To appreciate fully the vintage charm of the Espléndido hotel, pull in on the antique wooden train that has trundled through the Tramuntana mountains from Palma to Puerto de Sóller since 1912. After plunging through 13 mountain tunnels, you emerge on the island's north-west coast at Sóller's natural harbour. Here, the Espléndido sits pride of place at the top of the bay, gazing down upon the sea with impassive 1950s grandeur. Its unadorned white exterior divulges little of what awaits inside: a modern-styled vintage seaside idyll.
Built in 1954, the Espléndido was, by 2006, run-down and dated. Swedish hoteliers Mikael and Johanna Landstrom came to its rescue, transforming it into a sibling to their textbook example of seaside chic, the Portixol hotel in Palma, which they had restored to its former glory in the 1990s.
The Espléndido's cool, white lobby with huge windows looking out on to the shimmering Mediterranean gives a sense of what to expect. It's faithful to the spirit of the 1950s – red leather chairs call out for Ernest Hemingway to drink a whiskey sour there – but isn't try-hard retro. They have kept some of the most interesting Fifties features, too: the wrought-iron fish and boats by the reception desk, and stained-glass windows in the lounge area, are relics of the hotel's original incarnation.
Upstairs, the breakfast room with its sun-drenched balcony faces the sea, too – although your bleary eyes might be drawn more to the mountains of fresh fruit, huge bowls of pastries and sizzling cooked breakfasts. Undoubtedly, though, the best place for sea views is from the fifth floor, where, past the new spa, you have access over a bridge to the outside area, built into the hillside. Here lies the an open-air pool (with a children's section; the Espléndido is hugely popular with families). On various levels, sun-loungers are dotted across the stepped cliff, which leads to a child-free infinity pool.
White-suited waiting staff will whisk drinks or food from the Pool Bar to your lounger. You can cargarlo – charge – all refreshments and sustenance to your room . This is an eminently handy, yet perilous, Spanish word to learn.
Should you require more restraint, then make for the understatedly chic but relaxed bar. The cocktails are good and generously strong, so watch out. In all but the coolest months of the year, the bar spills out on to a covered terrace which borders the street-side promenade and is an excellent vantage point for squinting at passers-by. This is the ideal place to watch the sun set, as it casts first a shimmer on the sea, and then sweeps the sky with swaths of orange and red before disappearing behind the lighthouses either side of the bay.
Espléndido Hotel, es Traves 5, Puerto de Sóller, Mallorca, Spain (00 34 971 63 18 50;www.esplendidohotel. com). The Espléndido is on Mallorca's north-west coast in the ascendant port town of Puerto de Sóller (Dubai-based hotel group Jumeirah is poised to open a large luxury hotel here in two years). Its prime location at the head of the bay gives it the monopoly on the views, with a dramatic mountain road that winds steeply up to a lighthouse to the west, and the twinkling lights of Sóller stretching out to the east.
Time from international airport: It's a 30-minute drive north of Palma, sweeping around and then through the Tramuntana mountains. The hotel can arrange a taxi for you, at a cost of approximately €55 (£46) one way, or cars can be hired at the airport. The train journey from Palma takes just over an hour, with returns costing €11 (£9.20).
The Eames-style Hang It All coat-hooks are a standard fixture, which gives a good indication of how the rooms are furnished. The furniture is minimalist but colourful: expect bright green or red chairs in sleek design, and dark, wooden wardrobes.
The bedrooms, like the rest of the hotel, are filled with light, comfortable (the pillows deserve a special mention) and chic. There's ample cupboard space, along with the usual mini bar, television, CD and DVD player (concealed within a little wooden cabinet, with the hotel's insignia of a seahorse carved out for handles), with a selection of music and films on loan at reception.
Patterned wallpaper in cool palettes of duck-egg blue and light grey, complete with swirling illustrations, wraps the bedroom areas up nicely, and the roomy bathrooms with cool stone finishes are always stylishly simple.
Most bedrooms have a terrace or sea view: I stayed in a garden patio – not the biggest room, but with a section of patio, and access up steps to the swimming pool. Bigger rooms have sofas, and larger, more private terrace space, or a balcony with sea views. You don't feel short-changed with the smaller rooms – no less effort has gone into them in terms of design or comfort.
Freebies: REN natural skincare products.
Keeping in touch: There's free Wi-Fi throughout most of the hotel, or you can use the computer (for free) in the lobby. Direct-dial phones come as standard in all rooms.
The Bottom Line
Double rooms start at €140 (£117), including breakfast.
I'm not paying that: Ca'n Isabel (00 34 971 63 80 97; www.canisabel.com) is a guesthouse in Sóller containing six rooms. Doubles start at €115 (£96), including breakfast.