Staying at The Gallery Inn in San Juan, Puerto Rico
I love unique places. With a chain hotel, you generally know what you’re getting and I can see how if you travel a lot, that sameness can be reassuring. One less thing to worry about. I like taking a chance on a one-off though. Interesting and unique hotels are part of the travel charm.
Well, you can’t get much more unique than the Gallery Inn in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Run by a sculptor, it feels like part art gallery, part museum, part curiosity shop, and just a little bit of B&B. There is art everywhere you look and no two parts of the inn are the same.
I first knew that it wasn’t going to be a typical hotel experience when the taxi driver had to stop and ask if we had the right place because there’s no exterior sign. It’s a bit like a speakeasy or something. You can get in if you know about it but otherwise you’d walk-on by. I still managed to try the wrong door.
A little world unto itself
After being admitted past the gate I was greeted by a colourful parrot in the gorgeous, but overgrown courtyard. There are seven resident birds on the property and they managed to startle me more than once when I forgot about them only to have them squawk in my ear as I walked by.
The inn is made up of six consolidated townhouses on the North edge of Old San Juan which explains the unusual, meandering layout. To get to my room I had to go both up, then down, then up stairs again. The buildings are over 300 years old and you can almost feel the presence of past inhabitants. Guest are encouraged to explore the labyrinth of an inn, though a part of me got slightly creeped out by all the busts and sculptures in the empty rooms. So many eyes looking at me.
My room itself was on the corner on the upper floor and had a mini balcony that faced the ocean – and overlooked La Perla, but never mind that. I came and went both during the daytime and at night and felt safe. While some of the rooms had great views like mine, be warned that there are interior rooms that have no windows at all.
There was a ton of closet space in my room and the Tempur-Pedic bed was super comfortable, but the private bathroom (I was the only one with a key) was actually across the hall. A bit weird but with really old houses you sometimes have to make concessions. The bathroom itself was small but the shower area was relatively large.
You could spend an entire afternoon just wandering around the property and inspecting all the artwork and display pieces. It really is something. They have a pool but it’s unlike any hotel pool I’ve seen before. I went for a swim in the uber cool pool but I kept feeling like ‘Stalin’ was giving me the side-eye.
I do like their unabashed “this is who we are and we’re not for everyone” attitude. They make no apologies for having staircases and no elevators or the occasionally screeching parrot. Take them as they are or leave ‘em.
The Gallery Inn isn’t for everybody but if you like the unique and unusual…and a comfortable night’s sleep, this might be the place for you.
What’s the most unique place you’ve stayed at?