Grand Hotel – the Spanish Downton Abbey?

What’s the best way to achieve nothing productive in your month-long Christmas vacation? Simple answer: by getting addicted to a slightly over-the-top Spanish period-drama.

Grand Hotel is an award-winning Spanish series that was first broadcast in the UK in November 2012 by Sky Arts, and has gone on to receive critical acclaim.

With the second series just around the corner, it seemed an appropriate time to reflect on why series one was such a big success.

Perhaps part of the show’s popularity comes from its often-used and unofficial title: ‘The Spanish Downton Abbey’. While this is high praise indeed, I’m not sure if I totally agree.

The only noticeably common factor is that both programmes are period dramas.

Grand Hotel moves far quicker than its British counterpart, and is certainly more intense and dramatic. It also focuses more on the political side of things, both in the Alarcón family (the owners of the hotel) and in the servant quarters.

Set in the early twentieth century, the programme centres around Julio Olmedo, a young man who arrives at the hotel to meet his sister, who works there as a maid. When he finds that she is mysteriously missing, he gets a job as a waiter in order to discover more about her disappearance.

Grand Hotel moves far quicker than its British counterpart, and is certainly more intense and dramatic

One of the reasons why the show works so well is due to the strength of Julio’s character. For a start, he is far from perfect – he doesn’t mind a little lying to help his cause, and seems to attract trouble at will.

However, his determination and perseverance in finding his sister is certainly admirable. He also manages to remain witty and relatively light-hearted throughout the series, which is impressive considering the events that unfold.

His friendship with a fellow servant, Andrés, is one of the show’s finest aspects.

A nervous and hard-working man, Andrés seems to be the exact-opposite of Julio. Throw in a handful of amusing one-liners, and you are left with the perfect formula for an on-screen bromance.

Julio also forms an acquaintance with Alicia Alarcón, the wealthy daughter of the hotel’s owner, who agrees to help him find his sister. We are left to watch as the two become closer as the series progresses.

There are obstacles, however, that prevent them from expressing their true feelings. Alicia is engaged to the power-hungry manager of the hotel, Diego. She belongs to a different world from Julio – servants are expected to refrain from eye-contact and keep a distance of forty centimetres from the upper classes. But, as Julio regularly shows us, rules are for breaking.

Filmed at the stunning Palacio de la Magdalena, the setting of Grand Hotel is simply breath taking – the hotel stands majestically over the beautiful Spanish countryside.

It is also hard to ignore the show’s music, which adds to both the dramatic and more delicate scenes in the show.

It may be almost unheard of in the UK, but that is part of the reason why Grand Hotel is perfect escapism television. It is set in a different country and a different era – you can’t get much further from everyday life!

If you like the sound of Grand Hotel, the first series is now available On Demand through various providers. Series two is currently broadcasting on Sky Arts 

photo: Sky

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Comments (28)

  • Patricia Potter-Naylor

    The best tv series I have watched endorsed by my husband. There seemed to be conflicting information about a 3rd series. I do hope this is correct, I need as weekly fix of Julio!!

    • Janet Steadman

      I agree. I loved this show. Are we going to see a third season? I sure hope so.

  • Rosemary Dias Chaine

    I really like Downton Abby, bit I.love Grand Hotel..!!

  • Great series, Im on the 4th episode, first series, and with all the twists and turns I’m expecting Julio to pause, lift one eyebrow, look directly into the camera and say “where was I, oh yes” and go back at it. Fun though.

  • 52 ans au quebec, c'est assez

    the fast pace and comedic interjections in Grand Hotel makes it a must see. Season 1 episode 3 and I’m already hooked.

  • Betty J. Copeland

    I am confused – have watched 42 episodes and the last one was of New Years Eve 1907 with a big bang at end (that was #32). Netflix shows these as Years 2011 & 2012 – other sites show this as 2011, 2012 & 2013?? Does anyone out there know if there are other episode(s) after the big bang ending of 1907? Is there a DVD out there that shows what happens after the big bang of 1907? OR, is that the series # 3 everyone is asking for? The DVD’s available on Amazon has no really info on the DVD’s they are selling. The reviews don’t talk about what is in the DVD’s available only how good/great the series. Well I already know that. It is the very best show I have watched in a long time. If anyone knows about this please let me know.

    • Netflix sadly combined seasons 2 and 3 into one Season 2. I am sooooo hoping there will be another season, but it seems production has ended. Visit the show’s website (in spanish) http://www.antena3.com/series/gran-hotel/.

      • No there is clearly more! I could watch forever; have become addicted to this show!! Watch the trailer with Julio and Alicia on it, there are clearly scenes that are not showing in Netflix right now. Perhaps current or most recent season and not released on Netflix yet. At least one more season to love!!

        • Patricia Potter-Naylor

          It is the best tv i have ever watched, so much happens every episode, it is unjust to link it Downton Abbey, they are not in the same league. I am confused how many episodes are still to run on Sky Arts series 3. You eagerly watch each episode but you dont want the final episode to crop up as this means viewing pleasure comes to an end.

          • hotelfan

            Just watched the very last episode and am devastated. This has been a excellent programme and I cant bear the thought of there will be no more.

          • 12Feliciene

            I know what you mean as I’m close to watching the last few episodes & although I can’t wait for the next one, it is close to the end & I just want it to continue.

    • here’s what i understand: there are 39 original episodes, each 75 minutes long. netflix has 42, roughly 45 minutes long. what happened is the series was reformatted for the usa into shorter espisodes, and will therefore have 65 episodes rather than just 39. however, negotiations for getting the rest into netflix are still in talks. this is why it currently stops at episode 42 here.

