Travelers either love or hate Gallery Inn, but after a short stay, we realized what made it so polarizing. While the hotel has benefits and advantages (and obvious heart and soul from the owners), it’s rough around the edges and needs a major renovation. The 27-room boutique hotel located in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, is hit or miss, but we highly recommend it for people who love history, art, location and that old-world feel when booking a hotel. Also, for our Gallery Inn review, we should mention that we were only here one night (late arrival and early morning departure).
Here’s our review of Gallery Inn in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Gallery Inn is a boutique hotel in a 19-century colonial mansion. While that may conjure images of a romantic setting, and for the most part, hits home when you check in, you start to see cracks beneath the surface (literal!). If this does not bother you, you’re in for a treat, and a bargain, seeing that hotel rates are as low as $135 a night.
My friend and I checked in at night. Our car dropped us off at the front gate (the hotel is right on the main road, Bulevar del Valle), and with little street lights in this area, it was hard to see. We could hear the ocean (the Atlantic Ocean is literally on the other side of the main road, across the hotel), but couldn’t see much.
At the gate, you have to be buzzed in. We dragged our suitcases up a stone pathway into the main lair of the hotel. The outdoor area was beautiful, lit up in a romantic way with fountains and statues and benches abound. We couldn’t believe it, actually. It was quite romantic.
Once we went into the lobby area, the front desk guy was not super welcoming (he was nice, though). He kept answering the phone while we were trying to check in after a 7 hour travel day. This was the first sign we weren’t at a luxury property, since at a luxury property, staff are well trained to cater to guests in front of them. I don’t believe he smiled once. He gave us the key to our garden Colonial room, and again, we dragged our luggage back out.
The gardenside Colonial room was quite whimsical with a four-post bed, antique furniture and artwork. There’s also a bathroom with tub. We appreciated the thought that went into the design, such as the chandelier and vintage mirrors Such a nice touch! I also loved the overall aesthetic of the room. It was timeless, sort of like a set design. Another benefit of the garden room is that it’s great for pets. Gallery Inn is pet friendly, and while the other rooms have balconies, I loved being on the main floor since I brought Jetsetruby.
The room had a nice, strong air conditioner, but the problem is that the vents were directly above the bed, so the cool air would blow right on you. We had to find the perfect balance, and ultimately, we put it on fan. There were also a lot of house rules.
There was a strange daybed area in the back of the room, which as you can see, looks cool, but we never used it. I did love the wooden door to the bathroom. Again, another thoughtful design touch.
The biggest issue we had had nothing to do with the property. It was the location. While it’s the PERFECT location inside Old San Juan and just steps from the famous Spanish Fort, it worked as a disandvantage to us because it was super loud. We checked in on a Friday night, and the neighbors were shooting off fireworks sporadically from 11 pm to 5 am. YES. 5 am. The fireworks were so close to us, it sounded like gun shots. There’s nothing you can do about that really except not get any sleep. In the morning, I saw that across the street from Gallery Inn were little houses where fireworks were coming from.
While the king bed was comfortable for a budget hotel, the room definitely needed a facelift, much like the rest of the property. It could have used some renovations (cracks in the ceiling, etc), perhaps a fresh coat of paint The hotel is several decades old, and while we could feel the heart and soul poured into the property by the owners, we thought they may not have the funds to put expensive renovations into the property. A complete overhaul would have made the hotel stand out — if the bones or structure of the hotel was given more attention to.
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The outdatedness of the hotel was more apparent in the daylight.
Here’s the lobby area. I loved how beautiful and timeless it was, with so many displays, the checkered floor, the cool lamps… but it felt in need of a little facelift. It was just worn.
As you navigate more into the hotel, you feel that it’s a labrynth. That’s what makes Gallery Inn so cool. It’s full of surprises with nooks and crannies, rooms here and there, artwork all over the place in terms of paintings and sculptures.
In fact, as you would guess, Gallery Inn felt like a gallery, and that’s something that make it unique. It just felt special. If you compare Gallery Inn with any other boutique hotel in San Juan at the same rate, you’re getting visually compelling artwork, and again, you can easily tell that the owners put their heart and soul into the property. You may not feel this at another hotel at the same rack rate.
My friend and I checked out the other public areas of the property. Some were just casual living room spaces that felt like a museum. I loved this room the most with its chandelier and antiques.
It also has balconies overlooking Old San Juan, perfect for Instagram.
I read reviews of some people complaining about how the hotel feels worn and is falling apart. Sure, you get that feel, and that’s where I believe the hotel needs some love with the bones of the place, but it’s still such a special hotel if you’re not staying a long time, or if those little things don’t bother you.
The Gallery Inn has a “wading” pool in its back courtyard garden. It’s a beautiful, mesmerizing area, perfect for chilling out or photo shoots. But the pool needed a little love.
Here’s a closer look at the pool. Everything, aesthetically, is “right” but the pool needs some love.
The restaurant was a beautiful setting at night, and there was a friendly cat making the rounds to all guests.
We ordered tacos, which were fine, but the shrimp was great, perfect after a long day of traveling.
Again, I loved the Gallery Inn because it has so much heart and soul, and it wasn’t a cookie cutter hotel. You can tell the owners put a lot of passion into the hotel for decades in all the public spaces, as well as guest rooms, so hopefully they can come up with the funds to do some minor cosmetic touches.
I simply love that “old world” feel at the hotel.
And I love the fact the hotel is pet friendly. We definitely explored as much as we could. If you’re just doing a quick exploration, you likely won’t notice all the small disrepair, such as missing tiles or cracks or stains in rugs, etc.
Instead, you’ll find amazing art and greenery, various perspectives, a lot of love.
The other benefit? The hotel is right in the heart of Old San Juan, walking distance to major attractions, whether the Spanish Fort or Puerta de San Juan.
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