Edited by: Nick Ellis
& Keri Stooksbury
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The author was traveling as an invited guest of The Principal Madrid. All opinions are the author’s own, and the hotel had no input in any part of this review.
Madrid’s dizzying array of hotels can make it hard for travelers to decide where to stay when visiting the city. With hotels from all major brands and a constant stream of new properties opening, Madrid has a space for you, whether you’re a Hyatt loyalist, Marriott fan, boutique hotel lover, or even want to stay in a lively youth hostel.
But The Principal Madrid, part of Único Hotels, is a property that often rises above the rest. It’s an excellent choice for those seeking an intimate, elegant stay inspired by the Spanish capital’s past and present. Even better, the property participates in the partnership between Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH) and World of Hyatt and is a member of American Express’ The Hotel Collection, making it an even better pick for reward travelers.
The Principal would suit just about any visitor with its ideal city-center location, cozy, locally-influenced room decor, and airy outdoor terraces that rise above Madrid’s rooftops. Read on for my full review and my take on why this property should be at the top of any traveler’s list.
The historic building The Principal Madrid calls home is more than a century old. It began as a private residence, later became a Starwood Preferred Guest (we miss you!) hotel, and now is part of the intimate Único Hotels brand, a curated group of opulent hotels in Spain and Argentina. As I mentioned above, the hotel also participates in the SLH/World of Hyatt partnership and Amex’s The Hotel Collection.
The hotel is located on the corner of Calle Marqués de Valdeiglesias and Gran Vìa — one of the city’s most famous thoroughfares — where tourists stroll beneath the bright lights of theatres, shops, bars, and restaurants. Turn left from the corner, and you’ll be on Calle Alcalá, another famed street that leads to Cibeles Square and iconic Retiro Park.
The Principal’s prized location means you can have whatever Madrid experience suits you, whether that’s idly roaming the busy streets of the city’s most popular boulevards, diving into the winding streets of the Chueca and Malasaña neighborhoods to get a taste of the local lifestyle, or hitting the main tourist attractions.
Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport (MAD) is about 15 miles from the city center. It’s best to skip renting a car and driving in Madrid, which has always-changing rules surrounding where you can drive and park, as well as excessive traffic.
Instead, pick up a ride-share (Uber, Cabify, or Bolt), jump in a taxi, or take the bus or the metro into the city from the airport. Taxis charge a flat rate of €30 (~$32) to the city center from the airport, while ride-share options can often be less. Bus or metro tickets will cost just a few euros, depending on which option you choose.
I stayed at The Principal years ago when it was part of the SPG portfolio, and I was excited to see how the property has evolved since.
This most recent stay was a hosted press stay, but generally, you can expect cash rates to start at under $300 per night.
If you hold select American Express cards — including the American Express® Gold Card and The Platinum Card® from American Express — you can access Amex’s The Hotel Collection, which The Principal participates in. You’ll be entitled to a $100 or $200 property experience credit (valid on qualifying spa, dining, and resort activities) and a room upgrade at check-in (subject to availability) when booking at least 2 nights.
The Principal is also an SLH property that participates in the group’s partnership with the World of Hyatt program, meaning you can redeem World of Hyatt points for stays. It’s a Category 6 property, meaning award nights start at 21,000 World of Hyatt points per night.
Coming in off the street, I was met by a tiny welcome area that seemed to seamlessly blend the historic and the modern in its design.
It featured classic portraits beneath industrial lighting and vintage-looking chairs clad in distressed leather.
Smiling bellhops directed me toward the hotel’s tiny elevators (the main one sits in the circular space inside the winding, palatial staircase) and then up to the sixth-floor reception area, which felt like a larger version of the cozy, stylish foyer below.
The hotel’s unique layout can be attributed both to the building’s age as well as the fact that the first 2 floors of the hotel are occupied primarily by a historic private club, the Real Gran Peña, a male-only members club that dates back to 1869. However, the second floor does have some hotel guest rooms as well as the property’s wellness center.
The rest of the hotel’s 76 rooms are found on the third through fifth floors, while the sixth is home to the lobby, the bar (and accompanying wraparound lobby terrace), La Pérgola terrace, and the Ático Restaurant. The seventh floor is the rooftop terrace, a coveted place to hang out and enjoy Madrid’s sun, which reportedly shines 300 days per year.
Just after my arrival, I was whisked up to the sixth-floor lobby by a friendly bellhop. I was immediately offered a welcome drink — I chose a glass of cava.
