This article is part of FT Globetrotter’s new guide to Madrid

Mandarin Oriental Ritz

Plaza de la Lealtad 5, 28014 Madrid
  • Rooms and suites: 100 rooms, 53 suites

  • Good for: Traditional luxury, glamour and glitz and being fussed over

  • Not so good for: Modernists

  • FYI: For a decadent pre-prandial, the gold-topped Champagne Bar seats up to eight

  • Website; Directions

In my previous job in the FT’s events team, we ran conferences and dinners in some of the world’s best hotels, but if budgets allowed, the Mandarin Oriental was always a solid bet for attention to detail and exemplary service. So, in Madrid, I was curious to see what they had done to renovate the firmly traditional Ritz — built at the behest of King Alfonso XIII in 1910, who wanted somewhere grand enough to host his guests in the capital.

The Palm Court with its glass domed roof in Madrid’s Mandarin Oriental Ritz
The glass dome of the Mandarin Oriental Ritz’s Palm Court was hidden until the hotel’s recent restoration

The classic, comfortable furnishings and Belle Époque architecture have been maintained by Spanish architect Rafael de La-Hoz and French designers Gilles & Boissier. But since the hotel reopened in 2021, light floods in through the previously hidden glass domed roof above the central salon area, now called Palm Court, which serves afternoon tea, a fabulous breakfast buffet and straightforward “Ritz classics” (club sandwiches, Caesar salads, etc). Sitting out in the garden is a pleasant, relaxed affair, or for something more refined there are tasting menus at in-house restaurant Deesa, by Spanish chef Quique Dacosta. Under the dramatic gold-framed portraits of cultural personalities on the wall in the Pictura bar, the bartender serves up a mix of contemporary and classic cocktails — and on my visit, produced a perfect American-style vodka martini.

A four-poster bed in a deluxe room at the Mandarin Oriental Ritz
One of the Mandarin Oriental Ritz’s deluxe rooms
Photographs of local cultural personalities made to look like the subjects of Old Master portraits in the hotel’s Pictura bar
Photographs of local cultural personalities — which have been made to resemble Old Master portraits — in the hotel’s Pictura bar

The smiling, attentive staff, who look like they actually want to be there, are a reminder of what hospitality is all about; they make you feel welcome as soon as you walk through the door, and the overall impression is that no request is too much. There’s a risk sometimes that the high-end veers into snootiness, but here it just felt friendly and personable.

If you stay in one of the hotel’s suites, this level of attention extends to pillowcases embroidered with your initials in gold, and a butler who will run you a bath filled with rose petals. Having two staff waiting on hand while you exercise in the smallish gym might make you feel a tad self-conscious, but then, better than needing help with something and finding no one around. There’s a relaxing indoor pool in the spa area, with treatments and a steam room.

The exterior of a corner of Madrid’s Belle Époque Ritz, with greenery in the foreground
Madrid’s Ritz opened in 1910. It was built at the request of King Alfonso XIII

The hotel is also just opposite El Retiro park — perfect for a morning stroll around the lake — and the Prado museum, so you can pop in to see works by Velázquez or Goya during your stay, or do some shopping in the elegant Calle Serrano around the corner. The concierge will happily arrange private museum tours or special trips. Double, from €990

The Madrid Edition

Plaza de Celenque 2, 28013 Madrid
  • Rooms and suites: 177 rooms, 21 suites and two penthouses

  • Good for: Hipsters looking something cool and fun, bang in the city centre

  • Not so good for: Traditionalists

  • FYI: One of the best rooftop pools I’ve seen, and the terrace is perfect for lively cocktails with friends as the sun sets over Madrid

  • Website; Directions

As I walk up the spiral, white-marble staircase and step into the large white lounge and reception area, I know this hotel is far too cool for me. It would be easy to miss the sleek copper entrance, on a side street just a two-minute walk from Puerta del Sol square (you could not be more central than this). Inside, it’s somewhere between a chillout space and a swanky club — which almost feels as if you could be anywhere from New York to Tokyo.

