Hospes Palau de la Mar, Valencia, Spain ****

Q: What is it? A: A pretty and old building on the outside. A pretty modern hotel and spa on the inside. A pretty perfect location. A pretty good choice if in Valencia.

Memorize this and you may remember what it looks like, even after having a few...

The entrance of the Palau de la Mar. Just use your finest Spanish accent and tell your cabbie to take you to Navarro Reverter 14-16.

How about a hard-wood floor in the lobby?

They developers and designers went through a lot of trouble to make this century-old townhouse look modern. And in a way they succeeded. LED lights in the hard-wood floor and all…

A planetarium and a concert hall that look like failed experiments of POC helmets.

Santiago Calatrava isn’t even trying to make his buildings blend in. Here’s the planetarium and the concert hall of the City of the Arts project in Valencia.

What to expect from Valencia these days?
Until a few years ago, this city hardly felt like a destination. No, I don’t agree with the tourist board that the fact that it’s the birthplace of the paella will draw millions of visitors each year. But architect icon Santiago Calatrava was born in Valencia. And the city of Valencia finally embraced its famous son, letting him loose on the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències, which is situated in the now dry River Turia.
As Valencia is the third largest city in Spain, Calatrava’s work may not have turned things completely upside down like Gehry did with the Guggenheim museum in the smaller industry town of Bilbao, but those bridges and the space-age look of museums, planetariums and concert halls surely has made a difference. The organic shapes would feel unique even in Tokyo, if you ask me.

Ta-daa! The city’s first five-star boutique hotel…
That’s how they advertise it. a) I don’t agree with the star-system, as it is a checklist that says very little about atmosphere. b) The ’boutique’ thing feels even more like a relic from the 1990s than the ‘design hotel’ thing. Plus, with 66 rooms the Palau de la Mar is not really a small hotel. But labels aside, it’s a very good hotel situated in the Eixample Noble neighbourhood, next to the Turia Gardens and just a 500-metre walk from the old town.

They do it quite good…
First, rooms are cool. Not flimsy but cool. Designers have resisted the temptation to throw in pieces of Kartell furniture fulfill their ‘design’ ambitions. Second, breakfasts are fantastic. They have nothing extraordinary to offer, in fact they’re just like normal hotel breakfasts, with one important difference; everything tastes superb – and is nicer to have a slice of manchego cheese instead of plastic cheese. Third, the hotel comes with a basement spa, offering a steam room and sauna next to a plunge pool.

…but just quite good.
Also, the WiFi is complimentary and the bathroom has more shampoo and shaving stuff and toothbrushes to offer than your local convenient store. They didn’t even forget the robes and slippers. In short; it’s good.
But the staff is slightly inexperienced. At times they are trying and at other times it seems like they don’t give a damn. Or maybe it is just the language barrier? In all honesty, my Spanish sucks.
The Palau de la Mar have most things going for them though. I’ve heard rumors about plans for hotels on the Valencian waterfront, but until those are finished, this is definitely the place to stay if you’re in the neighbourhood.

Useless bonus info: Smallish dogs (up to 12 kgs) are welcome, for a charge of €50 a night.

Hospes Palau de la Mar
Navarro Reverter 14-16
Valencia 46004

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