It’s not that newer is necessarily better—Antonio Obrador, the hotelier and designer of famously luxurious retreats like Mallorca’s Cap Rocat, would hardly choose a neoclassical, turn-of-the-century palacio for his latest project, were that the case—but when a hotel gets the kind of buzz that the Urso Hotel & Spa got when it opened in the fall of 2014, there’s usually a reason.
In the hip, up-and-coming Salesas neighborhood, across the street from the recently reopened (and equally lively) Barceló food market, Madrid’s first five-star boutique hotel looks, from the outside, like many grandes dames: ornate, decadent, and just a bit over-the-top. Inside is another story; while many of the original details (hand-painted azulejo tiles, grand marble staircase, stained-glass windows, windowed wooden elevator) have been painstakingly restored with the help of local craftsmen, the style is undeniably contemporary, with even a hint of Scandinavian-inspired minimalism to offset the pull of the antique. This devotion to design alone would have merited the aforementioned buzz, but Obrador and his team didn’t stop there, throwing in one of Madrid’s most innovative restaurants, most soothing spas, most understatedly cool bars, and, of course, the superlative service required of any five-star stay.
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As much buzz as the Urso got for its eateries, design, and five-star service, it’s got nearly as much for its location in the trendy, up-and-coming Salesas neighborhood, an area previously overlooked by top-tier hotels. Perched at the crossroads of the lively Chueca, well-heeled Chamberi, and hip Tribunal districts, the area around the hotel is a hodgepodge of historic architecture and hipster boutiques, wealthy residences and trendy tapas bars. Just across the street is the newly opened Mercado de Barceló, another highly anticipated hot spot with a wide range of gourmet Spanish specialties and local produce. Best of all, everything in central Madrid is close by, with several metro stations putting iconic attractions like the Museo del Prado and the Parque del Retiro within 10 minutes’ reach.
Need to Know
Rooms: 78 rooms, 18 suites. From $224. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: Since the hotel’s opening in November 2014, the Table By project has been the Urso’s house restaurant, a pop-up restaurant whose design and concept changed every few months when a different top Spanish chef took the helm. As of summer 2015, the collaborators had yet to announce whether the project would continue in a new form. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner—as well as an impressive wine, champagne, and cocktail menu—are all also served in the lobby’s elegant, library-like Urso Bar, a pinewood-lined affair with both art deco and midcentury modern influences. A more formal breakfast (whatever you like, as there’s no menu) is served in the Conservatory, lined with 17th-century pastoral wallpaper and topped with a peaked skylight. Spa and gym details: The decadent Urso Spa by Natura Bissé offers a wide range of luxury treatments (diamond-dust mud scrubs and magnetic massages, anyone?) in addition to a large indoor hydrotherapy pool, hammam, relaxation area, and modern gym.
Who's it best for: Fans of history, boutique style, and five-star luxury, all rolled into one. Our favorite rooms: The Urso Terrace Suites are worth the splurge; the top-floor, penthouse-style suites include not only a separate living area and private bar, but also an expansive private roof terrace with sun loungers, panoramic rooftop views, and a table for alfresco dining. Late-night sweets: Don’t miss the turndown pastries—or any of the pastries, for that matter—which are provided by one of Madrid’s oldest and most venerable bakeries, La Duquesita.