Overseen by gods on rooftops, the avenue of Gran Via in Madrid is the hip and entertaining Spanish answer to America’s broadway. On this Madrip trip, we explore the neighbourhood while living in its heart—at the Hyatt Centric Madrid. By Radhika Tandon
I stood outside the entrance to the Hyatt Centric Madrid and peered upwards. Outlined against a flawless blue sky was a golden statue of Diana, the Goddess of the hunt—her bow
and arrow pointed at the phoenix on the building across the street. While the Gods stood in a permanent standoff above, traffic swirled around me on the buzzing Gran Vía street. This
will be fun, I thought.
The lobby of the Hyatt Centric is not what you’d call conventional. Step inside, and you’re in the Ondas:Vermuteria+Lounge. A multi-functional space that manages to be hip and cosy at once, it specialises in vermouth, coffee, and tapas, and is as much the spot for a quick business meeting as a draw for Saturday night revellers. A bartender waved at me in greeting, as a row of cushioned ledges sat against a wall alongside a comfortable scatter of chairs.
A glass lift overlooks an open-to-sky central atrium that drenches the whole building in daylight. A cluster of giant fans inside it is one of the many reminders of Spanish culture
throughout the building. My favourite of these was on the top floor, where an original beam from the foundations of the building had been used to make an evocative art installation.
The beam was damaged in bombing during the Spanish Civil War, a wound that lay undiscovered in the heart of the building until 2016, when it was renovated. The artwork, a symbol of peace and renewal, is the perfect tribute to its history.
In keeping with the theme of relaxed indulgence, my room had everything one would expect, from well-appointed bathrooms to French doors that led to a balcony over the Gran Vía. The decor was soothing but unexpected, with kittens on the throw pillows (a nod to the nickname Gatos, the Spanish word for cats, which the people of Madrid call themselves), while the shelves were stocked with glossy Spanish art books. The best part was the flawless sound insulation that let me sleep like a baby despite staying on what is probably Madrid’s busiest street.
One of the first things I did in the city was sign up for an intriguing mixology session on offer at the hotel. The Gintoneria bar is a part of the main restaurant, Hielo Y Carbon, a fluid space that wraps itself around the first floor of the hotel and includes a cold bar and an area serving Spanish-Peruvian fusion cuisine. It is surrounded by walls of glass to maximise the views of the buzzing street life outside. What followed was a crash course in the art of making cocktails conducted by the delightful Jorge. I learned to make a perfect strawberry cheesecake cocktail with the Spanish gin, Larios, along with a few concoctions of my own design—some delicious, others undrinkable. Needless to say, the evening ended on a delightfully tipsy note.
Unlike many hotels, Hyatt Centric Madrid encourage you to go out and experience the city. The staff are friendly, informal, and local. If you’re a confident traveller looking for something extra, they point you to places and experiences that are both, authentic and unusual. I was not disappointed by their recommendations. One of these was a rooftop tour of the Gran Vía area, which is often referred to as the Broadway of Madrid. I can best describe it as a happy marriage between the West End and Oxford Street, with a totally Spanish soul. Lively, cosmopolitan, and humming with activity at all hours, it’s quite possible to spend days in and around this single street and not run out of things to do.
Madrid is famed for its deep blue skies. Going out is central to the local culture; summer or winter, restaurants and cafes spill out on the streets. The rooftop tour gave me a glimpse of this vibrant society from a new perspective. While tourists tend to stick to the many delights at ground level, you can eat, meet, and relax like a native at the several oases perched on Madrid’s rooftops. I met my guide, Pedro, outside the new City Hall, located on the eastern end of the Gran Vía. The iconic building looks like a Gothic palace but was built in the early 20th century as the headquarters of the Spanish postal service. A visit to the observation tower at the top comes highly recommended to enjoy sweeping views of the entire city.