The Madrid Edition’s spiral white marble staircase
The Madrid Edition’s spiral white marble staircase
The cosy oak-panelled Punch Room bar
The cosy oak-panelled Punch Room bar © Nikolas Koenig (2)

British architect John Pawson and French designer François Champsaur are behind the hotel’s contemporary, sophisticated look, with impressive attention to detail. Each part of the hotel is a celebration of colour and texture — from giant alabaster pendant lamps, flashes of bright pink and cobalt blue, to the soft, textured cushions, dark oak finishings and warm lighting in the lobby. There’s even a bespoke pool table in the lounge area made out of white marble.

The hotel’s rooftop pool at sunset
The perfect spot for a sundowner: the Edition’s rooftop pool © Nikolas Koenig

The rooftop pool is, according to the hotel, the largest in Madrid, and the adjacent bar on the terrace has a fun, lively vibe at night. If it’s too cold to swim when you visit, there’s the Edition’s signature oak-panelled Punch Room downstairs, where a nightcap in one of the cosy armchairs would be delightful in winter. In the coming months another “after-dark” bar on the lower ground floor is due to open, which the hotel hopes will complement Madrid’s vibrant nightlife. And a few minutes’ walk will take you to the buzzing open-all-night bars of Huertas if you feel like carrying on the party.

The Oroya bar, with its thick canopy of greenery
The Oroya bar, with its thick canopy of greenery © Nikolas Koenig

The hotel is home to an excellent restaurant influenced by Mexican culinary traditions, Jerónimo, which also doubles up as the breakfast room, while Peruvian dishes and pisco cocktails are served on the roof under the jungle-like canopy of the Oroya bar.

My room was in a modern, minimalist style — white and cream fabrics, which pop against all that dark oak. My only complaint was that basic amenities in the room are slightly hidden away, which suggests style has the edge over practicality and might bother some people. A self-styled “urban resort”, the spa downstairs offers treatments with Natura Bissé products and a private steam suite, while the gym is well equipped and spacious. Double, from €515

Urso Hotel

Calle de Mejía Lequerica 8, 28004 Madrid
  • Rooms and suites: 60 rooms, 18 suites

  • Good for: Low-key luxury and comfort with a Spanish touch

  • Not so good for: If you want all the mod cons and multiple dining options

  • FYI: The spa is worth a visit

  • Website; Directions

In a quietish corner of Madrid, between residential Chamberí and trendy Chueca, sits the boutique Urso Hotel, which opened in 2014. References to Madrid’s cultural history run throughout, a subtle but present reminder of where you are in the world. It’s in the name, which is derived from Ursaria (as the city was called in Roman times, back when the region was popular with bears), the black and white photographs of 1920s-40s Madrid by Diego González Ragel in the rooms, and the hotel’s restaurant Casa Felisa, under the purview of Antonio del Álamo, one of the city’s most acclaimed chefs who brings classic Spanish food to the plate using local and seasonal produce.

Detail of Urso’s neoclassical façade
Urso is housed in a neoclassical building . . . 
An early-20th-century stained-glass window on a staircase and the top of a restored old wrought-iron lift
. . . inside which are early-20th-century stained-glass windows and a restored old wrought-iron lift

The neoclassical building has character, with early-20th-century stained-glass windows in the stairwell and an antique wrought-iron lift restored by architect and designer Antonio Obrador. Shelves of leather-bound books, a piano and comfy sofas and rugs in the reception-salon area give the sense that you’re a guest in a wealthy friend’s private home.

The living space in one of Urso’s suites, with a brown leather chair, square metallic coffee table, dining table and desk. Through a large open door a four-poster bed is visible
One of Urso’s suites

In the style of traditional Madrid apartments, my room had doors opening out onto a small balcony, which overlooked gardens opposite. I had pancakes for breakfast in the Conservatory, a mezzanine above the main staircase, with the delicate sounds of a fountain as a calming backdrop. Even the group of four business colleagues having a breakfast meeting a couple of tables down spoke in hushed tones. It’s as if the whole space has been designed to feel like a sort of private retreat; staff are kind and attentive but not overbearing.

