Historic paradores in the heart of Spain

Parador in Toledo, Spain - Historic Paradores in the heart of Spain - Short breaks & holidays - Country & travel - allaboutyou.com

If you enjoy throwing a splash of history, a dash of unusual architecture and a healthy spoonful of gastronomic treats into your holiday mix then a stay at one of Spain’s fascinating paradores is a must. Paradores are a collection of boutique hotels in buildings of historical significance located in areas of interest. The concept was originally introduced by the government in 1928 as a way of preserving ancient buildings and encouraging tourism, there are now 94 paradores throughout Spain in lovingly converted monasteries, convents, palaces and castles. They are still state owned and, despite the high quality of the décor and the food, a stay at a parador is remarkable value for money.

A good place to start your exploration of the Parador network is Madrid. From here it is just a short journey to three delightful locations.

Parador de Alcalá de Henares

The birthplace of Cervantes and Katherine of Aragon, the World Heritage City Alcalá de Henares is just 26km from Madrid. Wander through the medieval cobbled streets or take a tour of Cervantes’ childhood home, with an opportunity to take a selfie alongside the lifesize sculpture of his most famous creation, Don Quixote, which sits just outside. Don’t miss the Cathedral, impressive university buildings (think Cambridge with a Moorish influence), Corral de Comedias - one of the oldest preserved and still active theatres in Europe - or, for just €1, climb the Santa Maria tower for a bird’s-eye view of the town. On your way back to the parador don’t forget to look up to see the many storks that nest on the city’s spires.

The parador itself is set in the former San Jeronimo university building, combining historic elements with a strikingly modern extension, all bleached wood, frosted glass and dramatic light fittings. My bedroom featured a polished concrete walk-in shower, king-size bed, separate dressing room and electric black-out blinds, which I enjoyed playing with. Dinner was a feast of chestnut soup, garlic-stuffed salmon and pistachio cake but I was still happy to hit the extensive breakfast buffet next morning for fresh fruit followed by churros and chocolate.

Prices start from €105 per room per night (room only). Access to the spa, located in the old chapel, is €30.

Parador de Chinchón

Just 46km south of Madrid Chinchón is a quaintly quiet destination in stark contrast to the cosmopolitan buzz of the capital. Start your tour in the town centre where ancient buildings, uniformly painted green and white, crowd round the square that still hosts bullfights during the summer. The clutter of balconies, many of them bars or restaurants, look magical at night when lit. From here climb the cobbled streets to the Torre del Reloj (clock tower), you won’t be alone in enjoying the view, Orson Welles admired Chinchón so much he shot two films here.  A visit to the handsome church of Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion is a must especially as it boasts a Goya painting as part of the altar piece. Still need an art fix? Then local artist Muñoz Vera welcomes visitors to his spacious home and gallery (www.arauco.org). If sightseeing makes you hungry, then hunt out the famous Restaurant Meson Cuevas del Vino (www.cuevasdelvino.com) with its extraordinary wine caves lined by 12ft high terracotta urns.

The Parador de Chinchón itself is centrally located in what was once an Augustine monastery. Sensitively converted into a four-star hotel the parador features tiled floors, beamed ceilings and heavy oak shutters that guarantee an excellent night’s sleep. Food in the restaurant includes local specialities such as salmorejo (a delicious garlic soup), suckling pig and cream cheese ice cream, finished off with a glass of the local aniseed-based liquor, an example of how each parador prides itself on using local ingredients and promoting regional cuisine. During your stay, take time to stroll through the lovely courtyard gardens filled with fruit trees, roses, neat box hedges and fountains. And if you visit during the summer the attractive swimming pool is also open to guests.

Prices start from €85 per room per night (room only).

Parador de Toledo

Just 30 minutes by train from Madrid, Toledo is a historical gem of a town dramatically piled onto the Toledo peninsula which is isolated from the surrounding countryside by a deep ravine carved by the Tagus river. Once a thriving mixed community boasting Catholic, Jewish and Muslim quarters, the city became the Catholic capital of Spain in the 17th century after the Spanish Inquisition had successfully imposed its will. You can still visit the Inquisition’s headquarters, now a lively bar. Cuentame Toledo Rutas runs fascinating English-speaking walking tours of the city that highlight some of the less well known sites, such as an underground dwelling where a Jewish family practised their religion in secret just streets away from the Inquisition’s notorious prison, as well as the major tourist destinations such as the cathedral and El Greco museum.

The Parador de Toledo is on a hill outside the town with an unbeatable view. Most rooms look out over the swimming pool towards the city and all have a spacious balcony, large bed and white marble bathroom. Once a private dwelling, the parador is elegantly furnished and boasts a stunning restaurant with one fully glazed wall where you can enjoy a delicious tasting menu featuring such delights as cuttlefish salad and roast venison.

Prices start from €100 per room per night (room only).

Getting there

Easyjet flies from Bristol, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Gatwick and Luton to Madrid from £28.99 www.easyjet.com

Find out more

There are various paradores routes you can follow and discounts are offered throughout the year. Find out more here: www.parador.es

You might also like...

Soak up culture in Spain
Booka  break to Madrid, Salamanca and Toledo with our online travel shop
Find lots more holiday inspiration in the UK and abroad


by 3 people

Rate This
Comment Print

Post your comment

Join us here...

Click on a magazine title to see all its online features and news
Stain buster Our guide to removing smudges, spots, and other spills.
See more stain busting solutions >



View by magazine : View by magazine Prima