History of Paradors and Pousadas
Have you ever wondered how Paradors and Pousadas came into being? Or who had the idea of transforming Spain and Portugal’s historical buildings into stunning hotels? We invite you to explore the fascinating history of Paradors and Pousadas, a story of those who were passionate about preserving and promoting Portuguese and Spanish culture.
The first idea for a national hotel network in Spain came as early as 1910, when politician José Canalejas, spotting Spain’s fantastic potential for tourism, charged the Marquis de la Vega-Inclán with setting up a collective of existing locations that hosted travellers. For various reasons, the Marquis was never able to realise Canalejas’ ambitions, but in 1928, King Alfonso XIII restarted the project, building the Parador de Gredos in the classic ‘hunting pavilion’ style of the day. The Parador is still open today, and continues to offer stunning views of the Tormes Valley, just as the royal party would have enjoyed during their first stay hundreds of years ago. In the following years, several more Paradors opened their doors to visitors, including the Parador de Toledo which has bewitched visitors with its incredible panoramas over the ‘City of Three Cultures’ since 1930.
During the Spanish Civil War, the opening of more Paradors understandably slowed, but in the years following the conflict the network continued to grow. One of the most popular Paradors, the Parador de Santiago de Compostela, was opened in the 1980s and is widely considered to be one of the world’s oldest hotels where weary pilgrims traditionally rested their heads after a long day on the Camino. Guests can now wander through the mesmerising interior, exploring the four cloisters and feast on the very best of Galician delicacies, including its wonderful seafood. The Paradores are an exquisite fusion of old and new, allowing the visitor to walk in the footsteps of some of Spain’s most important historical figures while enjoying modern comforts.
In the early 1940s, the politician and writer Antonio Ferro suggested the creation of a chain of hotels, unique in its respect of Portugal’s culture. The term ‘pousada’, which translates as ‘inn’ or ‘lodging’, was chosen to represent the ensemble of hotels. Ferro’s dream that guests would get to experience the ‘authentic Portugal’ and its famous hospitality are summed up to a quote attributed to him from 1942 – “When a guest ceases to be referred to by name, and is instead known by his room number, the spirit of the Pousadas will truly be lost.” Pousadas throughout Portugal were meant to include only a small number of rooms, and to provide guests with a memorable insight into the country’s culinary traditions. Ferro’s idea of a Pousada with an intimate atmosphere endures to the present day.
The first Pousada opened in 1942 in the Alentejo region, which was already being lauded as one of Portugal’s most appealing destinations. Several years later, the concept of Pousadas as cosy and traditional hotels was furthered to include majestic accommodation in historical monuments. Castles, convents and monasteries were transformed to welcome visitors from around the world, and thus promote Portugal’s rich history and culture. The Pousada Castelo de Obidos, set within the walls of a magnificent 14th century medieval castle, was the first to open its doors as a truly historical Pousada.