I loved spreading the word about the last two properties we recommended – a glitterati-friendly Dubrovnik luxury hotel and a more rugged yet high-design masterpiece hidden in the Norwegian wilderness – but eventually the time comes for every traveler to retreat to someplace cozy and reassuring, a place to effortlessly regenerate your cells and inspiration, even if you do nothing much more than break bread with friends in the shade of an olive tree. I stumbled into just such a haven in Spain’s Costa Brava region of Catalonia (Catalunya): Hotel del Teatre. It’s a true “destination hotel” – the best hotels in the world to patronize because they themselves are capable of inspiring the decision to travel to a particular destination – and one of the European luxury boutique hotels that best represents refined country living.
The wow factor
Throw a stone in Europe and you’ll hit a centuries-old farmhouse. But since I’m not from here, the novelty hasn’t worn off. My eyes still grow wide with wonder over meter-thick stone walls, ground-floor mangers (the animals’ heat used to help warm the residents on the floors above) that have been reconverted into stylish living rooms, wood-beamed ceilings, and country-villa-style grace.
It’s common to find Costa Brava hotels that exceed expectations (and that’s unfortunately atypical of many parts of Europe). It is even more common among the boutique hotels of Costa Brava. Technically a four-star, the Hotel del Teatre is in a class of its own. Others seem to think so, too: this is a Mr. and Mrs. Smith hotel and is listed with several other curated boutique hotel sites.
Location, location, location
Hotel del Teatre rests in the prestigious wine-growing appellation of Empordà. It’s a magical place that in one light is obviously on the cultural vanguard, and in another seems like time has stood still. Small medieval villages rise unexpectedly; farmers’ markets take place in the same town squares as centuries ago. The tiny village of Regencos is like this, and with only one entrance to town, you’ll have to be careful not to blink. If you do happen to drive by, consider it fate: the sea-view town of Begur is just five minutes away, and another five will place you in the midst of startlingly beautiful beaches and coves (see for yourself in our other Costa Brava posts).
Part of the joy of staying here is walking around the picturesque village, which seems untouched by time and tourists. There are no other restaurants, but if you head out from the church towards the cemetery, there’s an elderly gardener who will happily sell you produce while chatting animatedly in Catalan and gesturing proudly to his cat.
The town doesn’t allow advertisements or large signs, which bodes well for authenticity but not so well for weary tourists who are trying to find their hotel. Drive up from the highway to the parking area in front of the church, and the hotel will be to the right. From there, they can direct you to the hotel parking lot.
The hotel is approximately:
- 40 kms from Girona airport (40 mins)
- 27 kms from Flaca railway station – direction Girona (30 mins)
- 90 kms from Barcelona (1hr 15 mins)
- a 10 minute drive from some of the best beaches and golf courses of the area
Even if you don’t stay at this particular hotel, their website is a fantastic resource detailing some of the best things to do in the area (click the round circles at the bottom).
While the look of the hotel was dreamed up by owners from Barcelona, the man and wife team that run the hotel and restaurant are responsible for its warm and unassuming feel. You’ll only see members of the staff when you need their service (and then anything you need will be made available).
The unavoidable down side to family-run small luxury hotels is a limited staff. There is no service after about seven in the evening if all guests have arrived, and the restaurant closes Monday and Tuesday in season and more days off-season (since there’s nowhere else to eat in town, you’ll be driving to one of the nearby villages to dine).
Resting your head
The hotel’s seven light and airy rooms are whitewashed right down to their exposed beams. Large, deep tubs and cleanly designed furniture balance impossibly heavy antique wood doors and shutters, perfect for blocking light and facilitating lazy sleep-ins. Additionally, the sheets are freshened with a linen spray – my favorite rest-inducing detail by far.
Thick walls translate to no wifi coverage in the rooms, but the hotel supplies an ethernet cable … and a laptop! Lounge around in one of the comfy bathrobes provided (bring your own slippers) and use the small refrigerator (water is provided, but no minibar amenities) to store the inevitable nibbles and wines you’ve accumulated in the Empordà.
Several different design moods coexist in perfect harmony. The main building is quaint 18th century stone farmhouse, while the rooms are whitewashed beach cottage. The restaurant inhabits an old theater, the hotel namesake, once the happening place for miles around (just ask Lola, who lives next door and used to sell concessions).
The restaurant interior is described as “modern New York sophisticated.” As a former New Yorker, I can vouch for it. Not only do they have the repurposed venue – near and dear to New York hearts – but a couple large common tables to balance the individual seating and a few comfy couches that scream “lounge in me!”
Last but not least, the outdoor pool/garden/veranda is pure Ibiza, with vaporous curtains and white lounge chairs. If I had visited in summer, it would have compelled a cocktail moment.
The jewel of the amenities is undoubtedly the indoor-outdoor restaurant, La Cuina del Teatre. The preserved stage is used for projecting images accompanied by soft music, while Chef Eduardo Puig creates contemporary renditions of traditional dishes using seasonal, local produce that are delivered with flawless service. It’s here that you’ll indulge in the fantastic buffet breakfast of fresh cold cuts, Spanish potato omelette, cheeses, fruit, yoghurt, pastries, soft-boiled eggs, and the regional favorite of pa amb tomaquet, fresh baguettes rubbed lightly with garlic and small, deeply pigmented tomatoes, then sprinkled with green olive oil and sea salt.
The upstairs reading room was one of my favorite places to relax, and only partially because of the strong wifi signal afforded by the large arched windows. The special mood here is enhanced by the soft glow from white clay candle holders – handmade by a local artisan, refined furniture, and a domed ceiling.
The staff can arrange for extremely affordable cultural tours of the area, as well as massages, room service, baby sitters, horse riding, and carriage tours (Ben, honey, are you listening?). Free use of mountain bikes let you explore the many well-marked nature paths of the region (in an upcoming post on this fantastic “experience” idea for the Costa Brava I’ll provide more detail).
Many of my fellow guests were Catalans just getting away for the weekend (ah, such a good life to live so close), so the vibe was very mellow yet sophisticated. Which pretty much summarizes the whole region, and is what inspired me last week to write about moving to Costa Brava.
This is the perfect year-round place to retreat from a rigorous lifestyle. In fact, I just checked the weather (in late November) and it’s a sunny 64 degrees! Writing this from my cold home in Germany makes me feel decidedly nostalgic … and itching to plan my next visit.
*While researching this article I was a guest of Hotel del Teatre. We personally stay in each hotel we review, and compose a full review only if we believe our readers are likely to consider choosing that hotel. To read about our commitment to candid and balanced reviews, see our disclosures page.