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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.
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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.
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Europe’s busiest airports had a good year last year: citizenM arrived at Paris Roissy – Charles de Gaulle, the first European Element came to Frankfurt, and of course, the shirtless men of Moxy welcomed us at Milan Malpensa. With the last two of those openings courtesy of industry giants Starwood and Marriott, it seems appropriate that the latest news comes from Hilton Hotels, which is reflagging the former Kempinski hotel at Munich airport as the Hilton Munich Airport this month.
With that step, the almost proverbial “airport Hilton” is now available at each of the seven largest European airports (that’s London Heathrow, Frankfurt, Paris CDG, Munich, Amsterdam, Madrid, and Rome). There is more to the change in Munich than a different badge on the front door though, and construction in Amsterdam to replace its dated 1970s hotel is moving along too.
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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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!)
Bigger is always better, of course – or mas grande, mas bueno, as
people who don't speak Spanish they say in Madrid. Because not content with the three Novotels Accor already owns in the city; they’re getting another – and this one is going to be the biggest Novotel in the world.
The Hotel Convención – a gargantuan four star hotel a few blocks away from Retiro Park – is going to be completely redesigned, refurbished and will debut as a Novotel in 2016. Plans include a rooftop pool, business floors, and a children’s corner.
Madrid already has a a plethora of beautiful (and affordable) boutique hotels, but in August one more will open. Hotel Urso (or "bear") is a design-driven modern boutique at the crossroads of three central neighborhoods: Chamberi, up-and-coming Tribunal and fabulous LGTB hub Chueca (we'll leave the bear jokes to you). The hotel is operated by Marugal who also manage the boxy Viura in Rioja, and the art-infused Square Hotel in Paris.
Which is probably why we were so excited during our recent stay at Room Mate Laura in Madrid. Because, of course, we can barely stay in a nice hotel without a fancy umbrella being thrust at us by the concierge or the cupboard. But an offer of a raincoat? That’s a new one. A thoughtful one, too.
Break out the jugs of sangria! The very first Four Seasons will start taking reservations in one of Madrid's most historic and cultural areas, Puerta del Sol. The brand's first presence in Spain marks a milestone and pays respect to the city's history.
Spanning over 4 historic buildings, the newest luxury hotel will boast one of the most prestigious addresses in Madrid. Aside from 215 rooms, the location will not only offer guests a slice of the past, but feature high-end boutiques, trendy restaurants and luxury residences. So don't worry about the tapas fix, it should be just around the corner.
Construction is set to begin by the end of the year and will take the building's historic significance into careful consideration. During the revitalization, the facade will be cleaned and refreshed, still maintaining its presence over the center court ready to impress guests with its full rehab by 2014. Perhaps by then we won't need to a Four Seasons for recommendations and we can just book there.
[Photo: Four Seasons]