When it first opened in 1886, Gran Hotel Inglés became a standard-bearer for luxury in Spanish hospitality. Madrid’s leading newspapers published gushing reviews of the handsomely appointed property near Puerta del Sol, which was described back then as having “a lift, bathrooms on each floor, lighting, steam heating and all of the advances that make life more comfortable.” Soon afterwards, the hotel’s restaurant—an elegant space called Restaurante Inglés, staffed by jacketed waiters—turned into a meeting point for socialites, intellectuals and artists. It was a time of splendor that lasted well into the 1900’s. British writer Virginia Woolf stayed there, as did French painter Henri Matisse and tango legend Carlos Gardel.
One hundred and thirty years later, after having fallen into disrepair, this storied address in the characterful Barrio de las Letras neighborhood is reborn as a sophisticated boutique hotel that pays tribute to the past but clearly belongs to the present. Restoring Gran Hotel Inglés was a labor of love helmed by hoteliers Carmen Cordón Muro and Ignacio Jiménez Artacho of Hidden Away Hotels, a husband-and-wife team whose mission is to discover and renovate one-of-a-kind historic lodgings in their native Spain.
After a USD $20 million investment and long months of work that included re-configuring the existing 72-room layout to create 48 spacious rooms and suites, as well as re-imagining the ground-floor restaurant and common areas, the property shines again with renewed luster.
Although the hotel’s history is celebrated at every turn, it’s fair to say that guests from long ago would not recognize it after a USD $20 million investment and long months of work to renovate the historic property.
Modern Luxury With Vintage Style
Designed by internationally acclaimed firm Rockwell Group, the hotel’s revamped interiors feature a clever mix of classic and modern styles. Time-faded photographs of illustrious hotel guests, salvaged chandeliers and restored wooden columns evoke bygone times, while nuanced colors, geometric accents and bespoke furniture help create a contemporary atmosphere.
In the guestrooms, white wall moldings were “deconstructed” and extended across the ceiling to form an artistic pattern that resembles electric circuitry (this was, after all, the first street in Madrid to receive electricity). Furnishings include comfortable platform beds backed by ribbed headboards in soft grey tones, a look echoed in upholstery-covered walls with inset flat screens. Luxurious bathrooms have marble standalone bathtubs, and closets are wallpapered with images of vintage hotel postcards.
This attention to detail and creative approach to elegance continues downstairs in the lobby, where 20-foot ceilings hung with circular chandeliers provide an aura of grandeur. It is a vast space anchored by a central bar offering craft cocktails and local tipples like vermut and jerez. To add warmth, the design team created a series of intimate sitting areas decorated with round-edged sofas, plush area rugs and beautiful ceramic lamps reminiscent of the 1920’s, the decade when Gran Hotel Inglés was at the top of the heap. Nearby is a library stocked with 600 titles, a perfect corner to curl up with a book and enjoy the warmth of a wood-burning fireplace.
Although the hotel’s history is celebrated at every turn, it’s fair to say that guests from long ago would not recognize it, especially not the restaurant where they often gathered. Renamed Casa Lobo, the new dining room is as poised as it is sexy: classic boiserie painted a deep blue and matching graphic wallpapers are paired with high-backed booth sofas, a look that calls to mind a members-only club.