In the centre of the city, the Santa Paula is a few minutes' walk from the cathedral and the bustling side streets of the main shopping district. For around 60p, a bus from outside the hotel will take you uphill to the Alhambra, the world-famous Moorish palace. To the south-west of the city, the Sierra Nevada, literally "snow-capped mountain range", offers Europe's most southerly ski resort, but at this time of year the 12-mile Costa Tropical is a bigger attraction for locals.
The Palacio de Santa Paula, Granada's only five-star hotel, is in a former convent. Vacated by the order 25 years ago, it was saved from dereliction when the church agreed to sell it; the hoteliers embarked on a multi-million-pound conversion five years ago. History oozes from almost every aspect, notably the cobbled cloister, complete with fountain, and adjacent church, now used for banquets. Off the courtyard, cigar-smoking businessmen lounge in the "library" where sisters once took their meals and the original kitchens serve as the atmospheric "El Claustro" restaurant. The cloister and small courtyards offer cool tranquility for guests in the summer when temperatures often exceed 40C. An annexe is a half-timbered 16th-century Moorish house, where some rooms have parts of the original rafters, with text from the Koran. Compared with this, the hotel's modern façade seems somewhat prosaic.
The comfort factor
In contrast to the buildings' history, the rooms are contemporary in design, with teak floors and double beds featuring dark-wood headboards reaching up the wall. Each room has internet access, combined radio and CD player (bring your own discs) and satellite TV. Rooms in each section of the hotel have a different feel, although more due to heritage protection orders than design. In the Moorish house, space is tight and light subdued. The much bigger rooms in the convent are open-plan, some with high ceilings and open rafters.
These are sleek and modern, with double basins in green-tinted glass and tiling in autumnal oranges and browns. Slightly disconcerting is the fact that the bathroom is separated from the bedroom only by a louvre door. The Bishop's Suite has a power shower with hydrotherapy jets.
The food and drink
The à la carte menu changes every week and there is an emphasis on local cuisine. The chef's signature dish is loin of black Iberian pig served on a casserole of red and white sausage. Highlights elsewhere on the menu are a cold starter of chopped cod and oranges and home-made tiramisu. Beware the translations - a "porridge" dessert was not as expected.
Included in the room rate is a free mini-bar containing soft drinks only, except for one bottle of San Miguel lager. A bigger treat is the free tea, coffee and cakes served to guests in the lobby - the perfect afternoon tonic after a spell of sightseeing.
Almost three-quarters of guests are from within Spain - business types and, at the weekend, well-heeled couples. During the spring peak period the hotel sees an influx of guests from Europe, Japan and the US. If you want to do a city break in style and comfort and can't get a room in the Alhambra itself, this is the place to stay.
Modern lifts provide disabled access to a warren of rooms. Children welcome. No pets.
Rooms cost from €187 to €291 (£127 To £199) per night. The Bishop's Suite will set you back €802 (£548) per night. Breakfast costs an extra €16 (£10).
Palacio de Santa Paula, 31 Gran Via de Colon, 18001 Granada, Spain (00 34 958 805 740; www.ac-hotels.com).Reuse content