What it’s like to stay at Madrid’s most luxurious new hotel

Jun 22, 2021

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Editor’s note: The Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid provided a complimentary stay for TPG to get an early look a the property’s renovations. The opinions expressed below are entirely from the author and weren’t subject to review by Mandarin Oriental or any external entity.


Staying in a luxury hotel is always a wonderful treat.

But after a very long pandemic year lacking significant travel experiences, I can safely say that staying in a beautiful new hotel was even more exciting than before. And the newly renovated, just-opened Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid felt like the dreamy vacation I needed to dive head-first back into travel.

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(Photo by Lori Zaino/The Points Guy)

Why this hotel matters

Before COVID-19, Madrid’s hotel scene was booming.

With hip hotels opening up left and right, visitors (and locals) could experience rooftop pools, outdoor terraces, hidden basement nightclubs and trendy cocktail bars at a number of newly opened properties around the city.

Ironically, it wasn’t until the pandemic hit that Madrid’s luxury hotel scene began to really flourish. It started with the Four Seasons Madrid, a property that was under construction for more than eight years and opened in 2020. Next came the Ritz, once a Marriott property, now owned and operated by Mandarin Oriental, that opened in April of 2021. I’m eagerly awaiting the opening of the Madrid Edition and the JW Marriott, which will hopefully open their doors in 2022.

After staying at the The Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid, though, I can safely say I had one of the most luxurious and comfortable hotel stays I’ve ever experienced in this city (and perhaps in the entirety of Spain).

(Photo by Lori Zaino/The Points Guy)

After living in Madrid for 13 years, one of my favorite things about the Spanish capital is how it slowly adapts to the changing times without ever sacrificing its identity.

As Madrid slowly becomes more diverse, more sustainable and more contemporary, it still manages to retain its classical roots and lively local vibes. I’ve been waiting to find a hotel in this city that perfectly encapsulates this unique character, and I think I’ve found it at this Mandarin Oriental.

It’s difficult to marry 21st-Century modernity with classic history and tradition, but this hotel does it effortlessly.

(Photo by Lori Zaino/The Points Guy)

The history of the property (which I’ll detail below) has much to do with royalty. So it seemed fitting I would be treated like a queen, and I have no doubt in my mind that any guest staying at the Mandarin Oriental would experience the same regal treatment.

It’s worth noting that during my stay here I was 37 weeks pregnant. I was slightly disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy all those extra fun bits of a hotel stay, like the after-dinner nightcap at the hotel bar, the shellfish tower at dinner, or the steam room and sauna, but I still had a great time.

I was pleasantly surprised at how accommodating the hotel staff was in anticipating my every need and going above and beyond. It turns out missing the Champagne bar wasn’t so bad after all — and the small details staff made to accommodate a pregnant woman’s whims (and woes) made it all worth it.

A storied history

I can’t tell the story of the Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid without starting at the beginning — the year 1910.

The hotel came to be partly due to a push from King Alfonso XIII, who felt that Madrid needed to be elevated to the level of other European capitals with the presence of a grand luxury hotel. The king was embarrassed that his fellow aristocrats had to be housed in private residences a few years earlier when visiting Madrid for his wedding to Queen Victoria Eugenia. It was time for a change.

The king became a shareholder in the Ritz Development Company, and the design of the Ritz Madrid slowly took shape with Charles Mewes (architect of the iconic Ritz Paris) at the helm, alongside Spanish architects Luis de Landecho and Lorenzo Gallego, and even César Ritz himself. The Ritz would be the first steel-framed building in Spain, signaling that the city had indeed arrived.

Once constructed, the Ritz spent most of its years playing host to international royal figures, including Diana, Princess of Wales, Princess Grace of Monaco, various aristocrats, Spanish royalty and more.

Over the years, the hotel would change hands between different hotel groups; and during the Spanish Civil War (1936 to 1939) the hotel was even temporarily used as a military hospital. More recently, it was part of Marriott International before Mandarin Oriental took control in 2015.

After the extensive renovation by Mandarin Oriental, the hotel is now easily Madrid’s most luxurious place to stay.

