When you hear ‘Madrid’ the most obvious thing that comes to find is football. Known as home to one of the best football teams in the world, Real Madrid, this city offers so much more than you could ever imagine. Large, tree-lined avenues. Stunning period properties. A bustling food scene and culture galore. There’s no doubting the spell this city can put you under from the moment you arrive.
Here in the UAE travel is all about discovering new places, eating new food and, most of the time shopping to our hearts’ content. And at only a seven-hour flight from Dubai, Madrid is a place that allows you to do all of that and more.
Having been to Madrid countless times while I lived in Spain, I’m no stranger to this city. However each time I go I manage to find something completely new, something that makes me fall in love with this Capital a little bit more. And that’s exactly what happened when I was there last month staying at the Gran Meliá Fénix. A renowned Spanish brand, Meliá hotels and resorts have, in my experience, never failed to impress. But, as my taxi turned into the narrow street and stopped outside an opulent hotel frontage with immaculate doormen and an awaiting porter, I knew I was about to be impressed beyond measure.
The grand, red-carpeted staircase that sweeps through the lobby of the Gran Meliá Fénix and the marbled flooring and rich colours of the furnishings show European history at its best, allowing you to imagine this place as somewhere diners would dress to impress in their dinner jackets and bow ties. Madrid is a city steeped in history and this elegant property is the perfect place to explore it from.
The rooms carry on the opulent feel of the lobby, with soothing neutral tones marrying with the Georgian style furniture. Even the bathroom cannot escape the first-class atmosphere, with the Clarins amenities showing that this hotel is determined to go the extra mile to impress and securing it in its place as an elite member of The Leading Hotels of the World.
Having visited all of the tourist spots a hundred times before, there was only one thing on my mind after I had taken in all the room had to offer – shopping! And luckily for me, but maybe unluckily for my bank account balance, the Gran Meliá Fénix is located in the prestigious neighbourhood of Salamanca. Renowned for its gorgeous, expensive property and endless high-end shops, this is where the Real Madrid footballers’ wives shop till they drop. With the famous Calle de Serrano being under a minute’s walk away from the hotel, it seemed almost rude not to explore what the shops had to offer. From Spanish high street brands like Zara, Mango and Massimo Dutti to the international fashion houses of Chanel, Manolo Blahnik and Yves Saint Laurent, this street is up there with the best shopping districts in the world. And after you shop till you can no longer carry your bags, the many quaint, but bustling, cafes along the road are just waiting for you with a café con leche and some tapas to refuel.
For those who do enough shopping in The Dubai Mall not to want to do anymore while on holiday, the cultural spots of the city are abundant. Two of the city’s best museums - National Prado Museum and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum – are only a 20-minute walk from the hotel, while the Reina Sofia Art Museum is just an extra ten minutes further. If a lazy afternoon picnic is more of your thing then the royal 350 acre Retiro park is the ideal spot, a mere ten minute stroll from the Gran Meliá Fénix. Watching the rowboats on the lake and the families enjoying the many shaded areas of the park gives off such a tranquil vibe, while the different exclusive gardens make the perfect place to relax with a good book.
As the day draws to an end in Madrid, the endless options for dining and nightlife will keep your energy up. For a breathtaking sunset view over the city, the Gran Meliá Fénix’s Aduanas restaurant allows you to indulge in luxurious Spanish fare in a peaceful and intimate location. With only eight or ten tables on the terrace, this is the perfect getaway from the usual tourist traps and will allow you to review your day in depth while feasting on fresh oysters, prime steak or succulent fish.
With so much to see and do in Madrid, don’t be surprised if you’re asleep before your head hits the enveloping pillows back at the Gran Meliá Fénix. And as you awake fresh and rejuvenated, the only thing left to do as you enjoy the hotel’s vast breakfast egg menu and buffet spread is to think about where the city will take you throughout the day to come. No doubt it will be somewhere enchanting, intriguing and Instagram worthy!
Emirates fly twice daily from Dubai to Madrid. For more information on Gran Meliá Fénix, visit www.melia.com/en/hotels/spain/madrid/gran-melia-fenix.
By Holly Woolston