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JHotel DeVille—Panama City

Calle 50 y Beatriz M. de Cabal

Editor's Note: When Luxury Latin America first launched in 2008, this was one of the best hotels in a city that didn't have many options. As new luxury hotels have popped up all over Panama City, this boutique hotel has changed ownership and suffered from a lack of investment. It is now a solid value choice, though it still has spacious, comfortable rooms. Your experience will probably not be up to the description here from 2013.

Hotel DeVille

Recalling the days when Ferdinand de Lesseps' ill–fated scheme to carve a canal infused Panama City with fine buildings in Parisian style, the four–story DeVille transports passers–by metaphorically back to the city's heyday. The furnishings and updating may not rise to the level of snazzier competitors in town, but the location is unbeatable. Tucked away on a side street away from the hubbub of the major avenues, city sophisticates will appreciate its proximity to the city's best restaurants and clubs, while business–folk are mere steps away from the financial district.

Guests are greeted by liveried bellboys in a small driveway tight up to the street. Awnings keep off the rains when taxis pull up to the twin sets of doors—one for the hotel, the other for the adjoining restaurant. Gilt chandeliers hover overhead from the recessed ceiling, shining a light on the mahogany reception desk. Plump gray sofas, lounge chairs, and a huge coffee table made from a refurbished antique door fill the space, lent color by oriental throw rugs and slightly incongruous rotating contemporary art exhibits.

Deville stairs Accessed by both a staircase or twin elevators to the rear of the lobby, the suites and junior suites follow the theme of mixing French Colonial antiques with routine hotel catalog furniture. Suites, even the smallest, are the most spacious in town, with soaring beamed ceilings and either travertine or gray marble floors with Oriental rugs. Divinely comfortable mattresses rest atop mahogany queen beds with heaps of fluffy down pillows and 350–thread Egyptian cotton sheets. And all the expected amenities come standard: cable TV, in–room safes, mini–bars stocked with crystal glasses, alarm radios, and coffee–makers. Slippers are a nice touch, as are the his and her robes in the lovely marble–clad bathrooms with vast walk–in showers. Still, incongruous elements in the furnishings detract from the overall effect, including chintzy striped sofas and theft–proof hangers in the closets. Also, don't ask for a room with a view here: the building is hemmed in by much larger neighbors, much like the little house in the movie Up.

The largest suites here are like small apartments with two floors. On the bottom level is a sitting area, real work desk, shelves with books, and a bathroom. Upstairs is another full bath and TV next to the king bed. These can work especially well for guests who need to conduct meetings or interviews while in the city. Others have two bedrooms—one up and one down—making them a good choice for families.

Deville dining

The hotel's restaurant, connected to the lobby but with a separate entrance for non-guests, has changed comepletely, going from a stuffy French restaurant that closed at 10 p.m. to a casual and fun Tapas bar and restaurant helmed by a Spanish chef. For hotel guests it's a welcome change as there is now a real bar where lone diners can sit and it's possible to get a bite to eat much later in the evening. The menu starts with tapas and wood oven pizzas and progresses to local seafood, beef, and paella, all accompanied by reasonably priced wine by the glass or bottle. Bring your electronic translator though as there is no English menu and even semi–fluent Spanish speakers will be stumped by a good bit of the vocabulary.

There is no gym on site, but the DeVille keeps several exercise machines at the ready to deliver to your suite—and there's plenty of room for it here. A business center has complimentary computers and a printer to use, a nice breakfast spread is included in the rates, a small meeting room is available gratis, and Wi–Fi is complimentary throughout. Staffers can make arrangements for local excursions and airport taxis.

While The Bristol, nearby, outperforms The DeVille on most levels, the latter has a loyal clientele grateful for its conscientious management and friendly staffing. Those who want some space for spreading out, right in the center of the city, will appreciate the top–end lodging at a good value rate.

Web Address:
Total Number of Rooms: 33
Published rates: $175 to $440 BB

Review by Christopher Baker and updates by Timothy Scott. Photos courtesy of Hotel DeVille.

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