Lobbies are for amateurs. Let the unimaginative chain stays and the lemmings of the luxury hotel industry have their check-in desks, their cavernous foyers, their impersonal seating areas awkwardly arranged throughout the front rooms. The Principal Madrid—one of the Spanish capital’s newest hot spots and the latest venture from hotelier Pau Guardans’ Único Hotels group—knows better. Drawing inspiration from the private clubs frequented by artists, writers, aristocrats, and bons vivants of nearly a century ago, this Spanish Renaissance–style residence (built in 1917) starts the guest experience with a quick trip up to the top floor, where you emerge from the elevator into an unpretentious living room of sorts, a refreshing drink and panoramic views of the city’s belle epoque rooftops awaiting you. As if a room were kept ready for you at all times, your bags will have magically been whisked away to your understated abode, its soothing hues and clean-lined designer furnishings a welcome respite from the bustling city outside.
But why retire already to your room when your arrival drops you straight into the salon of Madrid’s cognoscenti? Here the city’s cool and creative types sip cafés con leche by day and cocktails by night, dine on tapas by a top Spanish chef, and lounge in one of the most effortlessly comfortable spaces known to hotels. The only place that overshadows it—quite literally—is the next floor up: with its fountainside lounge area and Parisian café–style deck, the rooftop terrace just might boast the best sunset views in town.
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Hidden down a side street off the bustling Gran Vía, one of Madrid’s main thoroughfares and most picturesque architectural spots (don’t miss the Círculo de Bellas Artes, just across the street), the Principal feels like a secret hideaway in the midst of the city. While the immediately surrounding stretches of the Gran Vía are lined with the likes of banks and designer shops, the hip Chueca neighborhood is just a few blocks to the north, buzzing with trendy cafés and bars, boutiques and restaurants. Many of the city’s most famous attractions and postcard-worthy sights—including the Puerta del Sol, the Royal Palace, and the Prado and Thyssen museums—are also within a 10-minute walk of the hotel.
Need to Know
Rooms: 76 rooms, nine suites. From $258. Check-in: 2 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: Inspired by the private clubs of Old World European capitals, Michelin-starred chef Ramón Freixa’s all-day café, tearoom, and cocktail bar Ático winds its way through the top-floor’s open-plan rooms, moving from fireplaces flanked by faded velvet wingback chairs to sidewalk café–style tables looking out over central Madrid’s romantic rooftops. The rooftop La Terraza, with its wrought-iron chairs and bright red umbrellas, is an urban garden with a vintage feel, where discerning Madrileños pair classic cocktails and light bites with panoramic sunset views and a DJ-curated soundtrack. Spa and gym details: The hotel has a small but well-equipped gym, with personal training sessions available by appointment, and the concierge can provide running maps for the surrounding neighborhood. The Wellness Suite offers a range of massage and other spa treatments, and also includes a sauna.
Who's it best for: Hipsters, creatives, and other independent, design-conscious travelers. Our favorite rooms: All rooms have high ceilings, large windows, and cozy leather butterfly chairs, but those on the higher floors overlooking the iconic Gran Vía have one of the most impressive views in Spain. Those wanting to play at being locals should splurge on a Gran Vía suite, with separate dining and living areas as well as butler service, which can be connected to other rooms for apartment-style living. Travel in style: To complete the private club feel, reserve the Principal’s Mercedes town car to whisk you to your date at the opera or luncheon at the Ritz.