A green-glass staircase leading up to Urso’s Conservatory
The stairs leading up to Urso’s Conservatory . . . 
Tables set for breakfast in Urso’s Conservatory
. . . where breakfast and brunch are served

To visit the spa, a hangover from Covid times is that you have to ring in advance to check availability, but the benefit of this is that when I went down I had the whole area to myself — and was filled with a Zen-like sense of calm as I floated around on my back in the pool. There’s also a steam room, a tiny gym area and an extensive spa menu offering all kinds of treatments with products by Natura Bissé and Comfort Zone. Double, from €359

Rosewood Villa Magna

Paseo de la Castellana 22, 28046 Madrid
  • Rooms and suites: 101 rooms, 53 suites

  • Good for: Relaxed luxury and attention to detail

  • Not so good for: If you want to be amid the hustle and bustle. It’s a central but relatively quieter location in a smart neighbourhood

  • FYI: The hotel is built on the site of a 19th-century palace

  • Website; Directions

A classic among Madrid’s hotels with a loyal clientele — many of the staff have been here for several years, offering guests a special familiarity — the Villa Magna sits proudly on Paseo de la Castellana, in the heart of the upscale Salamanca neighbourhood.

A bed in front of a red wall, on a floor decorated with black and tiles arranged in a zig-zag pattern, in one of the Villa Magna’s rooms
A premier Castellana room in Madrid’s recently reopened Villa Magna

Reopened last year under the Rosewood brand, it now has an enormous winding drive-in entrance, spacious rooms and, although undoubtedly grand, it specialises in understated luxury. As soon as you step through the door you get a warm welcome; staff are personable and thoughtful. The mood is relaxed, and there’s a smart-casual vibe in the lobby lounge area.

There are small touches that make it special. While I was having a coffee on one of the comfortable lounge sofas, I noticed a pop-up stand serving ice cream in cones, while decadent cakes and pastries produced by the in-house patisserie were on display. In the best rooms, ingredients to make a gin and tonic are set out neatly on a board, complete with fresh lime and garnish. If you’re looking to shop, a discreet cut-through takes you from the back of the hotel straight into the neighbouring department store, El Corte Inglés.

The leafy terrace of the hotel’s Las Brasas de Castellana restaurant
The terrace of the hotel’s Las Brasas de Castellana restaurant

Dining options are abundant, bringing in both local residents and hotel guests. Refined Cantabrian dishes are served at the excellent Amós, led by chef Jesús Sánchez, while Las Brasas de la Castellana offers broader Spanish cuisine. The bar, which also serves tapas, is cosy and comfortable with an adjoining terrace, and gets more lively at weekends when a DJ plays. Negronis steeped for 72 hours in clay pots are its speciality. Downstairs, the spa features a Turkish-style marble hammam, various treatments and a small, well-equipped gym.

The terrace of one of the Rosewood Villa Magna’s four rooftop ‘houses’
The terrace of one of the Rosewood Villa Magna’s four rooftop ‘houses’

The hotel also has four impressive “houses” on the rooftop level, styled as stand-alone apartments, two of which have their own huge terrace (one of them has a barbecue) with views of the city, all complete with dining and lounge areas plus an in-built sound system — perfect for private parties. Double, from €900

Ocean Drive Madrid

Plaza de Isabel II 7, 28013 Madrid
Ocean Drive as seen from the other side of the historic square on which it is located
In the heart of one of Madrid’s most historic quarters, Ocean Drive stands for cool, contemporary design

A new addition to Madrid’s hotel scene, Ocean Drive opened earlier this year in Ópera. Overlooking Plaza Isabel II, it’s right opposite the Teatro Real opera house and a couple of minutes away from the royal palace.

Amid these regal surroundings and historical architecture you’ll find smart, contemporary design at this boutique hotel, part of the OD Group, which has hotels in Ibiza, Mallorca and Barcelona. Here, you’re in the centre of Madrid, but just tucked away from the main tourist thoroughfares of Sol and Gran Vía.

The hotel’s Scandi-style lobby
The hotel’s Scandi-style lobby — a design theme that extends to the rooms

Rooms have a kind of Scandi-chic feel, with light wood floors, stylish furniture and tones of terracotta, blue and grey. Mine had a big comfy bed with soft sheets and floor-to-ceiling windows, which you can cover with giant curtains run by an electric switch if you’re worried about people seeing in. Unusually, the bathroom basin was part of the open-plan room (though fortunately the toilet and shower were behind closed doors).

