by Annie Bennett, The Telegraph, April 24, 2019
Staying in a small, stylish hotel adds something special to a stay in Madrid as you have a more personal, insider experience. My recommendations include those with the best rooftop bars, restaurants and spas. Some have the atmosphere of a private club, providing a haven from the frantic city vibe. All are centrally located in smart neighbourhoods, such as Salamanca and Salesas – with plenty of shops and places to eat and drink – or are near the Retiro park and the Prado museum.
Heritage Madrid Hotel
The Heritage is a hotel where you can relax in exquisite interiors, sip champagne and eat oysters on the secret roof terrace, then slip out to Madrid’s best restaurants and boutiques. The interiors are inspired by the hotel’s glamorous heritage and its location in the affluent Salamanca neigbourhood. A blue and grey palette is used in some rooms and soft green tones in others, with hand-painted gold wallpaper, antique furniture and smart lights creating unique and unusual settings. Guests are made to feel completely at ease. The Haroma restaurant, run by a two Michelin-starred chef, is a excellent value; and there's a lovely conservatory-style bar for afternoon tea and drinks.
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Urso Hotel & Spa
The Urso is in the elegant Alonso Martínez area of Madrid, a few minutes’ walk from the oh-so-trendy neighbourhoods of Malasaña and Chueca. The early 20th-century palatial building, designed by architect Antonio Obrador, has conserved many original features such as the tiles on the façade, a mahogany lift and the stained-glass windows on the staircase. Rooms, decorated in soothing champagne and teal shades, have sumptuous beds and high-quality sheets. The Natura Bissé spa is everything an urban spa should be, with a hydromassage pool. The excellent Media Ración by Cuenllas restaurant is one of the most popular and fashionable places to eat in Madrid, serving Spanish specialities with a contemporary touch.
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Only You Boutique Hotel Madrid
For those seeking one of the coolest places to stay in the city, you can’t go wrong with this beautiful hotel, with effortless interior design and a great location in the thumping barrio of Chueca. The hotel is in a former palace that dates back to the 19th century, all arched windows, juliette balconies, window shutters and awnings. Expect an eclectic mix of oversized lamps and vases, retro sofas, art books and enviable 1970s-style coffee tables in the public spaces. The chic rooms have studded bed frames, navy-blue walls and old maps of Madrid on the walls. The restaurant has a romantic setting for tapas dinner, while the warm, wood-panelled bar is a great spot for a classic cocktail a night out.
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Hotel Santo Mauro
The Santo Mauro is grand, tasteful and popular with celebrities who want to keep a low profile. The former palace is in Chamberí, a quiet, leafy area frequented by locals for its constellation of tapas restaurants. The hotel is surrounded by tranquil gardens with chestnut and eucalyptus trees, ideal for sipping a long drink in the shade. All rooms look different and are distributed between the palace, the former stables and an annexe. Abstract artworks and wooden floors create a contemporary luxe vibe. The Art Deco-style Gin Bar serves cocktails as well as a dangerous range of gins and other spirits. The renowned La Biblioteca restaurant, occuping the oak-panelled library, has an excellent menu, which includes monkfish medallions with cockles and saffron and confit lamb with goats’ cheese parmentier.
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Tótem exudes discreet urban chic from its location in Salamanca, one of the most upmarket corners in the city. Charcoal, teal, dusky pink, cerise, navy and purple all play a part in the colour scheme, popping out against a palette of shimmery neutrals. Bedrooms are cocoons of minimalist luxury, where all the materials are high quality, from the soft honeycomb bathrobes to the mid-century-style sideboards with built-in Nespresso machines and minibars. Don't miss the interesting bar and restaurant concept, inspired by Fitzgerald's novel The Beautiful and The Damned: 'Beautiful' refes to a large restaurant with Scandi-style décor, while 'The Damned' is a New York-style bar with great tapas.
