Europe's Oldest Hotel
The oldest hotel in Europe has been giving travelers a place of rest for nearly 5 centuries. In 1499 the Catholic kings founded the Hospedaje Real (Royal Hospice) in Santiago de Compostela to serve as a respite for the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who came to pay homage to the shrine of Saint James. Known today as the Hostal de Los Reyes Católicos the same structure is Europe's most ancient hotel, and certainly one of its most luxurious.
During the Middle Ages, Santiago prevailed, together with Jerusalem and Rome, as one of the three holy cities of Christendom. The cult of Santiago (St. James) drew hordes of pilgrims trekking across northern Spain in search of the saint's tomb. The route to Santiago proved long, arduous, and dangerous. Having made the pilgrimage themselves, the Catholic monarchs experienced firsthand the dearth of accommodations along the way -- hence the decision by Ferdinand and Isabella to construct monasteries and hospitals to house and protect visitors, the best effort culminating in this prominent structure.
Construction on the Hospital Real began in the 15th century and continued through the 18th century. Set on Obradoiro Plaza, this grand edifice shares the square with the impressive cathedral of Santiago. In addition to its luxury rooms, this government-rated five-star hotel boasts a concert and exhibition room surrounded by cloisters.
Architecturally, the old part of the city stopped developing in the baroque period and, as a result, its buildings exude an aura of impressive grandeur -- in fact, a sense of mysticism permeates Santiago. It is fitting, then, that one of Spain's great monumental cities should be home to one of the country's most luxurious, historically significant hotels.
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