Elegant and intimate, The Principal Madrid hotel’s discreet entrance sets the tone for this heart-of-the-action stay. Having taken over the top floors of a grand 1920s building, this penthouse crash pad makes the most of sweeping city views with a refined restaurant, alfresco cocktails and a sun-kissed rooftop terrace.
Get this when you book through us:
A welcome drink each, late check-out (subject to availability) and 30 per cent discount on the hotel’s private transfers; GoldSmith members also receive a free bottle of cava
Noon. Earliest check-in, 3pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £143.68 (€157), including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates exclude breakfast (€29.32 each for a buffet of home-baked breads and pastries, farmhouse yoghurt, fresh juices and hot dishes).
La Pérgola makes a cool, leafy escape in the summer, should the sun on the rooftop terrace be a little too fierce.
The hotel will be closed 9-28 August 2016.
At the hotel
Gym, treatment room, rooftop terrace, Playstation to borrow, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, DVD player, iPod dock, minibar, kettle, Gilchrist & Soames toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
Decorated in a monochrome palette, rooms have a sophisticated, masculine edge, with glossy black-tiled bathrooms, brass accents and leather lounging chairs. Room 423 may be the smallest in the house, but it has a spacious bathroom. Deluxe Room 601 has sweeping city views. If you’re staying a while, book a suite on the fifth floor: they have inviting reading nooks and showers equipped with massage jets.
Book the hotel’s chocolate-hued treatment suite for total relaxation: there’s an indulgent menu of massages and facials to choose from, and the private wood-panelled sauna is big enough for two.
Slim, stackable luggage will be just the right fit for Principal Madrid’s tiny old-world lifts – but leave plenty of space for Gran Via purchases.
With outdoor showers and 20 scarlet sunloungers fanned out around a babbling fountain, the seventh-floor solarium is a view-blessed spot to soak up the rays.
Welcome. All rooms have space for a free cot. Extra beds can be added in Deluxe rooms and suites for €110 a night. The hotel can arrange babysitting (from €45 an hour).
Madrid’s ever-blue skies make a table on the slim terrace practically compulsory; in winter, cosy up by the fire with an afternoon tea.
Mix designer finds and high-street heroes to match the hotel’s laid-back but polished vibe.
A bright, elegant stretch of marble floor and rich velvet seating, Ático looks out over the city from its sixth-floor perch. With two Michelin stars to his name, chef Ramón Freixa knows a thing or two about modern Spanish cuisine. Split between finger food and unpretentious mains, the menu is a testament to his culinary skill and love of Iberian produce: book ahead for a chance to sample fig-and-foie-gras éclairs, monkfish tacos and moreish croquettes. For tapas-like snacks, desserts and cocktails, ascend to La Pérgola, a window-walled space on the sixth floor. Rattan furniture, hanging greenery and a thatch-covered ceiling lend the room an organic finish, and every table overlooks the gilded tower of the Metropolis building.
Cocktail-sipping is a bit of a competitive sport in Madrid, and there’s no better place for serious practice than La Terraza, the hotel’s roof terrace. Sip on dry martinis, experimental gin concoctions and coconut-water libations. On a clear day, you might even catch a glimpse of snow-capped mountains beyond the city’s gleaming rooftops.
Dinner is served until 11.45pm; savour one last digestif before the bar closes at midnight.
Classic sandwiches, Spanish staples (tortilla, manchego and ham) and comfort dishes such as carpaccio, lasagna and goat-cheese pizza can be ordered in-room around the clock.
Just steps from the round-the-clock bustle of Gran Via, the Principal Madrid makes an ideal central base to explore the city.
Touch down at Madrid–Barajas airport, an international hub about 40 minutes’ drive from the hotel. Taxis are readily available and cost about €30, but you can also catch the metro from the terminals, which will whisk you directly to the Príncipe Pío station close to the hotel in about 20 minutes.
Madrid’s extensive metro network is handy for whizzing around town. If you’re heading further afield, Atocha railway station is a five-minute drive away and serves Renfe trains from across the country.
Take in Madrid’s sights on foot: cheap public transport, plentiful taxis and pleasant streets render cars a cumbersome nuisance. If you do decide to bring your own wheels, the hotel has parking on-site for €39 a night. Stop by the hotel first for directions and to drop off your luggage.
Worth getting out of bed for
Look out for the flamboyant dome of the Metropolis building, impossible to miss from the hotel’s rooftop: it marks the start of Gran Via, the boulevard that never sleeps, known for its Broadway musicals, distinctive architecture and upscale shops. For antique shops and independent boutiques, head north to the exclusive barrio of Salamanca. If you’re in search of more lofty pursuits, Madrid’s Art Triangle is just a short stroll away. Gawp at Goyas, Velázquez, Titians and Bosches at the Prado, or get your cultural kicks from the Reina Sofia modern art museum and Thyssen-Bornemisza. Escape the city at Buen Retiro Park, a pleasant, verdant sprawl of shaded avenues, landscaped gardens and water features. Modelled on its doomed London sibling, its impressive Crystal Palace was built as a greenhouse but now hosts art exhibits.
A short taxi-hop away, Platea has reinvented the food-court concept with a stage for live performances and five floors of relaxed tapas stalls, glitzy cocktails bars, swanky restaurants and a club. Nibble on freshly rolled sushi from Shikku and raid the Mamá Framboise counter for tartlets and macarons. Down-to-earth tapas joint Lateral has several outlets in the city: start with the salmorejo, a creamy Cordoban take on gazpacho, then pick at random from the tempting pinchos menu.
