While most of the UK already has Spain at or near the top of the holiday destination list, a city break to Madrid is often overlooked.
Bilbao and Barcelona, and a seemingly endless list of sun-kissed Costas and islands, welcome hundreds of thousands of British visitors each year, yet the capital remains relatively unknown to tourists from this island.
This is a shame, because Madrid is in fact one of the best places in Spain to spend a holiday.
While there are still pockets of the city which have become classic tourist traps – watch out for strangers in Plaza Mayor offering “old-timey” newspapers with the photo they just took of you on the front – the majority of the city seems to have stubbornly resisted any change to its soul.
The result is a metropolitan capital on a par with any other on the continent, ready to offer seasoned travellers all the amenities they expect of a place, with a distinctly – and proudly – Spanish flavour.
Here are some of the best hotels to make base camp while you discover Madrid’s delights for yourself.
Four Seasons Madrid
3 Calle de Sevilla
The building which is now home to Four Seasons Madrid was once not one, but seven, banks. Today’s updated version is taken up by the hotel and its adjoining branded residences as well as a high-end shopping centre and luxury food court.
The sheer scale of the place allows for the size of the offering, with 3 on-site restaurants and a simply enormous four-floor spa.
Breakfast on the roof terrace of flagship restaurant Dani allows for views of the sunrise, before a session in the pool underneath a massive skylight which allows the sun to hit you as you swim.
While the central location puts you within walking distance of the legendary Prado museum – and is literally across the street from the far less-known but seriously impressive Real Academia de Bellas Artes – the biggest treat for art lovers is the collection within the hotel itself.
More than 1,500 works by contemporary Spanish artists have been scattered throughout the corridors, rooms and suites (plus one gargantuan Kaws statue in the lobby). Spend an afternoon admiring them, then head to Isa on the first floor for spectacular cocktails.
Gran Hotel Ingles
8 Calle de Echegaray
The first luxury hotel in Madrid was opened in 1886, modelled on the famous English hotels of the era, and is still welcoming guests today.
Gran Hotel Ingles (see where they got the name?) is located in an unassuming little street in the Barrio de las Letras (Writer’s Quarter) but when the large glass doors are swung open the modernity and chic of the lobby area contrasts with the quaint period features of the neighbourhood.
This is a boutique hotel, with only 48 rooms and suites, but the welcome is warm and the amenities give the impression of a much larger hotel.
A modest spa in the basement provides a jacuzzi to help unwind after roaming the winding streets of the local area, and there’s even a discreet hidden courtyard at the centre of the building where you can relax with a cigar, but the real heart of the hotel is the lobby bar, LobByto.
Guests and Madrileños mingle here through the afternoon into the evening, when it becomes a buzzing hotspot for the local area.
This part of town is fast becoming the hub for luxury hotels – Four Seasons are round the corner, and three more brands will open nearby in the next 18 months – but this original will always stand proudly among them.
The Madrid EDITION
2 Plaza de Celenque
From the oldest luxury hotel in Madrid, to one of the newest – The Madrid EDITION only arrived on the scene in 2022.
Despite such a short history it’s already among the most popular places in town to visit, thanks largely to the incredible design of the building.
Rooms and bars are exquisitely furnished in a crisp, contemporary style, while the 2 restaurants lean into a softer, more natural aesthetic.
Oroya on the fourth floor serves Peruvian food and pisco in a stunning urban garden, with greenery all around bringing a sense of calm and freshness to the whole experience.
The biggest talking point of this new addition to the local luxury scene is undoubtedly the rooftop pool: surrounded by loungers and cabanas, offering views of both sunrise and sunset, and served by a dedicated Pool Bar, it may well be the best place to enjoy the more the 250 days of sunshine Madrid enjoys each year.
Mandarin Oriental Ritz Madrid
5 Plaza de la Lealtad
Directly opposite the Prado museum, and just seconds away from El Retiro park, is an extraordinary Belle Époque palace which plays host to the Mandarin Oriental Ritz Madrid.
From the moment you approach the entrance, set back from the road at the end of a majestic carriage driveway, there is a sense of grandeur to this property – a sense which continues throughout.
No fewer than eight options for dining, from two-Michelin star fine gastronomy to a relaxed outdoor experience in the palace garden; accommodation which looks onto the Prado, the Plaza or both; a spa complex to rival anywhere in the city for those who need to relax body and mind all contribute to probably the most opulent and extravagant hotel in the city.
Mandarin Oriental pride themselves on their unbeatable levels of service, and that is illustrated by the experiences which can be arranged by the Ritz Madrid concierge team.
Sports fans will especially enjoy the exclusive access to Atletico Madrid, including VIP match tickets and private tours of their outstanding new stadium.
Rosewood Villa Magna
22 Paseo de la Castellana
Slightly to the south of Madrid’s other temple of football, Real’s Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, is the recently-renovated Rosewood Villa Magna.
In 2021, this 172-room property was reborn after extensive works, and is now brimming with the art and beauty anyone who has visited the Holborn Rosewood would expect. Paseo de la Castellana is one of Madrid’s Grand Boulevards, and the neighbouring Calle Serrano known as a popular nightlife hub, so this hotel is suited to those looking to seek out some excitement while in town.
For the ultimate in discretion and luxury, look to one of the four Houses found on the hotel’s rooftop – hit the clubs nearby and head back here to recover for a taste of the most luxurious lifestyle Madrid has to offer.
Hangovers can be cured in the Sense spa, which even offers a guided power walk round El Retiro Park before coming back for a foot and leg massage. Guaranteed to blow the cobwebs from even the most hungover of heads.
VP Plaza España Design
5 Plaza de España
Rooftop bars are an understandable trend in a city which gets so much sun, and few (if any) can compare to that found at VP Plaza España Design.
Plaza de España is one of the largest squares in the city, and most of one side is taken up by this gargantuan property.
More than 200 rooms and suites are spread across the 17 floors of the building, along with a spa whose pool has a view of the square outside and a roof bar whose panoramic views across the city cannot be matched.
Even if you’re not staying here it’s worth paying a visit to Ginkgo Skybar alone – it has a dedicated entrance at street level – to enjoy cocktails, live music and a unique view of the city.
It’s as popular with locals as it is with guests, so expect a lively atmosphere until the small hours of the morning.