to stay in Spain - hotels, hostales, rural retreats and more
Tourism is the leading sector of the Spanish economy, so not
surprisingly it is a sector that is well developed - not just to cater
for the planeloads of tourists from northern Europe who flock in every
day for a pre-booked package holiday on one of the Mediterranean costas.
Many hotels on the Spanish coast are owned and run
by or for large international package tour companies, and exclusively
reserved for their own customers. But there is a lot more to the hotel
sector in Spain than these international holiday palaces that line the
water's edge; and for independent travellers driving through Spain, or
even hiking, this is useful information.
Spanish like their hotels and they like them comfortable and well
appointed. Spain seems to abound in four-star and five-star
hotels, and in many cases these can be booked at rates that are
considerably lower than similarly starred hotels in other countries.
Where else in western Europe could you get a room in a five-star hotel
for less than 100 € a night? While this is not the normal
for such luxury in Spain, there are cities and towns in Spain
- in mid 2012 - where it is still possible to book a room in
a five star hotel for less than this price, particularly out of season.
The same goes for four-star hotels: with the
exception of Barcelona,
where hotel prices seem to be considerably higher than the rest of
Spain, prices are generally far more affordable than in France or
Germany, not to mention the UK. Indeed, right across the range, Spanish
hotels usually offer good to excellent value for money compared to
hotels in countries further to the north.
As a price guide, it should normally be possible
to find a room for two in a three-star hotel in Spain for under 100
night - sometimes for less than half of that, and a room in a two-star
hotel for less than 60 €, including breakfast.
Among the finest hotels in Spain are the "Paradors". It was Franco who
had the idea
of transforming some of Spain's many historic monuments into luxury
hotels, and it is perhaps the single achievement of this era
his bitter enemies will happily give him credit for. There are
currrently about 90 paradores nacionales in Spain, occupying a
wonderful range of historic monuments, including castles, old
monasteries, fine old city residences and old rural retreats
- plus a few housed in modern buildings.
Parador in a Renaissance castle
Though they are classed from three to five stars, these
hotels all offer a fabulous and unique environment, with all the luxury
of a modern hotel mostly within walls that have stood for centuries,
some cases are inseparable from the history of Spain. Paradors are not
cheap, but for what they offer they are not expensive either. Generally
expect to pay upwards of 120 € a night for a double room
breakfast - though some off-season special offers come in at below
this. Paradors for which there is considerable demand, for instance the
Parador set within the Alhambra at Granada, are considerably more
expensive .... but still normally cheaper than equivalent
accommodation in London, Paris, or even Barcelona.
Hostales, pronounced host-tal-es, are not hostels, but small hotels
that do not meet all the requirements to be classed as hotels. Most
have less than ten rooms. Generally speaking, they correspond to small
one or two star hotels - sometimes in the backpacker hotel style, but
sometimes undistinguishable from small hotels that are classed as such.
In most cases, hostales are run by live-in owners, who try to
convivial and friendly atmosphere. If it's luxury you are
after, don't choose a hostal; but if a homely atmosphere and
bargain prices are among your selection criteria, then hostales could
well be a good choice. A double room in a hostal is often available for
under 30 € a night - depending of course on the location.
Designated by the letter P - rather than an H - on a blue background, a
pension is a kind of guest house, often no more than a room or two for
hire above a café or a restaurant; pensiones can be found in
even in villages. En-suite bathrooms are unusual in pensiones, which
offer accommodation at bargain-basement rates - as little as 15
night in 2012.
The word "Posada" does not designate an official category of guest
accommodation, but a type of accommodation, best thought of as the
equivalent of an old English country inn. Thus posadas tend to be
located in small towns or along old routes across Spain, and when the
word is used in the name of a hotel or hostal, it usually indicates
that the owners see their establishment as a modern version of the inns
of yesteryear. In out of the way places, and off main roads, posadas
thus tend to be places with some character : but when driving in Spain,
it is not uncommon to see signs for a posada beside main
some use the word in the traditional sense, others abuse it much in the
way that "inn" is used in the brand names of a number modern
international budget hotel chains.
hotels; chains and independents
Spain has a number of hotel chains, the biggest of them being NH
Hoteles and Meliá. With 160 hotels in Spain, NH is a chain
essentially targets the business market, with its smart contemporary
Meliá hotels, formerly
Sol Meliá, is one of the
world's ten largest hotel companies; they have 181 hotels in Spain (as
of 2012), including a large number of modern resort hotels; for
example, there are no less than seven
different Meliá hotels
among the hotels in Torremolinos, on the Costa des Sol. Melia
also now own the Tryp chain specialising in modern upmarket hotels.
Other large players in the Spanish hotel market
include Barcelo Hotels & Resorts,
with mostly four-star hotels, and Sercotel, with 134
city hotels some of them modern, others housed in classic city-centre
buildings. In addition, Spain is home to a number of smaller chains,
such as Room Mate hotels - stylish contemporary city hotels, or the
mid-range Catalonia Hoteles group. On a completely different level is
the Rusticae group, a grouping of about 200 small cosy rural hotels
throughout Spain - each one with its own individuality.
Do not expect to find in Spain, as you do in
France, arrays of lookalike low-cost chain hotels on the outskirts of
every town or city. There are some, but nothing like in the same
proportion as in France. One low-cost Spanish hotel chain is Sidorme,
with prices from about 35 € upwards... but they only have 7
considerably fewer than the growing number of Spanish Ibis and
F1 hotels which belong to the French Accor
Most hotels in Spain, particularly smaller ones,
are independent establishments; rooms in independent hotels, specially
in the one-star to three-star bracket, are often very competitively
priced; normally with bar and restaurant attached or close-by, these
hotels are popular with travellers, offer a traditional Spanish
experience, and perhaps help to explain why low-cost budget
hotel chains have been slow to develop in this country.
The term Casa rural, meaning country house, is used to describe a range
of different types of rural accommodation in Spain, including the
equivalent of French "gites" (which in Spain often offer flexible
booking periods, not just weekly rentals), rural bed and breakfast
accommodation, and rural hostales – in addition to rural
groups and parties.
See Camping in Spain for
a guide to camping on the Spanish coasts and inland in Spain.
useful sources of accommodation information: