For decades, Barcelona has been Spain’s go-to city break destination. But with standout new and reimagined properties like Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental and Rosewood Hotels, plus the upcoming debuts of Edition Hotels and JW Marriott, the long-maligned capital of Madrid now wields a massive influence on luxury travel.
The current buzz of the city has never been a dead cert. The Four Seasons opened in late 2020 in a grand heritage building just steps from Kilómetro Cero, considered the geographic center of Spain. It may seem like a prime location, but well-heeled Madrileños, who had long compared the neighborhood — disparagingly — to Times Square, were puzzled. And yet, the arrival of Four Seasons in the historic district was emblematic of the burgeoning interest of hotel brands in Madrid, a vote of confidence for a destination underestimated even by locals.
Plans for the Four Seasons Hotel Madrid, the centerpiece of a roughly $700 million development that also includes residences and an upscale shopping mall, began as early as 2012, making it a significant bet in the future. era. But with Barcelona subsequently plagued by political unrest, protests and antipathy towards holidaymakers amid damning reports of over-tourism – before the pandemic a moratorium was declared on new hotels in working-class areas – the bet seems to have paid off. And Four Seasons wasn’t the only player betting on Madrid’s future. According to hotel staff in the city, the story is the same: instability in Barcelona has scared off investors, so luxury hotel brands have turned inland.
This list includes the Mandarin Oriental, with the Hong Kong hotel group putting the Ritz, the city’s Belle Époque grande dame established by Caesar Ritz in 1910, through a multi-year renovation after its acquisition in 2015. The new Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid reopened in mid-2021 with a chandelier-lit underground pool and a gold-hued restaurant, Deessa, where chef Quique Dacosta’s theatrical menu could include an ‘egg’ whose casing is a film of whipped white asparagus. All that increased prestige comes at a (higher) price: whereas pre-MO fares averaged around $400, they now start from $1,020.
A mile north, at Villa Magna, is a similar situation. Founded in 1972, the hotel closed for renovations in late 2020 and reopened as Rosewood Villa Magna a year later. (Staff say the hotel’s owners wanted to partner with a major hotel brand to boost international recognition, especially given the sudden fierce local competition.) The usual Rosewood sophistication is evident throughout, including the bar. Tarde.O, with its low-key courtyard and skilled mixologists who can whip up 400 cocktails – try the signature Negroni, aged for 72 hours in countertop clay pots – and the handsome Amós restaurant run by three-Michelin-starred Jesús Sánchez. As a result, overnight rates have gone from around $650 before reopening to around $800 now, and should settle around $1,000 or more.
Back at the Four Seasons, where rates start at around $1,100 a night, Dani García’s rooftop restaurant, Dani, is a beautiful explosion of cherry reds and bright greens, with a terrace that overlooks a stretch of landmarks. towering buildings, including the Casino de Madrid and the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. Far from being a stuffy restaurant for special occasions, Four Seasons wanted a hip, energizing venue that locals could embrace. That’s exactly what I discovered during my visit, with Dani at full capacity and a host of diners stepping out to take a fresh look at their hometown.