19 Jan, 2021 @ 20:30
2 mins read

ROYAL TREATMENT: Madrid’s Westin Palace Hotel is used to hosting the rich and famous from Michael Jackson to Ernest Hemingway

Palace 1

THE staff at Madrid’s Westin Palace Hotel are long used to dealing with guests with masks.

In fact it was over 30 years ago that they welcomed mask-clad germ-phobe celebrity Michael Jackson to their esteemed five-star establishment.

Arriving with his young family the American singer insisted that staff didn’t stare when he walked around (black mask worn at all times) and also upgraded his suite to rather eccentric levels.

Indeed, he ordered the maintenance team to install a dance floor at one end of his well-appointed quarters, and insisted his own chef would cook for him.

Michael JacksonCirca 1980s 1980 Gary Lewis
A masked-up Michael Jackson ©Gary Lewis/Cordon Press

On a winter’s break in Spain’s capital city, we were also treated with almost celebrity-like standing.

Upgrading us to a fifth floor suite we had amazing views across the Paseo de la Castellana, even lording over its long-time rival the Ritz.

Handed room 523 we were able to see photos of it dating back to 1912 in the hotel’s interesting museum, which doubles as a bar.

While similar in grandeur to its rival across the main road that counts the Prado, Thyssen and Real Madrid’s Bernabeu stadium as addresses, it was always hipper and more informal.

Palace 1
Icon of luxury – the Westin Palace Hotel

You didn’t have to wear a suit and tie at all times, which suited writers like Ernest Hemingway down to the ground.

He would spend weeks on end at this fabled institution, which was close to his favourite cafe/bar, Cerveceria Alemana in nearby Plaza Santa Ana, where the bullfighting crowd and writers always congregated.

He would occasionally rub shoulders with the likes of Spanish playwright Federico Garcia Lorca, who is pictured alongside Salvador Dali at one Palace soiree.

Other luminaries to have spent time here included Ava Gardner, Charlton Heston, Pablo Picasso Albert Einstein and the Rolling Stones, who usually stay when on tour in Madrid, while, more recently, Antonio Banderas is a regular.

After shutting for five months last year due to COVID-19, it re-opened with some incredible deals for families in August. This Spring, you can pick up special rates of just 230 euros/night.

The only other time it shut was during the Spanish Civil War, when it got requisitioned as a hospital, with its stunning domed atrium dining room used for emergency surgery.

Palace Hotel
The 1912 dome where doctors operated in the civil war

Having seen many turbulent events in its 110-year history, it was perhaps appropriate that when an attempted coup was launched in 1981 over the road at the country’s Houses of Parliament, a temporary government was set up at the Palace Hotel.

“We had 200 journalists book in from around the world in just a couple of hours” explained marketing boss Paloma Garcia Gaxa, who has worked at the hotel for over two decades.

“It was probably the most exciting place to stay in the world that week.”

The location, of course, couldn’t be better, with Spain’s three top museums, the Retiro Park and Gran Via and the Puerto del Sol all within a few minutes walk.

Travelling with our two children, we were able to dip into the Prado for an hour before heading to the Botanical gardens next door while they returned home for phone time.

The hotel itself counts on a gym, various restaurants and a superb breakfast, with pancakes, churros and all ranges of eggs.

With 470 rooms it was one of the biggest hotels in Europe when it opened and famed for its en-suite bathrooms. 

Opened by King Alfonso XIII, its Royal Suite is still one of the city’s most exclusive and in-demand places to stay for luminaries and the super-rich.

“Staying there is the equivalent of buying a Louis Vuitton bag,” explained Paloma.

But you don’t need a Royal Suite to enjoy the Palace Hotel. With the excellent prices on offer today you can enjoy its grandeur and ensure that your holiday goes like a dream.

Like Michael Jackson we were literally dancing around the room.

More information: https://www.marriott.co.uk/hotels/travel/madwi-the-westin-palace-madrid

Jon Clarke (Publisher & Editor)

Jon Clarke is a Londoner who worked at the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday as an investigative journalist before moving permanently to Spain in 2003 where he helped set up the Olive Press. He is the author of three books; Costa Killer, Dining Secrets of Andalucia and My Search for Madeleine.

Do you have a story? Contact newsdesk@theolivepress.es

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