Spain Travel Guide
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Don’t you love it when a hotel does a reno and decreases the number of rooms rather than increases them? The Hotel Villa Magna in Madrid (part of Leading Hotels of the World) renovated the property between 2007 and 2009 and we mean gutted it – demolishing everything but the building’s façade and the floors – and took the room count from 182 to 150 rooms and suites. This leaves you with some of the most spacious rooms in Madrid.
Madrid-based interior designer Thomas Urquijo is the master planner behind the design, which is best-described as contemporary elegance. There's a touch of Bauhaus, Viennese Secessionism and Louis XVI styles all thrown in there, with both public and private spaces bathed in earthy greys and off-whites. Furniture is a combo of restored antiques and modern additions, and one nice touch is the colorful artwork found throughout the hotel, all part of the private collection of the hotel’s Portuguese owners who, we were told, also own the Four Seasons Lisbon.
Found in the posh Salamanca district, right in the heart of Madrid’s ritziest shopping, the hotel’s rooms and suites are broken down into seven separate categories, starting with the Magna Room all the way to the Insignia Suites. But get this: the smallest room category, the Magna Room, is a whopping 376 sq ft. As a comparison when we stayed at the ME Madrid in one of their Energy Rooms (the last room category just before you hit the suites) it was only 265 sq ft. Sometimes bigger really is better.
See all of the pics in the photo gallery!
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It’s also the latest addition to the Design Hotels portfolio, and part of the Spanish Unico hotel group, which has two other hotels – one in Barcelona, one in Madrid – so you know it already has cred. Add to that that it’s the first five star hotel on the Gran Via (for reals) in an equally grand building from 1917, and it’s an appealing prospect.
Emma, one of your current Barcelona Room Mates
The Room Mate news is coming thick and fast this January. Hot on the heels of the incredible discovery of the free WiFi routers in their Spanish hotels comes the news that two new Room Mates are on their way to Barcelona this year, with a third planned for 2016. The brand already has two there, of course: Room Mate Emma and Room Mate Pau.
According to Observatorio Immobiliario, the first will open on Calle Aragón “within months”. It’ll have 81 rooms, a ground floor restaurant and a “rooftop poolside terraza” – sounds heavenly. This is the shopping area – the hotel will be at the corner with Passeig de Gracia – so this will be for your shopping-loving Room Mates. It’s a classic, early 20th-century building, and will be designed by Lorenzo Castillo. Here’s a tiny picture:
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Free inroom WiFi is, of course, essential (we think) for a hotel stay. But free mobile WiFi to take around town? Now there’s something exceptional. But then, we always did think Room Mate Hotels were exceptional.
Travel journo and HC Twitter chum David Whitley checked into Room Mate Oscar in Madrid this week and found that it gives guests a free mobile WiFi router to take around town with them. Turns out that’s not just an Oscar thing – Room Mate has offered this service in all its Spanish hotels since July.
Got wine? A new boutique hotel in Barcelona does and its design concept is pretty...intoxicating. Hotel Praktik Vinoteca, as its name suggests, is a celebration of wine, art and design. But mostly wine.
Theme hotels may come and go, and we’ve seen some that have long outlived their stay. Not the case, so to speak, with Praktik Vinoteca. This is by all counts a design hotel that also comes with a reasonable price tag. What's more, this is artsy, soulful Barcelona, so you know it’s going to be hip and attention grabbing. Grab a glass, cleanse your palate and let’s have a look around.
Not Vegas. A lobby
With hotels piling in to chase the millennial dollar, it’s reassuring to see one brand going back to what hotels always used to do to get clients – pile on the superlatives.
After three months of work and millions of euros, NH Hotels have just reopened the NH Collection Madrid Eurobuilding (definitely not a millennial name), now the biggest hotel for the brand. NH may not be a big deal to American ears but they’re one of Europe’s most reliable brands, treading the line between business and boutique quite impeccably (also, delicious toiletries, if you ask my mum). Anyway, this is the flagship property for the NH Collection brand, and it’s pushing the boundaries of hotel technology. Basically, they have what we’re looking for in a hotel down pat:
Well-equipped rooms: “Brilliant Basics” is the name for the thinking behind the room design. All 431 rooms have specially commissioned mattresses, rain showerheads, Nespresso machines, professional hairdryers and “next generation LED” TVs.
VIP level if you want it: If you stay on the “five star floor” you get access to the VIP lounge, too.
All the services you need, plus fun extras: Spa, fitness center, event spaces, rooftop solarium with a fake beach, two fine-dining restaurants (including DiverXO, Madrid’s only three Michelin-starred restaurant), a lounge and a sushi bar.
Fashion-forward technology: An LED vault screen (the largest in Europe, and the largest in the world for hotels) in the lobby projects digital art and “special sound” across the lobby. Think the Fremont Street Experience in Vegas, but in a hotel lobby. Insanity!
