Andrew Forbes (@andrewaforbes) gains a fresh perspective of Southern Spanish city of Malaga, from the elegant surroundings of Palacio Solecio, a new, sophisticated hotel in the city’s historic old town.
This small luxury 68-room boutique hotel has 2 suites, 5 junior suites and a unique tower rooftop suite, room 501, with views out cross Malaga’s rooftops, to the city’s cathedral and the Mediterranean beyond. Dining is an immersive experience in Malaga gastronomy designed by award-winning Michelin star chef José Carlos García.
Malaga and its story
Malaga is a city that attracting a lot of new attention. If you had asked me ten years ago for a recommendation of a must-visit city break destination in Southern Spain, then my advice would have included the old-school refinement of Andalucía’s capital, Seville; or the medieval allure of Granada. I would probably have omitted to mention the city of Picasso’s birth, Malaga.
Not so now! As I write these notes sitting in the intense Mediterranean light that filters through the palm trees of the grand courtyard patio of Malaga port’s former customs house, the Palacio de la Aduana, I am surrounded not only by the city’s history but by its sparkling present. This grand building and has recently been reimagined at the city’s latest multimillion euro museum. It is a magnificent setting for a remarkable collection of art and artifacts that tells the city’s story from the era of the Phoenicians to the modern times. As the fifth largest museum in all of Spain, and with state of the art interior design, including a stylish roof terrace bar restaurant, it is one of the many cultural and architectural highlights that now define contemporary Malaga.
It also shows how there’s a lot more to tell of Malaga’s story, a tale that has been accelerating in recent years. These latest chapters are being written on the city’s streets – through its creative food & wine culture and burgeoning arts scene – contemporary Malaga is now undeniably cool.
The city is definitely on trend and that’s is in no small way thanks to the occasional rawness of this Andalucian city – it is a compelling authentic place. Not contrived, or touristy. Malaga has emerged as one of Europe’s most dynamic cultural centres, with the award-winning Picasso Museum; the romantic Museo Carmen Thyssen; the Centre Pompidou Malaga (the only Pompidou outside France); the unique Russian Art Museum (five centuries of remarkable art from the collection of St. Petersburg); and my personal favourite the CAC Contemporary Art Centre (which has one of the most progressive exhibition programmes in the country).
Yet finding a stylish place to stay remained a challenge for some years. There was no shortage of extravagant resorts and smart hotels if you decided to head west on the Coast. Yet if you wanted to immerse yourself in the heart of this pulsating city then the options were once more limited.
Palacio Solecio Hotel
Palacio Solecio Hotel, in Calle Granada, is therefore a truly welcome addition to the hospitality landscape of this booming city. Combining the historic weight of an 18th century palatial façade, with a timeless interior and a contemporary vibe, Palacio Solecio brings world-class hospitality standards to Malaga, thanks to the distinctive style of Marugal, the Mallorca-based hotel company. Found right at the heart of the city, Palacio Solecio Hotel is close to the iconic Calle Larios and just minutes away from museums, galleries, the hip SOHO arts quarter, as well as indie boutiques and lively tapas bars.
The Hotel & its Story
This noble property has been given a new lease of life. Architect Antonio Obrador has restored the striking façade on this once abandoned structure. The grand staircase has been reconstructed, together with the traditional arched courtyard patio.
The building is filled with aristocratic elegance, as well as plenty Andalusian charm and an enough contemporary style to remind guests this is the latest hotel to open its doors in Malaga.
This fine property was once a private home of Genovese businessman Felix Solesio, a businessman who certainly knew how to play his cards right. Moving to Malaga (and changing his name to Solecio) and rubbing shoulders with Spanish aristocrats and Royalty he was appointed the boss of a paper factory in Malaga province. But this was not just any old business. It was the Real Fábrica de Naipes, a factory making playing cards and one which had the monopoly, awarded by King Charles III, to export to the Spanish empire.
To mark his wealth and newfound place in Southern Spain’s high society he commissioned Palacio Solecio to be his family home.
