Interiors view at Gran Hotel Domine, Spanish Basque Region, Spain

Gran Hotel Domine

Just opposite the Guggenheim, the Grand Hotel Domine is the hippest hotel in Bilbao with arty public spaces and comfortable bedrooms.

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Hotel Akelarre, Relais & Châteaux

A short drive from the center of San Sebastian, Hotel Akelarre is a dream come true for travelers who love food, wine and wellness.

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Lounge at Hotel Iterregi, Spanish Basque Region, Spain

Hotel Iturregi

Some hotels give themselves away at a first glance, while others take time to discover. This beautiful eight-room hotel, a winning cross between an urban boutique hotel and a rural auberge, falls into the latter category. When the iron gates at the entrance swing open, you’re not quite sure what to expect, until this exquisitely renovated Basque farmhouse with a sloping roof and stone gray half-timbering comes into view. This is just the type of small, unique hotel that makes traveling in Europe such a pleasure. Filled with overstuffed furniture in pewter, taupe and oyster tones, the public rooms are inviting lounges in which it’s a pleasure to take it easy with a book and cup of tea after a day out. Especially popular is the summer lounge, which is set under the eaves and has picture windows.

Each of the eight rooms is individually decorated, but all of them are sublimely comfortable and romantic. The rooms have their own names, and Orio, Askizu, Jaizkibel and Zarautz come with open-plan bathrooms. Favorites include the Getaria suite under the eves, which has gorgeous views of the Bay of Biscay from its small private balcony, a beamed ceiling and a four-poster bed. Zarautz also has sea views, a sitting area and a charming bath that includes a sink created from an old mantelpiece and an oversized soaking tub.

There’s no restaurant or gym, but massages are available in your room, and light meals are served in high season during the day on the pretty porch and by the pool. Throughout the year, the hotel offers room service for dinner. Located a half-hour drive from San Sebastián and an hour from Bilbao, this property makes a great home base, but many are more inclined to build a stay here into a Basque Country tour as a two-day, put-your-feet-up break that might include some hiking or biking, a visit to the Balenciaga museum and a good dose of rusticating in a beautiful setting.

Interior View -  Hotel Maria Cristina, Spanish Basque Region, Spain

Hotel Maria Cristina

The Maria Cristina is San Sebastián’s grandest hotel and has been a fixture of the social and business scenes for over a century.

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Nobu Hotel San Sebastian

San Sebastián has long been limited in its luxury hotel offerings, and the arrival in late August of a new Nobu property on the beachfront, just west of the heart of the city, is a major development. I wondered whether the brand—the brainchild of Japanese-born chef Nobu Matsuhisa, Manhattan native Robert De Niro and Hollywood's Meir Teper—would feel out of place in this seaside sanctuary. But the synthesis was surprisingly seamless—and once again underlined the Basque Country's strange connection to Japan (for instance, certain linguists have traced connections between euskera's mysterious origins and Japanese). In fact, the outside perspective throws San Sebastián's beauty into better relief.

Located within a restored 1912 mansion by renowned Spanish architect Francisco Urcola, the property is a 17-room haven that blends Belle Époque Basque heritage and Japanese aesthetics, designed by Tomás Alía. Each of the rooms and suites is slightly different in layout, as the hotel occupies a heritage listed building, but all are airy and light-filled, and it's tempting to linger within them—despite all that awaits outside—thanks to pillowy beds, spacious closets (designed to look like a bento box) and bathrooms with big mirrors, rainfall showers and Eight & Bob products. The terrace rooms take full advantage of gorgeous views over Playa de la Concha—inviting guests to lounge for an hour or several, with a coffee, a book or a glass of wine—while the specialty suites welcome families with connecting options and large living rooms. The signature Nobu restaurant and terrace bar, both of which can also be booked by non-guests, are a highlight, and they provide a worth-it moment of variety to an itinerary heavy in Basque cuisine. A 24-hour fitness center and access to a rooftop pool round out the amenities; outside of the restaurants, the public spaces here are limited—the property is better designed for peace, intimacy and privacy. The service was excellent, and the team was incredibly warm and helpful.

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Exterior View - Villa Soro, Spanish Basque Region, Spain

Villa Soro

Villa Soro occupies a landmarked 1898 gabled granite villa with half-timbering accents in a garden setting just fifteen minutes outside of the city. The well-mannered boutique hotel is a good choice for anyone who prefers small personal hotels and is touring the Basque Country by car (there’s complimentary on-site parking). Traces of this private life survive in the hotel’s beautiful public rooms, including the elegant but comfortable lounge, winter garden and small but pleasant bar (N.B. The hotel has no restaurant, but a simple room-service menu is available, and the three-Michelin-starred Arzak is just up the street).

Upstairs, the 25 rooms eschew nostalgia for a clean, contemporary look that comes from beds made up with white duvets, velvet tub chairs, dark-stained wood desks and white walls. Floral brocade curtains and bed skirts add notes of color and throughout the property, modern art by local artists like Jorge Orteiza creates a cultivated patrician atmosphere. Rooms in the original villa are preferable, having a romantic charm that comes from their mullioned windows, steep gabled roofs, and high ceilings. The white marble baths are equipped with separate tubs and showers.

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