The rich Bella Époque style that makes San Sebastián so enchanting is alive and well at Villa Soro, an immaculate Victorian-style property built at the turn of the century that is now an official landmark of the city. Surrounded by manicured gardens, the villa is a sumptuous feast for the senses without ever feeling haughty, evoking a friendly and relaxed atmosphere instead. Rooms are handsome and spacious with 21st-century luxuries. The location, tucked away in the quiet neighborhood of Gros, is the only drag; while it’s a short walk to Playa de Zurriola, sites like the famed La Concha bay plus the Parte Vieja and its many gastronomic wonders are a bit more of a hike. Luckily this is more than made up for by the sheer grandeur of the hotel itself and by the ever-helpful staff that does whatever it takes to ensure it does not inhibit your San Sebastián experience.
The hotel’s complimentary bike rentals are a fun and scenic way to speed up the commute to the old town and the beaches, and the hotel even provides beach bags with towels and water for you when you’re ready to depart.
In contrast to the majesty of the lobby, rooms themselves are understated yet tasteful with rich wood trims and a generous amount of space. The 25 rooms of the hotel are split between the main villa and the Caballeriza building behind it; originally the stable house, it has been converted into a modern extension of the inn. The rooms here possess a more modern style than those in the villa, losing some of the old-world elegance but in exchange for an especially quiet lodging for light sleepers. All rooms come with flat screens, wi-fi, adjustable AC, espresso machines, and a minbar with complimentary artisanal water.
A few rooms of Villa Soro have small private terraces that you can request in advance.
Bathrooms in the main villa are more lavish than the rooms themselves, encased in supple white marble floors and walls with big mirrors and full bathtubs to soak in. In the Caballeriza building are sleek modern looks thanks to a recent refurbishing, with new stone floors, black counters, and pleasing tile walls.
Don’t let any of the swank Molten Brown toiletries go to waste.
Prepare to be wowed upon walking through the front doors of Villa Soro: the entrance hall is pure palatial splendor, with marble floors leading to the original grand staircase made of polished oak, and high vaulted ceilings with a stained glass panel at its center.
The ground floor is a lovely place to idle away in. One side of the entrance hall leads to a salon beautifully preserved in the original style of its owners, with an ornate fireplace and mantel, antique French armchairs and couches, and crystal chandeliers. On the other side of the foyer is a more casual yet equally stylish lounge space that has been expanded upon with the recent addition of a new breakfast room.
Guests will be pleased to find a small fitness room that looks out onto the gardens and has the essential cardio machines and a few free weights to help work off the pintxos from the night before.
Breakfast is a fusion of both buffet and made-to-order dishes with an attentive staff awaiting, served in the new breakfast room with floor-to-ceiling arched French windows and elegant adornments.
There is no proper restaurant in the hotel, but at the bar is a light menu of Basque dishes that include staples like Jamon Ibérico and local sheep cheese as well as more creative treats like the cod-stuffed red peppers. The same menu is also offered as room service.
The engraved oak bar was built from the same wood that originally housed the interior chapel. It makes for an eye-pleasing sight and is surrounded by wood-paneled walls that create an old-timey lobby bar atmosphere that charms the hell out of us. Drinks can be had here or be taken to the salon or out on the terrace when the weather is warm.
If you ask the bartender, they have a more detailed description of all their wines and how they should be paired, for those who like to know a bit more about the “life” of the bottle they are uncorking.
Much of the city is accessible by foot, with the neighborhood of Gros, often ignored by tourists but a hub of local pintxo bars and restaurants, just a 5-10 minute stroll away. The surfer’s beach of Zurriola is also on the Gros side of the river, making it the closest beach from the hotel for an easy walk or bike ride. If you don’t want to make the 20-minute walk to the old town, the staff is always happy to call for a cab, while there is also a bus stop just down the street (busses here are extremely clean and easy to use). Though the hotel is a bit off the beaten path, the free parking is a luxury in itself that is impossible to find at other hotels closer to the old town.
The hotel is less than a mile away from one of the best restaurants in the entire world: Arzak (3-minute drive). A table at this three-Michelin-star restaurant should be booked far in advance. No trip to San Sebastián is complete without a pintxo crawl through Parte Vieja, the old quarter famous for its sheer quantity and quality of these bite-sized Basque specialties. Start at Ganbara (20-minute walk) and don’t miss out on the easy-to-miss La Cuchera de San Telmo (20-minute) while you’re at it.
Closer to the hotel is Le Gintonería (15-minute walk), a sleek little cocktail bar that, as the name suggests, serves up some great gin cocktails. But for the real energy of San Sebastián’s nightlife, go to the Old Town, where there is some of the densest population of bars in the world. Check out Atari Gastroteka (20-minute walk), which is always busy with great cocktails and great crowds.
WHY WE LIKE IT
The exquisite palace is a tranquil haven from the noise and chaos that descends upon the Old Town in the high season. Villa Soro also has without doubt one of the most attentive and friendly staffs we’ve come across. They speak excellent English and go above-and-beyond the call of duty in helping with whatever explorations you want to organize and whatever needs you may have.