Spanish-Inspired Luxury: el Prado Hotel, Palo Alto

el Prado Tapas Bar Lounge

Palo Alto is well-known as the world's epicenter of innovation and technology, but is not necessarily known as a vacation spot. It should be. With its abundance of fine restaurants, boutique shopping, recreational activities, Mediterranean climate, and unique energy, Palo Alto is always inspiring.

And though local hotels tend to cater primarily to business travelers and college campus visitors, those seeking a luxurious getaway have choices, such as the elegant el Prado Hotel in the heart of Palo Alto’s thriving downtown district. At 520 Cowper Street, el Prado is centrally located and just around the corner from the vivacity of University Avenue.

el Prado Solarium

The boutique inn, formerly known as the Garden Court Hotel, recently underwent an extensive renovation overseen by award-winning hotel design firm NICOLEHOLLIS whose team took inspiration from Spanish open-air living. The firm emphasized a warm, tranquil respite and drew on botanical themes including an abundance of lush greenery and a rich color palette highlighting black forest greens, stone blues, touches of terracotta orange, mixed with calming neutral tones. The property is reminiscent of a stately Spanish home featuring contemporary design.

62 beautifully appointed, royal blue-hued rooms in eleven varying layouts (many with furnished patios) line a central, European-style courtyard. Plush bedding, cozy robes, Molton Brown toiletries, and lavishly stocked mini bars (Schramsberg sparkling, Veuve Clicquot, Rombauer Chardonnay, Merry Edwards Pinot and Cabernet) set the mood for rest and relaxation, as does the new 2nd floor Tapas Bar, lushly furnished in jewel toned shades and serving Spanish themed appetizers such as Beef and Pork Albondigas, Cheese Croquets, and Blistered Shishito Peppers, as well as seasonal, highly crafted cocktails for which the hotel makes its own fresh syrups. Start, spend, or end your evening here by the fireplace, or take your Amoxicilina cocktail (Diplomatico Rum, Brandy de Jerez, fresh lemon and house-made ginger-honey syrup) around the corner to a private nook that features Instagram-worthy appeal. Additional picturesque gathering spots include the lobby’s high back rattan chairs, the courtyard patio warmed during cooler weather by its large fireplace, and the second floor solarium where a new coffee bar is soon to open. (A full breakfast menu is available via room service.)  

el Prado Guest Room
el Prado Tapas Bar

Of course, the weekday business traveler also benefits from the posh updates, including use of The Library, a new addition that features a large boardroom table, separate lounge area with plush couches, access to a furnished terrace, and full technology capabilities for video conferencing. el Prado also features 6,000 square feet of banquet space, and is a favored spot for large events and weddings, which the hotel staff capably oversees with skill.

el Prado Library

Beyond el Prado’s many attributes, hotel staff suggest a number of local activities, such as the glorious landscapes of the Gamble Garden and Filoli Center. Visit the Tech Museum, the Computer History Museum, or see the famous HP garage, considered the birthplace of the Silicon Valley. Exercise enthusiasts might enjoy a hike at the Stanford Dish. Named for the 150-foot diameter radio telescope atop its peak, the Dish is one of the most popular trails on the Peninsula. Traverse the hilly, well-paved path to a reward of panoramic views of the beautiful Stanford campus and the entire Bay Area. And for shoppers, the famed Stanford Shopping Center is just a short drive away. 

el Prado Guest Room Terrace

All photos courtesy of el Prado Hotel

Fran Endicott Miller

Fran Endicott Miller is a luxury focused freelance feature and travel writer for a variety of lifestyle publications and websites, editor-at-large for, senior contributor to Napa Valley Life Magazine, and a California editor for luxury travel concierge service Essentialist, specializing in the Napa Valley. Prior to her journalism career she held positions in the fields of politics, te...(Read More)

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