There were other quirky details, such as a record player in the room with a selection of vinyls to play; other rooms have a beer tap or a photo printer. I also found good-quality glasses stored in the cabinet and a decent minibar.

The terrace of the Sky Bar, overlooking the Teatro Real opera house
The Sky Bar, overlooking the Teatro Real opera house

My highlight was the rooftop Sky Bar, where you can lie on a sun lounger by the small, shallow pool looking out at the view, or have cocktails in the evening.

Breakfast in the Mar Mía restaurant is an elegantly presented set Continental menu (you choose how you’d like your eggs). Later on they serve tapas and mainly seafood and rice dishes. There’s no spa but guests can use Gymage — a good gym you can walk to in just under 10 minutes. Double, from €205

Four Seasons Hotel Madrid

  • Rooms: 161 rooms, 39 suites

  • Good for: Super-central location, and the scene-y rooftop restaurant and bar; deliciously fragrant in-room products from Frédéric Malle

  • Not so good for: Bank balance — rooms start at €1,050

  • FYI: The hotel is stuffed with contemporary artwork, which is worth taking time over. If you have children, ask the concierge if they can do the treasure hunt. Ours disappeared off with a booklet to be stamped in various different corners of the hotel, before receiving a prize. This was reportedly the best thing about their stay

  • Website; Directions

On my visit at the end of May this year, the excitement was palpable in Puerta del Sol square as hordes of Madrileños waited for the triumphant return of the Real Madrid football team. The UEFA Champions League winners were due to arrive in the city that evening, and cars were beginning to honk in the narrow streets of central Madrid.

The terrace of Four Seasons’ Madrid’s Dani restaurant, with tables shaded by a canopy and greenery
The terrace of Four Seasons’ Madrid’s Dani restaurant

From our table at Dani, the rooftop restaurant and bar at the Four Seasons Hotel, we were ideally positioned — a waiter reliably informed us — to catch an early glimpse of the victory cavalcade of coaches and motorbikes driving in straight from the airport. I kept one eye on the road below as the sun began to sink on the balmy terrace, but I was also quite focused on a large bowl of guacamole that was being prepared table-side in a vast pestle and mortar. The female sommelier also somehow instinctively knew I needed another glass of cava and swept over, magnum in hand. Meanwhile, a chanteuse next to the bar sung in a smoky voice.

Designed by Martin Brudnizki, Dani is already firmly on the map as a city hotspot. The atmosphere was warm and woozy, and the clientele an elegant mix of glamorous locals celebrating birthdays and dining à deux, and groups of well-dressed Americans and their children, dazed to be staying up so late and tucking into a mix of clubby classics and Iberian specialities from chef Dani García. I was so involved in my langoustines that I would have missed the sighting of the team had it not been for a joyous roar from the pavement of Calle de Sevilla below.

The hotel’s lavish marble lobby, with a stairwell spiralling up the middle of it
The Four Seasons’ lavish lobby
The hotel’s ornate 19th-century building was previously home to an insurance company and then to banks

With its 200 rooms and 15,000sq ft four-floor spa (apparently the largest wellness centre in town), this vast new luxury hotel slap bang in central Madrid opened quietly in 2020. Situated at the nose end of a wedge-shaped group of seven ornate 19th-century buildings that used to house the La Equitativa insurance company (more recently Banesto bank and Santander), it is part of a lengthy and eye-poppingly expensive renovation project to create a high-end retail mecca consisting of an events space, private residences and a food market, as well as the hotel.

Some of the bank-ish feel is still intact in the lavish entrance hall, which during our stay was constantly abuzz with bellboys wheeling piles of luxury luggage to the lift, and guests drinking sherry and cava in the lobby bar before heading out into the heat of the day.

Chairs and sofas in an open-air room in the Four Seasons Madrid’s spa
The four-floor spa is the largest wellness centre in Madrid
The hotel’s indoor pool
The 14m indoor pool

Our room — a symphony in cream, with plenty of wood cabinetry and marble — was on the same floor as the spa, so we could pad over in our robes for a dip in the 14m heated indoor pool before heading to sunbathe on the adjacent balcony, with all of the city glittering below. Double, from €1,050. Rebecca Rose

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