2a. Avenida Norte #11, Antigua, Guatemala
El Convento opened its doors in February 2008 and added a new upscale alternative to this popular colonial city. Newly constructed and expanded over time, its replication of a 15th century convent is remarkable.
Located on a quiet side street, the 26–suite hotel faces the Convent of Las Capuchinas, only four blocks from Antigua's central plaza. El Convento's stone facade and cramped entrance belies its luxurious inner sanctuary, a blending of Guatemalan and colonial décor. Heavy dark wooden doors open to flickering candles on a wooden ledge. Around the corner, a grand living room with high ceilings features elegant sofas, a fireplace, a stocked library, and a laptop corner, with classical music adding to the drama of the lavishly decorated formal room.
Across from it lies the Sitz Restaurant and bar. White linen tablecloths, fresh flowers and cobalt–blue glasses grace tables. Attentive service and appetizing international as well as regional cuisine are complimented with wines from around the world. You can book a private dinner in the full wine cellar and tasting room.
Native plants, flowers and stones fill the courtyard, along with a rectangular lap pool. A terracotta–tiled walkway extends from the entry to the last suite. Shadowed alcoves reveal sitting areas with cushions, pillows and a water–spouting lion fountain. At night, candles and subdued lighting illuminate the whole path. The developers expanded this pool area substantially during the last round of renovations and it's the social hub of the property during the day.
A Guatemalan artist carved intricate designs onto the doors of some guest rooms. All the suites have conical fireplaces and duvets on comfortable mattresses. The long list of amenities includes an electronic safe, soft robes, a towel heater, L'Occitane toiletries, a flat screen TV, and music that can be piped into the bedroom and bath. Special touches include a complimentary laptop upon request and an iPhone dock. Maids leave a surprise ceramic animal on the pillow during turndown service. If you request room service, don't be surprised if a brown–robed friar monk greets you at your door.
The variety of suites have similar views, all being at ground level. Wooden doors face the inner courtyard while glass doors open to a private outside garden for some. The junior suite differs from the others by not having a separate 6–foot tiled bathtub or Jacuzzi on the terrace. Most have roomy glass shower stalls with an oversized rain showerhead. If closet space is important, go for one of the newer suites constructed in the past decade. Each of the suites is fairly dark except for the natural light from their outdoor terrace.
The suites are the best choice if you are a couple traveling alone. For larger accommodations, the master suites have a circular wrought iron staircase that winds up to a loft with double beds, bathroom, lounge chairs and all the amenities found downstairs except a fireplace.
The hotel can arrange excursions, but be sure to take a self–guided tour of the Convent de Las Capuchinas, across the street. They will also arrange airport pickup, which is worth doing since you need to travel to the capital an hour and a half away.
Friendly yet professional service is good overall at this luxury Antigua boutique hotel, though the tiny front desk with one or two workers easily gets overwhelmed. Overall though, if you are looking for a tranquil setting, international cuisine, exceptional service, and 21st century amenities, El Convento Boutique Hotel is one of the this historic city's best options.
Review and photos by Timothy Scott