Madrid may not be known for its luxury hotels, but it's a handsome city, with its low-rise terracotta buildings in the city center reminiscent of Provence. But visit during the spring or fall rather than the summer, when temperatures can soar and make wandering the streets less pleasant. And you'll want to wander, there's so much to see: from the beautiful Parque del Retiro and Botanic Gardens to artisanal bakeries with their tempting treats to world class art at the Prado and Thyssen-Bornemisza museums. In the evening, eat like a Madrileno, grazing on house specialties such as pig trotters, chorizo or local cheese accompanied by Rioja in a decadent progressive dinner. In the wee hours, return to one of our luxury hotel picks and enjoy peaceful slumber, recharging for the next day's exploration and adventures.
Located in the upscale Salamanca residential and shopping district, Hotel Villa Magna is a favorite of business travelers for its beautiful modern luxury, especially after a recent renovation. Enjoy superbly comfortable true King beds (a bit of a rarity in Europe), spacious rooms that start at 377 square feet, complimentary WiFi, “Magic Mirror” flat screen TVs, and plenty of natural light. And fortunately for those visiting for pleasure and keeping late hours, windows are double glazed, making for a great and peaceful night's sleep. Take advantage of excellent service and superb advice from the Clefs d'Or Concierges, and if the work or the frenetic nightlife has left you in need of some rejuvenation, retreat to Club Wellness for a massage, especially the superb Thai massage. There's also a steam room, sauna and fitness center that are adequate, although could be improved. If you stay during the week, don't miss the delicious weekday buffet lunch at Villa Magna. Ignore the Tse Yang Cantonese restaurant, however–let's just say that you didn't come to Madrid for inauthentic Chinese cuisine.
If Hotel Villa Magna, the Ritz Madrid and other luxury hotels are too pricey, the Gran Melia Fenix is a great choice for comfortable and well-appointed, albeit small rooms, and value for money in the upscale Salamanca neighborhood just a few blocks from Hotel Villa Magna. In Spring and Autumn (comfortable walking weather) you can walk to the Prado and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museums and Parque del Retiro, and of course there's plenty of tempting window shopping in the neighborhood. Note that the fitness center and spa is currently being renovated, so this isn't the hotel if for fitness buffs or spa lovers. Deluxe Rooms are rather small at 269 square feet with views of the interior courtyard, so if a bit more space is needed, we recommend a Premium Room, which is 322 square feet.All rooms and suites offer double paned windows, a pillow menu, bathroom with rainshower, Clarins bath amenities, heated towel rack, complimentary WiFi and complimentary breakfast buffet with most TravelSort rates. And the breakfast buffet is a highlight, with a wide variety of fruits (probably the best you'll eat in Madrid), cereals, pastries and cooked to order items, as well as gluten-free options.
You really can't get more central than the Ritz Madrid, which is right across from the Prado Museum and walking distance from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Plaza del Sol, Plaza de Santa Ana and Plaza Major. Some rooms even have lovely views of the Prado. As one of the grand dames of Madrid, built in 1910 per the specifications of King Alfonso XIII and overseen by legendary hotelier Cesar Ritz, the Ritz Madrid was built in the best belle epoque tradition, with graceful cupolas and baroque flourishes. The 167 guestrooms and suites are good sized for being in the heart of Madrid, with Classic Rooms 323 square feet and Deluxe Rooms a spacious 430 square feet. WiFi is complimentary, although not quite as fast as we'd like, and rooms retain their elegant decor, with antique furniture, embroidered linens and marble bathrooms. Savor the complimentary treats that come with nightly turndown, the comfortable bed and the magnificent breakfast buffet on the terrace, which is included in some of our rates. For lunch and dinner, however, our vote would be to eat at one of the many great tapas bars or restaurants elsewhere in Madrid, as food and drink is rather overpriced.
Getting to Madrid with Frequent Flyer Miles
One of the sometimes overlooked options is transferring British Airways Avios points to Iberia in order to book business class award tickets with lower fuel surcharges. For example, a one-way award from Madrid to Chicago would be 40,000 Avios points and $75.62 in taxes, whereas the same award using British Airways Avios would be 40,000 Avios points plus $262.84. Also, Iberia award availability is often better; as we noted in 2500 Free Avios for Kids with Iberia Plus Kids Registration
, Iberia reserves more award space for its own frequent flyer members than is released to others, even British Airways. Now, I wouldn't say Iberia business class is as good as British Airways, but for many folks it would be worth it both for the lower fuel surcharges and for the nonstop flight right to Madrid from New York and Chicago.
If you want a great first class experience to Madrid, I'd recommend Lufthansa first class, although you can't book this in advance. It's 67,500 United miles one way, or 135,000 miles roundtrip, and well worth the slight premium in miles. Aim to go through Frankfurt if possible, so you can use the Lufthansa First Class Terminal.
You can earn the miles from either 2 credit card applications plus credit card spend, or from 3 credit card applications. Apply for the Ink Bold or Ink Plus business card, together with either the United MileagePlus Explorer or the Sapphire Preferred, then either earn the additional United miles through spend or by, in about 3 months, applying for the third card (the United MileagePlus Explorer if you already applied for the Sapphire Preferred, or the Sapphire Preferred if you already applied for the MileagePlus Explorer).