Inside Madrid’s finest luxury hotel, which just opened in the middle of a global pandemic

Nov 7, 2020

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I’ve been watching construction on the Four Seasons Madrid progress for several years. Today, the hotel is open, standing regally in the centre of Spain’s historic capital.

When I moved to Madrid in 2008, the massive building that’s now home to the Four Seasons (it’s actually a complex of seven connected buildings) stood empty and alone, just steps away from the city’s most central square, Puerta del Sol. In 2013, construction started. Since then, I’ve walked past the construction site countless times. I grumbled when the renovations shut down a key stop on Madrid’s subway system for several months, and “ooohed and ahhed” when the original facade was meticulously restored to perfection.

When the hotel announced a May 2020 opening date, I was thrilled. I texted back and forth with my hotel-obsessed friends (read: most of the TPG and TPG UK staff) asking when they’d come for a visit.

Then COVID-19 hit, and as we all know, the world changed forever. Madrid suffered immensely, and Spain imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe. The hotel, unfortunately, couldn’t open in May for obvious reasons, but I was surprised and delighted to hear it planned to open in September — and it did.

While I was thrilled, I had a lot of questions. Madrid was (and still is) dealing with an enormous health crisis. At the time of this writing, Spain is under a state of alarm, non-residents are not allowed in or out of the city with the exception of medical or work purposes, and U.S. citizens are still not allowed to enter the E.U. Spain (with the exception of the Canary Islands) is on the quarantine list for U.K. citizens. Basically, it’s still very hard to travel throughout Spain, Europe and the entire world.

How would a hotel operate without tourists? And does Madrid need a luxury hotel of this magnitude while thousands are out of work and the nation’s economy is in rapid decline?

After getting to tour the property, my tone quickly changed. I realized that perhaps this opening represents the hope Mardrileños and Spaniards need to remember that at some point the coronavirus will be behind us and we will be able to get back to some sort of normal life once again.

For the very same reasons people are binge-watching “Emily in Paris” or sharing viral Tik Tok videos, touring the Four Seasons Madrid represented a wonderful escape I so desperately needed. I think you’ll feel the same, even if you can’t visit just yet. Here’s why.

An icon with a storied history

The Four Seasons Madrid resides in a complex of seven different buildings that date back to the mid-1800s.

A few of the most famous were the Banco Hispano Americano, Banco Español de Crédito and the Equitable Life Assurance, a U.S. company that was housed in the Palace of La Equitativa.

The restoration project was planned and executed by Estudio Lamela. While this name may not ring a bell, you’ve likely seen their work before. Some of their other projects include the renowned Terminal 4 at Madrid’s Barajas Airport (a TPG favourite), the new Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam and the enlargement of the Santiago Bernabeu soccer stadium in Madrid.

Before the buildings were fully gutted, over 16,000 artefacts were taken out and painstakingly restored. Now, a good portion of these have been reincorporated into the hotel. Some of them include massive marble columns and pillars, original railings on staircases, wooden doors, fireplaces and antique door handles. One of the most notable is the stained glass ceiling created by Spanish artists Maumejean. The glass structure once topped the bank’s lobby, and is now the centrepiece of the Four Season’s lobby.

The facade — all 7,800 square meters of it — has been fully restored to its original glory.

Today, the property includes the Four Seasons Hotel with over 200 rooms, 22 private residences, a car park, restaurant Dani Brassiere, and coming soon — the Canalejas Gallery, a three-floor shopping complex.

A fun fact for all the U.S. visitors: An American flew proudly atop the impressive spire you see in the photo above when it was the home of Equitable Life Assurance. The flag was removed in 1898 after protests in front of the building.

Now, it’s reborn

For all its historic splendour, the Four Seasons Madrid also boasts all the modern comforts one expects from the brand. From iPads in every room to 65-inch TVs to those luxurious Four Seasons beds, each room and suite was designed with both elegance and comfort in mind.

Combining seven buildings without disrupting the exterior facade isn’t an easy task, but the Four Seasons Madrid managed it with the utmost grace. But this is why many of the guestrooms are all just slightly different from one another — some may include steps, or have a slightly different shape than others. But don’t worry, they still all feature marble bathrooms, crisp white bed linens and a modern, refined and chic aesthetic.

Room views vary by category: some overlook greenery in the courtyard, while others have views of other buildings in Madrid’s urban core. Some have private terraces or balconies.

Each room has a massive wardrobe and a comfortable desk/workspace for those who are daydreaming of a workcation experience in Spain’s magnificent capital.

And, because this is 2020, the hotel opened with a focus on maintaining a safe environment as part of its global Lead with Care program for both employees and guests.for its employees and guests. It adheres to both national rules and Four Seasons Covid-19 protocols to protect the safety of guests and staff. You’ll get your temperature checked upon entering, and the staff is encouraging guests to use the iPads found in every room for anything they may need in order to minimize contact with staff. Rooms stay empty for several hours before being cleaned, and sanitizer stands are widely available throughout the hotel.

Masks are required in all common areas unless you’re eating or drinking, and the sofas in the lobby are set several feet apart, as are the tables at restaurant Dani. Small hygiene packs of masks, wipes and sanitizer are available for guests in each room/suite.

