The bustling city of Madrid is ideal for exploring, but when you need a little down-time, the opulent Gran Meliá Palacio de los Duques hotel will be on hand to help. This haven of peace and quiet is situated in a prime location in the city, right next to the Royal Palace, Almudena Cathedral and Teatro Real.
The grand decoration of the former 19th century palace is truly breath-taking, boasting high ceilings, hanging art and a beautiful historical garden. The luxurious rooms - which are inspired by the artist Velázquez's masterpiece 'Las Meninas' - ooze a classical elegance with an avant-garde flair. Think lush draped curtains, a stand-alone bath and a huge vintage painting above the bed. Personal touches are added to the room, like a relaxing turn-down service, fruit platters on arrival, and Clarins amenities.
You can also book to be a member of the Red Level Lounge, which grants you access to several private areas of the hotel, including a separate outdoor space. In the private lounge, you'll have your own check-in desk and access to unlimited tapas, soft drinks and alcohol.
When you're not exploring the hotel's private garden or lounging in the lobby observing the spectacular glass dome, you can chill by the rooftop pool, which offers an incredible view overlooking the Royal Palace, the Almudena Cathedral and the famous district of the Austrias. The modern gym and Thai spa (which has a Turkish bath and sauna) are ideal if you want to rejuvenate and relax during your stay, too.
What To Do
Outside of the hotel, we recommend walking to El Retiro Park, to explore the grounds and green oasis. Make your way to the artificial lake and rent a rowing boat for the afternoon, or gaze at the interesting sculptures and fountains that offer up the perfect picture opportunities. There's also plenty of cafes and ice-cream parlours to keep you fuelled while you walk through the gardens.
Be sure to also head over to Mercado De San Miguel, which is a bustling food market located a short walk from the hotel. Here, you can sample some of Madrid's finest Spanish tapas, from seafood to cured meats to stuffed olives. Nearby the market are lots of cobbled, winding streets for you to explore, too.
There are also plenty of museums to visit when in Madrid. We recommend stopping by the Reina Sofia Museum, which is home to some of the finest collections of contemporary art in the world, and Picasso's famous piece, 'Guernica'.
Where To Eat
If you're staying at Gran Meliá Palacio de los Duques, you'd be silly not to eat the buffet breakfast, which has everything from poached eggs with Spanish ham to churros and melting chocolate. For lunch, you can dine at Cocoa, which has a beautiful indoor and outdoor seating area, and offers up the best pesto-filled gnocchi we've ever tried (fact). In the town, Café Murillo is a hotspot for lunch because of its handy location next to El Retiro Park, and the several vegan dishes it serves.
For dinner, the hotel's restaurant Montmartre is a strong choice. The pretty outdoor seating area has a romantic ambiance, making it perfect for couples. The beautifully-presented dishes are full of colour, and if you're into seafood, be sure to sample the sharing scallops for starters, and the lobster dish for main.
Outside of the hotel, we recommend booking a table at 47 Ronin, a fantastic Japanese restaurant with an incredible taste menu, or Diver XO, where food is treated like artwork with sauces painted onto plates and dinner delivered on canvases.
Where To Drink
There are plenty of hotspots in Madrid, but our favourite was the ME Madrid Radio Rooftop bar, which boasts an extensive cocktail list where drinks are served with a side of retro sweets. Similar to the ME London Radio Rooftop, the Madrid version has the added element of warm Mediterranean weather, meaning that sitting outdoors for an evening drink is a real treat. Be sure to book a table in advance if you plan on staying there all night, as this rooftop gets very busy.
Book your stay at Gran Meliá Palacio de los Duques from £208 per night here.