One of the most famous hotels in Andalucia, the Alfonso XIII reopens to the public today after a nine-month, 20-million-euro refurbishment. A landmark in Sevilla, it is a huge, imposing building situated next to the Fabrica de Tabacos, just off Puerta de Jerez.
The hotel was built by the eponymous King Alfonso XIII to be the finest hotel in Europe. It opened on 13 March 1928 - 84 years to the day before the reopening on Tuesday 13 March 2012 (Tuesday 13th is an unlucky day in Spain, like Friday 13th in other countries, such as the UK, but this event was disaster-free).
The Alfonso XIII was used to house the royal family at the Ibero-American Expo 1929, Seville's great fair. The hotel was located close to the fair's epicentre - the Parque Maria Luisa, with the Plaza de España being the Expo's pièce de resistance.
The Mayor of Seville, Juan Ignacio Zoido (left of photo), was at the official reopening ceremony on Tuesday, cutting the ribbon along with the regional president of the Starwood Group, which owns the Alfonso XIII. The priest said some prayers and blessed the hotel with holy water. Perhaps he was their insurance policy against possible Tuesday 13th mishaps; in any case, spring sunshine bathed the occasion, and the whole thing went off without a hitch.
Although the public areas of this grand, five-star establishment look largely the same as before - with the same iconic tiles, painstaking cleaned and polished - the furniture has been updated. The antique pieces have been restored, and some more contemporary fabrics used on new chairs and sofas.
We press were taken on a tour to see some of the newly redecorated guest rooms. These have been freshened up considerably, while at the same time keeping their Castillian and Moorish characters - dark wood furniture and Mudejar mouldings, respectively.
The rooms now have white-painted walls, as opposed to the heavy, old-fashioned wallpaper of before, as well as contemporary black and white photographic prints, and Moroccan touches such as brass lamps.
Only one bar, the Bodega Alfonso (formerly Bar Alfonso) is finished - the American Bar, an Art Deco feature which takes the hotel back to its original incarnation, is yet to be opened. But the Bodega Alfonso's outdoor terrace is an inviting space, with wicker sofas and chairs filled with cushions, and a curtained area too. Nods to fashion, but without being too modern. And perfect for warm spring evenings.
In terms of what else we didn't see, two new suites are also in the process of being completed, one of which includes a tower on one of the hotel's corners.
After the tour, we were treated to drinks and nibbles - extremely fine ones, as befitted the occasion. These were served by men and women in magnificent velvet "a la Federica" outfits, used for special occasions such as weddings, for which the Alfonso XIII is a very popular venue. I particularly liked the prawns in crispy parmesan crumb (left of pic, on tray), and the salmon caviar on a little china spoon.
And this being spring in Andalucia, the Gitana girls, in their orange-and-black outfits and Cordobes hat, were there offering sherry too.¡Ole!
The hotel is organising open days with guided tours from the beginning of April until the end of May, the one-year anniversary since it closed for the refurbishment. So if it's a bit out of your budget (rooms start at 267 euros per night, so it's out of most people's), this is a great way to see this extraordinary piece of Mudejar-style 1920s architecture from the inside.