City Guide: Madrid, Spain

Madrid me mata, an unsettling slogan adopted during the city's 1980s countercultural movement, refers to the crazy and somewhat self-destructive nature of life in the Spanish capital. Step onto the streets around 3-4AM on any given day, and it's clear that over three decades later Madrid continues to have its wicked way with tourists and residents alike.

The problem with a translation of this motto into English is that "Madrid is killing me" fails to capture the paradoxical relationship between the city and the decline of man. Madrid is a city of contradictions: it's beautiful yet run-down; it's steeped in tradition yet impressively innovative; it's incredibly laid-back yet mercilessly fast-paced.

Death by Madrid is not a painful or undesirable experience. Rather than a swift assassination, it is a passion crime leading from a volatile romance that leaves you exhausted, excited, and at all costs wanting more. Without any further ado, here's our love letter to the city.

hotel

Only You Hotel

Madrid , Spain

Set in a resorted 19th-century palace with colonial details, Only You Hotel Madrid has earned some serious design accolades – including “The Best Design Boutique Hotel in the World” at the World Boutique Hotel Awards. Breakfast is served when you please and if you didn’t think you’d be craving fluffy omelettes and golden pastries at 3PM following a night at Café Berlin, then you didn’t sink enough mojitos. Early birds receive early check-in upon arrival (perfect for those pesky budget airline arrival times). If you can, upgrade to a Secret Junior Suite as these boast prettily-tiled terraces that demand you take your breakfast-when-you-like al fresco. Crispy white and blue palettes, arched windows, whitewashed shutters and glass-walled rainforest shower complete the regal interior. Make sure to try the country's finest Ibérico meats and cheeses downstairs in the old Padrino bookshop, which occupies the ground floor.

Address

Calle Barquillo 21 28004

hotel

URSO Hotel & Spa

Madrid , Spain

Strategically located between the trendy Malasańa and Chueca neighbourhoods and the boutiques along Calle Fuencarral, Urso’s prime position attracts a savvy, fashion-forward crowd. Many of the palatial buildings original features have been maintained including the mahogany lift and opulent stained-glass windows. Light floods the spacious rooms dressed in soft champagne and mellow teal hues, while bespoke red pomegranate bath products (created by The Lab Room) adorn the marble bathroom. For a more indulgent pampering, head to the urban spa to try the Diamond Rose massage where you’ll be slathered in diamond dust and rich rose oil. A favourite among Madrid’s movers and shakers, Media Ración serves up traditional small plates alongside a delectable cheese menu. The restaurant’s name may translate to mean “half portion” – but we don’t recommend sharing.

Address

Calle de Mejía Lequerica 8 28004

hotel

Hotel Único

Madrid , Spain

Housing one of the best restaurants in Spain – the two-Michelin-starred Ramon Freixa Madrid – Unico is a favourite among gourmet travellers. Dinner is theatrical dining at its finest. Tuck in to eight- or 20-course tasting menus serving up duck burger with green-mustard ice cream and red-mullet asparagus and caviar. A city big on brunch, Frexia also takes this under his wing with a menu boasting classic eggs benedict alongside oxtail burgers and Asian inspired lamb shank. Unico has cleverly managed to maintain its private residence feel, having started life off as a grand residence, keeping its pale-grey facade and marble walls. The well-maintained garden is an oasis in the heart of the city; the library lounge plays perennial host to Madrid’s well-heeled and during the warmer months The Fora Garden Bar serenade patrons with a live jazz band.

Address

Claudio Coello 67 28001

hotel

Tótem

Madrid , Spain

The sister hotel to Urso, Tótem positions itself as a meeting point for madrileños and visitors alike. The vibe is impeccably cool without being too aloof or try-hard – think avant-garde timelessness paired with contemporary furnishings, a palette of blush pinks, charcoals and vivid purples. All rooms boast cloud-like beds, mid-century furnishings and black marble bathrooms, with the larger suites opening up to intimate courtyards with corner-sofas.

Address

Hermosilla 23 2800

hotel

Room Mate Óscar Hotel

Madrid , Spain

“Do you want to sleep with me?” asks Hotel Room Mate Óscar in large white laters plastered above it’s entrance in the heart of Chueca. With minimalist rooms and one of the most popular rooftop terrace bars in Madrid complete with an all-day all-night pool; we’d take Oscar up on that offer if I were you.

Address

Plaza de Pedro Zerolo 12 28004

hotel

Eric Vokel Boutique Apartments

Madrid , Spain

First Barcelona and now Madrid; Copenhagen-born architect Eric Vokel has worked his magic across Spain, designing suites that match Nordic elegance with affordable prices. If you’re stopping by for more than a weekend, check into one of these self-catering rooms in the heart of Malasaña and get exploring.

Address

San Bernardo 61 28015