A sucker for jetsetting to a place that hasn’t yet been scratched off the world map hanging on my wall, I was delighted to hola, gracias and Dóndemy way to Madrid upon being asked. One Iberia plane ride later (which I kept calling Iberico by mistake, much to my embarrassment), I hopped into a taxi and Arriba, Arriba! Ándale, Ándale-ed! My way into the capital.
First Impressions: It’s often hard to formulate an opinion of a city from the outset, and most, until you really get under their skin, have the tendency to appear similar in the ways of hustle and bustle, hands out for taxis and intimidating buildings littering the eyes. My first time in Madrid held this initial welcome, but I was yet to discover so much more about the rich culture of the Spanish capital. First to the hotel, and whilst 5-star Barceló Torre de Madrid may not be especially striking from the outside, it is without doubt captivating from within. The 258-roomed interior masterpiece flung its doors open in January 2017, situated in the Torre de Madrid (translating to ‘tower of Madrid’), which is one of the city’s tallest buildings. This is obviously a plus, as it makes the building pretty unmissable post-Sangría and Clara de Limón nights!
Designed by Spanish designer Jaime Hayón, winner of the EDIDA 2016 design award, the interior looks akin to an Instagram paradise. Greeted by a giant sculpture of a bear – the hotel’s logo and staple of Madrid (the Bear and the Strawberry Tree can be found in Plaza Puerta del Sol) it’s cameras out upon entry into the hotel’s spacious and playful lobby, to capture the pastel tones adorning the entry way.
The Look: Whilst there are bedazzling stand-out pieces splashed throughout the hotel, the underlying colour scheme is evident, with Hayon using contemporary tones of powder pinks, sage greens and slate greys. As a bolder contrast to these wall shades, there’s chairs and furniture pieces that ooze richness and after-hours allure, in emerald greens and midnight blues. What is evident, is the attention to detail Hayon has gone to; at reception on floor two, amongst other places, sit chairs that have been moulded to the way people sit with their arms out, fitting to the shape of the body. Throughout the hotel, there are commissioned artworks unique to Barceló Torre de Madrid, that display stand-out portraits of people in Spanish attire; the most eerily beautiful of which sits by the spa area and features a woman in traditional Flamenco dress.
The bedroom shares this chic, relaxed feel, emanating a vibe of newness, despite the hotel falling close to two years old. Wrapped around the king-sized bed is a plasma screen, an oh, so sweet writing desk with intricated additions such as a Oliver Bonas looking Spanish dictionary, and a long wardrobe clad with safe. The room feels more like a private condo, with a dining area allowing you to bring the charm of Madrid’s cuisine to your hotel room, and an additional seating area that shares the Hayon design of centre-piece sofas. By far, highlights included a throw-open door that leads to a charming view of Madrid’s renowned Gran Via Street, which threw out very NYC-y vibes. The room provides a charming spot to witness the palace lights and the ebbs and flows of the city between sleep. A further highlight was the bathroom; a sunken bath sits neatly at the end of the marbled space, and a large shower area provides a waterfall experience, with a button that, once pressed, turns the shower onto perfect temperature.
The Area: The 36-storey building is a idyllic wander away from Madrid’s main attractions, located just by flamboyant neighbourhoods Conde Duque and more student-y area, Malasana. Whilst visiting, I got the locals perspective whilst touring, tending to steer clear of more the busier tourist traps. Barceló Torre de Madrid offers a very useful incentive in the way of tours, named B-Tours. The tours involve Madrid locals –Madrilenians – as they are better known, take to the streets with guests to visit hidden gems. I can highly recommend Manu Garcia del Moral; a tour guide who immersed us in Madrid culture, from the Sunday flea markets at El Rastro, to a calamari sandwich and beer at off-the-beaten-track, packed-out restaurant Bar La Campana.
