Background & Concept
A former tannery, this building’s origins began in the 18th century. 100 years later it was turned into a convent, occupied by the Oblate Sisters of the Most Holy Redeemer, an order dedicated to helping young girls in trouble (which continue to operate to this day, in 15 different countries). Another century on and it was vacated by the nuns, left as a ruin in 1983. At this juncture the property was purchased, then sensitively restored, renovated and extended to become a luxe hotel, overseen by the architects José Luis Pereiro and Lorenzo Marqués.
But the Palacio’s lengthy story runs through the property’s newest incarnation, with nods to its history created in tributes such as a barrel-vaulted chapel, boasting a huge mosaic mural entitled “Annunciation of Our Lady”. The chapel serves as a unique meeting space, for business conferences and a beautiful backdrop for wedding celebrations.
Close to the Cathedral (containing Pórtico de la Gloria), the University, the Monasterio de San Martin Pinario and the Plaza Obradoiro, the Palacio del Carmen is well-placed for sightseeing in this significant city; a site of pilgrimage for many Christians. It’s believed to be the resting place of the apostle James, whose tomb was discovered by a hermit. Founded as a settlement in the 9th century, it was totally destroyed in the 10th century, and then fully rebuilt. Indeed, Santiago de Compostela has always been a deeply spiritual place for those of all creeds. Palacio del Carmen sits beside the Way to Finisterre, by the Atlantic Ocean, in what was considered to be the ‘end of the world’ and a place of magical powers in ancient times — it was said that this was where the sun died and the world of the dead and the living joined together.
An ideal base to discover north-west Spain
While the city itself is quite remarkable, with stunning architecture, this hotel is a great option if you want to visit further afield. As onsite parking is free, hiring a car to explore the surrounding countryside and villages is a great option — the Palacio isn’t far from the legendary hills Libredón and Pedroso. Indeed the city itself was formed in the valley on the banks of the river Sarela with its arched bridge (Ponte do Arzobispo) and baroque Carme de Abaixo Church.
Rooms and Suites
Fusing tradition with modern design, the bedrooms here have authentic timber beams and a neutral colour scheme. Each has a minibar, individual climate control, soundproofing and a work desk with an ergonomic chair. Room categories range from the Deluxe Queen and Twin, through to a Cathedral View Suite, with sofas, chairs and a table. Around the building, you can spot many charming original elements, such as pretty wrought iron balconies, exposed rustic stone walls and deep-set windows.
During our stay, we had the best suite in the house their Junior Cathedral View Suite. Located at the front of the hotel with views looking out to the cathedral, this generously proportions suite is made up of two rooms, 24-hour room service, a Nespresso machine, complimentary bottled water and two flat-screen TVs.
Food & Drink
Open for dinner, this is the hotel’s restaurant. El Camelio’s menu focuses on Galician specialities, with signature dishes that blend old recipes with up-to-date cooking techniques. As well as an indoor dining room, there’s an elegant terrace for alfresco drinks and snacks. And for a lighter bite and drinks into the evening, there’s The Suite Bar. Plus guests can order room service around the clock. Do try the Palacio’s famous Almond Cake during your stay. Made by Mary Carmen – the hotel’s pastry chef – using an original recipe, it’s dedicated to the apostle James the Greater and possesses a unique flavour.
Located off the lobby you will find a tempting menu of salads and sandwiches throughout the day as well as a comprehensive drink and cocktail menu.
Serviced daily till 11am, enjoy a wide range of cold continental options as well as hot dishes that can be cooked to order. Breakfast is served inside as well as out in the garden.
An indoor swimming pool located on the ground floor has a sophisticated vibe. It’s filled with saltwater that provides the closest experience to wild swimming, inside and offers several health benefits. If you fancy a workout, there’s a fitness room with cardiovascular machines, as well as free weights.
Galician-Style Courtyard Gardens
Calming and peaceful this is the place to walk and sit on the classic cast iron seats, soaking in nature. A camellia tree has stood in the hotel’s gardens for over 100 years, simultaneously blooming in three different colours, from late winter through to early spring. There’s a picnic area and there are gorgeous views of the cathedral — bring a book and spend a few hours relaxing in the sun, on one of the benches. Guests can book outdoor pilgrim massage treatments in the garden too; a sensory experience enjoyed to the sounds of birds chirping and the fresh aroma of flowers.
Whether you’re travelling for work or pleasure, a stay at the Palacio del Carmen offers sublime comfort, convenience and plenty of character. This property is included in our guide to the best hotels in Santiago de Compostela.