Gran Hotel Inglés is a heritage hideaway in Madrid’s Barrio de las Letras, brought back to its former glory by New York architect David Rockwell. The original incarnation opened its doors in 1886 and Spain’s literary legends flocked through them. Today, the art deco references continue the grand, historic atmosphere, and the hotel is as fashionable and favoured as ever. The street below may no longer be named after a wolf, but hotel restaurant Lobo 8 has kept the evocative name, along with an art-form array of tapas. And the literary-quarter setting means you’ll find all Madrid’s key cultural players within an easy amble.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm, also flexible.
Double rooms from $275.34 (€249), excluding tax at 10 per cent.
Rates don’t usually include breakfast (€30 a person).
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, gym, valet parking. In rooms: TV, iPod dock, air-conditioning, minibar, free bottled water, tea- and coffee-making kit, wellies, hair straighteners and L’Occitane bath products.
Our favourite rooms
If a (Twenties-style, freestanding, roll-top) bath is a dealbreaker, don’t choose a Deluxe. If a balcony’s your bag, request a room with one when you book. All rooms have an art deco influence, with soft grey chairs, gilded edges and velvet headboards, but if you’d prefer to survey the streets of the lively literary quarter below, opt for an outward-facing room, rather than one overlooking the inner courtyard.
There’s a petite Jacuzzi plunge pool in the spa, which you’ll need to book in advance.
The award-winning Égoïste Spa deploys Anne Semonin products for facials, massages and other rejuvenating rituals (which include vinotherapy and jet-lag cures) in its four treatment rooms.
Stubble, scarves and specs will help you look the literary part; a well-thumbed copy of an early-20th-century Spanish classic might help you keep up the pretence.
Some rooms have been specially adapted for wheelchair users, but the restaurant isn’t wheelchair accessible.
All ages are welcome. Extra beds and cots can be added to all rooms. Babysitting is available from €25 an hour; it’s advisable to give a week’s notice and a cancellation fee applies. Little Smiths are welcome in the restaurant but not the bar.
Sit next to the open kitchen if you want to get some tapas tips; otherwise, go for one of the round booths.
Not too shaggy.
Lobo 8 is so called after the Spanish word for wolf, and there are lupine references everywhere (except actually on your plate). Breakfast is an indulgent spread of pastries, smoothies and homemade jams; don’t miss the house-special fried eggs, served with pan con tomate and jamón ibérico. Later in the day, the classic Spanish cooking continues, with some modern mastery by chef Willy Moya thrown in. Don’t miss the croquetas; other favourites include the almond gazpacho and truffled eggs with chorizo and fried potatoes.
LobByto is in the lobby (natch) and the first thing you see as you enter the hotel (handy if you’re desperate for a drink). The staff channel Jay Gatsby’s styleas they mix up dry martinis; there’s also a whole menu dedicated to gin. Tasty tapas (mini stew of the day, squid sandwiches, and so on) are served whenever you want them. There’s also an impressive choice of wine, vermouth and beer.
Breakfast is from 7am until 11am; lunch hours are 1.30pm to 4pm; dinner service is 8.30pm until 11.30pm. The bar is open until midnight.
Breakfast and a series of snacks, salads and sandwiches (including some child-friendly options) can be served in-room.
Gran Hotel Inglés is in Madrid’s Barrio de las Letras, aka the literary quarter.
Madrid’s Barajas airport is 14 kilometres away; the drive should take about 20 minutes, and hotel transfers start from €100 each way.
The city’s grand old Atocha station is a 15-minute drive from the hotel; transfers start at €75. Renfe services arrive from other cities across Europe, including Barcelona, Lyon and Marseille (www.renfe.com).
The city-centre setting means you won’t need a car to get around; parking at the hotel costs €35 a day if you insist.
Worth getting out of bed for
The marvels of Madrid are laid out before you, whether you want to go for a jog (optimistic) around El Retiro Park, the entrance to which is 15 minutes on foot from Gran Hotel, shop along the callesGran Via or Serrano, or visit the Prado museum. Raise a toast to all things cerveza in the old-fashioned German beer hall Cerveceria Alemana, which has been serving fermented hops to thirsty punters since 1904. A flea market has existed on the same site as El Rastro since the Middle Ages; magpies can get their fix every Sunday and public holiday. Trainspotters will love the 19th-century Atocha station, which is still in operation but has simultaneously been transformed into a tropical garden. The barrio has lots of flamenco shows, the oldest of which can be witnessed at Corral de la Moreria, a 20-minute walk from the hotel.
Hipster-favoured Habanera on Calle de Genova has indoor palms, parquet floors and a buzzy brunch vibe. For some of the best tapas in town and a whole load of old-school, wood-panelled charm, hit up Bodega de la Ardosa on Calle de Colon, which has been deep-frying croquetas since 1892. Madrid’s oldest-restaurant prize however goes to Sobrino de Botin (est. 1725), which is touristy but traditional – be sure to book if you want to devour delicious suckling pig. Push the boat (and the purse strings) out at the three-Michelin-star Diver XO, the two-star Coque and Bibo.
Nocturnal sorts will find like-minded souls and great music at the Jungle Jazz Clubon Calle de Jorge Juan. Stick around to the end of the night and join the clubbers in possibly the best local tradition we’ve ever heard of: going for churros after dancing into the small hours – everyone flocks to Chocolateria San Ginés.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this luxury hotel in Spain and unpacked their jamón ibérico, a full account of their city break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Gran Hotel Inglés in Madrid…
The year 1886 is a long time ago, but that’s exactly how long the Gran Hotel Inglés has been going strong. With a guestbook that includes Virginia Woolf and Henri Matisse and a setting once flâneured through by Cervantes and Lope de Vega, the hotel’s past is a lot to live up to. A modernising makeover by the Rockwell Group has taken care of that, though: the number of rooms has been scaled down to 48 and the restaurant no longer attempts to do 300 covers, settling instead on serving the tantalising tapas that made the area popular at the turn of the century. The art deco design is matched by the dapper staff – the waiters could give Jay Gatsby a run for his sharp linen suits. You can look as dashing as him in the slick lobby bar, with an artfully mixed martini or a G&T from the special gin menu in hand. The glory days are still to come.
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