With its historic pueblo-inspired architecture and Spanish Revival style, this landmark Santa Fe hotel looks like it dates back much earlier than 1922, when it was designed by two of the area’s top architects: Mary Elizabeth Jane Coulter and John Gaw Meem. And, in fact, despite the imposing building’s relative youth, the legacy of La Fonda dates back to the 1600s. An inn or hotel has stood on this site since the city’s founding at the end of the Santa Fe Trail.
Now, as one of the city’s most iconic luxury hotels, it presides over the historic Plaza and boasts some of the best views of the city and surrounding mountains and desert. Thanks to a complete (and completely faithful) renovation in 2013, rooms are now bright and airy, outfitted with handcrafted furnishings, local artwork and textiles, energy-efficient casement windows, and all the luxuries expected of a modern grande dame. The fine-dining courtyard restaurant is one of the most romantic dining destinations in town—trumped only by the rooftop Bell Tower Bar, whose sunset views and margarita menu draw locals and in-the-know visitors alike. Throw in a heated outdoor pool (open year-round, a rarity in Santa Fe) and a decadent spa, and it’s no wonder that La Fonda has maintained its reputation for superlative hospitality for so long.
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Located in the heart of Santa Fe’s historic downtown, La Fonda presides over the central Plaza. Everything in the bustling city center is within a stone’s throw, and even some of the farther-flung attractions, like the Canyon Road galleries and the hip Railyard District, are barely more than a 10-minute walk. The area is filled with popular and tony restaurants like Santacafé and Luminaria (at the Inn and Spa at Loretto), as well as high-end boutiques, such as Shiprock Santa Fe and Santa Fe Vintage Outpost, selling curated collections of local and international handicrafts, art, and antiques. Art lovers especially appreciate the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and New Mexico Museum of Art, both in the neighborhood. And, of course, no visit to Santa Fe would be complete without a trip to the Santa Fe Opera, just a short drive out of town.
Need to Know
Rooms: 180 rooms, 19 suites. From $149. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: The courtyard-style La Plazuela is the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant, where locally sourced New Mexican cuisine is served three meals a day on the flagstone terrace with its colorfully tiled fountain from the 1920s and dramatic wrought-iron chandelier. With live music most nights, La Fiesta Lounge is a popular Santa Fe nightlife spot; by day, it serves a buffet of New Mexican classics. On the fifth-floor rooftop, the Bell Tower Bar (open only in the warmer months) offers panoramic views of Santa Fe’s historic pueblo roofs and colorful desert sunsets, as well as Southwestern light bites and an extensive margarita menu. Spa and gym details: The Spa at La Fonda on the Plaza offers a wide range of wellness treatments—available either in treatment rooms or guest rooms—most of which draw on the surrounding desert’s natural bounty and traditional Native American techniques. The hotel also has a modern fitness center with steam rooms, as well as a heated outdoor pool and hot tub, open all year long.
Who it's best for: Couples of all ages with a sense of history and who want to be in the heart of the action. Our favorite rooms: Thanks to the hotel’s historic architecture, each room is distinctive, some with private balconies, others with working fireplaces, many with scenic views. Room 500, a one-bedroom suite, has a fireplace and a wraparound balcony overlooking Santa Fe Plaza, while Room 501, also a one-bedroom suite, boasts its own fireplace and views of the historic Loretto Chapel from its balcony next to the Bell Tower. The Terrace at La Fonda, set apart from the rest of the hotel, is an especially luxurious collection of 15 rooms that include private concierges, free breakfast, and a private terrace, plus a gym area. For art lovers: The hotel’s private art collection is one of the best in town, and docent-led tours are offered free to guests three times a week; each is different, designed to cover different parts of the collection, as well as the town and hotel’s history and architecture.
Great Place to Stay!
I have stayed at La Fonda on three occasions, in 2003, 2007 and 2011. Each time I felt welcomed and wanted to come back. The location is very nearly perfect, being situated right on the Plaza in the heart of the city. Leave your car in the convenient parking garage and explore on foot! The year-round heated pool and spa is a big attraction, and there are plenty of dining options in the hotel or a short walk nearby. I will be back!