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Historic hotel, disappointing stay: A review of the Hotel Palacio de Santa Paula in Granada

Jan. 13, 2023
13 min read
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Last year after spending a few wonderful days in Seville, Spain — and having an excellent hotel stay there — I was excited to explore Granada, a new city that I had never been to before. And for my stay at the Hotel Palacio de Santa Paula, part of Marriott's Autograph Collection and a former monastery dating back to the 16th century that appeared unique and full of charm.

Here's what I found during my stay, and whether or not you should book if you find yourself planning a trip to this beautiful part of Spain.

Quick take

If you’re looking to redeem points or earn points via a cash stay with a major loyalty program in Granada proper, you’re limited to just a couple of Marriott Bonvoy hotels — Hotel Palacio de Santa Paula, Autograph Collection and Hospes Palacio de los Patos, a Member of Design Hotels. (Hyatt does have a luxury ski lodge outside of the city, however.)

Intrigued by the former-monastery aspect, I booked the Hotel Palacio de Santa Paula — but was ultimately disappointed with my stay. The front desk service left much to be desired, and while the view from my hotel room windows was majestic, the room itself was unexciting and uninspiring in a city filled with architectural marvels.

Getting there

SENITRA HORBROOK/THE POINTS GUY

Hotel Palacio de Santa Paula is in the historic center of Granada and within easy walking distance of most of the city’s major attractions. As I was visiting multiple cities on my Spain trip, I arrived in Granada on the high-speed Renfe train from Seville. The journey took about three hours, with one transfer in the town of Antequera. I walked about 15 minutes from the Granada train station to the hotel, but a local public bus can also take you there in less than 10 minutes.

If you’re arriving by air, Granada has an international airport with flights from larger cities, including Madrid, Barcelona, London and Paris. So, if you’re traveling from the United States, you’ll need to make at least one connection. The hotel is about a 20-minute taxi ride from the airport or an hour on a local bus.

Booking details

For a deluxe room, prices range from 112-322 euros (around $120-$350) per night. You can find many nights for less than 200 euros ($217) throughout the entire calendar year. Award nights range between 30,000 and 40,000 points.

Spring tends to be the high season for travel to the Andalusia region, so that, plus the fact my stay fell over a weekend, meant the rates were on the higher end of the range. I paid 293 euros ($318) for a Thursday night and 313 euros ($340) for a Friday night.

Standout features

  • The hotel’s central location made for an easy walk to many famous sites and restaurants.
  • The cloister, an outdoor courtyard, is a lovely space to have meals and drinks or to spend time talking with your travel companions.
  • A free flamenco show with musicians, a singer and dancer in the cloister was a great local treat considering Andalusia is known for flamenco.
  • The view of the historic city center from the room’s windows was a major highlight.
  • The hotel had a small fitness room and Turkish bath (basically a steam room) located in the crypt.

Drawbacks

  • The check-in staff was not warm or welcoming and didn't exchange any pleasantries.
  • The staff did not recognize my Bonvoy Gold elite status, and when I asked about a room upgrade at check-in, I was told there was nothing available. In fact, I was downgraded from the room I booked, which I’ll discuss more below.
  • You must decide about booking breakfast at check-in if they offer you a reduced rate. I inquired about their offering as they were not proactive in mentioning it. I was told it was 18 euros ($20) per day, but only if I agreed to it right that minute, otherwise it would be 24 euros ($26) per day.
  • The newer, non-monastery section of the hotel lacked the warmth, charm and uniqueness of the convent.
  • My room was next to the elevator and the housekeeping closet, so it was quite noisy early in the morning when housekeeping began.

The vibe

Walking into the lobby, you’d never guess this hotel was a former monastery. The entrance was unassuming, looking more like a typical business hotel than a building filled with history. The lobby was open, with various sitting areas, and there was cold water and cups at the entrance — helpful after you’ve just returned from walking around on a warm day.

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I observed mostly couples and adult groups traveling together in the hotel’s lobby and public spaces. While I did not see families with small children, this hotel would be fine for a family visiting Granada.

The room

At check-in, I was asked if I was traveling alone and I confirmed that it was just me. I believe I was then downgraded to the Single Guest Room, which is not even available for booking online when looking at many sample dates.

I didn’t realize I had, in fact, been downgraded until later when I was in my room and checked the Marriott Bonvoy app and saw the room type said “Single Guest Room.” Using my company’s travel portal, I had booked a Deluxe Queen Guest Room using the Marriott Rewards Flexible Rate, so this was definitely a downgrade. I was already settled into the room at this point, so I decided not to address the downgrade with the staff.

On the plus side, my downgraded room was available early, as I arrived around 12:30 p.m., well before the official check-in time of 3 p.m. I do not believe the downgrade was an issue of availability as I don’t think the hotel was sold out. If I had been given a choice to wait for the room category I booked or an upgraded room, I would have done so over being given the single guest room.

While there are rooms on the lower levels in the former convent, I was assigned Room 518 on the top floor of the modern, non-monastery section of the hotel. The room was adequate, but nothing about it felt luxurious even though the property’s website describes the hotel as “luxury and exclusive.” Decor and furnishings were extremely sparse.

With its long, visible cord hanging down, the TV seemed awkwardly located on the wall at a fair distance from the bed. Or, if you were sitting at the desk and wanted to watch television, you’d be craning your neck to look up. Now, I didn’t travel to Spain to spend a lot of time watching TV, but sometimes I turn on the TV to watch the news or have some background noise in the room as a solo traveler.

The best thing about the room was the view from the windows, especially the bathroom window. The windows had a wooden door, which you could unlock to open directly to the outside for the view and fresh air.

