The retro New Mexican capital has long been a draw for artists of all strands, from Georgia O’Keefe to DH Lawrence. Today, it does tradition like few other places in the US, harking back to the past with bulbous, adobe-style buildings, pretty whitewashed facades and interiors filled with traditional, southwestern style. Over here, a brightly coloured woven wall hanging; there, a disingenuously simple artwork, or exposed beams hanging over traditional kivas (round, built-in fireplaces). But don’t let the old-time feel confuse you; this is one of America’s most chi-chi places, with upscale galleries around the pretty central Plaza, and hotels dripping in understated luxury. But as an essential stop on Route 66, Santa Fe has always done affordable accommodation, too; and, for once, it doesn’t scrimp on style. Whether you’re after a hip motel or a super-traditional inn, there are plenty of options here.
Sitting just off the central Plaza, this sweet 56-room hotel takes its name from the New Mexican village whose church is dubbed ‘the Lourdes of America’ and whose artisan-made crucifixes, weavings and throws fill the rooms. Design is traditional, with the odd touch of luxury, including Frette linen. Suites (the largest in town) have wood burners and balconies, and guests can use the pool at a sister hotel if they fancy a swim. Doubles from £136, room only.
El Rey Court
Nowhere does retro style as well as America, and the El Rey, which ‘opened’ earlier this year is a classic example. In fact, it’s gone back to basics — it’d originally been called the El Rey Court when it opened in 1936 as a Route 66 motor lodge. As a salute to its glory days, the 86 rooms have been decorated with a modern southwest timbre. Adobe-style exteriors give way to bright, earthy rooms with terracotta floors, exposed beams, wooden slatted headboards and the odd leather-clad chair or pair of antlers. But it does hipster, too: the old breakfast room is now a bar with an ‘agave menu’, the former lawn’s a live music venue and the pool’s called a ‘swim club’. But for a true taste of Route 66, you can’t do better. Doubles from £89, room only.
Inn of the Governors
Ignore first impressions; beyond its motel-like facade lie characterful rooms, making this a brilliant budget stay. All are given a traditional flair — rough wooden furniture, brightly coloured wall-hangings — and most have equally traditional kiva stoves. It has free breakfast, afternoon tea and sherry, too. Doubles from £93, B&B.
Inn on the Alameda
This 72-room hotel is just a 10-minute walk from the Plaza. ‘Traditional’ rooms have dark wood-slatted ceilings and woven throws; ‘deluxe’ are brighter with blond wood and sunlight through the patio doors. There’s a free wine-fulled ‘social hour’ every afternoon. Doubles from £112, B&B.
Published in the December 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)