And for those needing to relax, the Four Seasons boasts the largest spa in Madrid, complete with a hair salon, several treatment rooms, an indoor pool, sauna, steam room and an outdoor sunning area.

The hotel is employing its full staff

Over 200 staff members at the hotel are currently working. In a city where most hotels have been operating with skeleton crews — if they’re even open at all — that can barely cover guests’ needs, the Four Seasons Madrid feels like, well, a Four Seasons in normal times.

This fully-staffed hotel is an anomaly here in Madrid. The Spanish government allows businesses to temporarily ‘lay off’ their employees until they can reopen their businesses to full capacity. These employees receive a significant portion of their regular salary from the government during this time. For this reason, many hotels around the city are staffing just enough employees to keep the hotel running at a bare minimum, with the remainder of their staff at home, not working (but getting paid by the government until hotels see more business and can fully open to ‘rehire’ them).

I’ve had a number of staycations since the coronavirus pandemic emerged. In fact, I haven’t left Spain since February, and all my travelling has been done within the country. I actually wondered if one hotel I stayed at in Malaga this past August was abandoned and taken over by squatters, as there wasn’t a soul to be found at the door, reception or lobby for nearly half an hour when I arrived.

This is not the case at the Four Seasons Madrid. You’ll be greeted by a bellhop upon entering, while another will whisk away your luggage. The hotel lobby bustles with waitstaff and reception. Life feels almost normal again at the Four Seasons Madrid, a brief respite and escape from a world dominated by COVID.

Oh, and if you’re daydreaming about purchasing one of the 22 Four Seasons Madrid residences, you’re out of luck. They’ve all been sold already.

This hotel wants to be for locals (but don’t worry, you should still come!)

Even before the pandemic hit, the Four Seasons Madrid wanted its doors to be open to locals and tourists alike. The hotel wants visitors to feel not only the luxury of a Four Seasons property but also the warm and welcoming culture of Madrid.

For this reason, all the art in the hotel was created by emerging Spanish artists, with the exception of 16 pieces which are replicas of famous masterpieces located in one of the city’s most famous museums, the Thyssen-Bornemisza. This museum is one of the three that make up the city’s so-called “Golden Triangle of Art,” along with the Prado and Reina Sofia museums.

You’ll even find some Spanish influence in the mini bar, where the hotel sourced as many products as possible from Spain. You can still get your potato chips, but ones crisped in Spanish olive oil — olé!.

You can also find local Spanish beauty and skincare products at the spa, too. And let’s not forget that the entire hotel is dotted with Mediterranean-inspired fresh flowers.

Dani Brassiere is the ultimate hangout

Sometimes hotel restaurants can be sterile. Not this one.

Daní Garcia is one of Spain’s most-famous Michelin-starred chefs, known for his international twists on traditional Andalusian cuisine. You may have heard of his restaurants Bibo or Lobito del Mar.

Dani is a little different, though. Dark, sexy and intimate by night; relaxed and casual by day, Dani is the kind of spot you can get all gussied up for in the evening, or have a casual lunch in sneakers and tee-shirt in the middle of the day after spending a long morning “touristing.”

Highlights of the menu include the green gazpacho, a nod to the Andalusian roots of the chef, and the fresh seafood and meat options, such as wild sea bass with parsley oil, or the suckling lamb shoulder. Madrid is slowly becoming more welcoming to vegetarians and vegans. As such, the menu features a small plant-based section, which is relatively unusual compared to Spain’s typically meat-heavy menus. Another special touch? Dani has its very own biodynamic olive oil, cultivated in Andalusian olive groves.

Dani’s exterior rooftop is pretty amazing, too. Madrid’s rooftop scene has exploded in the past few years, and Dani is an addition I’m very excited about. Highlights are the massive umbrellas, which are also heat lamps for those chilly nights. You can get up close and personal to the hotel’s spire and bell tower (I like to imagine what it once looked like with the American flag waving), which is wildly impressive, backed by views of Calle Alcalá, the iconic Metropolis building and an iconic “quadriga” statue depicting horse-driven chariots.

If you’re visiting Madrid but the Four Seasons is a little out of range, at the very least pop up to the rooftop outdoor space at Dani for a refreshing cocktail or glass of Spanish Rioja wine.

The Royal Suite is (or will be) swoon-worthy

The guestrooms and suites are all pretty impressive at this brand new hotel. But the most magnificent of all is the Royal Suite.

The Royal Suite is a world of its own. Unfortunately, this suite wasn’t completely finished during my tour, so I couldn’t snap a lot of photos. But just know that this space, once the former bank president’s office, features one of the original fireplaces and mirrors, as well as chandeliers from Valencia. It comes complete with your own office space, gym area and kitchen, where you can hire a private chef to come in to fix your meals.

And for those who love a hotel bathtub, this circular marble masterpiece is probably the tub of your dreams. Just know these additional luxuries will run you about 20,000 euros per night (the chef costs extra), so start saving.

The Four Seasons Madrid is ready to welcome you

We know that travel restrictions aren’t in our favour right now. But Madrid misses you, and the Four Seasons is ready and waiting to welcome you with open arms when the time is right.

All photos by Lori Zaino and Jorge Ortega Villanueva.

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