The big trip

Palacio Solecio review: regal renovation breathes new life into historic palace

An elegant hotel tucked in the side streets of Malaga’s old town

An 18th-century palace had stood derelict on Malaga’s Calle Granada for 80 years until extensive restoration works saw it made magnificent once again – just months before the world locked down and international travel was put on pause.

Palacio Solecio briefly opened at the end of 2019, and after two years of intermittent restrictions and subsequent closures, the boutique hotel’s doors are firmly open and once again welcoming locals and overseas explorers over its threshold. 

Being in the latter camp, my companion and I had high hopes for a respite of warm weather and delicious food away from the dark, damp evenings that London’s been boasting of late. We weren’t to be disappointed.

Why come here

Tucked in the backstreets of Malaga’s old town, Palacio Solecio’s grand facade is enough to stop a tourist in their tracks. Moments from the Museo Picasso, the Alcazaba fortress and Roman Amphitheatre that each attract their fair share of crowds to the city, the hotel’s location couldn’t be topped for a weekend break, or for travellers seeking a central base from which to delve further into Andalusia.

Palacio Solecio pays homage to its former glory both in name and design. Italian aristocrat Felix Solecio first constructed the building with the help of José Martín de Aldehuela, the architect whose mastery is behind the dramatic Puente Nuevo bridge in Ronda. Moorish arches and a central courtyard retain the character of the original palace, brought up to date with elegant interior design and a generous sprinkle of modern luxuries.

A bedroom at Palacio Solecio

Palacio Solecio

It doesn’t take long to make yourself at home in one of the hotel’s 68 sizeable rooms. Filled with natural light and thoughtfully curated furniture, they boast all the comforts and amenities you’d hope for – though the exquisitely snug beds steal the show somewhat. 

The modern grandeur continues in the ensuite bathrooms, with white marble work and waterfall showers. Our generous bathtub was a highlight, too. 

For those feeling active, there’s a small but well-equipped gym overlooking the courtyard. And after a day of sightseeing, quench your thirst with a pit stop at the bar, which has a tantalising offering of wines and cocktails. 

Eating and drinking

Though there’s room service on offer, I’d recommend making your way down to the ground floor for an evening feast. Michelin-starred chef José Carlos García is behind the menu at Restaurant Balausta, where traditional Andalusian recipes are given a royal upgrade, with dishes worthy of being plated up in a palace. 

With a penchant for local ingredients, unsurprisingly, fresh fish features heavily. For tapas-size bites with a fine dining polish, begin with spider crab croquettes and fried crawfish. Move on to the lobster cream soup (you’ll thank me later) or the traditional porra antequerana, but be sure to leave room for the mains. 

Scallops, cod loin, sea bass and tuna tartare all feature, and the lobster pappardelle, “a whim from the sea and the mountains”, the menu informs us, is absolutely worth indulging in. The restaurant’s staff are ready with suggestions and recommendations, and were happy to accommodate our request that every single dish be split in two so we could sample as much as possible. For those who don’t want to share, a six-course tasting menu is also available. 

Balausta’s grand dining room is also where the morning’s breakfast is served, with a generous continental buffet and hot dishes including eggs benedict, pancakes and omelettes, more than enough to set you up for a day of sightseeing.

Restaurant Balausta

Restaurant Balausta / Palacio Solecio

What to do 

Malaga’s best galleries and attractions are on the hotel’s doorsteps, and the staff are more than happy to help arrange tickets and reservations for guests. If you’re staying for a long weekend, be sure to get an evening flight back on a Sunday, so you can make the most of the free opening hours that many museums and galleries offer that day. 

The Alcazaba fortress is a must. Built in the early 11th century, a climb up from the old town through the Arab fortress offers history, impressive views and a bit of a workout. Return to ground level and head to the sea or the bustling shopping streets, depending on how energetic you’re feeling.

Between exhibitions and tours, the old town’s bars and restaurants are worth dipping into. Casa Lola is one of my fondest memories from a previous trip to the city, but the lengthy queues didn’t subside for a moment during our trip, so we ventured to Vermuteria La Clasica, another eatery I’d happily go back to.

A further 49 bedrooms will open at Palacio Solecio this year, as well as a rooftop bar and pool. If that’s not enough of a reason for a return trip, that lobster cream soup certainly is. 

Palacio Solecio, C. Granada, 61, 29015 Málaga, Spain; palaciosolecio.com

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