With its Unesco-listed Spanish frontier missions and green spaces such as the Brackenridge Park, San Antonio is a prime target for anyone looking for some culture in Texas. The hotel scene offers just as much class and flair as the city sights, with the region’s oldest hospitality establishment and the Alamo City’s first high-rise. Here’s our round-up of the best.
Liz Lambert is one of the best-known and respected hoteliers in Texas, having cut her teeth in Austin before setting her sights elsewhere. The Hotel Havana was one of several properties selected by her to be revamped. It was built in 1914 and has been restored as a marriage of old bones and new furnishings. The interior is clean, with quirky pops of color around the rooms, as well as appealing nods to the location such as the locally sourced snacks and drinks in the mini fridges. The pan-Latin roots of the city can be felt at The Ocho – the hotel bar and restaurant, which also overlooks the River Walk, a picturesque 15-mile waterway lined with shops, bars and restaurants.
The Menger has an enticing claim to fame – it’s the oldest operating hotel west of the Mississippi. It was built in 1859 by husband and wife William and Mary Menger, and quickly became one of the most popular hotels in the then young city. It now has 316 rooms with classically themed furniture and upholstery, and in the grander rooms, perks such as balconies with views over the Alamo, hot tubs and kitchenettes. The hotel also has a palm garden, pool, events hall and a restaurant which has welcomed visitors such as Oscar Wilde and Theodore Roosevelt.
Another hotel which doubles as a historical landmark, the Emma exists within the body of a 19th-century brewery, and the designers have ensured guests are aware of that. All around are lines of old piping, sections of exposed brick and the common areas have brilliant touches such as booths built from old fermentation tanks. This extends to the rooms, which have a minimalist, almost Bauhaus feel to them, while keeping maximum comfort with hulking four-poster beds, seersucker robes and macaroons left on the table after every turndown service. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s a pool on the roof, a gourmet pantry in the cellar, a farm-to-table restaurant on the ground floor and even a private library (accessed using the room key).
As the name suggests, this Valencia Group offering sits within spitting distance of the River Walk, in a downtown area which remains serenely removed from the most hectic part of the city. It has become the hotel of choice for modern celebrities, as evidenced by signed photos on the walls in the common areas. Looking at the Colonial-era Spanish designs, the specially made furniture and big faux fur throws which adorn them, it’s easy to understand why. Luxury is the name of the game. There’s an Argentinian restaurant – Dorrego’s – and a lobby bar where you can often find flamenco guitarists wafting the guests here and there.
Yep, you guessed it. Just one block from the River Walk, the O’Brien makes the waterside ramble a focal point. But this cozy hotel has plenty more to offer; the rooms feature chiropractic mattresses and large workspaces for business travelers (or anyone keen to have a writing area), and the grandest rooms also have balconies and whirlpool tubs. The hotel offers a breakfast buffet and cafe-style options during the day, and the staff will offer useful guidance on the nearby attractions, most notable of which is La Villita Historic Village, just a few minutes’ walk away.
With 37 rooms, the Fairmount is a good option for those who prefer an intimate feel. It was built in 1906, and has changed hands a few times since, most famously when the entire building was uprooted and moved six blocks down the street in 1985. Inside, guests will be treated to rooms with a blend of cream and white, including the Egyptian cotton on the beds. The rugs and oak furniture lend themselves to the early 20th-century origins of the hotel, as does the stunning rooftop bar and the restaurant with an extensive wine list.
Walking through downtown San Antonio, many people are likely to take a moment to admire the baby blue wooden slats that line the exterior of The Inn on the Riverwalk. This tiny 13-room bed and breakfast is alive with personality – each room has a distinct look and feel, and the building itself was originally constructed as a doctor’s office in 1916. Rooms are split across the main house and the cottage, as well as the standalone Mockingbird Suite; all come with big beds, dark wood furniture and lots of natural light. Guests can hire bikes to explore the River Walk and breakfasts arrive at the rooms in the morning, cooked to order.
Given that it’s named for the frontiersman Davy Crockett, who famously died there, it makes sense the Crockett Hotel is almost directly next door to the Alamo. Far from being a gimmicky establishment, the hotel wears its 111-year history with pride and dignity, from the brick atrium to the lit, heated pool and surrounding rock garden. The rooms vary in size, but all are bright and many have views over the Alamo. Guests get free access to the spa, pool and gym at the neighboring Menger Hotel. There’s also a bar on site, which is popular with locals, giving guests the chance to integrate with the city.
As you’d expect from the name, the Éilan offers a spa, plus resort-style swimming pools, private cabanas, a fitness center and tennis courts. The rooms are a blend of marble, hardwood and velvet in a Tuscan-inspired setting, and guests have the choice between standard rooms and full villas. The Sustenio restaurant offers brick oven pizzas and small plates, while the Mercato cafe deals in artisan coffee and small grab-n-go options such as croissants and tortilla wraps. All of this within easy access of central San Antonio and the wine country to the north.
The Gibbs was the first high-rise office building in San Antonio when it was built in 1909, so close to the Alamo that technically it sits within the grounds of the original compound. Now a hotel, it’s an inviting, pet-friendly space with excellent access to the city attractions and nightlife, plus a popular bar in the 1909 Taproom. The marbled interior feels in keeping with the pedigree of the building, and this is equally true of the rooms, which pair white walls with dark woods, spa-style bathrooms and custom bath products. Alongside the bar there’s a 24-hour gym, and daily Mexican-style breakfasts with a taco bar.
Built in 1894, Jackson House is one of three hotels operated by Noble Inns in San Antonio, but it’s the only one to have been awarded a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. Walking inside, one could be forgiven for thinking they’d stepped into a Victorian period drama, with elegant palatial furnishings all around, a conservatory with huge stained glass windows and big fireplaces in every room. The conservatory also houses a ‘swim spa’ pool area and there’s a library in the common area. In true English fashion, afternoon tea is offered with homemade cookies (or biscuits, depending how immersed you want to be), and the rooms have four-poster King William beds dressed in Turkish cotton.