I recently traveled with a small group from JFK to Madrid. As soon as we stepped through security and into the Iberia lounge at JFK, the journey became an astonishing experience. As someone who has been fortunate enough to have experienced dozens of business class lounges, I can honestly say this is the finest lounge I have ever had the pleasure of setting foot in. Naturally, the lounge was clean and offered a wealth of seating options depending on a guest’s desires. In addition to a full bar and food station, the lounge featured an outdoor patio where guests can enjoy fresh air in warm seasons, and a spa with fully equipped treatment rooms and an extensive treatment menu.

In what seemed like mere minutes, we were on our Iberia fight in business class, and on our way to Spain. The Iberia service was spot on, the food was consistently delicious, and the plane offered all modern competitive bells and whistles. This included a luxury amenity case with L’Occitane products, a modern entertainment center, and a fully reclining seat for those who were not too excited to sleep!

Our group stayed at the Gran Melia Palacio de los Duques, a member property of Leading Hotels of the World, and situated in a highly convenient location when experiencing Madrid for just three nights. It is a beautifully tall, white building which looks surprisingly modern given that it is a former 19th century palace that was renovated into a modern hotel. The hotel is inspired by the Spanish painter Velázquez, and the entire hotel is decorated in recreations of his art.

Its location is convenient for guests traveling on foot or by car, a short walk from the Royal Palace and the Almudena Cathedral. The hotel’s lounge (their answer to club status with other brands), had snacks, wine, beer, and water available from first thing in the morning until 11:00pm, and offered patio seating for guests to enjoy the unusually warm weather. In addition, the Melia staff called to check on me regularly during my stay, gifted us with chocolates during turndown service, and resolved any issues with swift action and sincere apologies.

Rooms at the Gran Melia Palacio de los Duques are very modern, yet comfortable, and the upper hotel floors were ideal, due to their quiet nature. One would never know that downstairs there are 3 restaurants and 2 bars, plus outside areas to relax and enjoy a drink, all of which are open late and remained busy throughout our stay. Possibly the most impressive feature was the swimming pool and Jacuzzi on the top floor overlooking the Royal Palace. It was surprisingly hot for March and many of us wished we had thought to pack swimsuits as guests were using the loungers and pool throughout the day and even into the evening. Another truly spectacular standout was their Thai Wellness Center. No detail, large or small, is overlooked here. From the lighting, to the scent, to the design of the wellness rooms, the Wellness Center truly reflects the 5-star nature of the property.

In the last several years, Madrid has undergone major changes in infrastructure, and some of these initiatives remain ongoing. Improved metro and rail transport, wider roads, and greener public areas make Madrid a very welcoming city for visitors both on foot and behind the wheel. We focused our city tour on modern Madrid, beginning with the Royal Palace, the Teatro Real and the Almudena Cathedral. From there we walked a large loop back to our hotel. Along the way, we saw numerous restaurants, tapas bars, local shops and markets, most impressive of which was the Mercado de San Miguel. This market is overflowing with stalls offering everything from iberico to charcuterie, olives, cheeses, olive oils, wines, oysters, spices and even desserts. Following that, we continued to Chocolateria San Gines, which offers the finest hot chocolate in all of Madrid.

Following our walking tour, we had the evening on our own. Some chose to go back to their rooms and rest, while others went for a walk to shop and pick up a light dinner. No matter the preference, the options were endless given the central location of the property. Madrid is a very safe city to explore and amazingly easy navigate. Whether we were walking as a group during the day or stepping out alone in the morning or evening, we always felt safe and welcomed. The locals were friendly, helpful, and kind, whether tending a shop or simply walking the streets.

While we only had 2 full days in Madrid, we made it a point to visit Melia’s other properties as well. I was struck immediately by how many Melia hotels there are in Madrid, and how all manage to be centrally located to different attractions. True to brand, each of their hotels have their own unique style and décor, allowing them to cater to a wide range of clientele. From the Gran Palacio, we walked to the ME Madrid for lunch in their Ana La Santa restaurant. The hotel is young, modern and urban, blending in perfectly with its location near the Prado Museum. The various room categories (Chic, Style, Mode, Energy, Vibe) are minimal in design, feature brightly colored mini bars, creative soft touches, and truly hilarious and unique door tags (my favorite Do Not Disturb caption was “You don’t need to see this!”). Higher level rooms offer terraces, loungers, Jacuzzi tubs and astounding views. Great for younger clientele or anyone attracted to a chic, hip modern design. At the restaurant, the menu featured many tapas plates and a few larger pallela dishes.

Our next visit was to the Gran Melia Fenix. Upon arrival, we were struck by the amazing lobby and dramatic staircase, surrounded by expertly crafted décor in deep maroon tones. Although this hotel has nearly 200 rooms, it feels like a small, intimate property. It is centrally located on Castellana Boulevard in the Salamanca shopping/dining district. The rooms are cozy and modern, many of which have spectacular views. With standard category rooms and higher categories of large suites with Jacuzzi tubs on the coveted 9th floor, options abound at the Gran Melia Fenix. Their Red Level rooms, similar to other club level offerings, and have access to a lounge and other privileges. It’s also a great value for the location, quality and service. The food here truly matches the 5-star nature of the property as a whole. Visiting the Gran Melia Fenix was a spectacular end to a short but packed trip.

Having mentioned infrastructure improvements to Madrid earlier in my review, I should also point out that Barajas Airport has been modernized and greatly improved, with a pedestrian friendly layout and metro system to make getting around as simple and stress-free as possible.

This was one of the most enjoyable and beautiful trips I have taken. With a passion for all travel, especially to Europe, I was thrilled to experience the immense beauty and warm, welcoming culture of Spain!

Thank you to Kathleen O’Connell for this wonderful Madrid review!