Villafranca del Bierzo and the Parador

The Parador at Villafranca del Bierzo was sort of a spur-of-the-moment booking.  It was close to some of the sights we wanted to see in León (Las Médulas, Ponferrada Castle) and, being a Parador property, I gave it a little less inspection before making a decision, thinking, it's a known hotel chain, there are probably certain standards we can expect, etc.  Book it and be done.

I'd seen the photos and read some reviews on, and knew that it was a modern property.  While I appreciate the old Parador properties that are castles, monasteries, etc., I find I prefer the modern Paradores.  The rooms are obviously not quite so retro-fitted, and seem (also obviously)  quieter and more spacious.

Villafranca's Parador was really, really pleasant.  As in, maybe one of the best Parador stays ever (and we've stayed in about twenty through the years). The building (as is sometimes the case) is nothing to look at as you approach.  However, our room was very nice.  It was spacious, with a small seating area, the ubiquitous mini-bar (I so appreciate the refrigerators in Parador rooms), delightful views over the lovely town, and comfy bed.  Its location is easy to access right off of the NIV highway (unless you've entered the GPS coordinates incorrectly, like me, and wind through town and out to the other side, up a steep mountain, and dead-end at a couple of houses...  eh hm) .  There is adequate parking --(some covered) at least for the volume of guests present while we stayed there.

Beyond the room itself, the hotel's pools (yes, there are two!) are incredibly clean and well-kept.  The outdoor one is surrounded by a tile patio and fence.  Outside the fence is a small grassy area with an umbrella and some chairs.  The indoor pool features a couple of massage waterfall jets.  The pool staff was very helpful and friendly.  I opted for a back massage one day; it was a great value: €20 for 40 minutes, and it was a really good massage, too.

The town of Villafranca del Bierzo was enjoyable.  There is a huge, picturesque castle (although apparently it is a private building and not visit-able).

In addition, beautiful buildings adorn the city streets, parochial and otherwise.  The Camino de Santiago runs through town, so there are a number of pilgrims around.  The central part of town seems to cater to this sector of visitors, but it doesn't feel overrun with pilgrims or tourists by any means.

The Burbia river winds its way peacefully through the town.  At the north-western edge, there is a small fluvial playa where folks cool off in the summer. It has a nice, wide grassy area and is probably a welcome place to take a dip, which we definitely saw folks doing in the late afternoon.

Calle del Agua, the street which is about two blocks in from the river, is chock-full of beautiful houses and interesting buildings.

Villafranca del Bierzo, both the town and the Parador of the same name, was a really great place to wander and relax.  Nestled next to scenic hillsides and rivers, tucked along the Camino, it is an adorable village and a very enjoyable accommodation.