Whilst it would take me more than just a review to describe the abundance of activities in Madrid, highlights do include the Sunday night sunset, best enjoyed with Champagne atop of the hill where the authentic Egyptian Temple of Debod sits (charge your phones!) Additionally, if you’re too enthralled in your current Aperol Spritz, rooftop bars are aplenty, and a popular aspect of Madrid come the summer. The Madrid architecture is as beautiful as that found in Barceló Torre de Madrid, with colours synonymous to hot days and orange groves. Suffice to say if you love a bright backdrop it’s quite the city. Weaving through narrow lanes past counters of churros and down cobbled streets leads you to mysterious places each time, some areas busy, some you could hear a pin drop.
Last, but by no means least, the Palace of Madrid is a must-visit. Every trip needs a slice of tourist thrown in – right? The Palace, grandiose in nature, sits proudly at Calle de Bailen, oozing elegance. The official residence of the Royal family – who I unfortunately didn’t spot this time – replaced the former medieval Alcázar, which was burnt to the ground in 1794.
Facilities: I’m still dreaming of the back massage I received at Barceló Torre de Madrid. The thing is with city-breaks is you definitely need some relaxation thrown in there post stomping about and racking up steps. The spa at Barcelo is very serene; a skylit swimming pool being the main feature, displaying views of Madrid’s Retiro Park and building tops poking proudly out against the skyline. There’s an outdoor solarium, a gym, and sauna. Be warned, the pool is rather on the chilly side and you have to don a swimming cap during use…suffice to say I didn’t look my best.
The hotel also features a giant lobby, in which the staff encourage you to really lounge about and feel at home. I heard on the grapevine of the excitement when one guest took their shoes off and propped them up onto the specially designed sofa whilst perusing the day’s paper. I can vouch for the lobby being a real hotspot for a lounge and magazine. There’s also a huge standalone bar, named Garra, that shimmers and stretches towards the ceiling in gold glory, illuminated by gold and white lamps; perhaps the most glamourous aspect of the hotel.
There’s also Somos, the hotel restaurant, which can be found by following the soft driftings of 1920s music. The visage of the restaurant is stunning, with vibrant red being the over-arching theme of the large, sexy space, quite the contrast to the pastel, softer tones throughout the hotel. The restaurant boasts large windows that, again, provide gazing views of the city hubbub. You could easily get caught up in drifting aboutBarceló Torre de Madrid, taking photos of undiscovered paraphenlia across the hotels’ many floors.
What We Ate: Madrid, and Spain in particular, is synonymous for tapas. In fact, visiting without indulging in the cuisine would be a travesty. Which is why we were tapas-‘ed’ out by the time we boarded Iberia back to London. Downstairs in Barceló Torre de Madrid’s glistening James Bond-esque bar area, we feasted on an array of highly recommended tapas; a notable dish being anchovies and crisps. Madrileños usually start their tapeo off withthis dish which, for our group in particular, produce a few scrunched-up mouths and grimaces, perhaps making it the Spanish version of marmite – personally? I loved it. Plus, tapas is highly recommended with some red vino, or an espresso martini which I “sampled’ in their multitude.
Upstairs in Somos, Spanish cuisine can be found in abundance. Open for lunch and dinner you can indulge in dishes like secreto iberico, grilled hake or mushroom croquetas. However, the breakfast buffet for me trumped the lot, with a selection as eclectic as Madrid’s exuberant quarters. On offer there are chia seeds to be sprinkled on just about anything, a huge selection of ham and cheese, cereals galore, churros with chocolate, pastries and brightly coloured smoothies that can’t help but make you whip the phone out.
Final Word: I’ll eat my hat if this isn’t Madrid’s most instagrammable hotel, chic from the start! If you’re after a city break, or if you’re craving a weekend away with the girls or guys, Barceló Torre de Madrid is the insta-worthy winner!
Barceló Torre de Madrid, Plaza de España, 18, 28008 Madrid, Spain, www.barcelo.com