Hotel Palacio, History

At the turn of the 20th century, the Belle Époque (the French Beautiful Era) carried the echoes of the Parisian good-life around the world. Montevideo was no exception. The streets and stately buildings of the Old Town held everything the European high class needed to live on this side of the globe.

The newly arrived class of foreigners’ luxurious lifestyle multiplied the number of architectural projects – whether houses, hotels, or shops worthy of the refined French taste in art, jewelry, furniture and accessories, which, together with the theatres and social clubs, contributed to the creation of a cosmopolitan Uruguay.

Private estates and ornate mansions were the backdrop for the social life of the Uruguayan elite, marked since its beginnings by frivolity and carefreeness, all the while maintaining a certain degree of academia and culture. In his book Montevideo and the modern architect, professor and architect Leopoldo Artucio wrote that Montevideo “had everything needed to revive the Parisian Belle Époque, however its demure tone instilled the city’s social life with a more modest and, without a doubt, more decent atmosphere.”

Contemporaneous but more academic, the late 19th century Belgian born Art Nouveau movement also permeated Uruguayan culture. It broke with old historicisms and, just as its name denotes, threw itself into the search for a new, unbounded art. The use of graceful, flowing ironwork became its signature mark.

In this context, architect Leopold Tosi made history by designing many of Montevideo’s emblematic buildings from the period. With a marked modernist tone, his works transmit lightness and transparency.

The Hotel Palacio project, built as an annex to another hotel, had the privilege to be in the famed architect’s hands. The building was meant to complement the Hotel Alhambra, which sat radiantly across the street. Alberto and Miguel García, the then proprietors, spared no expense in order to entrust the project to Tosi, one of the period’s best architects.

Eclectic in style, the structure contains six floors connected by an elevator of pure Art Nouveau inspiration and guest rooms with a view of the enchanting Montevideo waterfront.

As time went on, the moment came for the new building to proclaim its independence. The Hotel Palacio was born, although it maintained an homage to its origins – a relief on the façade that hints at its history as an annex.

Although still running in the 1980s, the hotel had almost entirely forgotten its original essence. The current proprietors, an Asturian couple settled in Uruguay, acquired the establishment with a clear calling to dedicate themselves, heart and soul, to its renewal; a task that they undertook daily with great enthusiasm.

Now, in the 21st century, the hotel seeks to return to its original values, first established in that vigorous city of a century ago. The hotel’s history – rich, profound and flourishing – still draws travelers in search of nostalgia and charm, along with the poets who have turned it into legend.