Old meets new at Madrid’s first five-star boutique hotel
A palatial early 20th century building, the Urso Hotel & Spa blends its exterior neo-classical looks with a sleek, modern interior, drenched in marble and honey-toned wood. Something of a rarity in central Madrid, the hotel inhabits an entire block, restored by architect and designer Antonio Obrador who transformed the building into an elegant, sophisticated hotel. He kept many of the architectural features to create a discreet ambiance, while working with local craftspeople – an ironmonger, carpenter, vertical garden specialist and ébéniste – to restore the building and its interiors while preserving its history, with highlights including a restored antique elevator – still in use – and four stunning original early 20th century stained-glass windows.
Set between the bourgeois neighbourhood of Chamberi, the up-and-coming Tribunal area, and the trendy Chueca district, Urso Hotel & Spa is surrounded by grand embassy buildings, wealthy residential areas and local, independent boutiques – with Barcelo food market and Madrid’s foodie scene also right on the doorstep.
The bright lobby lounge, with an array of welcoming sofas just begin to be curled up in, was the perfect respite from a thundering Madrid rainstorm and with a well-stocked champagne bar within arm’s reach and a dulcet soundtrack piping through the speakers, it’s tempting to spend an afternoon ensconced in an armchair with a book and a glass of chilled rioja.
The 78 rooms and suites are bright and fresh, with vintage photos of 1920s and 30s Madrid adorning the walls and adding another dose of history to this landmark building. The rooms include the Urso Hotel & Spa Suites, vast penthouse-style spaces on the top floor with marble bathrooms, as well as two Urso Hotel Spa & Terrace Suites, each with a private terrace for outdoor celebrations and breakfast under the Spanish sun. It’s the little touches that make each room extra welcoming; the fine natural fabrics in muted tones, extra comfortable mattresses, Nespresso coffee machines and minibars stocked with local products - everything adds up to a luxurious five star experience.
After getting caught in a downpour the Urso spa was a welcome respite, especially as during our chosen hour we were the only guests in situ. The first branded luxury hotel spa in Madrid, the spa offers treatments by the prestigious skincare specialists, Natura Bissé and Sisley Paris in its three treatment rooms. We indulged in the Hammam, steam room and hydrotherapy pool before a cosying up for a post-swim snooze in the relaxation room. Steam, swim, snooze repeat.
Food is high on the Urso Hotel agenda. Something of a perfect start to the day, breakfast takes place in a stunning vertical garden room flooded by natural light, surrounded by bamboo trees and moss. Room service throughout the day includes delicacies from neighbouring shops; Urso Hotel & Spa’s bakery is supplied by one of the oldest bakers in town, while cold cuts and Iberico ham are served straight from the market opposite the hotel.
The hotel’s newest gastronomic proposal is Media Ración, the restaurant created by Fernando Cuenllas of the legendary Madrid restaurant Cuenllas. An enticing menu of light bites, sharing plates and small tapas sourced from the neighbouring Mercado de Barcelo, is matched with the finest wines to create an offering that neither guests nor locals can resist, from acorn-fed Iberico ham to Cantabrian anchovies and classic croquetas.
With its unique proposition, the location might be suited to the city traveller but the Urso’s offering is pure luxury; the perfect antidote to a busy weekend in the city.
From €200 for a B&B stay in a Double Room and from €570 for a B&B stay in the Urso Hotel & Spa Terrace Suite – including breakfast and based on two people sharing.
Bless your visit to Madrid with a new breed of luxury
An intoxicating new hotel brand has thrown open its doors in one of Madrid’s most exclusive quarters.
The latest offering from Palladium Hotel Group, BLESS Collection Hotels welcomed its first outpost, BLESS Hotel Madrid, in January. Located on Calle de Velázquez, in the heart of the Barrio de Salamanca district, the hotel offers guests a slice of decadent luxury and cosy indulgence. In their own words, “we open our doors to a temple for those who love life.”
From the front door fringed with palm fronds, through the sumptuously scented Versus Lounge to the design-laden reception space, all the way to your bedding hand-selected from the curated menu, every step through the property is a treat on the senses. The 111 rooms are bright, quiet and subtly sophisticated, decorated in colours and materials to transport you to 19th century Madrid.
Our Studio Suite featured a sumptuous velvet headboard, perfectly chosen gold and leather accent accessories, opulent parquet flooring and an elegant wooden dressing room. The piéce de resistance was the 1920s bathtub, resplendent in front of windows overlooking the aristocratic Calle de Velázquez below. It was quite possibly the most beautiful hotel room I’ve ever had the pleasure of occupying.
As if the super king bed wasn’t enough to guarantee a peaceful night’s slumber, guests can indulge in BLESS Collection’s BLESSBED, which enables guests to personalise their sleep via a menu of pillows and bed linen. Whether your preference is a goose feather or latex pillow, 450 thread Egyptian cotton, linen or silk, your wish is their command. It’s just one of the exclusive sensory experiences on offer to ensure your stay is beyond the best, including BATHOLOGY, whereby a personal butler will guide you through an exclusive bathing experience, selecting your daily choice of soaps and bath salts based on your mood and requirements. Oh to have such luxuries at home.