A convenient stumble from the Principal Madrid, Hemingway’s old haunt Museo Chicote is firmly on Spanish time: visit the classic 1930s bar after midnight for post-prandial (or early morning) tipples.
It’s a bold claim, but the Principal Madrid may have saved my relationship… As my beloved and I flopped onto the cloud-soft island of a bed in the middle of our room – robes donned, cava in hand – it was hard to imagine that a mere 15 minutes earlier Mr Smith and I had been calculating the spoils of our imminent break-up. By this point almost two hours had passed since we had last spoken; we’d had an embarrassing yelling match in the hour-long queue for a taxi at Madrid airport, as honeymooning couples looked on smugly, and to make matters worse our driver had apparently forgotten to pick up a previous fare. He raced in F1-driver Fernando Alonso style, at break-neck speed, through the busy streets of Madrid – a journey made all the more hazardous by the daggers we were shooting at each other across the back seat.
The Principal Madrid hotel’s gleaming doorway was a welcoming sight after the death-defying journey. I was still fuming at Mr Smith, so was perhaps a little too friendly to the smiley, extremely tanned and muscular doorman, who ushered our luggage up to our room and led us to a tiny mirrored lift that slowly climbed up to reception on the sixth floor. Mr Smith waited until we were trapped in the small moving space to begin apology proceedings, wrestling me into an awkward hug. I moodily capitulated, and by the time we had checked in and reached our room we were as loved up as a pair of honeymooners again. The Principal Madrid may not be a budget hotel, per se, but it's a lot cheaper than couples counselling…
Our pad for the weekend had views of Madrid’s main artery, the – satisfyingly grand – Gran Via from floor-to-ceiling windows, and a decadent bed with marshmallow-squishy pillows. I bounced on it in excitement before Mr Smith disappointingly said, ‘it’s so big we won't even have to touch each other!’ The slate grey and cream hues were calming and cool, and the bathroom was a glossy, black-tiled affair with divinely scented Gilchrist & Soames toiletries and a separate ebony cubicle for the loo (ideal for answering the call of nature as your beloved bathes. How romantic…) This is the kind of hotel that leaves chocolates on the pillow, which we snaffled down lightning-quick and washed down with a hefty slug of cava before swiftly falling asleep.
On waking the next day, bleary-eyed yet snuggled up in centre of our gargantuan bed, there was only one thing we were hungry for… Breakfast, of course. The Principal Madrid’s morning spread did not disappoint; it was a smorgasbord of rich jamon Ibérico and myriad cheeses (soft, hard, gooey in the middle); rich and flaky pastries were paraded before us, alternatively custard-filled and honey-glazed, some chocolatey, some studded with hazelnuts. Boringly healthy Mr Smith opted for creamy farmhouse yoghurt muddled with a carnival of tropical fruit, while I devoured everything – twice. But, one can’t sit around all day stuffing one’s face. We decided a wander would clear our heads enough to start planning lunch.
We mooched around the Royal Palace for a while, contemplating which wing we would each reside in (mine was the grandest) and how many chefs we’d have, before succumbing to the stifling 33-degree heat and heading for the welcoming shade of Buen Retiro Park. Originally owned by the Spanish monarchy, the park is sculpture-strewn and decked out with art galleries (air-conditioned, us pasty Englishfolk discovered with sweet relief); a lake with wooden rowboats; and a crystal palace with its own waterfall entrance, terrapins and lots of lizards – a more elegant incarnation of Jurassic Park. Mr Smith’s pale-pink shirt matched the flower-adorned arches in the rose garden, which delighted the snap-happy tourists passing by. Despite his fervent scowl, it was potentially my favourite moment in life to date.
Enough dilly-dallying, it was time for lunch: armed with our minimal Spanish we set out for tapas and dos cervezas, por favor. We meandered wide-eyed through the various stalls in the Mercado de San Miguel, before settling on a plate of creamy burrata with sweet fig chutney, more slices of jamón ibérico, a stack of basil-infused mozzarella slices, citrusy squid salad and black squid-ink-infused buns stuffed with crab and caviar. It was ambrosial, we both agreed. Back at the hotel, we sank into the plump sofas on the sunlit terrace, sipping expertly-mixed (and lethal) sangrias, pretending we were real Madrileños. Mr Smith may have blown his cover a bit, after ordering a peppercorn-laced G&T, which caused a minor choking fit after one sip.
Several more-successful drinks later, we merrily stumbled down to Atico, the hotel’s modern-Spanish restaurant, for what we thought was an extremely late dinner, only to find the place completely deserted. Feeling like two OAPs, we decided to wait in the bar until more people turned up. At 10pm, four cocktails and two bowls of peanuts down, some other guests finally arrived, a relief to us and our credit cards. After some stellar translating from our eternally patient waiter, we ordered a feast of roasted octopus, Iberian-style surf ‘n’ turf and red-pepper-infused cod. It was all delicious, and – face-stuffing aside – really rather romantic: a table tucked away in the corner of the terrace, candles, the lights of Madrid twinkling below…. Mr Smith even sat next to me (we were one of those couples that evening) and gazed into my eyes while I gazed into my crema Catalana (a sumptuous Spanish take on a crème brûlée).
After a sorrowful goodbye to the Principal’s breakfast buffet the next day, with impeding Ryanair dread, it was time for us to leave. Before full sulk mode could commence, I felt a sharp elbow in my – now jamón Ibérico-insulated – ribs. ‘Buck up’ said Mr Smith, a born-again optimist, ‘we’ll just have another argument and come back next month’.