Travel Spain: How the pandemic saw Madrid transform into a luxury tourism destination

Mandarin Oriental Ritz,madrid,pictura Bar 02

It doesn’t get more luxurious than this. A deep-filled jacuzzi in a marble-clad salon set beneath a golden dome with a sparkling chandelier that wouldn’t look out of place in a ballroom in the Palacio Real.

This is the bathroom in the Royal Suite of Spain’s most upmarket hotel, The Four Seasons Madrid, a 400 square-metre apartment which encompasses the former office of the notorious banking crook Mario Conde, former chairman of Banesto before he was jailed for embezzling €13 million

“If only the walls could talk,” laughs hotel PR manager Marta Centeno Sampere, as she gives the Olive Press a tour around the most expensive suite in all of Spain.

Only those with the very deepest pockets, like Conde himself once had with his money-laundered millions, could afford the €20,000 a night for a suite equipped with a private gym, quarters for security staff and an exclusive lift straight to the car park to ensure guests the utmost privacy.

The hotel opened in September 2020 after a spectacular €600m redesign and almost a decade of building work to incorporate seven buildings between Puerta del Sol and Sevilla known as the Centro Canalejas regeneration project that also includes 22 private apartments and a shopping arcade of top brand stores.

Within the hotel wide corridors stretch like galleries showcasing some of the 1,500 artworks commissioned specifically for the hotel by emerging Spanish artists.

Rooms cost from €900-a-night but the foyer, a grand space with sweeping staircases that once housed the banking floor and now uses teller tables as a reception desk, is open to the public, the perfect spot for a coffee meeting, afternoon tea or pre-dinner cocktail.

The highlight is the rooftop restaurant by celebrity Marbella chef Dani Garcia who has designed a brasserie menu showcasing dishes from his three-Michelin starred restaurant in Marbella along with crowd pleasers such as his burger with foie-gras.

Step outside the Four Seasons, its cornered façade rising like a prow of ocean-going cruiser, and take a short stroll past Spain’s parliament and along the Paseo del Prado to the newly unveiled Mandarin Oriental Ritz (with an average nightly room rate of about €900).

The Belle-Epoque palace was one of Cesar Ritz’s three original properties (alongside Paris and London) when it opened to great fanfare in 1910. But by the turn of this century Madrid’s Ritz had lost its gilt and its faded glory was a draw only for those hankering for the past.

But after undergoing a much needed renovation it is yet again one of the most opulent destinations in the capital.  

Here well-heeled Latin Americans take afternoon tea or enjoy the classic menu at low tables beneath the glass canopy in the Palm Court while a pianist tinkles out Frank Sinatra tunes on the keys of a grand piano.

The Mayor of Madrid, the PP’s Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida strides through with his entourage en route to a private dining room.

In the stylish cocktail lounge, Pictura, a saxophonist plays gentle jazz, while a group of American businessmen discuss foreign markets and a young couple sip the house champagne Ruinart.

Outside, the Ritz Garden offers al-fresco dining with an amuse bouche tapas menu, and designer cocktails attract a younger crowd with money to burn.

The big draw is Quique DaCosta’ Deessa restaurant where a tasting menu, served with a course entirely dedicated to caviar, comes with an eye-watering starting price of €180.

While the Ritz is conveniently located for art lovers just steps away from the Prado, Thyssen and Reina Sofia, the newest of Madrid’s deluxe offerings is closer to Spain’s upmarket shopping district in Salamanca.

The overhauled 1970s beast, the Villa Magna hotel, reopened in October as a Rosewood, where an overnight stay starts at €600.

Here, rooms look out over the tree-lined Paseo de Castellana while the ground floor is divided into dining spaces which include the brasserie style Las Brasas, an elegantly casual café offering exquisite patisserie and the late night Tarde O, where you’ll find a mix of visitors and well-heeled locals, sipping negronis or smoking cigars in the central terraza.

Friends navigate between tables with large shopping bags from boutiques on nearby Calle Serrano hinting at expensive purchases within.

While the Four Seasons has Dani Garcia, and the Ritz has Quique Dacosta, the Rosewood has its own star chef with Jesus Sanchez, whose restaurant Cenador de Amos in the hills outside Santander boasts three Michelin stars.

His Madrid offering, simply dubbed Amos, brings the best of his Cantabrian cuisine to the capital.

These three new openings of high-end hotels within the last year have already created a buzz that promises to continue into 2022 with a new Marriott, a Hard Rock Hotel and an Evok.

It’s all part of a concerted plan to position Madrid as one of the premier luxury destinations in Europe to compete with London and Paris.

“Madrid has everything that lends itself to a luxury destination,” believes Fabian Gonzales, CEO of newly created think-tank Forward_MAD which has been created to drive the capital’s new tourism plan to attract the type of traveller who spends an average of between €20,000 and €30,000 on each trip.

“It has a privileged location, great air and land connections, and a reasonably good climate. From the tourist point of view, it boasts a historical and cultural heritage that is recognised throughout the world: museums, entertainment, gastronomy, shopping etc but what was needed was a rebrand,” he said.

“The perception of the city is already changing.”

Marta Centeno Sampere at the Four Seasons agrees. “As a native of Catalunya it pains me to say this but Madrid is most definitely the rising star while Barcelona has gone off the boil,” she said.


Fiona Govan

Fiona Govan joined The Olive Press in March 2021. She moved to Spain in 2006 to be The Daily Telegraph’s Madrid correspondent and then worked for six years as Editor of The Local Spain. She lives in Madrid’s Malasaña district with her dog Rufus.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

3 bedroom Apartment for sale in Benalmadena with pool garage - € 314
Previous Story

3 bedroom Apartment for sale in Benalmadena with pool garage – € 314,000

44810348 14a9 49fa 8d5f Dc9b1385fc23
Next Story

All roads lead to Rome in Merida, one of Spain’s best kept travel secrets

Latest from Cities

Go toTop

More From The Olive Press