The only hotel ever designed by visionary architect Frank Gehry, the Marqués de Riscal is an ultra-lux five-star resort in La Rioja whose otherworldly metallic and sandstone structure is nothing short of shock and awe against the backdrop of the medieval town of Elciega and the old Spanish vineyards surrounding it. Gehry’s signature style of undulating titanium and steel sheets—a la the Guggenheim—is on full display, but here it is appropriately more colorful, with gold, silver, and purplish-pink hues that are to honor the signature wines and bottles of the eponymous vineyards. Inside, world-class grandeur, service, and style are ever-present, with designer details at every turn that are sure to add a few followers to your Instagram. Now part of The Luxury Collection series of hotels, the property lives up to all of the expectations of such a title, complete with a Michelin-star restaurant, an award-winning spa, dazzling rooms, and, of course, prices that are not for the faint of heart.
TIP: Marriott / SPG members can earn and redeem points here as well as receive special discounts on pricing.
The 43 rooms are divided between the Gehry building and a modern outcrop that also houses the spa and gym and overlooks the vineyards as well as the main structure itself.
Gehry wing rooms are architecturally delightful and quirky while still exuding chic opulence. Guests will find tilted walls and high ceilings and big zigzagging windows that provide stunning vistas of Elciega and the mountains beyond. The design is complimented by rich wood trims, stylish décor, and thread counts that will never make you want to get out of bed.
Spa wing rooms provide the same comforts while combining a more contemporary style with a bespoke elegance. The spacious layout features supple wood floors, designer furniture, and flairs of vino tinto red that match the bottle of wine set out to greet you upon entering.
We prefer the rooms in the Gehry wing, simply from the enchantment of lodging within such a singular architectural space, though rooms in the quieter spa wing benefit from being able to gawk at Gehry’s masterpiece exterior from your window for hours on end.
Like everything else in the hotel, the bathrooms are an absolute treat on the eyes: sumptuous black marble and wood accents distinguish the airy rooms, which come fully equipped with rainforest showerheads, toiletries from Caudalie, and a separate tub and shower.
Though not as conspicuous as the exterior, the interior of the hotel is no less immaculate in its smooth, sophisticated aesthetic. Throughout the communal areas of the hotel are a signature blend of maple wood, red wine accents, and spectacular natural light—thanks to the high ceilings and big windows.
The best place in the hotel might just be the rooftop library and outdoor terrace. It’s a gorgeous hideaway from the busier lounging and dining areas downstairs with spectacular views of the countryside where guests are welcome to take a coffee or drinks.
Adjacent to the spa is an entrancing indoor pool deck, where the black bottomed floors of the pool create the illusion of an aquatic abyss sinking into eternity. Leather chairs surround the pool and floor-to-ceiling windows provide views to the local vineyards.
As the name suggests, the award-winning Spa Vinothérapie, by the chic brand Caudalie, specializes in the beautifying properties of the grape. From basic body treatments and facials to elaborate rituals, this spa really does it all.
As part of your spa experience, try the barrel bath. Yes, a beauty bath…in a French wine barrel. It would be almost laughable if it weren’t so damn therapeutic.
A well-sized fitness center is housed next to the pool and features LifeFitness treadmills, ellipticals, and a studio-quality spin bike plus strength machines and free weights. Definitely all you need to get the job done.
There’s no question about it: The hotel’s flagship restaurant, Restaurante Marqués de Riscal, is in the modern gastronomy big leagues. With a Michelin-star under its belt and a menu aided by chef Francis Paniego of the famed El Portal del Echaurren, a meal here is a crash course in why the Basque Country is so renowned for its culinary progression. Reservations are required.
A second (and also exceptional) dining option, 1860 Tradición, provides a perfect contrast to the modern and serves spectacular traditional La Rioja cuisine at bigger portions and better prices than its sister restaurant.
The Marqus de Riscal vineyards that surround the hotel are some of the most famous and historic in all of Rioja (and that is saying a lot). The winery, which goes all the way back to 1858, evolved into an entire stone village as the operation expanded, and is now called the Ciudad de Vino (City of Wine). The bodega, facilities, and shop are all just below the hotel and tours in multiple languages run daily.
Inside the hotel itself is a marvelous bar that we could honestly spend all day and all night in. Wooden cellar walls packed with wine bottles rise the height of the 30-foot ceilings, and further into the lounge are gorgeous works of modern art that surround the mod red furniture. The outdoor patio is the place to be on nicer days, with picturesque views of Elciego and rolling countryside. The atmosphere is that of an elegant café by day and a trendy wine and cocktail establishment by night.
A guided tour and tasting of the bodega is included in the room
The hotel is tucked away in its own private gated refuge outside of Elciego. You’ll either need a car or to organize private transportation to get here. Luckily, the exceptionally helpful staff is happy to help with such duties even long before your stay when you are planning your trip.
Once here, the medieval destination of Laguardia is a short drive away and most of the most sought-after Bodegas are all within a 30-minute drive. Bikes are another great option for exploring nearby wineries as well as the classic town of Elciego close to the hotel.
Both of the hotel restaurants are far better than anything else in the immediate area. That said, guests looking for some authentic Rioja Alavesa dining should head to Laguardia. Amelibia (10-minute drive) is the favorite in town, serving creative takes on local flavors in a dining room that provides sensational panoramic views of the beautiful landscape. If the weather is nice, eat at one of the terrace restaurants that run the perimeter along the Mayor Plaza (10-minute drive) in Laguardia, the center of the old Medieval village that looks right out of a fairy-tale.
Guests should be sure to make the journey to Bodegas Ysios (15-minute drive), a sensational winery that is right at home with the amazing architecture meeting amazing wine theme. Designed by Santiago Calatrava, the visionary vineyard that looks like white waves against the landscape produces some of the best wine in the region. If you’re looking for a watering hole once the bodegas close, there’s a bar in Elciega Taberna 1583, that stays open late and plays pretty good music. Though we’d honestly suggest the splendid hotel bar over anything in the immediate area.
WHY WE LIKE IT
Simply put, the design is a work of genius; you will not find another hotel like it in the entire world. Beyond its visual appeal, the service at Hotel Marqués de Riscal is first-class, the amenities unbeatable, and the Basque wine country is an utterly romantic setting for an escape into a delicious and serene wonderland.