Paseo de la Presa de la Olla 76, Guanajuato City
Opened in late 2006 on Guanajuato's most prestigious street, Hotel Villa Maria Cristina immediately became the top choice in town and is the clear winner for pampering service, fine dining, and consistently pleasing rooms.
One of 13 Mexican hotels that is part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group, Villa Maria Cristina added another option for Guanajuato visitors who weren't happy with either the small inns in the center of town or Quinta Las Acacias up the street. This 13–room luxury boutique hotel was obviously built with the high end of the market in mind, as evidenced by the Bang & Olufsen phones in the rooms, the Kohler whirlpool tubs, and restaurant prices that would not be out of place in a U.S. city. For the most part the operation delivers on its goals, offering the most luxurious rooms in the region and a clear sense of aesthetics that binds together the small details and balances the whole.
The overall feel is a subdued, refined elegance that begins at the unassuming doorway with brass plaque and extends into multiple courtyards that allow the sunlight to illuminate iron balconies, wicker armchairs, and fountains. After checking in at the single sit–down deck, you'll be more than happy to tip the waiting bellman. The various structures on three and a half levels are connected by a series of stairways that don't seem so bad at first. But they'll creep up and put a burn in your thighs after a couple days of exploring the cobbled streets of Guanajuato. If your mobility is limited, ask for a room close to the one elevator, which only seems to be used upon request.
Villa Maria Cristina's restaurant is clearly one of the best in town, though it gets lonely when occupancy is low, perhaps in part because there is no direct entrance from the street. On the second floor and spread across two rooms, it is an elegant white space with chandeliers, a large fireplace, elaborate molding, corner columns, and crisp linens. Menu items revolve around steaks and seafood, with about half the dishes being jazzed–up versions of local dishes. Both the plates and the service come accompanied with plenty of flair and the cozy adjoining bar has the best high–end tequila selection in town.
At the bottom level of the hotel is an attractive spa with an indoor pool, whirlpool, sauna, steam room, shower facilities, and massage rooms. A basic gym has two cardio machines and weight benches with dumbbells. A lounging terrace on the second floor facing the mountains has an open air Jacuzzi big enough for four.
You can choose from a variety of room sizes and layouts, ranging from cozy standards with a double bed to the master suites with Jacuzzi tub. All are decorated in a reserved and relaxing style, with lots of whites and creams offset by custom dark wood desks and end tables. A series of wood shutters and carved doors with glass panels are used to regulate the natural light since most rooms face a courtyard rather than having a window to the exterior. (Request the Paulina suite to face the street and mountain.) Unfortunately this means you have to do lots of latching and unlatching depending on your state of dress since guests walking by can see in. Fortunately, robes (and slippers) are standard in all rooms. Also standard are flat panel satellite TVs with a wide range of English channels, a good depth of toiletries, generous closets with a selection of hangers, electronic safes big enough for a laptop, and some of the most comfortable mattresses in central Mexico.
Rooms without a whirlpool tub get a steam shower. With a push of a button and a short wait, your oversized marble shower turns into a very effective steam room. If you're a tub person though, you're out of luck in a standard — you'll have to go for one of the junior or master suites. These provide more space and furniture, plus a separate shower in addition to the whirlpool tub.
Free Wi–fi coverage extends throughout the hotel––a welcome break from the luxury norm. Room service until 10 pm supplements the pricey minibar. (Anyone up for $14 bottled water from VOSS, or a $15 airplane–sized bottle of tequila?)
While there is little to fault about the facilities, one glitch here is the surprisingly poor level of English proficiency among the otherwise professional staff. Basic, predictable requests go through fine, but many guests must resort to phrase book Spanish to make themselves understood —a situation that you don't expect to deal with at the most expensive hotel in town. Hopefully in the future management can spring for some extra night classes for employees so the personal service for foreigners will match all the other positive impressions.
Web Address: www.villamariacristina.net
Total Number of Rooms: 13
Published rates: $180 to $390 including continental breakfast and taxes.
Review and photos by Timothy Scott.