Once an icon of 1940s Hollywood glamour in the Southwest, Hotel Andaluz is today a history-rich designer showcase. An AAA Four Diamond downtown Albuquerque landmark, it’s near Old Town and a block off the famous old Route 66 .
The exterior is plain, but one needs only stroll inside to be transported: its beautiful two-story Spanish and Moorish-inspired grand lobby infuses the space with the spirit of the Southwest, its past and its future. Old World wrought-iron chandeliers, tile floors, cozy “casbahs”, colorful artwork plus a gorgeous new age LED-lit fountain surrounded by comfy seating arrangements.
I love staying at hotels with such storied and preserved histories as this one. For me, it’s part of the charm and experience. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, when it opened in 1939, it was Conrad Hilton’s fourth hotel (his first in his native New Mexico). At that time, it was the tallest building in the state (10 floors), and the first to have air conditioning.
Back in the day, it was a political and social hotspot with guests like JFK (he spoke at a Democratic fundraiser in 1957 here) to actors and actresses like Jimmy Stewart as well as the flamboyant Zsa Zsa Gabor. (Owner Hilton and his wife Zsa Zsa honeymooned here.) The marriage didn’t last; but the building did—and after several re-incarnations, name changes and general decline, the hotel was bought in 2005 by a local businessman with a passion for preserving history and a commitment to practicing sustainability.
Four years and $30 million later, Hotel Andaluz (short for Andalucian) opened its Spanish inspired doors. Today, the property is a LEED-gold certified boutique hotel that has kept its historic character. With 107 rooms, prices range from a bargain $149 for a “Conrad Studio” to $340 for the Zsa Zsa Penthouse suite, complete with fireplace, expansive corner windows with sweeping views of the Sandia mountains, plus a dining room. Oh, and with a nod to Zsa Zsa no doubt, a separate dressing room and fancy copper bathtub.
My room, a Conrad Deluxe King also had great views of the Sandia mountains, and luxurious Frette bed linens, goosedown comforter and pillows—a sitting area, 42” LG LDD flat screen t.v.–and double vanities in the bathroom. A great desk work station provided good light, plenty of outlets, and free wi-fi (plus a view!). Like most of the rooms, sustainable bamboo furnishings are the standard—but yet each room was individualized with different artwork showcased.
Staff is multi-lingual, attentive and friendly. Everyone I met in the hallway or elevator said hello and smiled. I felt a genuine hospitality and welcome; maybe that’s all part of the Southwest spirit, but I also believe it comes from management who are truly proud of their property.
Besides the rooftop bar Ibiza, the hotel also has its own restaurant, MAS, which features Spanish tapas cuisine in a casually stylish space. Entrees seemed pricey to me; better deals–I loved sharing platefuls of tapas like the delicious “gambas fritas” (fried shrimp with smoked paprika) or the salmon nachos with mint aioli.
You can also take a glass of wine or a cocktail and relax in the lobby. Evenings sometimes include music. This year, 2014, marks the hotel’s 75th anniversary—and their year-long celebration features a string of special events and themes.
In January while I was there, the month was dedicated to the 1930s “Speakeasy” era. Crafted cocktails for the occasion featured a wickedly good “Moonshine” appropriately served in an old-fashioned Mason jar.
Other events on the roster include a 1940s Big Band event, and a 1950s Sockhop—matched with cocktails, music and food. For more information on the events, packages and prices, check the hotel’s website.
Review and photos by Donna Tabbert Long who was hosted by the hotel while visiting New Mexico for story research.