Life at the Palace
Location, location, location. The watchword of all real estate, especially hotels. Here’s the location: Madrid’s spacious Neptune Plaza with its lovely fountain, flanked by the Prado and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museums, and the nearby Reina Sofia, the city’s holy trinity of art.
And here’s the hotel: The Westin Palace, with all the requirements of a world class hostelry—history, elegance, service, and warmth. Before you start shouting about the Ritz, another world-class hotel at the very same spot (with which it shares some history), The Westin has been winning raves for its sparkling public spaces, spiffy bedrooms, and guest-friendly amenities.
From the handsome lobby, with classical trompe l’oeil scenes, a flight of carpeted stairs leads up to the hotel’s piece de resistance: the circular lounge. For drop dead splendor, it would be hard to beat La Rotunda, with its massive stained glass dome, oversize wall tapestries, and pairs of elegant columns encircling welcoming groups of tufted plush seating, light pouring through the garlands of glass roses and leaves, glinting the crystal chandelier. Jump start a pleasant day with breakfast around the perimeter of the grand circular room. This is also where you’ll find all-day buffets. Other dining possibilities are the Asia Gallery for Cantonese cuisine, and the clubby wood-paneled Bar Palace, contiguous to La Rotunda.
The Palace’s 418 rooms and 50 suites are decorated in what it calls classic palace hotel style. Read antique-style furnishings, serene color schemes, and such amenities as high-speed internet, wifi, air conditioning, and double-glazed windows against the traffic of two major streets. A Business Center is off the lobby, and the gym has the requisite equipment plus a delightful outdoor terrace solarium. The hotel has made Conde Nast’s Gold List every year since 2005, including the just released 2010 List.
Both the Ritz and the Palace, as it was originally called, were built in the early 20th century under the aegis of King Alfonso XIII who wanted Madrid to have grand hotels like other European capitals. The Ritz came first, in 1910, and two years later, the Palace. It preserves a grand pre-World War I style of ornate Victoriana, a huge white confection covering a large city block. It fronts on a grand boulevard, the Paseo del Prado, and backs on small streets with unassuming and inviting tapas bars, a nice mix of city life.
No surprise The Palace has always been a favorite of celebrities, politicians, and artists. The hotel has hosted more than its share of bold-faced names, from the Queen of Spain to the Queen of Jordan; and Jorge Luis Borges, Mario Vargas Llosa, Gunter Grass among the literary figures. Occasionally some leave notes in the guest book, as did Jennifer Lopez (“Mucho Amor”) and Bruce Springstein (“Wonderful!”).
The Palace is winning fans exponentially because it treats all its guests like celebrities. Check it out. The centennial is coming up in two years, but why wait.
The Westin Palace Madrid, 7 Plaza de las Cortes, 888-625-5144, 011-34-91-360-8000, www.westinpalacemadrid.com/en/.