Madrileños are known for their style, and the Spain-goes-Scandi elegance of Hotel Urso does its city proud. And there’s plenty to back up the good looks, too: top-notch service, a small but serene spa and an award-winning restaurant serving delectable small plates.
Get this when you book through us:
A glass of wine each, a traditional tapa at the restaurant and early check-in and late check-out (if available); guests staying three nights or more also get €30 spa credit for massages and treatments
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £161.86 (€180), including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates don’t usually include breakfast.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV; Nespresso machine; minibar with beer, wine, water and soft drinks; air conditioning; black-out curtains; hair dryer; Lab Room toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
Go for an Urso Terrace Suite: they’re penthouse-style spaces with separate lounges and bedrooms, and huge private terraces (complete with loungers for chilling out in the sun and a dining space… breakfast on the roof, perhaps?)
Take a dip in the small, heated pool in the spa.
Hit the steam room at the Urso Spa by Natura Bissé for instant relaxation after a long day of exploring (or a long night of gin sipping). Or, take to one of the the three treatment rooms for a massage. If even that sounds too much like hard work, book an in-room appointment and let the spa come to you. Please note, the minimum age for spa entry is 14.
Sunglasses pull double duty here: the clientele’s as cool as the sun is bright, all year round.
All common areas and some guest rooms are wheelchair accessible.
To soak up the last rays of the Spanish sun, request a table by the windows.
Nothing formal required, but with a restaurant concept this cool, aim hip.
Media Ración serves (as it's name, which translates as 'half portion', would suggest) the traditional small plates for which Madrid is famous. We're fond of the muscles, cockles, caviar and anchovies on the seafood side of things, and partial to the Spanish classics, including croquetas, foie gras, smoked eel, sobrasada sausage and white shrimp toast. Make sure you leave room for cheese which, in true Media Ración style, can be sampled in quarters, by halves or whole. Those with a sweet tooth will find the bread with hot chocolate sauce, cheesecake or toasted vanilla cream hard to resist.
If you’re a gin fiend, you’re in luck: so’s the bar manager. Sit back in the bar-ified corner of the open-plan ground floor and let the experts mix you something new (and they’ll write down the recipe for you, too).
From Sunday to Thursday, the restaurant is open for lunch from 1.30pm to 3.45pm and dinner from 8.30pm to 10.45pm. On Friday and Saturday, dinner is served until 11.15pm.
Snack in your room whenever you like: order cheese and cured meat platters if you fancy grazing, or perhaps a burger if you’re a little more peckish.
You can’t get much more central than Hotel Urso’s middle-of-Madrid location.
Touch down at Madrid–Barajas airport, about 20 minutes’ drive from the hotel. It’s one of Europe’s busiest airports, with regular arrivals from around the world, including services from London Heathrow and City airports, Paris, Berlin, Newark, Philadelphia and Washington, DC. The hotel can organise transfers for up to three people in a Tesla S75 (€95 one way; €170 return) or a Mercedes E-Class for (€89 one way; €160 return). If there are more than three of you or you have lots of luggage, book the roomier Mercedes Viano (€135 one way, €240 return).
Madrid’s extensive metro network willth quickly whisk you around town (including to and from the airport, which has its own station). If you’re heading further afield, the nearby Atocha railway station, in the centre of town, is served by Renfe and Eurostar, taking you all over Spain and beyond.
Madrid’s user-friendly public transport, plentiful taxis and strollable streets mostly render cars redundant, but if you do arrive on four wheels you’ll find valet and self-parking onsite for €33.
Worth getting out of bed for
From your hotel home-from-home, you have the entire capital on your doorstop – you’re a five-minute stroll from the city’s most exclusive shopping strip and, for instance, or just 10 minutes on foot from El Prado. But with so many options, a little insider knowledge comes in handy… some of Hotel Urso’s staff favourites for sightseeing include the picturesque Palacio de Cristal in Buen Retiro Park (built in 1887 as a greenhouse, but now home to art exhibits) and the iconic Plaza de Cibeles – a square full of fountains that’s synonymous with the city itself. The cultural centre Círculo de Bellas Artes – with its calendar packed with shows, films, exhibitions and events – is also worth a visit, as is the Teatros Del Canal. In Argüelles you'll find Spain's only Egyptian temple; equally monumental is Picasso's Guernica, which you can see on display at the Reina Sofia Museum.
