Room review: The Principal Madrid, Spain
THE PLACE: The Principal Madrid, a five-star hotel and member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World.
LOCATION: Gran Via in central Madrid, where designer shops, nightclubs, theatres and restaurants all jostle for space. This pulsing boulevard is considered to be the Spanish version of New York's Broadway, and is known as "the street that never sleeps" - but that doesn't mean you won't be able to. The hotel is situated on a quiet corner of Gran Via, with its main entrance tucked down a side street.
THE SPACE: The Principal is housed in an elegant 1917 Spanish Renaissance-style building, which just about manages to compete in grandiosity with the famous angel-topped Metropolis building across the road.
A doorman greets you at the discreet entrance, and sends you up in an exclusive elevator to the reception, which is located on the sixth floor. This is also where you'll find the hotel's 24-hour Atico restaurant led by Ramon Freixa, one of Spain's top chefs (be sure to check out his two Michelin-starred namesake restaurant at The Principal's sister hotel, Unico).
One level up is the rooftop terrace and bar, which offers sweeping views over the city. As a guest, make the most of this space by getting up early to watch the sunrise before heading down for breakfast. It's magical.
ROOM: Everything about my executive room is big. There's a big window, a big bed, a big mirror and a big bathroom with a big shower. The colour scheme is a subdued palette of greys and creams, with chic pops of gold in the picture frames and lamps, and a buttery velvet stool at the foot of the bed.
Service is all about the details. In the evening, a white linen floor mat is placed beside my bed and a Godiva chocolate is left on my pillow.
STEPPING OUT: Pack your walking shoes: Madrid is a city best explored on foot. Puerta del Sol, the city's beating heart, is less than a 10-minute stroll from the hotel door. Soak up the atmosphere in the bustling square and make sure to get a selfie with the statue of the bear and the strawberry tree, an icon of Madrid.
Keep walking, and you'll soon find yourself in another famous square, the Plaza Mayor. Built in the 16th century, the majestic plaza has provided the setting for bullfights, public executions, and Spanish Inquisition trials. These days it's a popular meeting place for tourists and locals alike, and is a great spot for people-watching (though try to avoid being sucked in by the touristy, overpriced restaurants that surround it).
Got the late-night munchies? Head to Chocolateria San Gines. Open 24 hours a day, it's where Madrilenos have flocked to get their sweet fix since 1894. Churros are the main thing on the menu, and are best enjoyed dunked in a cup of thick warm liquid chocolate.
VERDICT: The Principal Madrid offers a luxury experience with all the trimmings. This is a hotel you'll remember long after you've checked out.
ESSENTIALS: Prices start from €190 (NZ$285) for an executive room. Bookings can be made via the Small Luxury Hotels of the World website: slh.com/hotels/the-principal-madrid-hotel/
HIGHLIGHT: I'm still thinking about the gin and tonic I ordered from the hotel bar. It was served in what can only be described as a chalice, garnished with a blackberry. It was easily the best G&T I've ever had.
LOWLIGHT: Being charged €10 to borrow an adaptor.
The writer travelled as a guest of Small Luxury Hotels and Cathay Pacific.