It was a sunny but chilly January day, so I quickly popped outside to view the lobby terrace, a small, wraparound lobby balcony from which you can sit and enjoy drinks along with the expansive views of Gran Vía and beyond.
After snapping a few photos, I headed back inside to enjoy the lobby.
I really enjoyed the way the design of the lobby juxtaposed vintage with new and cozy with trendy.
The warm lighting and colors (rich burnt orange drapes and velvety black furniture) and design details like vintage books, a fireplace, and artifacts gave off an air of an old-school gentleman’s club or an inviting British pub. In contrast, the crisp newness of the lighting fixtures and furniture gave off a contemporary feel, making for a relaxing, welcoming, and all-around delightful space to sip a glass of cava over engaging conversation.
It can be challenging to pull off a design language that feels at once historic, warm, and enticing while also being contemporary and chic. But The Principal did it — and did it well — not only in the lobby but throughout the entire hotel.
I flipped through a GQ magazine and sipped my cava, grateful for a few moments of well-deserved peace after chasing around my wild toddler all morning.
Relishing the beauty of the space, I noticed how the golden light from the Spanish sun streamed through the floor-to-ceiling glass doors to create a magical feel.
Then, a friendly staff member gave me a key to my room, 505, and I opted to walk down a flight of winding, regal stairs lined with stained glass windows instead of squeezing into an elevator.
While the elevators weren’t particularly small by Spanish standards (they were about the same size, even bigger, than several apartment building elevators in Madrid I’ve seen), by American standards, they’re tiny. Heavy packers, beware: you may have to make 2 trips.
Here’s a look at the amenities you can expect during a stay at The Principal. Keep in mind that this is a city-center property, so it doesn’t have all the offerings you’d find at a full-service resort. But what it does have should please anyone visiting the capital for a few days.
Most people don’t visit Madrid to spend lots of time in their hotel, but if there’s one amenity a Madrid hotel should have, it’s a rooftop. And The Principal has that in spades.
In fact, the general manager of the hotel, Gustavo Iglesias, told me that this hotel had one of the first trendy rooftops in the city: “Now, there are many, but this one was a true pioneer in an iconic building,” he said.
I can personally attest to that as I’ve lived in Madrid for nearly 2 decades. While the rooftop scene has become much more crowded with a new hot spot seemingly opening daily, The Principal was home to one of Gran Vía’s first and most beautiful rooftop terraces, which remains just as beautiful as when it first opened.
The La Terraza rooftop space has become integral to the fabric of life in the capital, enjoyed by both visitors and locals alike.
“Since its opening, the rooftop terrace is a definite place to be for Madrileños, too, not only guests. You can really feel the vibe of the capital but, at the same time, be immersed in the tranquility of an elegant oasis,” Iglesias said.
Located on the seventh floor, this rooftop operates on a seasonal basis. When it’s open for the summer season, it has an area filled with sunbeds (known as “La Curva”), a long bar area, and a main seating area where you can enjoy seated drinks and light bites with a side of incredible views.
Not only does the hotel have the main rooftop, but you can also visit the lobby terrace and La Pérgola, both outdoor terraces that boast incredible views.
La Pérgola is located on the sixth floor and is currently open. It’s small in size, but it’s a beautiful place to enjoy a cocktail.
The sixth-floor lobby terrace is a skinny, wraparound outdoor space that also overlooks Madrid’s cityscape.
There was a small room off the lobby dedicated to wellness. While I was exploring the property, there was a massage going on, so I couldn’t check it out. At any rate, it’s not a full spa, but you can book the space to be used for treatments, including massages.
The hotel also has a small gym stocked with weights and a few cardio machines. It’s not massive, but it’s definitely nice to have in case you’ve overdone it with Madrid’s ever-generous gastronomy scene. The fitness center is open 24 hours.
The Wi-Fi was free and speedy. I got a password during check-in and was able to work comfortably, as well as stream television, without any issues.
The Principal Madrid doesn’t allow pets, except service dogs (with proper documentation).
You really don’t need a car in Madrid — the city is walkable and boasts excellent public transport and ride-share options. But, if you do need to park a car, The Principal has private spaces close to the hotel, and the cost is €39.99 (~$43.50) per day.
I walked through the dark, moody hallway to find my room — let’s take a look at it and all it offered!
Upon entering, my eyes immediately went to the balcony doors, so I beelined to them and stepped out into the brisk January air.
I was then hit by the dazzling views of Gran Vía and, directly across from the hotel, one of my favorite pieces of Madrid architecture: El Edificio Metrópolis.