SENITRA HORBROOK/THE POINTS GUY

The room had no luggage rack, but there was a bench where I placed my luggage. There was no iron, but I called reception to request one. To their credit, they delivered an iron and mini ironing board to the room within 10 minutes of my call.

The room had few power outlets and no USB ports. There was one power outlet next to the bed, which was handy for charging my phone overnight and having easy access to the time since the room had no clock. And there were two outlets on the empty wall across from the bed. When I wanted to sit at the desk and plug anything in for charging, I needed to unplug the coffee maker to have an available power outlet. The in-room safe was extremely small and not electronic. It did not fit a MacBook laptop and I couldn’t figure out how to set it, so I ended up not using it.

The bathroom had a small cart below the sink with toiletries and drinking glasses. Toiletries included a comb, shaving kit, dental kit, tissues, shower cap and makeup sponges.

The sink blends into the countertop with no separation. That’s not my favorite type of sink, as the water tends to splash everywhere outside of the bowl when washing your hands or face or brushing your teeth.

SENITRA HORBROOK/THE POINTS GUY

There were two bathrobes in the bathroom, but they hung over the bidet, which didn’t seem like an ideal spot for them. The toilet paper roll was located behind the toilet instead of beside it — making for an uncomfortable reach when needed. In the bathtub, there was Autograph Collection-branded shower gel and shampoo. Molton Brown body lotion and conditioner were on the vanity.

The minibar fridge was stocked with sodas, water, juice and beer, and snacks on the desk were available for purchase. A price list for minibar and snack items was also on the desk. Thankfully, there were three complimentary bottles of water in the room, two on the nightstand and one on the desk next to the coffee maker.

Food and drink

Ultimately, I agreed to the 18-euros-per-day offer for breakfast while checking in. Breakfast is served in the old refectory of the monastery, and you can choose to eat in the El Claustro restaurant or outdoors in the cloister. I ate breakfast outdoors one morning, though I found it was a bit chilly the next morning, so I ate indoors that day.

Breakfast was a buffet with fruit, cheese, cold Spanish meats, pastries, cereal and yogurt. Various juices and milk were available to drink, and a server offered coffee. The server gave me an a la carte menu to order an additional item at no extra charge, with salad, gazpacho, omelets, avocado toast, pancakes and waffles available.

For lunch and dinner, El Claustro offers haute cuisine that it describes as fusing “traditional Andalusian gastronomy with modern culinary concepts.” I did not eat lunch or dinner at the hotel during my stay, instead choosing to eat while I was out in town sightseeing.

There's also a bar called The Library next to El Claustro, and it appeared to be a relaxing and cozy place to have cocktails. During the free flamenco show I attended, I ordered (and paid for) a glass of rose wine and a glass of cava, a Spanish sparkling wine. I was given almonds to enjoy with my drinks.

Amenities and service

As mentioned earlier, the hotel has a workout room and Turkish bath in the crypt. Both were unoccupied when I peeked in. The workout room had a treadmill, elliptical machine, exercise bicycle, weights and a television.

While I was less than impressed with the front desk service when checking in, the restaurant service made up for it. The wait staff during the evening flamenco show was pleasant and prompt. When ordering my glass of cava, the amount left in the bottle was not quite enough for a full glass; however, the server returned with a new bottle to top me off. And during breakfast, the staff was courteous in seating me, presenting and explaining the a la carte menu and remembering my room number when I returned for the second morning.

SENITRA HORBROOK/THE POINTS GUY

On the first evening of my stay, while I was away from the room, I received turndown service from housekeeping, and two chocolates were left on the bed. On the next evening, I was in the room when housekeeping knocked — the housekeeper asked if I needed anything for the evening, and I said no, so she gave me two chocolates and left.

Out and about

SENITRA HORBROOK/THE POINTS GUY

Located on the busy thoroughfare of Gran Via, the hotel is within easy walking distance of the Royal Chapel and Granada Cathedral. The Alhambra palace and fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is about 30 minutes' walking distance. Advance, timed tickets are needed to visit the Nasrid Palaces of the Alhambra. The gardens and other areas can be visited at your leisure.

Scenic neighborhoods such as Albaicin and Sacromonte are a little farther outside the historical center. They can be reached by local bus or by walking for about 30 minutes, though it is an uphill walk to Sacromonte. I particularly enjoyed visiting Mirador de San Nicolas, a busy lookout point with great views of the Alhambra, the mountains and the city. Many restaurants offering a wide variety of cuisines are near the hotel.

Accessibility

The hotel’s website lists a Deluxe Accessible Queen Room with a roll-in shower. However, it says that hearing-accessible rooms are not available. I observed a family with a wheelchair user at breakfast one morning, which gave me the impression that the hotel is a suitable option for families who need accessible accommodation.

Checking out

When traveling, I spend a lot of time exploring and walking, and I like to have a comfortable hotel room to return to at the end of the day. The bland decor combined with the small room was not the higher-end experience I had in mind when I booked the hotel.

At a price point in the $100 range, I’d consider staying here again. But paying more than $300 per night for a downgraded room next to the elevator did not feel like the upscale experience I’d been enticed by on the hotel’s website. It’s possible that a suite or a room in the old monastery may have been more of the experience I was hoping to have, but I did not have an opportunity to view either of those rooms.

The hotel’s history is a selling point, but anyone can walk through the old monastery areas, admire the architecture, dine at the El Claustro restaurant or have a drink in the cloister without actually staying at the hotel.

Featured image by SENITRA HORBROOK/THE POINTS GUY
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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BEST FOR DINING AND GROCERY REWARDS
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points on Restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.

    Earn 60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There’s a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It’s been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you’re hitting the skies soon, you’ll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there’s no reason that the foodie shouldn’t add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x).
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel.
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months.

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories.
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits.
  • Few travel perks and protections.