Only in Europe can a hotel claim to be brand new and centuries old at the same time. Madrid's Gran Meliá Palacio de los Duques, a Leading Hotels of the World member, is a six month old hotel built on 800 year old bones. To create it architect Alvaro Sans combined a 13th century convent and a 19th century palace. The palace belonged to a line of dukes, and their taste in home décor is one of its few surviving features.
Suite A Bedroom.
The dukes collected the work of Spanish court painter Diego Velazquez. Although none of his original paintings remain on site (one of them is hanging in the Prado National Museum), his art still dominates the newly renovated walls. His masterpiece Las Meninas inspired the hotel's colour scheme. And every room, passageway and common area features reproductions of his most famous paintings. Like at a museum, placards provide background information about each piece. Walking past the Water Carrier suite, I read that it was painted while the artist was in Seville in 1618-1622 and that I can view the original next time I'm in Wellington. I'm not sure I've ever learned so much on the walk from the elevator to my door.
"You'll always find art in Gran Meliá hotels," says sales manager Ana Escribano. "We could have had different Spanish painters in all the rooms but since the duke was fascinated with Velazquez, there was more of a relation in the story of the palace and the story of us."
Private RedLevel lounge.
The spirit of Velazquez even haunts mealtimes. Sit down at the hotel's Restaurante Montmartre and you'll be served a pull-apart bread loaf inspired by his painting, The Lunch. In the neighbouring Coroa Gallery Lounge there's an eye-catching art installation: 84 different wines in glass beakers, arranged by colour from lightest to darkest like a drinkable painter's palette. Velazquez would surely have approved.
Gran Meliá Palacio de los Duques, Cuesta Santa Domingo 5, Madrid, Spain, +34 91 5416700, melia.com.