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In a city of long days, late nights and riotous fun, the Orfila is a quiet haven in which to relax before everything starts up again. Family-owned, and with just 32 rooms, you feel as though you are a guest of an eclectic old Doña who lives there, but is rarely seen. The location, on the edge of three districts, is perfect for seeing the many sides of Madrid. It's within walking distance of Retiro park, the Prado museum and the upmarket shopping districts of Goya and Serrano. Rooms are done in traditional style – even the lower categories are spacious and have balconies with views over the gardens. Much of guests’ time will be spent in the beautiful terraced garden. One particular highlight is the breakfast buffet, overflowing with Spanish tortillas cheese, jamón and crisp, dry cava.
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Hotel Único Madrid
The Único is is all about good design and great service. The hotel enjoys a swish location on one of Madrid’s most exclusive streets, and is surrounded by the smart shops and upscale restaurants of Salamanca. The aesthetic is nothing if not dramatic, with a swirling black-and-white mosaic floors combining different types of marble, and a striking red sculpture hanging in the stairwell. Rooms have adapted a similar contrasting look; the best category to book is a characterful top-floor room, with pitched ceilings and skylights. Ramon Freixa’s restaurant has earned two Michelin stars for its elegant modern Spanish cuisine, making this a top choice for foodies. He is also in charge of breakfast, which is served in part of the restaurant and on the attractive covered terrace in the garden.
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The Principal Madrid
The Principal is popular with a media and fashion crowd, as well as anyone who wants to be able to walk everywhere. With comfortable rooms and a calm colour scheme, it is a handy haven in the beginning of the Gran Vía, the main drag through the centre of Madrid. The high ceilings and large windows in the rooms have a calming effect as soon as you walk in, as do the elegant charcoal grey and black colour scheme. The chic roof terrace is one of the most coveted spots in Madrid for a drink in summer – it has the feel of a private club in New York or London. The restaurant is overseen by Ramon Freixa, who has two Michelin stars for his restaurant at the Único.
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The 7 Islas makes a refreshing change from chain hotels, in part due to its refreshing locale of Triball, a part of gentrified Malasaña with some of the city's coolest bars and boutiques. The staff will go the extra mile to help you have proper authentic experiences, instead of usual tourist activities. Everything in the rooms has been custom made, such as the woven leather and steel headboards designed by Matías Carbia and the bronze wall hooks that are little sculptures of babies' hands and feet, designed by Ignacio del Toro. Don’t leave without enjoying a drink at 7 Craft Bar: it’s run by star barman Narciso Bermejo, who distils his own gin and other spirits, using herbs from the surrounding countryside and locally-grown fruit and vegetables to create unique cocktails.
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You feel like you are sleeping in an art gallery at this elegant, discreet boutique hotel where the emphasis is on attentive service. The prestigious Álvaro Alcázar gallery has filled the hotel with wonderful contemporary art, including pieces by well-known artists Rafael Canogar, Guillem Nadal and Simon Edmondson. It is a favourite of regular Madrid visitors, particularly from the creative industries, given its handy yet non-tourist location (just off Plaza de Colón) and well-designed rooms, which incorporate references to historical Madrid scenes, abstract paintings and lithographs. Book a top-floor suite for the large terraces with brilliant city views.
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Hospes Puerta de Alcala
This handsome 19th-century townhouse is a chic sanctuary that allows you to escape from city life. It overlooks the Puerta de Alcala, one of Madrid’s most important monuments, and is blissfully removed from the hectic downtown with its position opposite El Retiro park. The distinctive cornicing and mouldings in the bedrooms are vestiges of the days when this was a grand private residence; the Duplex room comes with a sleeping area under the eaves and is ideal for a romantic break. The pleasant Bodyna Spa has a relaxation pool and steam room, and a wide-ranging menu of treatments. The best place to unwind post-massage is the Malvar restaurant and tapas bar in the hotel, which has terrace tables on the square.
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Contributions by Jade Conroy