We booked a very last- minute break to this hotel at the end of July to try and escape the dismal UK weather, and ended up having the most perfect weekend. We were looking for a hotel out of Madrid city centre (but not too far from the airport) that had a good pool and was within walking distance to good restaurants and interesting sights. The old University town of Alcala de Henares with its funky part-modern, part ancient Parador seemed to fit the bill perfectly.
The ultra-modern hotel interior may not be to everone's taste (we loved it) but was very well run, spotlessly clean and right in the centre of this ancient city (very like Oxford or Cambridge in the UK). There were numerous restaurants dotted among the ancient buildings (be warned though most menus are entirely in Spanish) and we found the food and drink excellent value compared to the UK, especially as drinks always arrive with a tapas dish. Alcala is very picturesque and it was delightful to see storks nesting on the roofs of the old buildings and flying overhead.
The pool at the hotel was just as inviting as the photos suggested and we found it hard to tear ourselves away from it in temperatures of 35C. We had been a bit worried about the lack of sun beds in the photos, but there were quite a few, and we never had a problem finding some, although it was noticeably less crowded after the weekend. Our only gripe was that the pool did not open until 11am, but it stayed open late.
It is worth scouring the official Parador website for special accommodation packages. We chose one that included bed, breakfast, entry to the weird and wonderful 'sensations' spa circuit each day ( really just a series of showers of varying temperatures with a jacuzzi and sauna and steam rooms, but fun for 45 minutes) plus entry to the Thyssen museum in Madrid (which we did not use) for less than the normal bed and breakfast rate. The half board package seemed expensive in comparison, as the set dinner included was only 34euros per person anyway.
Breakfast was great, a huge buffet with plenty of choice and eggs cooked separately if you wanted them, served in a lovely room . We dined in the town on our first night, but tried the hotel set menu the second and were blown away by the quality and presentation of the food. We chose to eat outside in the lovely courtyard but inside was great, too. The food was typical Spanish regional cuisine and we drank the nicest Rioja I have ever tasted! There were 4 or 5 choices for each course so you might get a bit weary of the half board option for a longer stay, but there is also an a la carte menu for added choice (although more pricey).
It is worth visiting the bar before dinner : my husband and sons were intrigued by the 'design your own gin and tonic' menu (we had not realised there were so many brands of gin and types of tonic!) and have been trying to replicate them at home ever since!
All in all, we all felt the weekend was a great success, and amazing value. It was our first visit to a Parador, but would love to visit more around Spain (there is another at Chinchon just a little further out of Madrid which looks equally delightful, with more traditional interiors).
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- In the birthplace of Cervantes, where every nook and cranny oozes art and culture, stands the Parador de Alcala, a 17th-century monastery school and student lodgings located in the former San Jeronimo College. However, do not let so much history overwhelm you, because the hotel offers the perfect combination of tradition and avant-garde. The interior decor is of a modern design: tasteful, minimalist and extremely elegant. The services are without par: in addition to the standard offerings at Paradores, there is a spa, business center, convention centers and twelve conference rooms. 26 Kilometers from Madrid, 20 kilometers from Barajas International Airport and the trade fair facilities at IFEMA, and just 2 kilometers from the train station, the Parador's location in this World Heritage City is one of its main advantages. ... more less
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