Madrid’s restaurant scene is ever-changing, but St James (26 Calle Juna Bravo) has a well-established reputation as one of the best arrocerias (paella places) in town. Casa Botín, at 17 Calle Cuchilleros, serves classic Madrid favourites, and Ten Con Ten (6 Calle Ayala) specialises in modern Spanish cuisine. For seafood, head to Opazo at 20 Calle de la Reina Mercedes, and Basque flavours are on offer at Casa Txistu (6 Plaza de Ángel Carbajo).
Gran Clavel is a vermouth and wine bar in one, so you can mix it up – it'll be worth the next day's groggy head. Or, for a glass of sherry wine in authentically old-school surround, La Venencia (7 Calle de Echegaray) is a charming throwback with weathered wood and peeling posters.
Trips often mark significant moments in life. When I was was finishing my three-year tenure as executive chef at Belgraves Hotel, I was in desperate need of a weekend away – one far enough away to feel like a holiday, but not so far that the journey would be wearying. I plumped for Madrid, one of those cities that’s always been there in the background without exciting me very much. Boy, was I wrong. Madrid, I discovered, is warm, cultured and very sexy.
I always think you can tell a good hotel in the first five minutes. Hotel Urso didn’t disappoint. The doormen were stylish and charming, check-in was smooth and instantly our shoulders dropped a few inches. The lobby was an interesting mix of modern design and classic European elegance: old-school wrought iron, plush muted colours and a living wall of greenery.
Once up in our room, we found it spacious and well stocked (traditional delights like violet pastilles, Marcona almonds and Ruinart Champagne are always a plus for me). The pale greys and yellows proved immediately soothing, tempting Mr Smith and me to try the bed for a quick post-flight nap (unsurprisingly, it proved very comfortable indeed).
We pottered around the neighbourhood for lunch, starting in one bar for jamón iberico, then moving on to sea urchin croquettes in another; favourite finds included El Paraguas for good service, interesting menus and a crowd of monied locals, or Ultramarinos Quintin for modern pintxos and tapas, and a great gin selection. (We missed Sala de Despiece, which is supposed to be brilliant, but it’s on our list for next time). After that, the hotel spa and hydrotherapy pool was the perfect place to steam away the excesses of lunch.
After an afternoon of eating and drinking, we opted to continue in the evening – despite being a tourist destination, the gorgeous Mercado de San Miguel served up an overwhelmingly mouthwatering selection of tapas, wine and cocktails. From the classic grilled Padron peppers to tiny baby eels cooked in garlic, there was something for everyone. The foodie in me loved it. The next day, we started with more food, of course: Urso’s breakfast proved fantastic. The Continental array was varied and interesting, and the à la carte menu delightfully non-standard, with gluten-free options and a lovely dish of poached eggs with truffles.
You won’t be surprised to learn, given our appetites, that my main reason for choosing Hotel Urso was its foodie credentials. For the past few months, the hotel restaurant has been a revolving pop up with various renowned chefs from all over Spain taking the reins for a month at a time. Our stay coincided with that of Hisop from Barcelona, with head chef Oriol Ivern at the helm. We plumped for the eight-course set menu, which was an interesting selection of dishes, some very good indeed (and one or two, I thought, slightly less so). The stand-out stars were the creamy rice with clams, fennel and bergamot, and the strawberries with black olives and pepper. The staff were excellent, too, and it was a great modern Michelin experience. Personally, after years of working and eating in fine dining restaurants, I sometimes crave more down-to-earth, simple cooking, which I found at our seafood lunch earlier in the day: simple boiled spider crab, percebes, king prawns and aioli, all washed down with a strong white wine and some slightly churlish service. The two meals were poles apart, but I loved both meals.
Post dinner, I got the sense that we could have easily partied into the early hours. Instead, we saved our energy for one last meal – Sunday lunch at Botin, the world's oldest restaurant. You will be there with a room full of tourists, but it’s worth it for the suckling pig, baby lamb and old-school menu perfectly executed. We rolled out of there just in time for our late flight home.
On the plane, I reflected on Madrid. It’s the perfect destination for a weekend away: its warm energy and good food make it a great antidote to London life, and Hotel Urso itself was a calming haven of good taste nestled right in the middle