  • I’m almost finished with season two and trying not to watch more than one episode a day. This is one of the best viewing experiences I have ever had.

  • I just watches what Netflix says is the last episode. On New Year’s Eve, 1907, the hotel seems to explode. It seems that Javier has been killed. I can’t believe that is the end of the series. I’ve been waiting all this time for Alicia and Julio to get together. What happened?

  • Joyfully, I watched all 66 episodes on Netflix. The Grand Hotel kept me glued to the series until it ended. It was so like many novels I’ve read that captured my attention until I finished. I made myself find time to watch. The ending was a happy one. Julio and Alicia left together and had one baby. Javier and Laura stayed married and had 3 children, Fernando and Sophia left and he became the mayor of Santander, Dona Teresa got her hotel back, Dona Angela became the Manager of the Hotel making changes for a more humane environment for the staff, Andres married Maite the lawyer with his mother’s approval and Diego was killed by the Maitre d’ Cisneros( Samuel Arriaga who was a former doctor) who was really the lover of Diego’s first wife who died a gruesome death from Diego(Adrian Vega Cenude was his former name)

    • Thank you so much for the story. IMDB didn’t give out the plots and many cites ended at either season one or first few episodes of season 1. The season three installed more conflicts of the story lines. The cinema photography and the facial expressions are the major reasons to glue my eyes on the screen now. The writers put so many murders in it and the scandals never seemed affect the hotel business.

  • There are new episodes I am watching it now on Netflix. New episodes pick up after the bombing of the hotel

  • I’m obsessed with this series! Currently watching season 3 on Netflix. I have Googled searched Diego/Adrian’s childhood song “La Chambre Fermee” (that was the title on the sheet paper from which the pianist was reading). I am hoping that someone could help me find this song. It’s so beautiful!! I also Googled it as a translation “The Closed Chambers”. Any leads would be appreciated. Besos!

  • I would love to see this behind-the-scenes video with English subtitles. Does that exist?

  • What a glorious series. I watched all 66 episodes in on week. Once you start it is impossible to stop. I am heartbroken it is finished. Although it is lovely how at the end it said FINE and then went to provide a little history of where all the characters wound up. I miss this wonderful place. ❤️

  • Hello great website! Does running a blog similar to this require a lot of work?
    I have virtually no expertise in coding but I was hoping to start my own blog soon. Anyhow, if you have any recommendations or
    tips for new blog owners please share. I understand this is off subject but I simply had
    to ask. Appreciate it!

  • If you love period dramas like Grand Hotel, you may be interested in The Period Films List. Everything is sorted by era and theme at http://www.willowandthatch.com/period-films-to-watch/ Enjoy!

  • I watched the entire show on Netflix n 3 weeks! I had tears when it ended…I am sad as I will miss my daily dose of Grand Hotel.
    I loved every minute of it.

  • Amazing show – instantly fell in love from the first episode. If you are a fan of Downton Abbey… you will definitely find your way to Grand Hotel. I have to say it pulled me in from the start and it is, at the same time, both horribly and wonderfully addicting! The writing and acting is incredible.

    The mystery, romance, breathtaking scenery and costumes make this show so beautiful. Great escape to Spain! You truly forget you are reading subtitles. One of the best shows I have seen for such a long time, and as much as I loved Downton, I was so intrigued with this show and loved it so much. Every episode was as good as the last. To call it a “Spanish Downton Abbey” also downplays the level of mystery, and plot twists and turns. It is so unique, and such a great find on Netflix. If you love period dramas, you will fall in true love with Grand Hotel. You’ll not be disappointed.

  • Laura Hargreaves

    Didn’t love downtown abbey, and don’t particularly like series at all, but thought I’ watch some of the first episode of “Grand Hotel” – then I couldn’t stop! had to see all of it, and loved every second! I wish I could find the DVD set with English subtitles as a gift for my mother, who would love this!

  • Hyonsoo, Sung

    I too was awed by this series. It left me glued to nearly all the episodes until I gave up and went to sleep. I was not alone in my admiration for this drama ‘Gran Hotel’ because I searched the Internet and found out how popular it was. By watching these episodes it was like journeying through all the human emotions & drama that we experience throughout our lives. The setting, actors’ facial expressions & powerful and sophisticated acting, dialogue were superb. Spanish has pleasant ring to my ears(I have a fair listening capability of Italian which i presume is similar to that of Spanish).
    I am intending to introduce this drama series to other blogs or bands in the future and share it with many people. Thanks.

  • It’s not often my husband and I agree on watching the same programme but we sat glued to Netflix every night for about 2 and 1/2 weeks totally absorbed in the twists and turns of the Grand Hotel.
    Watching movies with subtitles usually makes viewing very frustrating for me because you can’t concentrate on the facial expressions of the actors and other happenings in the background but it wasn’t a problem with this series as they threw themselves into their roles and made their their character so credible it was easy to just watch and know what was being projected without being fixed to the subtitles.
    Great series, great acting and beautiful costumes and sets and we are thinking of watching it for the second time through and maybe catching those bits that we missed in the first round.

  • I have watched Grand Hotel ( with my husband 🙂 ) and I loved it. Great story, great actors, beautiful filmed at magnificent locations. A real addiction! It is one of the reasons we’re going to visit this part of Spain, Cantabrië. We’re going to Santander to see this beautiful Palacio de la Magdalena. I can’t wait.

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