Hotel Inglaterra has an illustrious past, with previous guests including Hollywood legend Ava Gardner. The guest book lists countless others whose visits to Granada were enhanced by staying at the hotel. Although the current building has been thoroughly modernised, it retains its traditional charm. The following brief history has been compiled using press cuttings.
The world of the early 20th Century was, as an English historian aptly put it, the “Age of Optimism.” Also known as “La Belle Époque”, the period lasted barely 30 years – a brief flicker of time, the blink of an eye. During this time, magnificent splendours were exclusively enjoyed by a privileged social group composed of Europe’s large aristocratic families, wealthy financiers and businessmen and, of course, America’s new multimillionaires.
The period saw the emergence of the first grand hotels, the Ritz and Palace Hotels (including Granada’s El Alhambra Palace), uniquely luxurious establishments whose refinement and elegance befitted the tastes of their new high society clientele. The fantastical world of this fortunate few would be obliterated by World War One, only to re-emerge in the ensuing years with fresh impetus. Indeed, the Belle Époque continued until 1939, when another, even more terrible international conflict would finally bring it to an end. It was during this interwar period that el Gran Hotel Inglaterra opened its doors in Granada.
A true original. Sited on the corner of two roads, Cettie Meriem and Joaquin Costa, the hotel was designed by local architect Ángel Casas, renowned at the time for his work in Granada’s vernacular style. His other important buildings include the Hispano-American Bank on the Gran Via (now the BSCH); a beautiful palace on the same street (now regional government offices); and the Gálvez Pharmacy on Cauchiles Square. El Hotel Inglaterra is notable for its corner design and intricate balconies. Instead of designing the corner as a square or rounded feature, Casas created a chamfered edge, in which the entrance is framed by a semicircular arch. This interesting design solution alleviates the linear rigidity of a square corner with charm and originality.
As with other architects of his generation, Casas left an individual mark on all his buildings. While the hotel is not his grandest work, it is arguably one of his most elegant, particularly evident on the facade. It is a beauty to behold. The interplay of balconies and their varied ornamentation is arguably the building’s most attractive feature. The door of the central balcony is topped with an elegant triangular pediment, framing a female bust representing an allegory of victory. The reliefs and arches of the second and third floor balconies are similarly arresting. The whole facade, which extends in the form of a series of houses along Cettie Meriem Street, is an architectural tour-de-force by one of Granada’s finest architects of his generation.
El Gran Hotel Inglaterra opened in the late 1920’s, shortly before the Great Crash of 1929 delivered a huge blow to international tourism. The hotel’s first owner, businessman and experienced hotelier Manuel Morales Arias, also owned the Hotel Nuevo Oriente (formerly El Navío) on Alhóndiga y Párraga Streets. From the first day it opened, el Gran Hotel Inglaterra stood out, alongside el Alhambra, the Washington Irving, the Victoria and el París, as a hotel of the first order. Although hotels weren’t allocated stars in those days, different classification systems existed to help discerning travellers choose the best.
Following the outbreak of the Civil War in 1936, el Gran Hotel Inglaterra was forced to remove the name Inglaterra from its facade. References to England or France were frowned upon, so for some years the hotel was simply known as Gran Hotel. Full board cost 30 pesetas a day.
During later years the hotel was attacked by students calling for the return of Gibraltar. Guests had to flee the dining room as stones were thrown at the balconies. Nobody had told them to vent their fury against “Hotel England”, but as long as they didn’t have to go back to school and were having fun, the students were content to include the hotel among their patriotic demands.
The original parts of the hotel include its facade, interior structure and some of the original furniture, such as doors, tables, stone flooring, banisters, stairs, etc.