Hotel Urso review: Madrid's luxurious step back in time
Return to the days of La Movida with a stay in the Spanish capital's only five-star boutique hotel
Think of Madrid and undoubtedly your mind goes to La Movida of Pedro Almodovar – women in sky-high stilettoes and non-stop parties in an edgy bar or achingly hip club, all with a distinctive Spanish feel. Much has changed since that movie was released as Barcelona’s previously overlooked rival grew into one of Europe’s most cosmopolitan cities, but scratch the surface of the tourist hotspots and you can still find that artistic, carefree spirit – and Hotel Urso puts you right at the heart of it.
Situated in the elegant Barrio de las Salesas, a short walk away from the city centre’s Puerta del Sol – the exact centre of Spain – this former palace has been transformed into Madrid’s first five-star boutique hotel. The neo-classical style nestles nicely between the grand embassy buildings and well-to-do homes of the area, but inside is anything but staid. Chic, Japanese-themed wallpaper, inspired by the paper found in a neighbouring building, and soft tones of cream, green and greys offer a welcoming atmosphere. This is matched by the smiles of the staff, who all speak impeccable English and remember their guests’ names after check-in.
As well as black and white images of Madrid in years gone, the Urso pays homage to its history throughout the décor. Architect and interior designer Antonio Obrador kept many of the original features, including a magnificent wrought-iron lift and stained-glass windows on the marble staircase that leads to the 78 rooms and suites.
Decorated in champagnes and teals, the bedrooms continue the tranquil feel of the lobby. Natural light floods in from the big windows while the upper suites offer terraces with views over the city and the nearby Barcelo markets. Adding to the boutique feel are pale leather desks, made for the Urso in Galicia, together with products from The Lab Room, one of Madrid’s top beauty centres, in the marble bathrooms.
However, the most intimate retreat can be found on the lower floors, where guests can be cocooned in the luxurious hideaway spa, featuring dark wood walls and floors. A small gym and swimming pool, together with three treatment rooms using Natura Blisse and Sisley Paris, a Hammam, steam bath and hydrotherapy pool are the perfect spot to gather your strength before heading out to enjoy all the city has to offer.
With the bourgeois neighbourhood of Chamberi, trendy barrios Chueca and Malasana and the developing Tribunal area on its doorstep, you’re spoilt for choice for places to enjoy Spanish cuisine. However, one of Madrid’s hippest restaurants is right on your doorstep – Hotel Urso’s very own Media Racion.
Chef Fernando Cuenllas’s stylish but informal take on traditional tapas has become one of the must-go eateries in the city and booking is essential. Cuenllas’ ancestors opened the city’s first tapas bar in the 1930s, so you know you’re in good hands. While the restaurant may be called “Half Portions”, there are no half measures, with highlights on the generous menu including the more-ish ham and boletus croquettes, perfectly pink rack of lamb and silky crème brulee, all using ingredients from the local markets and traders. Add live jazz on a Thursday and it may be hard to leave.
Do that, however, and you’ll never forgive yourself. While the Instagram favourites of Plaza Mayor, El Retiro Park and the statue of the bear in Sol should not be missed – and, of course, it would be a crime not to take the short walk to see the Velazquez and Goya in the Prado – wander around the streets near Urso and you’ll find the Madrid of Almodovar.
Las Salesas brings you cutting-edge art galleries and concept stores, filled with young local designers with creations a world away from the mass-market Zara. Buy local produce for a picnic from the Mercado de San Ildefenso in Malasana or follow the locals to tiny bars packed with people and atmosphere for tapas and talk. Wine-lovers should make a beeline for nearby Vinoteca La Antoja, a ten-minute walk from the hotel, where host Belinda serves up her take on life along with a selection of some of the finest vinos in Spain. Urso’s concierge is on hand to help plan your route or organise your day.
So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get on your Louboutins and enjoy La Movida – 21st-century style.
From €200 for a B&B stay in a Double Room and €570 for a B&B stay in the Urso Hotel & Spa Terrace Suite, including breakfast and based on two people sharing. For further information, visit Urso Hotel & Spa