For decades, Barcelona has been Spain’s go-to city break destination. But with remarkable new and reinvented properties like Four Seasons, oriental mandarin and Rosewood Hotelsas well as the upcoming debut of Edition Hotels and JW Marriott, the long-maligned capital of Madrid, now has a huge 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.
projects for the Hotel Four Seasons Madrid, the centerpiece of an approximately $700 million development that also includes residences and an upscale shopping center, began as early as 2012, making it a big gamble at the time. 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 Mandarin Oriental, with the Hong Kong hotel group putting The Ritz, the city’s Belle Époque grande dame established by César Ritz in 1910, through a multi-year renovation after its acquisition in 2015. The newly baptized Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid reopened in mid-2021 with an underground swimming pool lit by chandeliers and a restaurant in golden hues, Goddess, where chef Quique Dacosta’s theatrical menu might include an “egg” wrapped in 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.
One mile to the north, Villa Magna, it 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 in the face of suddenly fierce local competition.) Rosewood’s usual sophistication is evident throughout, including at the Tarde.O bar, 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 Amos restaurant run by Jesús Sánchez with three Michelin stars. 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, Danyis a beautiful explosion of cherry reds and brilliant greens, with a terrace that overlooks a host of towering landmarks, including the Madrid Casino 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.