I've visited the Balneario a number of times on business and have always had a very good experience. My most recent visit was in November 2012 and I stayed 2 nights, flying in and out of Vigo airport. First impression of the hotel is the wonderful smell as you walk into reception - I think it's from the spa, but of course it could always be a spa-type spray. Either way, it's lovely and very relaxing.
The hotel staff - in reception, housekeeping and the bar/restaurant - are all very friendly. I speak Spanish, but I've seen that a number of the staff speak English, and I think that English visitors, who are still quite rare, would be made very welcome. The downstairs area in the main building is set up as a lounge, with huge comfy sofas and lots of pictures of the Balneario's fascinating history (you'll find pictures all over the place of its heyday at the beginning of the 20th century and they are very evocative, even if the Edwardian bathrooms are a bit scary looking - I definitely preferred my modern one!). The lounge is a terrific place to sit, relax, read, and enjoy a beer, a coffee or something stronger from the bar. On warm days, they open up the terrace overlooking the pool and that's also a lovely place to sit.
The rooms are elegant and very clean. The ones in the tower and overlooking the rear are larger and brighter, and the larger ones have a seating area with sofa and armchair. The bathrooms are clean with an excellent shower and good quality complementary toiletries. Towels are a bit scratchy and thin - but this has been my experience in most of the Spanish hotels I've stayed in. At least you get to exfoliate!
Food is very good indeed. Breakfast is a buffet, with a range of fresh fruit, cold meat, local cheeses (try the smoked San Simon - my favourite - or the creamy tetilla), cereals, pastries, plus a quasi-English cooked breakfast, which I've never tried, but seems very popular with Spanish guests. The evening menu always combines locally-sourced Galician produce (try the lamprey when they are in season) with more cosmopolitan fare. If caldo gallego (Galician bean broth) is on the menu, try it - it's delicious and very warming in the winter. And if you get the chance to try the licores at the end of the meal, I recommend the licor de hierbas (luminous green) or the coffee liquor, which is sweet and very moreish. After all, you will only have to stumble upstairs afterwards...
The town of Mondariz Balneario is very quiet and tranquil, with lots of lovely local walks along the River Tea. Cross the road to the former Grand Hotel building (now apartments), where you will find the Fonte de Gandara (to the left as you look at the building), which is a great opportunity to taste the water direct from the source. There are very pleasant walks in the grounds of the Grand Hotel building, which are open to the public. If you climb the stairs to the left of the building as you look at it, you will see some of the chalets where wealthy guests used to stay (mostly now derelict, but they make very picturesque ruins), and pass through the remains of the outdoor ethnographic museum, collected by the Peinador family who owned the place in the early 20th century. If you go around to the right of the Grand Hotel building, you will find the remains of the orangery, the crazy golf, and other hotel buildings that are slowly returning to nature.
There are a few cafes and restaurants in town, and I recommend the 'English pub' on the main road, which is very friendly and has a great terrace overlooking the river. Despite the name it isn't very English, but it's good value and a lovely place to spend a couple of hours.
You'll notice I haven't mentioned the spa itself, because it's not the kind of thing I go in for, but people seem to enjoy their treatments and the place is full of guests wafting around in robes and slippers. I went once to the Palacio de Agua across the road (there's an underground tunnel if you don't want to brave the elements in your robe) and enjoyed the rooftop Japanese bath especially.
I love Mondariz - the town and the hotel - and come back whenever I can. It's definitely geared towards the Spanish visitor, but don't let that put you off - English guests are incredibly welcome and it's a tranquil and inviting place to kick back for a couple of days. Plus, as I said, it smells great.
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- Also Known As:
- Balneario De Mondariz Pontevedra, Spain - Galicia