Sleeping in Spain: Madrid Hotel Guide

Locations in this article:  Barcelona, Spain Madrid, Spain Paris, France

Spain Train Station - Madrid HotelsAfter touring Barcelona and hopping a high-speed train to Madrid, Irvina Lew continued on her quest of “sleeping around Spain,” revisiting her favorite hotel and seeing how other Madrid properties measure up.

“I’ve been sleeping around Spain, again,” is what I tell folks when I return from a country I adore and where I usually spend only a few nights in one hotel at a time.

In fact, after nine visits to Spain, I have only stayed at one hotel twice: The Ritz in Madrid.

The luxury of this Orient-Express lodging (and member of The Leading Hotels of the World) is a treat for anyone at any time.

For me, it was especially significant on the final night of a seven-week trip to Spain in 1992. That summer, while studying at the University of Salamanca, I shared a dorm-style lavatory for a month that was a long hallway’s walk away from my teeny-tiny cubicle in an ancient convent.

Barcelona at NightA travel agent arranged a week’s stay for me during the Olympics, in Barcelona; it was in a private apartment where seven strangers used one bathroom. She also confirmed my room in Seville, for Expo 1992. It was located on an upper floor of an old-age home where the bathroom was also down the hall and shared. (On a subsequent trip to walk the Camino de Santiago, I never had to share a bathroom, but twice my single rooms came equipped with half-tubs, as if people traveling alone had shorter legs!).

Imagine my pleasure when my late husband, announced during a phone call, “The Ritz called and confirmed your room, for tonight.” Although it was almost midnight and the final night before flying home–and I was already settled in a nice, but not spectacular, hotel, after spending the day traveling from Marbella to Malaga to Madrid–I was cool. “Thanks, love, see you tomorrow.”

Learn more about Barcelona’s Hotels, Art & Architecture with Irvina Lew.

Then, I put the room key, a toothbrush and a change of underwear in my purse, walked from the elevator to the lobby to a taxi and said, “The Ritz, por favor.”

Ritz Madrid LobbyAh, the elegance! I relished the lobby lounge with all its marble and gleaming wood, shiny wrought iron and lush carpets, antiques and a floral centerpiece under the high ceiling. Whether or not the bellman noticed that I had no luggage, he acted as if it didn’t matter and escorted me to register and to my room. Within minutes, I was in a posh, wood-paneled, corner room where I lolled, bathed, watched television (for the first time in weeks) and slept gloriously.

The following morning, unsure whether breakfast was included or beyond my budget, I taxied back to the first hotel and used the breakfast coupon they had given me; then, I grabbed my luggage and rushed to Barajas Airport … still smiling.

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Staying at The Ritz, again, became my recent mission; this time, I was determined to breakfast there. My room was enchanting: a small, sweet foyer, a salon with a love seat, chairs and desk, a bedroom beyond gilded smoked glass panels all decorated in coordinated patterns of red and gold, reminiscent of the Spanish flag.

Las Meninas by Velasquez at the Prado, MadridUsually, when I arrive in Madrid, I rush to the Prado to see paintings by Goya and Velasquez, the Thyssen-Bornemisza for its contemporary collection and, the Centro de Arte Moderno Reina Sofia to pay homage to Picasso’s Guernica.

This time around, I settled in, filled the tub with bubbles and soaked savoring the setting. Afterwards, I stepped out on my balcony to take in the Plaza de la Lealtad and its monument to the war dead (from the Spanish Civil War) and the gracious white buildings along Museum Mile.

Finally, I boarded the bus for the short trip (otherwise a 10-minute walk) up the Paseo del Prado to MAPFRE, where the impressionist collection from Musee d’Orsay, in Paris, was on exhibit; it included paintings by my favorites: Bazille and Degas, Monet and Renoir.

That night, the concierge suggested a quaint tapas bar across the street at Los Gatos, but the better meal was at breakfast in the Ritz’s formal dining room where I feasted on everything from smoked salmon, fresh fruits, yogurt, eggs a la minute and the most incredible breads to the Iberico ham. As the chef sliced it from its ornate rack, he answered my one question: “Joselito is the best ham in Spain.”

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AC Palacio del Retiro - Madrid, SpainWhen my traveling companion, Cara arrived, we stayed at the AC Palacio del Retiro. Located  nearby, in the same exclusive neighborhood, this intricately detailed, early 20th-century mansion has stylish fireplaces and wrought iron staircases, marble flooring and oak parquet.

This former home and company headquarters of the prestigious Oriol family (owners of the Talgo train company in Spain) faces El Retiro Park just a block from Puerta de Alcalá and adjacent to the Museo de Artes Decorativas. Its transformation into an hotel preserved original interior fountains decorated with 19th-century columns, Talaveran tiles, stained-glass windows from Mauméjean-Paris, ornate metal lamps and door frames. Our compact, ultra-modern room had smart design and unusually fabulous storage (two sets of six large drawers with padded tops for luggage). Unfortunately, there was absolutely no view of Retiro Park.

Find more ideas in our Hotels & Accommodations section.

We walked the Gran Via and to the Plaza Mayor where the arcades are always full of sellers and buyers haggling over stamps, coins and collectibles and then, to the famed Rastro flea market.

Radisson Blu Madrid RoomThat evening, we stayed in the neighborhood and checked out the newly opened Radisson Blu Hotel Madrid Prado, a 54-room boutique property ideally located on a tiny square near El Prado. The neoclassic exterior has the typical, gorgeous, five-story, 19th-century white façade with French doors that open to small, wrought-iron-wrapped balconies.

Inside, the hotel is up-to-the minute modern with minimalist rooms warmed by a one-wall mural of Madrid behind the bed; a top floor suite has a vaulted ceiling and four poster bed. Among the amenities are an indoor pool, fitness area, spa and a dramatically dark Whiskey Bar. We dined at Cask Restaurant where we had seafood and wonderful Spanish wine.

Next up, a week’s journey sleeping our way through Andalusia.

By Irvina Lew for

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