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History of the Hotel Alhambra Palace


16 June, 2015
Chema Muñoz

On January the 1st 1910, His Majesty the king, Alfonso the 13thinaugurated the hotel Alhambra Palace.  The hotel was built by the Duke of San Pedro de Galatino, an aristocrat, politician, businessman, and especially a great visionary of his time.  The Duke finally realized one of his dreams.  At that time, in the early 20thcentury almost 18.000 tourists a year were already visiting the Alhambra in Granada. His accomplishment of the hotel therefore represented the perfect complement to the emerging romantic tourism of the time.

The Duke was the key figure in our history here at the hotel.  He predicted that tourism would be a great industry, and the contributing factors would certainly be the Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada.  He was absolutely correct.  Besides the Hotel Alhambra Palace, he also built a hotel in the Sierra Nevadas called the Hotel Del Duque.  The hotel was equipped with its own power station, and as incredible as it may seem for the time, he also built a tram to transport guests from Granada to the Sierra Nevada.  All of this was conceived, designed, and constructed by the Duke himself, utilizing his own resources.  The Duke also had political interests.  He was one of the advocates for the restoration of the monarchy in Spain.  Until the end of his life he was intimately involved in the business and industrial life of Granada, helping develop the sugar industry and improving agricultural product management and distribution for the region.  His greatest dream though, was the building of our hotel, the Alhambra Palace, the very first iron built structure in Andalucía.

From 1910 on, the Duke managed the hotel with great success, and through his vision, transformed the hotel, which now sported a grand casino, into a social and cultural center for the city of Granada.  The grand people were bound to come and they did.  The hotel welcomed, to name just a few, great Spaniards such as Frederico Garcia Lorca, Manuel de Falla, Jose Maria Rodriguez-Acosta, and Angel Barrios.

In 1923 the president of the government, along with General Primo de Rivera banned gambling and the Duke was forced to close the casino, now the main source of his business revenue.  The duke, a man of strong character, openly and boldly declared that General Rivera was a persona non grata, but the casino remained closed.  The Alhambra Palace continued operations as a hotel until the 1930’s.  At that time the hotel signed a 50 year lease agreement with the HUSA management chain, a company specializing in luxury hotel operations.

In April of 1936 the Duke died and three months later the Spanish Civil war broke out.  The widowed Duchess, Fernanda de Salabert y Arteaga promptly donated the hotel to the military.  The hotel ran as an army hospital for three years.  This was most fortuitous for the hotel.  On the roof of the hotel were painted red crosses.  This protected the hotel from bombing during the war.  Unwittingly, indeed the widowed duchess by her generous act to the military saved the hotel for posterity.

The civil war ended and the hotel reopened in 1942.  From that time on, the hotel enjoyed its most glamorous epoch, becoming an international emblem for luxury travel, and evolving into the mythical Alhambra palace that we enjoy today.

One of the great treasures of the hotel is its golden guest register.  It is impossible to mention here all the wonderful people that have signed the register.  We will highlight a few.  They are the Spanish royals such as King Alfonso XIII, his son Juan, Count of Barcelona,  King Juan Carlos I and his consort Reina Sofia, and our new King  Felipe VI de Bourbon.  Other royals that have visited include King Aga Khan, the kings of Belgium, of Sweden, of Saudi Arabia, the Prince of Wales, the Prince of Persia and the Prince of Iran, the king of Morocco and also of Qatar.

Dignitaries that have graced the Alhambra Palace halls include presidents of governments such as Charles De Gaulle of France, Batista of Cuba, Kekkonen of Finland, the presidents of the Sudan and Indonesia, prime ministers such as Aldo Moro of Italy, and Eva Peron, the first lady of Argentina.  Other personalities that have stayed here include the Dalai Lhama, Rockefeller, and Stephen Hawking.  Add to that  the Spanish national Soccer team, the already mentioned Spanish poet Frederico Garcia Lorca, Jean Cocteau, Mario Vargas Llos, composers Cole Porter and Manuel de Falla, Artaulfo Argenta, Arthur Rubenstein, Herbert Von Karajan, Rostropovich,  Zubin Mehta, Daniel Barenboin, and our very own Placido Domingo and Montserrat Caballe.

Some of the Hollywood stars that have stayed at the hotel are Tyrone Power, Lawrence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Burt Lancaster, Yul Brynner, Charles Bronson, Rock Hudson, Glenn Ford, Jimmie Stewart, Anthony Quinn, Orson Wells, Henry Fonda, Lauren Bacall, Marcello Mastroianni, Sofia Loren, Jean Paul Belmondo, William Dafoe, Alec Guinness, Cantiflas, Joseph Cotton, Faye Dunaway, and brad Pitt.

All these and more enjoyed the hotel and honored it with their presence.  All these guests were attended by five generations of Granada workers that have carried the torch of service and excellence and will pass on this tradition to future generations. At the beginning of 1980, the heirs of San Pedro de Galatino once again assumed directly the management of the hotel.  Thus, in 2014, the Alhambra Palace Hotel became the second oldest actively managed hotel in Spain, and the only hotel that has continued with the same owners for its 107 years of history.

Ignacio Durán-Caffarena

Director of Sales & Marketing


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