The URSO Hotel & Spa is located at the intersection of the upscale neighborhoods of Chamberí, Tribunal and Chueca, quite far from the tourist circuit of Madrid. The early 20th-century building, designed by Spanish architect José María Mendoza Ussía, is all clean lines and symmetry on the outside – calm, modern and dripping with grandeur. Inside, many of the original features of its first incarnation as the home of Papelera Española, Spain’s dominant paper company in the 20th century, remain – the raised central patio where breakfast is now taken, bathed in light and surrounded by walls of living moss, down to the stained glass windows, decorative tiles and smooth marble.
The central staircase wraps around a glamorous and traditional cage lift filled with double doors and seating for two passengers. The soft, earthy color palette throughout the interiors, along with subtle prints and natural touches of plants and flowers, create a real sense of retreat despite its city location.
Rooms continue the muted color palette, adorned in soft grays, light blues, and sea greens; they are high-ceilinged, airy and ultra-comfortable; huge beds with plush, premium linens take center stage. Large windows flood the rooms with Madrid’s wonderful natural light. Ours overlooked beautiful manicured gardens while the top floor suites had their own terraces to take in the view.
Eat and drink
The Media Ración restaurant (meaning half a portion – ask for it at any tapas bar if you want more, smaller plates) is the hotel’s lively version of Madrid’s legendary Cuenllas brasserie. It offers some of the best Spanish produce – Don Bocarte anchovies and Iberian ham for example – and Madrid’s famous Callos Madrilenos, a tripe stew for the more adventurous.
Madrid is at the forefront of gastronomy. There’s something for everyone here – finding a local spot for a cana (a small beer) and a tapa doesn’t take much more than looking left and right down a given street, with delicious food , inexpensive and generous. The city has no less than 21 Michelin-starred restaurants if you feel like splashing out.
The hotel is well located for a gentle looping walk to enjoy a bunch of good tapas restaurants; Of particular note is local haunt Casa Toni – grab a seat at the counter; from the smallest kitchen imaginable comes an array of classic tapas – fresh and crispy calamari rings, grilled Iberian secreto with padron peppers (a thin cut of hidden pork, served pink, the famous Iberian pigs from which the Iberian jamon is made), platters of grilled wild mushrooms and huevos revueltos – sautéed potatoes with chorizo and cracked eggs. Don’t miss the salmorejo – a slightly heavier cousin of gazpacho.
Casa Juan is a mainstay of Madrid. It’s huge, spanning four floors, with all the food from a madhouse of a kitchen (have a look to your left as you enter the restaurant). Its specialty is slow-roasted meats, but the chefs are also skilled fryers – the fried hake would envy the best fish and chips, with a light, airy batter with flaky, perfectly cooked fish inside. It offers a selection of huge cuts of beef – but be warned, not all “medium-rare” is created equal; ask for it to be cooked a little further than usual. Reservations are a must for this favorite of Spanish families – it’s great to feel somewhere where the locals eat, but it gets busy.
Casa Labra, a stone’s throw from Puerta Del Sol, is an institution; opened in 1860, it was the cradle of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party. Stop to drink a little of its rich history, a small glass of house red and dive into croquetas and a few pieces of fried cod.
What to do
The URSO Spa is a haven of subtle hues, dark woods and a trickle of daylight that means you can lose yourself for hours. The small but perfectly formed hydrotherapy pool and the entire spa itself are a lesson in how to use space well. A calming retreat from the streets outside, we found we had the place to ourselves on several occasions. A hammam was perfect for warming the bones during an unusually cold period of time. Due to Covid restrictions, you must call ahead to reserve a spot.
The hotel is located a few minutes from the Alonso Martínez metro station. Madrid is easily navigable and in fairly good condition by metro standards.
The city is home to one of the finest art galleries in the world, the Museo Nacional del Prado. It houses the works of many artists, but one of its most prized works is that of Hieronymus Bosch The Garden of Earthly Delights, a triptych depicting man’s weakness in resisting the pleasures of the earth…we spent a while devouring its devilish detail. Buy your tickets online in advance to avoid a short line. Next door is the 125-acre Retiro Park, a green haven in the heart of the city – this and the Prado form a single Unesco World Heritage Site and are a great way to spend half a day.
For those who want to shop, but are looking for a more local experience, El Rastro Flea Market is the largest and oldest open-air market in the city and the best place to pick up a bargain. food and bands playing live music.
Prices and how to book
Rooms at URSO Hotel & Spa Madrid start from €359 (around £300) per night on a room-only basis. Book online at hotelurso.com