A hotel that once had many rules (it famously turned away both Michael Jackson and Gene Kelly for arriving with pets), including a ban on visitors from the show-business world, no ladies in trousers, and compulsory neckties for men, is now welcoming to all, including celebrities, politicians and modern royals.

It wouldn’t be strange to run into the likes of George Bush, Jennifer Lopez or a Saudi prince in the lobby (I didn’t run into any of them during my stay, though you can never tell with masks these days!).

(Photo by Lori Zaino/The Points Guy)

Reborn for the modern world

The hotel features 100 rooms and 53 suites, each drawing on the hotel’s regal roots, but ensuring the utmost in modern style, luxury and comfort for guests.

The Ritz actually has fewer guestrooms now than when it first opened over a century ago, mainly due to the fact that not every guest room had its own bathroom back in 1910. (There were 10 bathrooms per floor — a real luxury in those times.) As time went on, bathrooms were added to each guestroom, and later, showers into each bathroom.

The hotel’s restoration was led by Spanish architect Rafael de La-Hoz, alongside French designers Gilles and Boissier, a nod to César Ritz. It’s all about the details at this hotel, many of which are focused on art. (I’d be remiss not to include a note here on the hotel’s location, which is just across the street from Spain’s most famous art museum, the Museo Nacional del Prado.)

(Photo by Lori Zaino/The Points Guy)

I was really excited to see the new interior, mainly because I’d visited and stayed at the hotel several years back, and felt its desperate need for a refresh. Heaviness is the first thing that came to mind then — lots of fabric. I recall brocade, dim lighting, thick drapes and tired carpeting — I felt like I was visiting a palace that hadn’t been touched in 100 years.

The new Ritz couldn’t be more different.

(Photo by Lori Zaino/The Points Guy)

Walking into the lobby (after a quick temperature check and hand sanitizer moment), I first noticed the original, majestic staircase (refreshed, of course) which firmly stands to the left of a glittering ceiling sculptural piece, a tribute to the nearby Retiro Park. A unique take on the chandelier, the art piece is one of many in the hotel that honor Madrid’s elegance in a contemporary manner.

(Photo by Lori Zaino/The Points Guy)

Continuing on, I felt Madrid’s brilliant blue sky shining down on me through a canopy glass ceiling in the Palm Court, an original design feature that came from César Ritz himself which was sadly covered up for close to 80 years.

Opening up and recreating this glass ceiling brings a natural glow into the hotel that seemed to follow me throughout my stay, a complete “180” from the before-renovation days.

It’s no wonder the Palm Court was full of impeccably dressed Madrileños (ladies in trousers are very much allowed in these days) and a spattering of visiting tourists for afternoon tea.

Although getting afternoon tea service was tempting, my heavily pregnant self needed to get in the elevator and relax briefly in my room, an interior junior suite, before continuing to explore.

(Photo by Lori Zaino/The Points Guy)

As I meandered down the hallways, I noticed distinct crowns on the carpeting in front of each room door. Each was different, signifying a specific monarch in European history.

After about 20 delightful and different crowns later, I arrived at room 416.

Guest rooms and suites

Entering the room, I first noticed how bright it was compared to the dark days before this renovation. The crisp white linens and gold details glistened in the sunlight (my suite was an interior room overlooking the glass canopy below), and the dark wood appeared modern against the subtle beige furnishings and marble desk.

A fruit plate, nuts, juices and snacks were left on a table for me. A small cake was on a plate made to look like one of the hotel’s turrets — so cool! I smiled at the monogrammed pillowcases, complete with my husband’s and my own first initials. I’d never considered the fact one might sleep better on a monogrammed pillowcase, but now I surely do.

I entered the bathroom and was overjoyed to see the gorgeous, freestanding tub, as well as the large rainfall shower and white marble everywhere.

The amenities were Natura Bissé (rosemary and white tea), and the tub came with special bath salts. There was a ghd-brand hair dryer and straightener, as well as small vanity kits available too. I can fully attest to the fact that the tub was incredible for a relaxing bath. I took three, yes, three, in a 24-hour period — remember, pregnancy!

