This venerable Downtown landmark underwent its biggest renovation in nearly a century in 2013, its rooms upgraded with more modern amenities and better climate controls, but with a warm, artful design—including whimsical painted headboards and handcrafted furniture—that's faithful to the vision of Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, the vaunted architect responsible for the hotel's elegant Southwestern aesthetic. Though there has been an inn on this corner for centuries, the pueblo-inspired structure you see today was redesigned in 1922 by famed regional architect John Gaw Meem and has since been enlarged many times.
Hand-carved Southwestern antiques and fine artwork grace the rooms, which range from very cozy but relatively affordable standards to spacious suites with wood-burning fireplaces and rangy sitting areas. The rooftop suites are the most luxurious and include Continental breakfast and private concierge services. A number of the top-end rooms have balconies. Although historic, all rooms have such modern conveniences as Keurig coffeemakers, microwaves and refrigerators (on request), USB ports, and HDTVs.
Bathrooms vary considerably in size and can, in some cases, be a bit small, but they all have premium Antica Farmacista bath products. The deluxe rooms and suites can be quite luxurious, with custom-tiled walk-in showers, bidets, and large tubs.
Antiques and Native American art decorate the tiled lobby, which is home to both the always buzzing La Fiesta Lounge and the atmospheric La Plazuela restaurant along with a slew of galleries and boutiques. It's a great place to meet friends for drinks, people-watch, and take in the hotel's, and the city's, vibrant history. Note that excellent—and free—docent-led tours of the hotel's amazing art collection depart from the lobby twice a day, several days a week—reservations are encouraged.
YOU SHOULD KNOW That La Fonda's lobby is one of the liveliest and most popular hangouts in Santa Fe, both with tourists and locals—it's great fun and exudes personality, but it can feel a bit crowded and is less than ideal if you're seeking a relaxed or secluded hideaway.
La Fonda has a cloistered pool area surrounded by high adobe walls as well as a hot tub. It's a quiet spot to cool off and relax, and there's ample lounge furniture.
Of Santa Fe's high-end properties, La Fonda is less of a spa destination than many competitors. It has a limited but very pleasant therapy room in which several types of massage as well as body treatments, chakra balancing, and reflexology are offered. There are no changing facilities or lounges, but the spa staff is excellent, and it's a welcome resource if you're needing some TLC after a day of hiking or exploring.
The gym is a bit small but perfectly adequate, with cardio equipment and treadmills as well as free weights.
La Plazuela Restaurant, with its hand-painted glass tiles, serves tasty, creative Southwestern food. This high-ceilinged, atrium-style space with lighted trees in the middle of the room has a fun vibe and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There's also a full room service menu, and light food is also available in both of the bars.
La Fonda is home to two of the most popular bars in the city. On the ground floor, just off the lobby, stylish and festive La Fiesta Lounge presents folk, R&B, and other music nightly and is an enjoyable year-round perch for people-watching and sipping some of the best margaritas in town. Open seasonally and located on the roof deck, the Bell Tower Bar is an iconic spot for sunset cocktails.
You can't get more central to historic Santa Fe's museums, restaurants, shops, and galleries than this historic lodging overlooking one corner of the Plaza. It's one of the better options in town for travelers without a car, as so much is within walking distance, but if you do arrive by auto you'll find a large indoor garage with self-parking for $20 nightly. Santa Fe has limited public transportation, but taxis and Uber are easy to reach.
Art-filled and intimate Sazón (3-minute walk) specializes moles, fine mezcals and tequilas, and other food and drink from regional Mexico. Chef-owned Fernando Olea hails from Mexico City and is one of the most acclaimed culinary talents in the city. For creative Southwestern breakfasts and dinners, including such signature dishes as corn pancakes with red chile and mole sauces, and Yucatán-style cochinita pibil, be sure to plan one meal at legendary Cafe Pasqual's (3-minute walk).
A couple of blocks from Santa Fe's historic Plaza, Secreto Lounge (4-minute walk) serves some of the most interesting and well-prepared cocktails in town. There's always a lively crowd of locals and tourists shooting pool, enjoying burgers and barbecue, and hobnobbing over drinks at rollicking Cowgirl BBQ (10-minute walk).
WHY WE LIKE IT
La Fonda is Santa Fe's history museum inside a hotel, a must-visit destination even if you're not spending the night, as the many common spaces are filled with art and artifacts that recount the city's vibrant history. As a place to stay, the hotel's rooms perfectly capture classic Santa Fe style, and the top suites—though a bit spendy—are quite luxurious. For fans of history or those wanting to immerse themselves fully into the classic Santa Fe experience, La Fonda is the place to stay.