The Spanish dramatist and poet Federico García Lorca once described the Andalucian city of Córdoba as "distant and remote". Ninety years on, while it is hardly an undiscovered treasure bereft of tourists, neither is it consumed by the crowds at the two other points on the Moorish triangle, Seville and Granada.
The architectural legacy of this Unesco World Heritage-listed city speaks for itself: as the centre of power during the golden age of Arab-governed Al-Andalus from the 8th to 10th centuries, it boasts the medieval Alcázar castle and water gardens, and dazzling cathedral complex – La Mezquita – part of which comprises the red-striped Umayyad architecture of the Great Mosque.
Set inside the ancient walled city, the Hospes Palacio de Bailío's history echoes that of Córdoba. Entered through an imposing carriage gate from one of the atmospheric narrow streets, this noble residence is a jigsaw of buildings and courtyards whose occupants were first the Romans, then the Moors, passing to Spanish ownership after the reconquest of Córdoba by Saint Fernando III in 1236. The main building dates from the 16th to 18th centuries and the palace was subsequently occupied as a noble residence before falling into disrepair in more recent times.
It is now part of the Hospes group, whose successful formula is converting historic buildings into boutique-style hotels with stylishly conceived 21st-century details, while still maintaining the highest regard for its heritage. Declared a national historic monument in 1982 and opened as a hotel in 2005, the Palacio de Bailío fits the brief seamlessly.
Set around a series of pretty courtyards dotted with palm and orange trees, all its rich architectural details – the heavily carved doors, Moorish-style arches and stucco work – were carefully conserved during the building's lengthy restoration process. The hotel's Senzone Restaurant on the ground floor of the palace opens on to a glass floor which reveals the foundations of an ancient Roman villa, while the basement Bodyna spa incorporates three original Roman spa pools.
Another decorative highlight is the Mudejar Library, conceived in the mid-20th century by its owner at the time, a Spanish nobleman called Rafael Castejón. Its elaborate stuccowork was inspired by a dome in the Mosque of Córdoba and has an almost honeycomb effect. But one of the most enchanting corners is the tranquil Patio de los Naranjos – with its swimming pool, sun loungers, fragrant borders and fluttering swallows, it's the ideal spot for a blissful siesta.
The palace is situated on a hill within the historic centre of Córdoba – it's a pleasant 15-minute ramble through its heart to the cathedral and the banks of the river Guadalquivir that bisects the city. The city is littered with vestiges of Córdoba's varied past including the 14th-century Calahorra tower, a synagogue and the 17-arched Roman bridge that crosses the river.
In May, a festival celebrates the flower-filled courtyards of many of the private houses in the old town which open to the public in a vibrant, week-long display. Córdoba's main train station is about 10 minutes by taxi.
There are 53 rooms – made up of five different categories from doubles to suites and a loft – scattered throughout the main building and adjacent courtyards, but because of the uniqueness of the building they all are different. The common thread is the signature Hospes old-meets-new aesthetic of existing architecture set off by simple, modern furnishings.
White walls and dark wooden floors are given a light and luminous touch with liberal use of shimmering wallpaper and fabrics in hues of silver, champagne and grey. Some of the more lavish rooms in the main palace incorporate impressive preserved rib-vaulted ceilings and brick arches, carved doors and delicately painted murals several hundred years old.
Bathrooms are done in tobacco-coloured marble with sleek black granite sinks and baths with drenching showers; covetable Korres toiletries are provided throughout. Guests also have the use of free bikes – an excellent way to explore the city.
Hospes Palacio del Bailío, 10-12 Calle Ramírez de las Casas Deza, Córdoba, Andalucia, Spain (00 34 957 498 993; hospes.es).
Doubles start at €198, room only. Breakfast is €19.30 per person.Reuse content