Silken Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao, Basque ***

Q: What is it? A: A hotel that doesn’t really match the high-profile names that designed it. But it’s very, very close to the Guggenheim.

Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao, Basque – the façade
Architect Fernando Salas and designer Javier Mariscal collaborated to make the GHDB something special. I don’t know about you, but to me it feels like most other modern buildings from the outside.

Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao, Basque – the rooftop
The rooftop is a place for one of the better breakfasts I had in a European hotel. It’s also a place that will remind you of how close to the Guggenheim you really are.

Is it close to the museum?
You bet it is. It’s located about 50 meters from the stranded blue whale bearing Frank Gehry’s signature. It’s actually the closest you can stay to the building that almost on its own so completely changed the image of Bilbao. “Are you going to live there? It’s a place for loading and unloading cargo containers…” That’s what they said at the travel agency. But since the Guggenheim museum opened in 1997, the containers had to make way for a playground with fountains. The space-age tram is making a stop just outside. It’s quite a metamorphosis. Bilbao is less and less living up to its nickname, El Botxo (The Hole).

Javier Mariscal was called in to help with the hotel concept.
The giant phallos in the atrium and the red, peanut shaped couch in the lobby plus a few other details are little signals that flirt with the few guests who care about who Javier Mariscal is. Can’t say it helped a lot. It’s sometimes cool, but more often the effect is… phoney and without charm. The restaurant Beltz the Black comes with a ”minimalist scenography” as a feature. It translates to meaningless scenography in my book. I’m also sad to report that the food matches that scenography.

Question: Should I stay here?
Answer: Yes, but don’t expect to be blown away by a hotel experience like no other. The young people manning the hotel bar are looking at the guests as if they were a nuisance. Rooms are of high standard without being something that you will write home about. This hotel scores high points with their breakfast buffet, which is served on the rooftop terrace, that overlooks the Guggenheim. This hotel has five stars in the official, Spanish listing. I don’t get it. Three would be more accurate. Three and half star if I’m in a good mood.

Gran Hotel Domine Bilbao
Alameda de Mazarredo, 61.
48009 Bilbao, Spain


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