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Where to stay in Rioja

Visitors flock to the region not only for its bodegas and vineyards, but also for the landscape, historic sites, picturesque villages and restaurants – and now its accommodation options are equally impressive.

It’s an exciting time to visit Rioja and sample its wines. Beyond the bodegas and the increasing diversity and quality of the wines themselves, the region seems to be seriously waking up to wine tourism.

There has been a flurry of openings in Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa, with more to come soon in Haro, Laguardia and Logroño. Rioja Oriental, however, currently lags behind in terms of appealing accommodation, despite a growing number of producers delivering some of the region’s finest Garnachas.

The house that pioneered modern wine tourism in Rioja was Marqués de Riscal, when it opened its imposing, titanium-clad hotel in 2006. This was a huge boost not only for the venerable brand, but also for Rioja as a whole, which welcomed more than half a million visitors in 2019.

In addition to the splendour of Marqués de Riscal’s 61 rooms and its one-star Michelin restaurant, visitors looking for a gastronomic experience can stay at Echaurren in the picturesque village of Ezcaray. This family-run hotel has a tapas bar and three restaurants (its chef, Francis Paniego, also oversees the menus at Riscal). Echaurren is also a good base for exploring the hiking routes near the Valdezcaray ski resort.

Looking beyond these two options, I’ve chosen 10 of the best places to stay in Rioja right now.

Hotel Aurea Palacio de Correos

Plaza San Agustín 1, Logroño

Credit: Ramón Vaamonde

Built in neo-Baroque style in the centre of Logroño, a stone’s throw from the bustling Calle Laurel, this former convent and central post office languished in disrepair until December 2021, when it became the city’s first five-star hotel.

The 41 contemporary Art Deco-style rooms – including six suites, some of them distributed across two floors – have air conditioning, Bluetooth, USB sockets and quality amenities. All are fitted with comfortable king-size beds, except for a few with twin beds (including one that is adapted for guests with limited mobility).

The outdoor roof terrace overlooking the city is open from 5pm to 11pm and is very popular among locals, but guests keen to sip a zurracapote (a Spanish punch, similar to sangria), or any of the cocktails prepared at the bar, have preferential entry. Other interesting features of the hotel are the massage room and spa with aromatherapy showers, steam and dry saunas, plus a pool with sun loungers and whirlpool bath – popular with weary pilgrims walking the Camino.

Respectful of its past, the decoration of the hotel’s corridors and common areas pays tribute to the men and women who worked at this building – note the collection of lovely old postcards that postal workers used to send during Christmas and New Year as well as the colourful collage in the Matasellos (literally ‘postmark’ in Spanish) restaurant. Serving contemporary local recipes prepared from seasonal ingredients and accompanied by a selection of mostly local wines, Matasellos also offers a delicious weekday menú del día at lunchtime for €25.

Being in the centre of town, Aurea Palacio de Correos is perfect for tourists who want to see the sights, visit the local wineries or explore Logroño’s vast food and wine offering at their own pace. The hotel can also organise a private visit with transfer to the Arizcuren vineyards in Sierra de Yerga (Rioja Oriental), followed by a wine tasting. B&B from €160 per night.

Finca de los Arandinos

Carretera LR-137, Km 4.6, Entrena

Credit: Carlos Glera Castillo

Set in the middle of the countryside in the village of Entrena, this estate belongs to a local wine- growing family and includes a working winery with vineyards and an adjacent hotel with 14 bedrooms and a restaurant (booking required).

The winery (open to visitors) and the airy rooms above it were designed by architect and winemaker Javier Arizcuren using cement, stone and wood. Across the lobby, there are 10 smaller rooms with daring decor by the late fashion designer David Delfín. All rooms have tranquil views of the surrounding vines and olive trees.

These views continue in the naturally lit spa, which is fitted with a sauna, Turkish bath, steam room and pool, along with a very pleasant terrace with sun loungers made from barrel staves. A range of menus – including a five-course tasting menu – are offered in the restaurant.

Being only a 20-minute drive from Logroño, the hotel is a good base for visiting Rioja’s wineries and villages but is also handy if you fancy playing a round of golf at the nearby Sojuela club, discovering the gorges and waterfalls of Sierra de Cameros to the south or treating yourself to a dining experience at the one-star Michelin restaurant Venta Moncalvillo in Daroca de Rioja. B&B from €135 per night.

Casa Robla

Calle Hornos 11, Elvillar

Built in the 18th century, long before phylloxera arrived in Rioja, Casa Robla (an old winery and cellar) was resuced from dereliction by contractor Eduardo Zabala and his wife Cristina Blanco, winemaker at Bodegas Blanco Pérez de Azpillaga in nearby Lantziego.

The couple have respectfully maintained the spirit of the house’s former incarnation: in the current breakfast room, guests can see traces of the old stone lagar and press, which still stands in its original spot. Further into the house, El Cabaret is an old calado (or cellar) where guests are invited to sit and enjoy a glass of Blanco’s wine, just as the former winery owner used to do with his friends.

