La Fonda on the Plaza

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Santa Fe, New Mexico
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This article will help you plan a lovely trip to La Fonda on the Plaza.

In this article...

Bell Tower Rooftop Bar at La Fonda
Bell Tower Rooftop Bar

Hotel overview

At a glance

5 things to love:

  • Oldest hotel corner in America
  • Prime location in Santa Fe Plaza
  • Lovely restaurants + rooftop bar
  • Hand-painted colorful art
  • Charming, relaxing atmosphere

Located in the historic downtown area of Santa Fe, La Fonda on the Plaza has deep roots that go back to the city’s founding over 400 years ago. Often referred to as Santa Fe’s living room, it’s no wonder that La Fonda has remained a popular vacation getaway over the decades. 

The present-day adobe structure was built in the 1920’s and it retains a classic and elegant New Mexico vibe. There are just so many things to love about La Fonda on the Plaza, it is truly a vacation destination in itself.

Walking around the hotel you’ll be seduced by it’s charming adobe facade contrasted with dark wooden beams and accents, earth-toned tile floors, colorful hand-painted art, and elegant furnishings.

Lobby of La Fonda Hotel
La Fonda's lobby

A stay at La Fonda will also satisfy your need to connect with history, being located in the heart of the oldest capital city in America. Around almost every corner of the hotel you will find gorgeous native-inspired wall art distinctive of New Mexico.

To top it off, La Fonda on the Plaza has several great restaurants and bars, classy shops with unique southwestern jewelry and clothing, as well as a rejuvenating spa and outdoor pool.

Mural of La Fonda Hotel Wall Art
Wall mural of La Fonda
Did you know?

La Plazuela restaurant is located in the heart of La Fonda’s original 1920’s outdoor patio. The space still has an outdoor feel due to the expansive skylight, but with indoor comforts. 

The food is delightful and the ambiance is charming with an original wrought iron chandelier, tall foliage, and colorful hand-painted windows.

La Plazuela Restaurant in Santa Fe La Fonda Hotel
La Plazuela Restaurant

A bit of history

Let’s go back in time about 400 years. The territories of New Mexico have been settled by the Native Pueblo people for at least the last 10,000 years. Spanish conquistadors have crossed the Atlantic and are starting to colonize North America in search of riches. 

In 1610, Governor Pedro de Peralta founded the city of Santa Fe and made it the region’s capital, making it the oldest capital city in the United States. 

Santa Fe was strategically located on various important trading routes including the 800-mile Santa Fe Trail that connected it to Independence Missouri. This was a primary US travel route prior to the railroads in the 1880’s.

Wall art at La Fonda on the Plaza Native Americans
Native wall art at La Fonda

La Fonda, which translates to “the inn”, can amazingly trace its roots all the way back to the founding of the city in 1609. The current hotel is documented to rest on the exact same site as the very first inn in Santa Fe. 

La Fonda eventually burned down in 1912 and was rebuilt in 1920 by architect Isaac Hampton Rapp, the originator of the distinctive Santa Fe style. The new structure adopted an adobe Pueblo Revival style to pay homage to indigenous Pueblo people.

From 1926 to 1968, La Fonda operated as a Harvey House, promoting cultural tourism of the American Southwest and educational tours of local Pueblos. The distinctive style of the hotel from this early time continues to this day.

Historic La Fonda Hotel in the 1920s
La Fonda in 1920's

Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis de Assisi

Located about a block away is the Cathedral of St. Francis de Assisi, which is located on the original site of a Santa Fe church built in 1626.

Founded in 1714, the present day Basilica was built between 1869-1886 in Romanesque Revival style that stands in stark contrast to the surrounding adobe structures.

Inside St Francis de Assisi Cathedral Santa Fe
Basilica St Francis de Assisi

Santa Fe is a city that is rich with history that pre-dates European settlers to Plymouth Rock. It has a distinctive style and culture you will love that celebrates local artists as well as it’s native past.

Did you know?

La Fonda on the Plaza has had its share of famous visitors over the years including Salvador Dali, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, Stevie Wonder, Jane Fonda, and many more.

La Fonda, street view

Things to love about La Fonda on the Plaza

💜 Lovely Restaurants

La Fonda has several wonderful on-site restaurants, bars and lounge areas.

Depending on the time of year, our recommendation is to make sure you have a drink on the rooftop bar called Bell Tower, with million-dollar views of Santa Fe. 

Insider Tip: Go out of your way to try and catch a sunset up there. You won’t regret it!

We also strongly recommend dining at La Plazuela in the center of the hotel. It is a perfect place for a comfortable and delightful meal with classic New Mexico flavors.

