It is no surprise that Luxury Collection Hotels & Resorts, part of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, chose the Hotel Alfonso XIII in Seville, Spain, as the first in a $200 million restoration project involving four grande dame hotels in Europe.
One factor is its facade, which pays homage to the Moorish influences that characterize much of the city's architecture. Another is its choice location in the heart of a city that is the capital and pulse of Spain's Andalusian region.
Abercrombie & Kent is a believer: The property appears on a range of A&K itineraries, from expensive private luxury tours to the more budget-friendly Connections product, using different room categories. I was on a Connections press trip last spring when I stayed at the hotel, among the highlights of a trip that included Madrid and Barcelona.
The 151-room property, which opened in 1928 and reopened in May 2012 after a $25 million, 10-month renovation, now boasts hand-painted ceramic tiles everywhere, arched doorways, hand-carved wooden furnishings and marble floors.
The hotel features three suites: the Reales Alcazares, the Torreon and the Royal, all of which offer sweeping views of the city and carefully chosen decor that focuses as much on local history as luxury.
The art deco American Bar and the Salon Real Ballroom has a terrace overlooking the gardens, a restored ceiling and wrought-iron doors. There are three restaurants: the modern, tapas-style Bodega Alfonso; the poolside Taifas Mediterranean; and the San Fernando for all-day Andalusian dining.
During my group's two-night stay, we enjoyed the hotel's proximity to the Alcazar, a dazzling Moorish palace so close to the hotel you can see it from the Reales Alcazares suite, and the over-the-top Plaza d'Espagna, which was redesigned for Spain's Expo '92.
Flamenco is big in Seville, with a number of venues where visitors can combine dinner and a show; they also can get an up-close look at the dancers' clothes at the Flamenco Museum.
According to Paul James, global brand leader for St. Regis and the Luxury Collection Hotels & Resorts, the philosophy behind the hotel's renovation marks a shift that responds to today's brand of affluent traveler in search of experiences that are as much unique and full of character as opulent.
The other three hotel renovations in this collection were the Hotel Maria Cristina in San Sebastian, Spain, which debuted in July 2012; the Gritti Palace in Venice, which opened in February; and the Prince de Galles in Paris, which opened in June.
"As the Luxury Collection portfolio continues to grow globally, it is equally, if not more, important that we invest in and celebrate the heritage of the brand and its most iconic hotels in Europe," James said.