The term “five stars” is often used as a buzzword, like “reserve” or “natural wine,” that has no legal definition to back it up. However, when a luxury resort truly is a five star experience, it’s the combination of comfort, location, beauty, and service that makes it so extraordinary. Here are exceptional places in four different areas of Rioja that deliver that extraordinary five star experience.
Hotel Marques de Riscal
El Ciego, Rioja Alavesa
Marqués de Riscal was founded in 1858 in the village of El Ciego in Rioja Alavesa, making it one of the oldest wineries in Rioja. Arriving at the property feels like stepping into a picture-perfect postcard. Its award-winning Hotel Marqués de Riscal was designed by Frank Gehry. Opened in 2006, it is the definition of a modern classic, and the service is the epitome of the classically humble and attentive Rioja sensibility.
61 guest rooms are located in two structures, and the main building is an architectural marvel designed to be in harmony with the surrounding environs. A titanium rooftop sculpture appears to flow like ribbon candy and to change with the movement of the sun. Guests are encouraged to linger and enjoy stunning sunsets from various vantage points. And, to ensure wellness is a priority, the property features a well-equipped fitness room and a spa. In addition, Hotel Marqués de Riscal encourages guests to enjoy a cozy bistro, vineyard strolls, a Michelin-starred restaurant directed by the famed Riojan chef Francis Paniego, and private scheduled visits to the historic winery.
Every thoughtful detail here is designed to appeal across demographics. The hotel is equally suited for families and couples, and can be used for retreats, weddings, and business events. The nearby villages are definitely worth visiting: El Ciego itself, a winegrowers village and only a five-minute stroll away, and the legendary Laguardia, about a 12-minute drive.
Áurea Hotel & Suites
Logroño, Rioja Alta
The long-awaited Áurea finally opened in 2022 to much acclaim! Áurea belongs to a new boutique collection of Eurostar Hotels with 9 properties in total, 6 of which are in Spain. Located in the old quarter of Logroño in a stately neo-baroque former Post Office, colorful stamps and vintage postcards provide charming details throughout. Áurea is a contradiction in the best ways possible: the grand, spacious building remains truly boutique with only 41 rooms. Áurea manages to provide the best of modern-historical with amenities that are representative of this small charming European city.
Among the amenities is a state-of-the-art spa that features an impressive massage menu, which is much-appreciated after a long transatlantic flight. Or, guests can relax into Matasellos Restaurant for a delicious meal featuring local Rioja ingredients and cuisine. Wander the town and soak up the vibe, with the famous Calle Laurel Tapas Trail, artisanal shops, cathedrals, museums, bistros, the banks of the Ebro, and more. The famous San Blas Rioja market is only blocks away and is filled with local charcuterie, butchers, and farm, and orchard delectables.
Nearby wineries located in Logroño are a 5-10 minute ride outside the city and include Marqués de Murrieta, Ontañon, and Valdemar.
Hotel Santa María Briones
Briones, Rioja Alta
Located in a 16th century manor home, Santa María exudes the grandeur of a bygone era. Although Briones is an ancient fortress town in a historically significant wine region, it was, until recently, more of a pass-through kind of place. Santa María Hotel now provides every reason to stop and stay a while. There are stunning details throughout, including a captivating interior patio that rests on 13th century walls. This luxurious and romantic hotel provides the perfect space for a couples getaway, or even just a space to reconnect with your travel companions (or yourself!).
Typical of manor homes of the era, it has an ancient wine cellar, or calado, excavated from mountain rock restored to pristine condition. The dining room showcases authentic regional Riojan cuisine, and there’s a curious small stone staircase leading down to a former wine press where guests can enjoy a glass of Rioja Reserva.
Venture beyond the hotel walls to the Vivanco Museum of Wine Culture, only a 15-minute walk downhill. Take a leisurely stroll into the enchanting medieval village of Briones to admire the spectacular views of the Ebro River and its surrounding vineyards. There are also plenty of opportunities to mingle with the local culture. For those wanting to explore the broader region, Haro is only about 10 minutes away and is the epicenter of hundred-year-old Riojan wineries. Santa María Hotel is an experience that feels like stepping into a fabled European tale.
Briñas, Rioja Alta
Briñas is found in one of the most unique corners of Rioja, where the land butts up against the Ebro River just where it turns into vigorous rapids. It is, therefore, quite the draw for locals and visitors a like. Palacio Tondón, which opened as a hotel in 2018, was formerly a 16th-century palace that juxtaposes architecture with the surrounding landscape. Guests are encouraged to sit on the delightful Tondón terrace alongside the river rapids and savor Rioja wine, tapas and conversation at a table or fire pit.
Palacio Tondón offers 33 modern rooms, some with riverfront views. It is the perfect place for a romantic weekend, a couples or family getaway, a small business group meeting, or even a wellness retreat. Since wine and wellness do in fact go hand-in-hand, Palacio Tondón offers a range of spa services, as well as ample Rioja wines to sample at the Enoteca. For those looking to explore the area, there’s a running/walking path that runs right along the Ebro and leads into historic Haro. Bordering Basque country, wine-centric Labastida is also nearby.
Briñas is deep in the northwest corner of Rioja Alta and is home to many of the region’s most coveted vineyards. It’s recommended to sample or visit Tobelos Bodegas y Viñedos located in the area.
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