The thing about Madrid’s Hotel Ritz is that, despite the name, it’s not technically a Ritz. In 1910, King Alfonso XIII toured Europe and decided that the Spanish capital lacked the kind of grand hotel worthy of visiting royalty that Paris and London had in their Ritz Hotels. And so he hired legendary hotelier César Ritz to create one for him in Madrid, with the same luxury ideals and a Spanish twist.
What he got was a grand belle epoque landmark on the Paseo del Prado, Madrid’s central promenade, next to the stock exchange and the Museo del Prado, just a couple blocks from the Parque del Retiro. Opulent suites have hosted dignitaries and celebrities for over a century, while the elegant lobby bar—with its live piano or Spanish guitar music, and antique furnishings—has been a fixture of Madrid society since its opening. The current Goya Restaurant is still considered one of the city’s best, despite its somewhat more Old World style than contemporary Spain is used to, and its leafy garden terrace hosts a parade of international glitterati. Recently acquired by Mandarin Oriental, the hotel is undergoing some updates in 2015 and 2016, guaranteed to maintain its standards of decadence, just as Alfonso himself would have imagined.
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It’s hard to get much better real estate in Madrid than a perch on the Plaza de la Lealtad, across the street from the Museo del Prado and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, overlooking the tree-lined Paseo del Prado and the postcard-ready Fuente de Neptuno. But what else would you expect from a king? Alfonso XIII’s brainchild is within a stone’s throw of nearly every major attraction in Madrid, from the sprawling Parque del Retiro (and the picturesque belle epoque mansions lining it) to the bustling Puerta del Sol. World-renowned restaurants are just a skip away, the city’s famous nightlife and shopping line the surrounding streets, and if there’s anything that just feels too far, cabs and metro stops are plentiful.
Need to Know
Rooms: 167 rooms, 42 suites. From $709. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options:An Old World fine-dining landmark filled with soft candlelight and elegant couches, the Goya Restaurant is generally considered one of the best in Spain, serving three meals a day of French- and Basque-influenced Spanish classics to dignitaries, celebrities, and Madrid elite. In the warmer months, the romantically lit garden terrace is one of the capital’s most desirable reservations. As well-dressed as a Spanish aristocrat, the lobby bar is practically a living room for business magnates and politicians, both for drinks from its well-stocked bar and for its iconic afternoon tea. Champagne aficionados prefer the new Krug Bar, which specializes in the legendary Krug Clos du Mesnil bubbly, alongside caviar, oysters, and other delicacies. Spa and gym details: The hotel houses not only a small but well-equipped fitness center (personal training sessions can be arranged) but also a Bodyna Wellness Center with a full range of beauty and spa treatments.
Who's it best for: Heads of state, business magnates, and anyone who appreciates over-the-top luxury with a sense of history. Our favorite rooms: Each of the Old World rooms is distinctively luxurious, but the two-bedroom Royal and Presidential suites epitomize decadence fit for a king, with antique furnishings, private balconies overlooking the heart of Madrid, museum-worthy artwork, and spacious sitting rooms for hosting guests. If you have little ones: The Ritz seems like a dignified, grown-up hotel, but it actually bends over backwards for families, offering everything from high chairs and kids’ menus to child-size bathrobes and a cartoon DVD library.