Photo courtesy of Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra
Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra
A belle epoque grande dame presiding over San Sebastián’s iconic La Concha Beach, the Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra has been a palace, casino, hospital, and of course hotel since its construction in 1865. Before and after World War I, it was the kind of place where well-to-do Europeans went on seaside holidays for months at a time, enjoying direct beach access, the city’s renowned seafood, and the hotel’s elegant design. Nowadays, the society consists of a somewhat less star-studded lineup—once Toulouse-Lautrec, Archduchess Elizabeth of Austria, and Mata Hari were all guests—but the unobstructed Bahía de la Concha views, lovely rooms (all with private balconies), and pride of place at the heart of the city remain. The window-lined brasserie takes its cue from classic French bistros—it’s not hard to imagine that the well-dressed gentlemen at the next table are French aristocrats-in-exile—and its tables along the beachfront promenade are the perfect place to while away a few hours over pintxos, txakoli (a sparkling white wine from Basque Country), and people watching. If you were to spend a few months in a seaside town, this would be the way to do it.
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Set on the northeastern end of San Sebastián’s crescent-shaped La Concha Beach, the Hotel de Londres might have the best location in the city: next to a park, down the street from the historic part of the city, and, yes, right on the water. Many of the city’s acclaimed restaurants are just a few minutes away, including Restaurante Narru, La Madame, and Restaurante San Marcial. Breakfast isn’t included at the hotel, but you can easily grab a sidewalk table at a bakery like Pastelería Oyarzun or Gogoko Goxuak and chow down on artisan baked goods. If strolling along the beachfront promenade isn’t enough activity, hike up Mount Urgull for panoramic views or pay a visit to the famed Acuario de San Sebastián.
Need to Know
Rooms: 167 rooms, 12 suites. From $105. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: The white-tableclothed La Brasserie Mari Galant serves a gourmet, seafood-heavy menu of Basque-inspired favorites for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in its breezy, elegant dining room overlooking the beach and the Bahía de la Concha. In warmer months, nab one of the outdoor tables on the beachfront promenade. Just off the lobby, the column-lined, nautical-inspired Bar Swing serves cocktails, Spanish wines, coffee, and a range of small plates throughout the day at its ornate wooden bar, to fireside armchairs, and on the beachfront promenade. Spa and gym details: The hotel has neither a gym nor a spa, but it does offer discounted passes to a nearby gym. Some room packages come with passes to the iconic, belle epoque–era La Perla spa, just down the beach.
Who's it best for: View seekers, fans of Old World elegance, couples. Our favorite rooms: The sea-facing Attic rooms have possibly the best hotel views of the Bahía de la Concha in San Sebastián from their private balconies and walls of windows. The entire arc of sand, and the Bay of Biscay beyond, is right there. Some of these rooms even have a window-facing Jacuzzi in the bathroom; the hotel calls these the “Seventh Heaven Rooms.” Spy's suite: In 1916, the hotel’s presidential suite hosted the legendary courtesan and spy Mata Hari; it has since been named for her. The room is decorated with pictures of Mata Hari, as well as items she once owned.