County Wedding Magazines editor, Claire Ridley, spent Easter in Spain's vibrant capital city.
"From the moment I arrived in Madrid, a two-and-a-half hour flight from London, I was greeted by a myriad of narrow streets and large squares filled with landmarks to fill my Insta feed at every turn, from the iconic Royal Palace of Madrid and Plaza Mayor to the eclectic mix of boutiques, tapas restaurants and bars. This extended bank holiday is a great time to visit when the weather has warmed up (average temperature 67 degrees) but the heat of the summer hasn't yet descended on the city...
A WARM WELCOME
Nestled in the heart of this largest city in Spain, tucked away on Calle de Echegaray, sits the five-star Gran HotelInglés, Madrid's oldest hotel having opened its doors for the first time in1886. Located a 25-minute drive from the airport, I was excited to visit this boutique property, a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, that oozes the glamour of by gone times from the moment you step into the decadent 1920s-inspired lobby with its feature bar, mirrored walls and Art Deco touches.
DINE IN STYLE
Restaurant Casa Lobo in the hotel is well-known onthe Madrid dining scene, with its open-plan kitchen serving traditional dishes. A highlight for me was the Show Brunch, priced at 45 euros per person and served every Sunday in the lobby, where I tucked into a delicious menu of pastries, cold meats and cheese, eggs benedict and a selection of miniature desserts washed down with a Cosmopolitan cocktail, all while enjoying live music from talented singer, songwriter and guitarist Gigi McFarlane (www.instagram.com/gigimcfarlane).
TAKE A DIP
A fun way of giving my body a little TLC after a day spent sightseeing was a visit to the dedicated spa facilityand wellness area where I reserved the jacuzzi and had exclusive use of the entire spa. Tempting treatments on the extensive spa menu that uses Sisley products include an aromatic Californian massage.
DO NOT DISTURB
The hotel boasts 48 luxurious rooms and suites, from the spacious Deluxe and Grand Deluxe Rooms to the Echegaray Suite (bearing the same name as the street outside) which was my home-from-home for three nights. This stylish space sleeps up to four people in two large suites interconnected by a hallway (perfect if you're enjoying a family-moon). There are two king-size beds with a pillow menu that guaranteed my beauty sleep, two fully equipped bathrooms with waterfall showers and a freestanding vintage-inspired bathtub with a choice of L'Occitane bath products. A highlight was the balcony providing outside space in the city – stepping on to it and admiring the view, I felt like I was in a movie.
WHAT TO SEE
A visit to the tourist hotspot Sol-Gran Via is a must, where adjoining streets blend culture and history with theatres, restaurants and shops. El Retiro Park provides a green oasis in the heart of the city, the perfect spot for a picnic with its pretty Rosaled a Rose Garden and a large artificial lake where rowing boats can be rented. Last but certainly not least, the La Latina neighbourhood situated in the heart of Madrid, dating back to the Middle Ages, is home to the famous El Rastro Flea Market which was top of my list to discover. Allow some time in this bustling area that offers a romantic mix of old meets new. Viva España!
BOOK IT: Rates at Gran Hotel Inglés start from approx £325 per room per night on a bed and breakfast basis based on double occupancy.
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