Cutting-edge tech: Here’s the really interesting part – there are four ”Living Lab” bedrooms (plus communal areas) that are trialing the latest hotel tech – not just wireless mobile charging, but tablets providing a video link to reception for when you need to ask a pressing question. The Living Lab isn’t just about hotel guests – it’s apparently an initiative to “identify and encourage entrepreneurial talent by fostering pioneering projects in the hotel industry”. They will be running contests and promoting hotel tech-related start-ups. We dig.
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Question: What do you get the person who has everything? (This is the question which possibly, probably foxed Brad Pitt as he debated whether to go to a certain celebrity wedding.)
Answer: A ticket to Barcelona for a meal at Hotel Arts. (Shame Brad didn't think of this, he might have got a Venetian holiday out of it.)
Why? Because it’s truffle season, and the hotel’s two Michelin-starred restaurant, Enoteca, is running a special white truffle tasting menu throughout November. It’s not just special because it involves white truffles – the dishes come with wine pairings, and those wines include the award-winning Miraval rosé. Not familiar with said rosé? It’s from Brangelina’s estate in Provence, and is not publicly for sale. Enough said.
A brand new boutique hotel in a 15th century building in the middle of Seville – sounds good? Here’s what sounds better: it’s so new, it’s not even on TripAdvisor yet.
Palacio Pinello opened in September in the Santa Cruz neighborhood of Seville, near the cathedral (you can see the Giralda from the hotel). It’s in a 15th century building, the Palacio de los Pinello, which was built by Pedro Pinello, a Genoese immigrant who was mates with Christopher Columbus. It’s either part of the same building, or is next door to, this historic one mentioned on TripAdvisor – but that’s the nearest you’ll come to it on there.
It’s also so new that there is no English version on the website, but from what we can gather, the rooms mix old and new with terracotta floors, feature wallpaper and slick marble bathrooms fitting in with coffered ceilings and a traditional scarlet exterior.
Frank's Bar, pre Japanese makeover
What’s better than a pop-up restaurant? A Michelin starred pop-up restaurant. So book your tickets to Barcelona, where the Hotel Arts is bringing over Kabuki – a highly rated Japanese restaurant, and not just by the Michelin men – for a week from 13-19 October.
Checf Ricardo Sanz already has Kabukis in Madrid (two branches, including the Hotel Wellington) and Tenerife (at the Ritz-Carlton), and next week he’ll be at Frank’s Bar at the Arts. Expect Michelin-worthy sushi, sashimi and salads from the bar-turned-sushi-counter; sake pairings guided by Kabuki’s own sake consultant; and a selection of Kabuki’s “Asian cocktails”. The décor of the bar will also get a Japanese feel.
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We just love a good play on words because while “staying dry” at Gran Meliá Fénix’s DRY Bar is possible, with an 84-page bar menu, it’s probably not the time or the place.
The bar, whose full name is the lengthy DRY Cosmopolitan Bar by Javier de las Muelas, has a tantalizing selection of bevvies that fall into categories such as DRY & Tonics, Exotiks, Sensory, and a full page of Beer Cocktails (remember we saw this as a trend during Cocktail Week?). But it’s really the Classics, as in martini classics, that the bar most wants you to try, because when you do, you join a select group.
Each person who orders the Extra Dry Martini (€13 or $17) officially becomes a—as in you get a certificate and everything—proud supporter of the “Javier de las Muelas Dry Foundation, created for the development of the cocktail world.” Your certificate states your martini order number, as does the martini counter above the Bar’s bar.
You’ll be drinking your lip-smacking, mouth-drying martini (gin is certainly the thing here with 60 varieties available) in a clubby, woody type of bar where you feel you can stay and sink into the furniture for a while.
It’s chic, it’s sexy, it’s in a seriously up-and-coming part of Madrid – it’s the Hotel Urso ('Bear Hotel'), which opened quietly last week. And “quietly” is the right word – according to this account in CN Traveler España (in Spanish, or via Google Translate), the hotel was firmly shut up with nobody around until the day before opening; and they only fixed the awning with the Hotel Urso branding on it the morning of the day itself. Mañana mañana, and all that.
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When we went down for dinner at ME Madrid Reina Victoria’s restaurant, Ana La Santa, at 9:45 p.m. while staying at the hotel, we were the only people in the restaurant. By the time we left at around 11 p.m., it was packed to the gills.
We headed up to the hotel’s super-swanky rooftop bar, The Roof: besides seeing one other forlorn-looking North American couple, it was empty. So we headed back down to the Ana La Santa Bar for cocktails and were surrounded by locals all just getting their after-dinner espressos as we reached the midnight hour.
By the time we hit the hay at around 1:30 a.m. the streets just outside the hotel were reaching a fever pitch. When we went back to the lobby at around 4:30 a.m. to check out, the loungey lobby was packed.
This is ME Madrid. (See the pics below!)