Bell Tower Rooftop Bar
Bell Tower Rooftop
Other dining options
  • For a coffee and pastry or crepe in the morning, visit the French Bakery with a rustic French country vibe.
  • For an upbeat night with classic live country music and dancing, try La Fiesta Lounge (the menu is similar to La Plazuela if you miss the chance to dine there for lunch).
French Bakery at La Fonda
French Bakery at La Fonda

💜 The Spa and Outdoor Pool

The relaxing spa at La Fonda is a serene wellness escape.  They offer a variety of body massages, therapies, and skin treatments. The restorative massage promises to remove muscle tension, increase blood flow, and provide general relaxation.

We adore the relaxing ambiance of the La Fonda Spa, with a thoughtful color palate and peaceful decor. You will not regret spending an afternoon rejuvenating at the spa.

Spa at La Fonda on the Plaza Hotel
Spa at La Fonda

The heated outdoor pool at La Fonda is open year-round, along with the jacuzzi hot tub. Near the pool, La Fonda also has a 24/7 fitness center with all the basics to get in some cardio or do some basic strength training.

Pool at La Fonda Hotel
Pool at La Fonda

💜 Great Location on the Plaza

La Fonda is the only hotel located directly on Santa Fe’s historic plaza. This is the beating heart of Santa Fe where they host Indian and Spanish markets and various festivities throughout the year.

Here you will love exploring the numerous shops for authentic New Mexican goods, clothing and jewelry. There are also quite a few art galleries, and a quaint cigar shop.

 

Historical photo of Santa Fe Plaza East
Historical photo of Santa Fe Plaza

The center of the plaza is a grassy park area with iconic ristras, or hanging bunches of dried hatch chile peppers. It is a great place to relax, people-watch, and soak in four centuries of Santa Fe history.

New Mexico is know for ristras, or hanging dried bunches of chiles

💜 Hand-painted Head Boards!

The guest rooms at La Fonda are charming with delightful local influences. Our favorite touch is that each room has a distinct, hand-painted head board that you just won’t find anywhere else.

Guest Room at La Fonda with Painted headboard
Guest room, hand-painted headboard

The comfortable rooms also feature handmade furniture and original artwork. Their options range from standard queen rooms to king suites with fireplace and balcony, at a range of different rates for most budgets.

Insider tip: Be sure to ask about availability of one of their rooms with a view of the historic Basilica.

Santa Fe New Mexico
Santa Fe, New Mexico

About Santa Fe, NM

Santa Fe is the capital city of New Mexico and is considered one of the most artistic cities in the country. Their state capital building is also a public art gallery that visitors can tour for free. Their modern collection includes hundreds of works by local artists from the American Southwest.

Meow Wolf Santa Fe

Things to do near Santa Fe Plaza

Meow Wolf has to be high on any visitor’s list to Santa Fe – there is just no place quite like it. A collective of Santa Fe artists got together in 2008 to imagine a new art and music venue in Santa Fe, and in 2016 the permanent installation was complete and open to the public.

Neon inside Meow Wolf in Santa Fe
Just one of the colorful scenes inside Meow Wolf

Meow Wolf is located just 5 miles from La Fonda on the Plaza. It is a bizarre, psychedelic, and refreshing experience that you will not forget (and you will get some striking photos).

Santa Fe plaza itself is a great place to dine, shop, stroll or just hang out. The Basilica St Francis de Assisi is also a must see landmark on the plaza.

Santa Fe Plaza statue
St Francis de Assisi Statue

The La Fonda hotel is also walking distance to several nearby points of interest like the Loretto Chapel (0.1 miles), New Mexico Museum of Art (0.1 miles), the “Roundhouse” (New Mexico’s state house and art gallery; 1.0 miles), and the San Miguel Mission Chapel (1.0 miles), which is one of the oldest religious buildings in the U.S.

Beautiful Santa Fe architecture
Santa Fe architecture

Getting around the city

There are a few different options for getting around Santa Fe. You can fly directly into Santa Fe’s regional airport (13 miles from La Fonda) on a private plane or on one of two US carriers (American and United). There are direct flights from a few cities like Dallas, Phoenix, and Denver.

Albuquerque has a larger international airport, which is located about 65 miles south of Santa Fe. Depending on the city you are coming from, it could be cheaper to just fly into Albuquerque and arrange transportation to Santa Fe, for example, on the New Mexico Rail Runner regional train service.

Jump to our day trip recommendations below

There is also an Amtrak train stop in nearby Lamy, NM (18 miles from La Fonda) that will get you close to Santa Fe. 

Once you are in the city, there are shuttles throughout the day operated by Santa Fe pick-up Shuttle Service. Weekday hours of operation are from 6:30am-5:30pm, with a new shuttle arriving at each top every 15 minutes or so. 

There are also city buses operated by Santa Fe Trails that come by every 15 minutes. You can find many more details about Santa Fe public transportation options HERE.

Finally, another option is to rent a car in Santa Fe for more flexibility in your adventures. Avis and Hertz are two bigger car rental companies that operate in Santa Fe.