Casa Robla, which operates as a B&B but doesn’t have a restaurant, sports eight large en-suite, charmingly decorated rooms. There are no tea- or coffee-making facilities, but guests can use the house’s kitchen to make themselves a drink or prepare a plate of cheese or charcuterie.

Powered by renewable energy, this sustainable enterprise employs two local workers and is a welcome addition to Elvillar, a quiet little village off the tourist trail with a couple of bars and a communal swimming pool. Dolmen de la Hechicera, a magical spot set against the Sierra Cantabria mountains, is accessed easily by foot from Casa Robla, while Laguardia, with its many bars and restaurants, is just a 10-minute drive away. B&B from €90 per night.

La Casa Cosme Palacio

Calle San Lázaro 1, Laguardia

Covering 4,000m², this 19th-century former winery outside the city walls of Laguardia is a fantastic place in which to host lavish family celebrations, friendly gatherings or corporate team-building activities. Recently renovated as super-premium accommodation for up to 26 people, the house has four suites and nine double rooms with all sorts of luxuries including a 24-hour butler, electric bikes (for rides through the vineyards), beauty treatments, a fitness centre and an outdoor pool for chilling in the summer.

As it is part of the Entrecanales Domecq e Hijos group, with wineries in several Spanish regions including Rioja, guests staying at the property have access to Bodegas Cosme Palacio next door for private tours of the vineyards and cellar, as well as tastings and dinners with vintage wine pairings. Should guests feel like heading out and exploring a bit more of Rioja, the house also offers a ‘guest manager’ who can design bespoke itineraries or book a table at the best restaurants in the region.

Casa Cosme operates an invitation-only policy when it comes to booking accommodation, so prospective visitors not only need the spending power to stay here but must also send an email to receive an invite. According to the owners, the primary purpose for this request is ‘to understand the guests’ needs so that their stay can be fully adapted to their requirements’. Note that all bookings are for the whole property, regardless of numbers. From €5,000, including all meals (depending on the number of guests and nights).

La Posada de Leza

Calle Mayor 11, Leza

Terri Eichelberger (the owner of a Spanish transport company) and her husband Robert Amox (a winemaker in Sonoma) fell so madly in love with Rioja Alavesa that they decided to open a new chapter in their lives and move to the region permanently. They bought a traditional stone house in the village of Leza and converted it into a warm and welcoming holiday home.

Posada de Leza occupies three floors and fits 12 people comfortably, making it ideal for a family holiday, not least because of its large txoko (dining room), well-stocked kitchen and laundry room, but also because the village’s communal pool and playground are just across the street. Don’t panic: the house is fitted with soundproof windows.

The couple, who pay great attention to detail, are always on hand to advise guests about activities and events in and around Leza. La Posada is also pet-friendly. From €350 per night (plus cleaning fees).

Credit: Maggie Nelson

Travel tips

When to travel: October is a popular time to visit Rioja, but spring and summer are also excellent if you want to enjoy the region’s many charms.

How to get there: The main airport for Rioja is Bilbao. There are regular flights from London Heathrow and other UK airports, with a journey time of just over two hours. Hiring a car is recommended to get to your chosen destination. The trip to Logroño, for example, takes about 1 hour 20 minutes.

El Retiro del Obispo

Calle Santa Engracia 3, Laguardia

Credit: James Sturcke

Under the same ownership as La Posada de Leza (see above), El Retiro del Obispo is a boutique hotel within the medieval walls of Laguardia, in a property that once belonged to the local bishop. Lovingly restored and furnished with antiques, soft rich fabrics, linen and Persian rugs from co-owner Robert Amox’s personal collection, the hotel (which opened last year) is rented by floor. Each floor includes a master bedroom with bathroom, plus an additional bedroom – and one has a kitchen too.

This makes it a good option for families, although guests should be aware that this historic building does not have a lift.

The fifth floor is a communal space with a fully equipped kitchen featuring a professional coffee-maker and a terrace with tables and chairs, where guests can prepare meals – including breakfast, which is not served at the hotel. The terrace also boasts impressive panoramic views of the Sierra Cantabria and Rioja vineyards.

Like La Posada, El Retiro is pet-friendly, and the owners are always available to help guests with ideas of what to do in the surrounding area. From €118 per night.

Palacio de Samaniego

Constitución Kalea 12, Samaniego

Credit: Mlevaslot

Aware of the potential of Rioja, the Rothschild family partnered with Vega Sicilia in 2004 to buy vineyards and make the Macán range of wines at its cutting-edge winery in Samaniego. In 2021, its presence in the region was reinforced with an exclusive hotel in an 18th-century palace that also houses 90 beautiful works of art from the private collection of Baroness Ariane de Rothschild.