The hotel clearly has guest experience at the forefront of every little decision. The decor throughout is stunning, yet no more so than the ground floor. The property’s interiors have been created by renowned Spanish designer and architect Lázaro Rosa-Violan, whose vision is to create a quintessentially Madrilenian character with a contemporary slant. The ground floor bar, reception space and surrounding seating areas may seat dozens, but with clever furniture arrangement, subtle use of lighting and plants, they manage to feel cosy and intimate rather than busy. Be prepared to suffer some serious interiors envy, this is prime Pinterest fodder.
The food and drink
The Versus Lively Lounge is open from 9am for guests to enjoy an exquisite breakfast, and all the way through until vermouth hour and beyond (you’ll want to tap up the bartenders when you see the cocktail menu) and for late night antics, head down to the basement to discover the Clandestine Bar, Fetén, home to its very own retro-styled bowling alley, open until a dangerously enticing 3am. Rest assured, however, that if you do end up seduced by a late night bowl, recovery is more than possible the morning after in the subterranean spa, with its jacuzzi, sauna and steam room, set alongside a fitness room should you feel the need to work off the hearty breakfasts. It’s perfectly possible to spend your entire trip within the confines of the hotel and not get bored, particularly once the summer months arrive and the stunning rooftop pool opens up.
BLESS Hotel Madrid’s flagship restaurant, ETXEKO, is overseen by one of the world’s most prestigious chefs is set to become a true destination culinary experience. Holder of eight Michelin stars (more than any other Spanish chef), Martin Berasategui’s eponymous restaurant has been voted “the best restaurant in the world” and now he will act as the hotel’s gastronomic guru overseeing all the hotel’s food and beverage, with the star being his signature restaurant, Etxeco, set to become a true destination culinary experience. While we didn’t try dinner at the hotel, the breakfast offering was similarly sublime, with a classic continental spread along with freshly made dishes from Spanish omelette to shakshuka and pancakes.
With a second property set to open in Ibiza this summer and more planned for some of the world’s most important capitals and prime coastal locations, this brand of hedonistic luxury is one you’re going to want to visit.
Prices for BLESS Madrid start from £328 per room, based on a deluxe room, room only.
Bed Down In France’s Best Ski Hotel
It’s not just us saying it. Val Thorens’ alpine spectacular Fahrenheit Seven has been graced with two golden accolades at the World Ski Awards, voted World’s Best Ski Hotel in 2017 and France’s Best Ski Hotel in 2018. Named after the temperature needed to create the perfect snowflake, it's the perfect place to add to your little black book for must-visit ski destinations.
Crossing the threshold into a warming fug of giant Baobab Collection candles, the lull of late-night music drifting through from the bar and a roaring log fire toasting the lobby, I knew we were in for a treat. Situated near the edge of the resort, the hotel’s terrace overlooks the slopes and the main Peclet bubble, ski school and resort centre are all just minutes away, making it the ideal location if you like being in the midst of all the action.
The natty staff uniforms, resplendent with tweed flat caps, denim shirts and bow ties, reflect the hotel’s design; somewhat vintage in feel yet somehow also contemporary and unerringly comfortable.
The 109 rooms feature luxurious velvet headboards, spot lighting, vibrant contrasting fabrics and textures and retro wardrobes; they’re a dream for anyone with an interiors Pinterest board. I defy you not to instantly Google where to find such a luxe bed at home (FYI: made.com...).
Co-founder Véronique Vidoni wanted to pay homage to the early days of the resort, so each room’s walls are peppered with black and white prints of Val Thorens’ 70s heyday, telling a retro story you can’t help but be seduced into. Check in to a slope-view room and you’ll be woken with a magical sunrise behind the peaks; I found myself throwing my curtains open and lying in bed watching the sky transform from inky blue to swirling shades of candy floss before thrilling us all by staying perfectly blue the whole day. For those travelling with little ones, family rooms and suites are also available featuring adjoining rooms with bunk beds.
Downstairs, the hotel's ski room provides direct access to the pistes, complete with toilets and showers to maximise slope time on your last day, a bar, TV corner, table football and individual lockers with heated boot warmers, plus a ski shop right next door to rent everything you need for a day on the slopes. Throw in the fact that there’s a steam room and sauna on site and it’s apparent they’ve pretty much thought of everything they can to make your stay as comfortable as possible.
The restaurant La Rotisserie serves up a menu of inventive cuisine rooted in fresh produce with an Asian twist, not to mention a dream of a buffet breakfast (make sure to swipe a Nutella madeleine for an essential mid-ski snack…) but it’s after dinner the ground floor really comes alive.
The cosy hotel Bar Le Zinc, welcomes lives music acts several times a week, enough to warm up even the coldest of winter nights, from live DJs and local bands to the once a month sell out “Seven Party”. In just one season the music programme at Fahrenheit Seven - and its sister hotel in Courchevel - has become one of the hottest in all the 3 Vallées. Saturday night and the music was echoing until the wee hours, long after we’d retired to our chambers, despite the lure of their spectacular signature cocktail list.
Given its proximity to the action, the buzz after dark and its dreamy rooms, it’s no surprise Fahrenheit Seven has been raking in the awards.
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