Ten fascinating facts about Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid
Fit for a king
The original hotel opened in 1910, championed by King Alfonso XIII. Inspired by his travels across Europe, the young king was determined to modernise Madrid, and impress visiting dignitaries with a suitably palatial hotel. He became a major shareholder in the newly-founded Ritz Development Company, which soon acquired a site; the grounds of the once-renowned Tivoli Theatre and Pleasure Gardens, a stone’s throw from the Prado.
A suite of dreams
César Ritz himself decided on the placement of the hotel’s sumptuous Royal Suite; a magnificent set of rooms in the turret facing the Prado. It was on the first floor, to save the royals climbing too many stairs (an issue that would later be resolved, when lifts were installed). It's always housed the most distinguished guests, from Yves Saint Laurent to the Emperor of Japan, and – after a note-perfect renovation – is as splendid as ever, from the circular master bedroom’s cloud-dappled ceiling to the splendid marble bathroom.
World-famous musicians, actors and composers frequented the hotel, leading to some memorable soirées – like the night Frank Sinatra serenaded Ava Gardner on the bar’s piano. On another of his visits, while touring Europe, Sinatra was thoroughly disappointed by poor ticket sales in Madrid. It was a lucky day for the hotel staff, who were all invited to the show that night.
Its starry restaurant
Food has been at the fore since the hotel reopened as a Mandarin Oriental, with visionary chef Quique Dacosta at the helm. Its fine-dining restaurant, Deessa, is a spectacular showcase for his talents, swiftly scooping two Michelin stars. There are two tasting menus, one for the chef’s long-standing signatures, the other his bold new creations – like beetroot and dill soup with ice-cream kefir, or Albufera rice with crab and almond.
Sssssssh! The restaurant has its own exquisite private dining room. Parties of up to ten guests can dine with the utmost discretion, and also meet the chef. Overlooking the garden and terrace, the secret room goes by the name Condesa Maslov, the alias adopted by Dutch spy Margaretha Geertruida MacLeod (AKA Mata Hari), when she stayed at the hotel.
Charles Mewès, the architect behind The Ritz in Paris, submitted the initial plans for the hotel, and you’ll see a belle époque influence throughout. Over a century later, Paris-based design studio Gilles & Boissier oversaw the hotel’s reinvention. The design seamlessly blends its original features with sleek new fixtures and fittings, from Cordoba-leather headboards to bespoke lighting, and snowy, Dolomite-stone bathrooms. ;
If you’re looking for a cultural getaway, you’ve come to the right place. Set within the city’s renowned Golden Triangle of Art, the hotel is a stone’s throw from the Prado and Thyssen-Bornemisza, and just a short walk from the Reina Sofia, so you’ll be gazing at Goyas and marvelling at Mirós in next to no time.
For something more contemporary, head to Pictura, the hotel’s gilded bar. It has its own striking gallery wall – a collage of Old Master-inspired photographic portraits by local artist Paula Anta. The sitters are all Madrid-based artists and makers, in a nod to the city’s buzzing creative scene. And the cocktails? Works of art in their own right, from the less-is-more dry martini to the passionfruit-spiked El Corsé.
A crystal-clear Palm Court
Its Palm Court is one of the hotel’s wonders, set beneath a vast crystal ceiling. Covered up for 80 years, it was restored during the renovations, guided by César Ritz’s original drawings and plans. It’s an exquisite, light-filled setting for an unhurried afternoon tea, with floral-sprigged china, decadent cakes and suitably dainty sandwiches.
Its serene spa
Down in the hotel’s basement is a welcome new addition – a palatial, white marble-clad spa, centering on a showstopping, chandelier-lit pool. Leave your poolside lounger for some of the city’s best treatments, from Japanese-style kobido facials to an extraordinary four-handed massage.