Hotel de Los Reyes Catolicos. Like the Hostal San Marcos in Leon, this is a five-star hotel now run as part of the Parador chain. Again like the San Marcos, Los Reyes Catolicos is a hotel set within a building which is both of historic importance and of extraordinary beauty. From the delicately carved Plateresque doorway, through to the four patios built within the Hospital’s cross-shaped design, the whole building is an absolute delight.
The Hospital Real de Peregrinos was built in the 16th century on the instructions of the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, to serve as both a pilgrim inn and a hospital. It was converted into a hotel in 1954. It is now a luxury hotel of the very highest quality. The bedrooms are in general lavishly appointed, with canopied beds, richly woven carpets, antique furniture and expensive paintings —though reports from readers make it clear that some of the rooms are distinctly cramped.
Although it is one of the world’s finest hotels, and would have to be described as ‘posh’, the atmosphere of the Los Reyes Catolicos is quite different from that of the posh hotels of Britain, where staff can make you feel like dirt if you don’t know the ‘right’ way to behave. Here, the staff do all they can to make you feel welcome —and since the hotel is so spread out around its four patios, you’re hardly exposed to the public eye at all. Breakfast is buffet-style, while lunch and dinner are equally relaxed.
It could be argued that the Los Reyes Catolicos is an even finer hotel than Leon’s San Marcos, because its location on the Plaza de Espana, adjacent to the cathedral, would be impossible to better. And if we were pushed to make a choice between the two we would prefer Los Reyes Catolicos; but comparing the relative merits of two such great hotels is ultimately pointless — they’re 240 miles apart, and you can perfectly well justify including both in your itinerary.