The king bed was plush and comfortable, and that, combined with a Ritz pregnancy pillow and automatic room-darkening blinds ensured I got the perfect night of sleep (or was it the monogrammed pillowcases?).

I did notice, however, that the long, backless bench accompanying the long desk wasn’t ideal for work. So I did what anyone staying at the Ritz Madrid should do — shut my computer off, left work behind and went to sit outside in the beautiful gardens to enjoy the sunshine.

During a brief hotel tour, I was able to check out various room categories. The lowest room category is the superior guest room. These rooms are smaller and lack a freestanding tub, but still have plenty of light streaming in and the same basic design scheme.

For some serious opulence, consider the turret suites, which feature outdoor terraces and unique circular rooms.

The presidential suite is a regal splurge, with handpainted murals, full dining and entertaining areas, and stunning views of the Prado, Jeronimos Church and beyond. Oh, and let’s not forget what might be the most opulent bathtub I’ve ever witnessed, outfitted in gold and marble.

Service

It’s true — prices for a stay at the Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid are on the high end. And Madrid, in general, is a relatively affordable city where you can stay in fancy hotels for less than you would in other capitals. But you won’t get true luxury without a higher price tag, especially that golden Ritz service, and that is really where this hotel shines brightly above the others.

My suite came with a dedicated butler — Claudia was assigned to me — for my stay. She immediately informed me that she had left a pregnancy pillow on the bed, and a special cooling gel in the bathroom in case my legs or feet were swollen due to the pregnancy. She “hoped that was okay.”

Claudia, it was more than okay. Thoughtful actions and attention to even the smallest details would be a theme of my stay, completed by various (always masked) members of staff. That’s where I feel the Ritz stands on its own in this city.

Each time I contacted Claudia throughout my stay, she’d resolve my need or issue within minutes, never making me wait. The speed at which staff attended to my every need was mind-blowingly quick, especially in a city where everything moves at a leisurely-to-extremely-slow-pace and everyone and everything is late. (Oh, Spain, we love you for it, though!) When I called her to request a decaf Nespresso capsule for my one-night stay, it felt like only seconds before she showed up with the entire tube! (Just in case, she said.)

It’s the service here that really stands out, and the hotel, though seemingly new, runs like a well-oiled machine. I suspect that even though visually the hotel has undergone a complete overhaul, much of the original staff and procedural policies remain in place, ensuring the service is above and beyond, just as it’s likely always been.

Dining

The Mandarin Oriental Ritz features several dining options. The first and most glamorous is Deessa, lead by Michelin-star Spanish chef Quique Dacosta. The restaurant’s space is incredibly chic, decked out in sculptures, gold, and art inspired by salt (yes, salt) as a nod to its Mediterranean-focused menu.

Unfortunately, Deessa is closed on Mondays, when I stayed,  so I was unable to test it out. But from just walking through the space, I knew the hotel had hit the mark with the restaurant’s design and ambiance.

As an alternative, I enjoyed dinner at the Palm Court underneath the beautiful crystal canopy as dusk gave way to night. The menu is varied with a surprisingly well-priced wine list (some Spanish varieties were available for just $10 a glass). I started off with tomato tartare, complemented with herbs and paprika (a nod to chef Quique Dacosta’s roots — he hails from the Extremadura region, a very underrated area of western Spain that cultivates this smoky spice), and some crab in a garlic butter sauce (finally, seafood I could safely eat while pregnant!), which melted in my mouth.

Then, we ordered the jarrete for two, a roasted beef shank with a sage glaze. When the meat arrived, my eyes opened wide — I couldn’t believe how big it was! My mouth immediately watered, and the beef was just as tender and savory as I imagined — an excellent choice for carnivores.

Although I stuck with sparkling water, my husband paired the first course with a light, fruity white wine from France’s Loire Valley, and a stronger, red Syrah from Spain’s Castilla y Leon region was the perfect match for the beef. We shared the dark chocolate mousse with pralines for dessert, which was divine.

