasonally. At 25,000 points or less per night, you can earn a free night after spending $3,000 within the first three months with the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express. The value of award redemptions varies greatly, since rooms can be had for as low as €200 (currently about $220) during slower periods, but often cost more than double that amount when demand is high. TPG values Starpoints at 2.4 cents apiece in his latest monthly valuations, and you can get close to that value during peak periods.
The hotel is on the small side and fills up quickly; when I made my reservation for a Wednesday night about five weeks before arrival, there were no rooms available with points and paid rates were on the rise. I booked a Deluxe Double room — the only non-suite available — for €365 (about $398) per night, which doesn't include the 10% VAT applied to all charges on the room portfolio.
The final price for my stay was around $450 a night. It wasn't cheap, but it helped me knock out a good chunk of the spending requirement for my United MileagePlus Explorer Card. I found rates to be about the same through the hotel website and third-party sites like Priceline and Hotwire, so unless you have a specific reason to book through another venue (like the 4th night free benefit on the Citi Prestige Card), then you may as well stick with Starwood so you can earn points for your stay.
The lobby is spacious and stylish, with a ritzy sitting area opposite the front desk. There's only room for two receptionists, but there was no wait even though I arrived at the standard check-in time. Checking in took only a few minutes, and was seamless other than some confusion over the baggage.
My girlfriend and I typically prefer to carry our own bags, but after a long, sweaty afternoon under the Spanish sun, I couldn't fault her for letting the bellman cart hers off with the assurance that it would be waiting for us in the room. Unfortunately, it didn't arrive for about 20 minutes, which was 20 minutes we could have spent in the pool if we had hauled it upstairs ourselves.
Our Deluxe Double room was small, but cozy rather than cramped. The two single beds were arranged side to side, dominating the room along with the massive headboard. The mattresses were on the firmer side, and the bedding was perfectly cushy. I love when hotel rooms are furnished with individual reading lights, so I was happy to see them installed in the wall on either side of the bed (visible between the lamp and headboard in the image below).
A tall set of glass doors led to a tiny balcony just big enough (perhaps) for two people to stand side by side. The room was pleasantly cool, and the array of shading options — from full sunlight to total blackout — helped keep it that way. The window looked southeast, giving us a view of the nearby university, as well as trees peeking out from the gardens of the Royal Alcázar (recently featured in Game of Thrones).
A small armchair sat in one corner, next to a sturdy wooden desk with a flat-screen TV mounted above it. Most of the cool marble tile floor around the bed was covered by a soft rug, and the artwork ranged from abstract prints to historical photos of the hotel.
The other wall had a large closet with ample storage space for two people, along with a safe, a refrigerator and other common in-room amenities.
The bathroom's polished walls had alternating bands of metal and tile, featuring double sinks, a full and brightly-lit mirror, and a bidet for comic relief. The shower included a tall, waterfall-style head, with three inscrutable faucet handles that were confusing enough to require instructions. A row of dim floor lights made it easy to maneuver in and out of the room at night without having to turn on the brighter overhead lights.
The hotel is adorned with a mix of geometric Moorish patterns and other traditional Spanish accents. The hallways are all tiled in marble, and the general decor is accented by ornate wood and metalwork. There's plenty of seating throughout, like this somewhat formal arrangement on the second-floor landing:
Most of the seating is more casual, like this lounge area on the main floor:
At the hotel's core you'll find a large courtyard, which makes for a great spot to enjoy the spectacular buffet breakfast (about $25 per person) or to just relax with a drink. The outdoor space can get brutally hot in the afternoon (even with the gigantic overhead shades drawn), but it's very pleasant in the morning and evening. There's also a large and seemingly underused terrace around the entire courtyard that can be accessed from the second floor.
Dining and Amenities
The Hotel Alfonso XIII has two primary dining establishments and a few other secondary options. The San Fernando Restaurant occupies the patio and one long, adjacent corridor, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. As mentioned previously, the breakfast buffet (brunch on Sundays) is high-quality. While the lunch and dinner menus look appetizing (with entrées around €20-30, or $21-32), I didn't have a chance to try them, opting instead to visit some of the top-notch restaurants within close walking distance.
The trendier (and slightly less expensive) restaurant Ena, which has been awarded a Michelin star, sits at the northernmost corner of the hotel, and offers a more innovative menu with tapas and modern Sevillian cuisine. There's a smallish indoor bar with a few tables, and outdoors, a roomy, shaded patio overlooking a small garden.
There's also a small, cheesy-looking lounge called Bar Americano that offers a pretty extensive cocktail menu and some pricey appetizers. Finally, there's a poolside restaurant that wasn't open during our visit, but the affiliated cabana bar and ice cream cart were fully operational during the afternoon.
Speaking of the pool, it was glorious:
While not particularly large, the pool also wasn't the kiddie size offered by some other hotels. The deep end was actually tall enough for me (6'3") to fully submerge standing up, and lap swimmers can probably get a decent workout in if there isn't too much traffic. The water and the whole pool deck were tidy and manicured, and the water felt fresh and not overly chlorinated. We went swimming upon our arrival in the afternoon and again the following morning, and I can't overstate how refreshing and relaxing it was after wandering around the city in the heat. My only complaint was the Top-40 club jams being pumped through the speaker system; the volume was low, but it was out of character for an otherwise classy ambiance.
There are plenty of lounge chairs with umbrellas and natural shade. Since the pool is on the more tranquil back side of the hotel, it's a good quiet spot for a siesta. There's also a small indoor workout center with several ellipticals and treadmills, weights and a steam room. There are even a few workout stations parked just outside for those who want to flirt with heat exhaustion. I didn't have a chance to use it, but the equipment looked top notch.
The Hotel Alfonso XIII is well placed for anyone looking to explore Seville, and offers a perfect respite for those who need a break from all that exploring. Even if you're not spending the night, it's a cool, quiet place to enjoy a drink and get out of the sun. Paid stays can be expensive, but award nights at peak times are a solid value, especially if you can take advantage of Starwood's 5th night free benefit. The breakfast is worthwhile, but I'd plan to head out for other meals — not necessarily because the hotel's offerings are deficient, but because the city has such amazing food.
I don't have immediate plans to return to Seville, but when I do someday, I know where I'll be staying.