He even had a ‘sun’ crest created to cement his status (concierge will be happy to give you a short history tour of the property and point out these historic details). Felix Solecio made Malaga his home, and he is buried in the church opposite.
The team are what give this place soul; expect plenty of Malaga warmth. The design will impress, with its generous use of wood and creative lighting; but the essence of this hotel is its people. Malaga has a unique energy, a vibration that is defined by the locals, open, friendly and charismatic.
The hotel’s Balausta Cocktail bar & restaurant celebrates its provenance with a bespoke menu created by award-winning Michelin star chef José Carlos García, whose Michelin star restaurant is a few minutes’ walk away on the contemporary Muelle Uno quayside development.
Head Chef Marcos Granados is behind the seasonal dishes that showcase tasty local produce like ajoblanco almond soup; roast goat and plenty of local fish & seafood. Expect creative pairings with wines from Malaga and across Spain.
The setting is a delight; with tables set within the Andalucian patio courtyard. Attention to detail is everywhere, from the table linen, the subtle coordination of colours from olive greens to earthy tones, gleaming silverware and sparkling glasses. Service is professional yet friendly and natural.
The Balaustra Cocktail bar is a welcome addition to the city’s nightlife. Open from 12.30pm to 1 am, the menu includes a signature creation including the ‘Félix Solesio’ (Belvedere with Raspberry infused Andalucian Amontillado and Pale Cream sherries); the ‘Malaga Buck’ (Gin Mare, lime, basil, and ginger beer); and ‘Malaka’ (Capucana, white chocolate and strawberry). This intimate space with panoramic windows looking out onto the bustle of Calle Granada, is a great place to start or end an evening in Malaga.
Guest Rooms & Suites
I just loved my guest room! Rooms are finished with very high quality materials – with lots of wood – and the designers have ingeniously mixed touches of old world charm like antique style furniture with striking contemporary lighting, and up-to-date tech.
There’s also a tempting mini-bar and coffee machine – as the hotel promises, this is a 4 star boutique hotel with 5 star style and service.
Bathrooms are simple yet elegant – and showcase Marugal’s commitment to minimising single use plastics. Grooming amenities are provided in refillable bottles, while the cotton robes are complemented with slippers that are made for 100% natural materials.
I stayed in in room 213 that is directly over the main entrance.
The second floor is the noble floor, with high ceilings. The lower and high floors offer more intimate guest rooms, with imaginative sue of space – each different yet all sharing the same qualities.
Services & Experiences
There is an onsite gym, and concierge can also arrange for spa visits to Moorish style baths in the city.
For meetings, there are private spaces, with the latest installations, for up to 60 delegates. For larger meetings and incentives, the hotel partners with venues across the city.
In addition guest services are well equipped to put together itineraries for you so that you can enjoy Malaga and its surroundings; from visiting the city’s top museums; creating a foodie break enjoying the best tapas bars and restaurants in town; to heading out into the countryside and discovering beautiful ‘white towns’ like historic Ronda, home to some sensational boutique wineries.
Malaga is the Mediterranean city-break destination
Malaga has climbed the list of hip city-break destinations. From a once neglected port city to becoming the on trend, cosmopolitan, cultural capital of the Costa del Sol, Malaga’s reinvention and transformation has captured the imagination of Spaniards and international travellers alike.
Although the city has gained world-class art galleries, fine-dining restaurants, and swanky hotels, it has not lost its soul. This regional capital is blessed with many natural assets, but its position on the shores of the Mediterranean to its best-in-Europe climate – yet the most important is its people. Malaga is unapologetically authentic, and the locals are welcoming.
Palacio Solecio Hotel is found in Malaga’s delightful old town, just a few minutes’ walk from the world-class Picasso Museum, the city’s extraordinary Roman Amphitheatre and the ancient Moorish Alcazaba fortress.
Malaga’s Maria Zambrano High-speed AVE train station is 15 minutes away, and the airport is less than a 30 minute transfer.
Calle Granada 61 – 29015, Malaga
Tel: +34 952 222 000
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