Unfortunately, the building, which is truly magnificent (yes, the gold finishings you see are actually 30,000 leaves of 24-karat gold), was under construction during the time of my stay.
However, above the scaffolding, I had an incredibly close view of the angel sculpture that tops the building.
Now that I’ve shown you the stunning views, let’s get back to the room itself. Each room of this hotel is unique, with several different categories available.
I had a superior room, which had a comfortable king-sized bed, a workspace with a desk and chair, a large TV, and a comfortable sofa.
Little touches of Madrid were noticeable at every turn — velvety rich gold, tweed, and herringbone fabrics (a nod to the apparel worn to celebrate the city’s patron saint, Isidro, each May).
It also featured black-and-white-subway-tiled bathrooms (inspired by Madrid’s art deco architecture), and a welcome gift of Madrid’s signature hard candies: small, floral-flavored violetinas.
Although Gran Vía was full of action, the hefty balcony doors blocked out the noise well.
I slept soundly on the smooth Egyptian cotton linens.
My room boasted plenty of amenities, including a stocked minibar, a mini-fridge, a kettle with Palais des Thés tea bags, and a Nespresso machine with capsules.
Continuing on, there was a closet with space to hang clothes, robes, and a safe.
The closet also had slippers.
I was really happy with the room, but it was lacking in the power outlet department, with no USB ports and just 1 outlet on either side of the bed for a European plug. However, the desk and bathroom had outlets that could fit a U.S. or European plug, which was nice.
The room also featured a QR code that allowed you to connect your phone to speakers via Bluetooth, which was fun. I also appreciated that the room had overhead lighting, complete with a dimmer switch, making it easy to set up the perfect amount of lighting once the sun went down.
The bathroom was small but well-designed, with a large shower featuring excellent water pressure.
There was a separate toilet area, a good-sized sink, and a blow-dryer.
Bath amenities came from the island of Mallorca from a brand named Serena. They smelled delightfully fresh and floral.
The black-and-white design and vintage-looking sink made me wonder if the design was a nod to the time Hemingway spent in Madrid.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the dental kit contained a sustainable bamboo toothbrush complete with Marvis toothpaste, a far cry from a cheap plastic toothbrush and Colgate, which is what I’ve become accustomed to at hotels.
I asked the hotel if it’d be possible to have a look at any other room types, and they were able to show me a suite! The Suite Gran Vía was large, with a completely separate living and sleeping area, each with its own entrance to the hallway and a design aesthetic that mirrored the “regular” guest rooms.
The suite had large windows and a balcony overlooking Gran Vía, making it an ideal space for families or groups, and you can also book connecting rooms for even more space.
I was able to have 3 separate culinary experiences at the hotel during my stay: lunch at Ático, room service, and breakfast.
The hotel’s main restaurant, Ático, sits off the lobby and is decorated in the same style — think rich jewel tones with deep wood and vintage light fixtures.
I sat in an emerald-tone velvet chair at a table near one of the windows, which was lined with orange-hued drapes.
At the same time, the light that streamed into the restaurant from the many windows lifted the moodier elements of the design style, making the restaurant a truly delightful space to enjoy a meal in.
The menu was a perfect mixture of international cuisine and traditional Spanish bites. With Chef José Luis Costa helming the kitchen, expect to enjoy things like empanadas stuffed with Madrid’s signature dish, cocido (a meat and chickpea stew), acorn-fed Iberian ham, and octopus.
My partner and I started with the tuna tartare, which melted in my mouth, and the ham croquettes, which were crisped to perfection.
We then chose main courses of slow-cooked codfish and pork loin, both of which were delicious.
Servers frequently brought around freshly baked bread — the one that had raisins and walnuts was especially flavorful.
Desserts were apple pie and chocolate sable with pistachio, and both were the perfect amount of sweet.
Seeing the Madrid-inspired cocktail menu was another little surprise that made me smile. The berry-flavored La Menina (a lady-in-waiting; also the name of one of Diego Velázquez’s most famous paintings housed at the Museo del Prado) and the Chulapo, a sweet vermouth cocktail named for the style of dress one wears to the city’s aforementioned Saint Isidro celebrations, were just a few of the names inspired by the city.
My husband got a Madrid version of a dirty martini, a Piparra, featuring gin and Tio Pepe fino, while I opted for a glass of Spanish Rioja wine.
The wine list was broad, with many Spanish varieties available by the bottle, though only a few were available by the glass.