I also appreciated the excellent service from all the staff, who repeatedly asked if I was comfortable, brought me additional pillows for lumbar support and made sure the ingredients of each dish I ordered were pregnancy-safe, adhering to both my partner’s and my own dietary restrictions.

The following morning, I enjoyed breakfast under the morning light of the Palm Court’s luminous canopy. Thanks to COVID, don’t expect a buffet. You can order a la carte, or choose the “La Noria” option (meaning Ferris wheel in Spanish) which is a set menu featuring all sorts of delightful pastries, cheeses, yogurt, fresh bread, and a savory dish such as eggs Benedict.

“La Noria” also comes with Serrano ham, which is artfully cut by a trained ham-leg slicer (yes, this is a thing in Spain). She also explained to me I could see the ham leg’s details (where it was from, how the animal was fed, and what year the ham was salted and cured) using an app to scan the tag.

(Photo by Lori Zaino/The Points Guy)

If it’s cocktails or liquid cuisine (yup, liquid cuisine!) you’re after, stop into the gorgeous Pictura Bar. One of my favorite areas of the hotel, this bar drips with golden, regal opulence, but also seems dark, intimate and sexy all at the same time.

The framed portraits of significant contributors to Spain’s creative scene taken by photographer Paula Anta are an ode to the past, present and future. Photographed in the typical style in which portraits were often painted by famed Spanish artists like Francisco Goya or Diego Velázquez “back in the day,” these unique portraits showcase Spain’s current and even emerging talent, with one photograph of a young girl to signify a future filled with innovation.

After dinner, we stopped into Pictura to admire the art, and my husband ordered the White Lady cocktail, which was made from gin, lemon, egg whites, soda water and Cointreau. It tasted yummy, according to him, but the real fun was the presentation, as the cocktail arrived in a diamond-shaped glass presented in the clutch of a hand.

(Photo by Lori Zaino/The Points Guy)

It’s also possible to dine and drink al fresco in the charming Ritz Gardens.

(Photo by Lori Zaino/The Points Guy)

And, for those who love their bubbles, the intimate Champagne bar, with just eight seats, offers bubbly flights and food pairings.

The spa

For the first time in the history of the Ritz Madrid, the property has a spa and wellness area. The Ritz partnered with Spain’s The Beauty Concept to offer a variety of facial and body treatments. During my stay, I sampled the “Mums-to-be” massage. My masseuse, Jennifer, told me that future moms deserve to be treated with extra care, and proceeded to offer me a full 75 minutes of pure bliss in an impeccably clean and beautiful treatment room.

There’s also the fitness center, which is large and has both machines and weights. But the real excitement comes in the form of the stunning indoor pool, which sits beneath giant chandeliers and a lighting system meant to replicate Madrid’s night sky. There’s also a steam room, sauna and a small set of circulation and sensation showers.

Non-hotel guests can book spa treatments (this gives you access to the indoor pool area as well), but make sure to reserve ahead, because they do get busy.

Bottom line

Now that vaccinated American visitors are welcome in Spain, you can experience the luxurious Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid for yourself.

Room rates start at €640 (about $780) per night. Through Aug. 31, you can take advantage of the opening offer, which includes additional benefits of free breakfast, a guided city tour, a dining credit of €150 (about $180) for rooms and €300 (about $360) for suites and a special Ritz gift.

If you plan to stay here, or typically stay at Mandarin Oriental properties, don’t forget to join the brand’s loyalty program, Fans of M.O., which offers members perks such as room upgrades, daily breakfast, late check out, free WiFi, dining and spa credits and more.

(Photo by Lori Zaino/The Points Guy)

The Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid has cemented itself at the very top of the booming hotel scene in Spain’s capital.

It successfully completed a stunning restoration that preserves the hotel’s unique history while embracing modern, understated luxury and has also maintained one key aspect of the hotel: its dedication to impeccable service. The staff is incredible, offering a smile and helping hand while catering to every need of each and every one of its guests.

Featured image by Lori Zaino/The Points Guy

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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