The hotel’s nine luxury rooms are arranged around the palace’s original stone staircase. Named after a grape variety and decorated with warm colours, top-quality materials and fine fabrics, each room has its own private Wi-Fi, smart TV, tea- and coffee-making facilities, dimmed lights and Spiegelau glassware – to go with the complimentary bottle of wine that guests find in their room on arrival. Visitors can also choose from a menu of pillows and duvets. On the third floor there’s a suite (accessed through a separate entrance), which comes with a fitted kitchen and the option of enjoying an à la carte evening meal.

Tierra y Vino, the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant, blends French and Basque cuisines and makes use of seasonal, local produce – in fact, chef Bruno Coelho looks after his own vegetable garden next to the Palacio’s car park. The cellar features wines from the Rothschild portfolio plus a handful of local brands.

Health-conscious guests can use the hotel’s gym and electric bikes to ride through Samaniego’s vineyards before relaxing on one of the terraces, fitted with hammocks in summer and heaters and blankets for the winter. They can also enjoy the lap pool in the garden, with views of Sierra Cantabria. The hotel organises vineyard walks with a picnic, as well as kayaking in the Ebro river, horse riding, and hot air balloon trips. B&B from €279 per night.

Santa María Briones

Calle Concepción 37, Briones

This carefully renovated, 16th-century listed manor house is now a boutique hotel oozing warmth from the moment you step onto its charming entrance floor – which was laid by hand, stone by stone.

Its 16 large and airy rooms (with all the requisite mod-cons) are aimed at adults wishing to enjoy a quiet stay complete with views of the vineyards, the Ebro river, the village of Briones and its ancient defensive wall. Parts of the wall can also be seen – and touched – in the hotel’s inner courtyard and lovely communal lounge.

After a good night’s sleep, you can also work out in Santa María’s small gym before indulging in the delicious and refined food at Allegar, the hotel’s restaurant and wine bar. This is open from Wednesday to Sunday lunchtime but if you happen to visit at other times, you can still enjoy a more informal but fully Riojan dining experience in the hotel’s calado. Above this, there is also a private space for work meetings or events.

Santa María Briones is a 15-minute walk from the Vivanco Bodega and Wine Museum, where you can indulge in a tasting and tour of the cellar, as well as taking in the vast wine-themed art collection with works by the likes of Picasso and Warhol; the museum also boasts one of the world’s finest collections of corkscrews. B&B from €235 per night.

Casa Grande by Singular’s Hotels

Calle del Caño 13, Grañón

Set in a heritage-listed 18th-century house that had fallen into disrepair, Casa Grande was brought to life by renowned Catalan industrial designer Francesc Rifé, who used stone, iron and wood to reconstruct and decorate the hotel’s 11 minimalist rooms and backyard.

The rooms feature sleek designer furniture and lighting, underfloor heating and air conditioning, and come with coffee-making facilities, bathrobes and slippers. There are also a couple of tranquil reading lounges for guests, and a restaurant offering dishes made with locally sourced produce, open daily for à la carte breakfasts as well as lunch and evening meals.

The modern interior stands in contrast to the original stone building and the look and feel of Grañón itself – a farming village with a medieval church and quiet narrow streets, some 20 minutes’ drive from Haro and its Barrio de la Estación.

The Camino de Santiago passes through the village. Many travellers stay at the old pilgrims’ hospital next to the church, but anyone wishing to pamper themselves after the long walk will enjoy the comforts of Casa Grande. For golf lovers, the 18-hole course in Cirueña is only 10 minutes away. B&B from €198 per night.

Palacio Condes de Cirac

Calle Carramonte 19B, Villalba

Credit: Lutton Gant

Tucked away on the slopes of the Obarenes mountains, Villalba has traditionally been a source of fruit for some of the leading wineries in Haro, just over two miles away. As this small village has no famous bodegas, it has stayed off the tourist radar until now.

This boutique accommodation – a refurbished manor house built in the 15th century by the family of the conquistador who founded Mendoza in Argentina – has five double bedrooms, three suites and a small outdoor heated swimming pool (open March to October), plus an honesty bar in an adjacent space with a garden. All rooms are air conditioned and come with thoughtful details such as luxury Ezcaray blankets and earplugs.

Rooms can be rented individually all year round on a B&B basis, but the property (with capacity for up to 22 guests) is also available as a whole unit, making it a good option for friends or family groups. The fully equipped kitchen and cosy living room – with table games, a large TV and a super-cool Marshall speaker – are a big bonus, but the kitchen can only be used by groups (although individual guests can store food and drinks in the communal fridge or make themselves a cup of tea or coffee).

Alonso & Pedrajo, a small but dynamic producer with a range of highly original wines, is based in Villalba and is worth a visit. Wendy, the hotel’s friendly owner, is happy to organise visits and any other nearby experiences. B&B from €100 per night (from €600 for the whole property, without breakfast).

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