From the outside, Bilbao’s Hotel Lopez de Haro is a stately blend of shiny brass and painted wood with a high block and brown-brick facade, inside the lobby is airy and open with a mingling mix of marble and mirrors.
Perhaps that’s why Frank Gehry, chief architect of the Guggenheim museum, chose this property to stay in and draw his first sketches. And also, because it lies so close to the city’s most famous international arts center.
While the lobby of this 48-room, 5-star hotel is spacious, it’s white marble floor and high painted white ceiling makes it seem even more so. There’s a classic, uncluttered feel to the large, square room as you enter from the street with a long central marble table on a laced wrought-iron base, mirrored pillars, a large chandelier and colorful carpets, as well as an impressive, sturdy art nouveau cabinet. On the left side of the room is the reception desk and on the other a quiet corner for relaxation, with leather and soft padded seating, a coffee table, table lamps and a glass cabinet filled with jewelry. A balcony borders the entire floor above complete with gleaming brass railings, a strong vantage point for people watching.
There’s a large bar in the rear part of the ground-floor area, Le Club, featuring burgundy leather armchairs and plush red sofas, a decorative fireplace with a white surround, polished wood floor and potted plants and flowers. A Murano black crystal lamp inside the bar is a delight to behold.
The bedroom of our suite, featuring matching chocolate brown armchairs with a floral motif, an espresso maker and a firm double bed with a huge backboard, was very quiet even though it overlooked the street. The living room comprised a tan sofa in front of a big-screen TV and a glass-topped dining table. Guests enjoy access to free WiFi in public areas, three meeting rooms, and a 24-hour business center. Valet parking is available and the 24-hour front desk has multilingual staff to assist with dry cleaning/laundry, concierge services, and luggage storage. Other amenities include free newspapers, laundry facilities and, even wedding services.
Hotel reception and restaurant staff are friendly, especially if you start talking about the nation’s favorite sport – football (the European version). Then it’s hard to get them to stop. Sentiment, it seems, runs high when they speak of the performance of the local team, Athletic Bilbao, one of the oldest in Spain.
Location is a major plus for Hotel Lopez de Haro, the former offices of ‘Hierro’ newspaper, which existed between 1937 and 1980. The narrow, winding streets of Old Town are a short walk away and your journey there is speckled with many quaint cafes such as the art nouveau Bar Basque, Café Iruna dating from 1903 and the traditional Café Bar Bilbao. The hotel, one of three owned by the Ercilla Hotels Group, the others being Embarcadero and Ercilla, is also very close to the Azkuna Centre, once known as Alhóndiga Bilbao. Designed by French designer Philippe Starck in collaboration with Thibaut Mathieu, it is a multi-purpose venue incorporating a cinema, fitness center, library, showrooms, an auditorium, shops and a restaurant.
If you feel like immersing yourself in local street culture, head straight for Plaza de Federico Moyúa, or Elliptical Square due to its shape, one of the favorite meeting places for local people. The Bilbao Fine Arts Museum located inside the city’s Doña Casilda Iturrizar Park is also nearby. It is the second largest and most visited museum in the Basque Country. For music and theatre, try the popular Kafe Antzokia and for a relaxing evening closer to home, the El Figon Bar, directly across the street from the hotel which serves a wonderful selection of food and drinks.
For an historic venue with a classic ambience near the center of Bilbao close to the city’s main tourist sights, Hotel Lopez de Haro is a top choice.