Imagine staying in a hotel built for a King, or sleeping where Prince Rainier III of Monaco and his Princess Grace Kelly spent their honeymoon. Picture a hotel in a time so regal that celebrities were refused accommodation, considered being NTR (Not the type for the Ritz.)
In 1908 King Alphonse XIII of Spain envisioned a hotel in Madrid as grand as the hotels he had visited in other European cities, a hotel that would attract royalty and dignitaries from all over the world. The King encouraged a Spanish development group to work with Cesar Ritz, a Swiss born man known as the “King of Hoteliers and Hotelier to the Kings” to create a hotel in Madrid that could compete with the great hotels of Paris, London and Rome. The doors opened in 1910.
While the Ritz was once reserved for royalty and dignitaries, today anyone who can pay the price is welcome. No proof of royal bloodline is needed. Art and history come together vividly at the Hotel Ritz Madrid by Belmond. While the carpets have all been replaced over the last 100 years, they are custom woven in the original Cesar Ritz designs.
The look and feel of the hotel has been carefully preserved to give the guest an historic experience. Many of the chandeliers, furniture and décor are original. Marble bathrooms with gold-plated fixtures are the standard. Fragrant fresh floral displays are living works of art on their own merit, and remind the guest that this experience is not just a dream.
Fresh flower displays in the lobby and throughout the hotel are masterpieces
Although the hotel feels like a great museum, modern amenities such as wifi, organic bath products and even green juice on the breakfast buffet are indicative of the hotel’s desire to meet the needs of the modern traveler.
More than half of the guests at the Ritz are from the United States, and many others come from other English speaking countries. Communicating with staff for the native English speaker is not a problem, even though the ambiance of the hotel boasts an international flair. If you are going to Spain to practice your Spanish, the staff will be most gracious to accommodate. Regardless of your language ability, the staff will treat all guests like royalty.
The Ritz is all about luxury and service, so the value conscious traveler might quickly reject the idea of booking a room. However, if art, culture and history peak your interest, consider a night or two in an off peak season, like late summer when Spaniards make a mass exodus from the city. Or, perhaps a Sunday night when there are no wedding parties or conference groups booked.
With 167 rooms, 30 of which are suites, a room at the Ritz will typically cost between 300 and 4000 Euros per night. However, a visit to the hotel’s web site will show special offers, with last minute rooms sometimes available for 250 euros per night. Many packages bundling extra amenities, such as meals, museum tickets, or theater packages are also available.
Consider balancing the cost of a night or two at the Ritz with many opportunities for free activities surrounding the hotel. The Ritz is a short stroll to Parque del Retiro, Plaza Mayor, the Reina Sofia and just across the street from the Museo del Prado. Museo del Prado, at Calle Ruiz de Alarcon 23 is free from 6-8 pm Monday through Saturday, and 5-8 pm on Sunday. The Reina Sofia, 52 Santa Isabel Street, is free on Monday and Wednesday-Saturday from 7-9 pm and Sunday from 1:30-7:00 p.m.
A stroll through Parque del Retiro can last 30 minutes or all day, and is always free. Street musicians and entertainers in the park provide first class entertainment without the purchase of a ticket, although a tip is always appreciated. So, if the hotel price is more than a value traveler would typically spend, a 2-3 day adventure, all expenses considered, makes a visit to the Hotel Ritz Madrid an experience worthy of the splurge.
If a night or two is not in your budget, another option is Afternoon Tea. Afternoon Tea is served in the lobby bar from 4-8 pm for 32 euros per person. Live music is a part of this experience. A pianist, harpist or classical Spanish guitarist playing in the background gives the guest a feeling of an intimate, private concert.
Tea at the Ritz is a bucket list item for many. I am thrilled to be able to say that, compliments of the Ritz, I have experienced it!
Weather permitting, tea is served on the garden terrace. Reservations are encouraged, as Tea at the Ritz is a popular event and a bucket list item for many. If you are only in Madrid for a short period of time, you won’t want the lack of a reservation keeping you away.
If teatime doesn’t strike your fancy, consider just a drink. In 1926 young artist Salvador Dali went to the Ritz for a haircut, then a cocktail at the bar. Thus the Dalitini was created. This blend of Martini Bianco, Cointreau, and Vodka served with cherry pulp from the Jerte Valley has a charming story and is worth the visit just to hear the bartender tell it. A cocktail in the lobby bar will run upwards of 20 Euro, and the bar is open from noon to 1 am. With more flexibility in choosing a time to visit than teatime and no reservation needed, this option will still get you into the hotel for a look around.
Value travel is not always about taking the cheapest journey. The best reason for being a frugal traveler is so that when the unique and memorable opportunities in life present themselves, we can indulge. A visit to the Hotel Ritz Madrid is one of those opportunities worth the indulgence.