Christmas time in downtown Santa Fe
Christmas in Santa Fe

Best time of year to visit

Special events

Santa Fe Indian Market – Mid August at The Plaza

Burning of Zozobra – Friday before Labor Day at Fort Marcy Park

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta – early October

SWAIA Winter Market – December

The weather in Santa Fe is pretty nice throughout the year, with average daily highs between 43 to 85 degrees, and nightly lows between 17-55 degrees, depending on the time of year.

The most popular time to visit La Fonda on the Plaza is late summer during the Indian Market, where you can likely get by with a t-shirt during the warm summer days.

In general, the busiest time to visit is from June through August, when the climate is warm and comfortable. Spring and early summer are also very nice times to visit Santa Fe.

December through February is a good time to visit if you plan to go skiing at nearby Ski Santa Fe (15 miles away), or enjoy the Christmas lights and festivities at the Plaza. Just be prepared for possible snow and below freezing temperatures after dark.

Santa Fe Museum of Fine Arts
Santa Fe Museum of Fine Arts

Day trips from Santa Fe

La Fonda on the Plaza in Santa Fe, NM is located about 65 miles north of Albuquerque, and is about 110 miles away from the border with Colorado.

Below we highlight a few day trip options to make your visit to La Fonda even more exciting.

Hot Air Balloon Festival in Albuquerque
Try and catch the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in October!

💜 Albuquerque (~65 miles away)

While Santa Fe is the capital city of New Mexico, it is typically quieter than its bustling neighbor city, Albuquerque, located about an hour south.

Albuquerque is 7 times more populous than Santa Fe and has a bigger city vibe with some of the best restaurants, galleries, and museums in the state.

If you are visiting in early October you will have the lovely chance to witness hundreds of colorful hot air balloons in flight over Albuquerque. This 9 day event attracts nearly 1 million visitors each year!

Cumbres and Toltec Steam Train
Cumbres & Toltec Railroad, photo courtesy of https://cumbrestoltec.com/

💜 Cumbres & Toltec Historic Railroad (110 miles)

It will take a few hours to drive from Santa Fe to Cumbres & Toltec Railroad near the Colorado border, but it will be totally worth it when you get there.

The historic railroad operates full-day and half-day tours from late May through mid October. The scenic route is breathtaking in its beauty, and includes the highest altitude pass in the US, the 10,015 foot Cumbres Pass.

The train ride crosses the New Mexico – Colorado border 11 times as it winds through mountains and meadows, over high trestles, on steep climbs, and through picturesque valleys.

Cumbres & Toltec has five operating coal fired, steam operated, narrow gauge locomotives. The history of the Rio Grande Railroad is interesting and you can learn all about it during your trip

Historic Rancho de Taos Church
San Francisco de Asís Mission Church built 1772

💜 Taos (70 miles)

Taos is located 70 miles Northeast of Santa Fe, but it makes for a very beautiful road trip adventure along scenic highways. Also called the “High Road to Taos”, you can stop along the way at quaint towns like Chimayo, Truchas and Cordova.

In Taos you can visit the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church, which was built in 1772, almost four years before the Declaration of Independence. Near the church in the Rancho de Taos plaza you will find various New Mexico shops, trading posts, galleries and restaurants.

A visit to Taos would be incomplete without seeing the Taos Pueblo, the only living Native American community designated both a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark. It has been continuously inhabited for over 1,000 years!

Read more about Taos Pueblo history and plan your visit HERE.

💜 Madrid (30 miles)

Madrid is an old mining town off the historic Route 66, located just 30 miles south of Santa Fe. The ghost town has turned into a vibrant arts town with local boutiques, shops and galleries.

While there, plan to have lunch at the Mine Shaft Tavern, which has the longest standing bar in New Mexico. The tavern was established in the 1800’s as a hangout and watering hole for local miners.

Today they are known for comfort food with a spicy New Mexico twist (burgers, sandwiches, salads, soups, etc), great drinks, and live music. If you are lucky to be visiting in May, you can catch the popular Crawdaddy Blues Fest.

Terrace at La Fonda Hotel
La Fonda's Terrace

Concluding thoughts

New Mexico is a delightful place to visit, with a history that pre-dates much of the rest of the country. In fact, La Fonda on the Plaza sits on the oldest hotel corner in the US, which alone makes it worth visiting as a landmark.

But there is so much more to La Fonda. Today it is a lovely destination for a wellness retreat, or as a jumping off point for wild adventures in New Mexico.

With fantastic restaurants serving classic New Mexican cuisine, a happening rooftop bar, and a lobby bar with live music, there is plenty to indulge your senses at La Fonda.

And with native art and colorful hand-painted pieces around almost every corner, you will feel enlightened by the authentic cultural touches.

It is for all these reasons and more that La Fonda on the Plaza is a hotel to love!

Don't forget

💜 #hotelstoloveofficial

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