It’s worth mentioning that the service was typical of Madrid (especially on a Sunday) — leisurely and cheerful. If you’re in a rush, you may opt to head elsewhere, but if you want to enjoy a typical Spanish lunch followed by sobremesa (coffee and conversation after eating), which is completely normal in Madrid, Ático is the perfect place to do so.
I’ll be honest: I never really expect much from room service in Europe. Because most room service menus around the world feature quintessential “American” dishes such as pizzas, hamburgers, and Caesar salads, I often find that ordering these dishes outside of the U.S. ends in disappointment.
I scanned the room service menu by scanning a QR code in the room. It featured the usual suspects. My husband and I ordered a burger and chicken fingers, and my expectations were low (as they always are). Staff said the food would be delivered in approximately 40 minutes, and 41 minutes later, I heard the knock.
The food looked appetizing, and I was pleasantly surprised when my burger was absolutely mouthwateringly delicious. In fact, it was the best burger I’ve had in a while, and the chicken fingers were savory and had the perfect amount of crunch to them.
This was an unexpectedly enjoyable meal. I wouldn’t normally make it a point to order room service in a city like Madrid, where you can find affordable and mouthwatering cuisine on nearly every corner, but if you’re craving a burger, The Principal is the spot to order one.
One of the things I really liked about breakfast at The Principal was the timing. On weekdays, breakfast runs from 7 to 11 a.m., and on weekends, from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. Meals in Madrid are traditionally eaten later, so if you’re not having dinner until 10 p.m. — a completely normal thing in this city — having the opportunity to stroll into breakfast later in the morning without feeling rushed feels indulgent.
The breakfast buffet is served in Ático and normally costs $36 per person (if you’ve chosen a rate that doesn’t include breakfast). However, you may be able to get it for $29 per person if you choose to add it on for a few days during your stay. Talk to reception to organize this.
The breakfast buffet had a variety of choices, with things like fresh fruit and juices, chia pudding, bread and pastries, ham and cheese, mini-sandwiches, and a hot food section with quiches, eggs, and sausages. There was also an à la carte menu that featured items like eggs Benedict and avocado toast, and even cava was on offer — perfect for a breakfast mimosa.
Because I was still so full from my late-night burger binge, I opted for a smaller breakfast that included coffee and some of the aforementioned buffet options. Everything was tasty, and the service was friendly.
Throughout my stay, staff members were friendly, helpful, and welcoming, down to housekeeping saying good morning to me and the bellhop holding my overstuffed duffel bag while I waited 7 minutes for my Uber.
Another standout service touch was the turndown service I discovered when I returned from a stroll. Housekeeping staff left a box with tasty chocolates, a welcome note, and slippers on either side of the bed.
My brief stay at The Principal Madrid was peppered with pleasantly surprising moments, making my time at the hotel very happy — even whimsical (one of those moments would be encountering the city’s signature hard candies as a welcome gift). I thought it was fantastic how the hotel truly defined itself through Madrid’s traditions and history while still presenting a fully modern and chic face for guests.
Travelers who care about tiny details, charming amenities, and unique interior design should consider a stay at The Principal. Anyone who wants to have a comfortable and stylish hotel experience synthesized with the history, traditions, and culture of the city will enjoy this property, from the incredible views of the cityscape to its representative cuisine.
Madrid’s historic city center is one of the best places for visitors to stay, especially those visiting the Spanish capital for the first time. These areas include spots like Sol and Gran Vía. Upscale travelers may want to stay in the Salamanca neighborhood, which is known for high-end shopping and cafes.
Madrid has so many incredible hotel rooftops. Some of the best are the rooftops at hotels like The Principal, the Thompson, the Hyatt Centric, the Madrid Edition, the Axel, the Hat, the Generator, Bless Madrid, and the Riu Plaza España.
First-time visitors to Madrid should consider staying along the famous Gran Vía or near the city’s main tourist haunts, like Puerta del Sol and the Plaza Mayor.
Hotels can cost less than $100 per night for budget hotels — hostels can be even cheaper. Mid-range hotels range from $200 to $500 per night, while luxury hotels such as the Mandarin Oriental Ritz or the Four Seasons Madrid can cost more than $600 to $800 per night and can soar into the thousands per night.
Único Hotels is a small collection of boutique hotels throughout Spain and Argentina. Consisting of The Principal Madrid, Hotel Único Madrid, Finca Serena Mallorca, The Lodge, Mallorca, Mas de Torrent, Costa Brava, and Hotel Casa Lucía, Buenos Aires, each hotel embodies its destination through detailed amenities and stylish, curated design.
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