An Iberian Immersion

Discover the wonders–and the distinct worlds–of San Sebastian, Elciego and Madrid

Spain is one of those rarefied places that keeps you coming back for more. You could spend years–a lifetime, even–exploring its sophisticated cities, its low-key coastal towns (on both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea), its sun-kissed highlands, its paellas and jamons and vinos, its rich heritage and so much more. In essence, the country gives credence to the phrase “there’s something for everyone.” But where to begin? Start in San Sebastian, an idyllic beach town on Spain’s northern coast, before heading south to Elciego’s vineyards and the capital city Madrid’s cosmopolitan enchantments.

Sun, Surf and Spanish Cuisine in San Sebastian

Breathtakingly charming and rather joyfully removed from the Mediterranean’s party scene, San Sebastian–located in a nook of Northern Spain, at the edge of the Bay of Biscay on the Atlantic Coast, is an ideal town to ease into your Spanish getaway. In San Sebastian, life moves a bit more slowly, and the vibe is warm and welcoming. Come twilight, go bar hopping for pintxos (light bites and drinks, similar to tapas) in the town center of Parte Vieja. Beaches here are also a must, with red-roof dotted rolling hills that cascade into crystalline waters. For sunbathing, try the broad and flat La Concha. For surfing, don’t miss Zurriola, a local favorite for consistent waves. One of the most remarkable things about San Sebastian is both its natural splendor and its beautiful heritage–you can feel its antiquity humming in the softly shifting air, with Spanish colonial style buildings, ancient relics and more dotted throughout the landscape. 
Hotel Maria Cristina, A Luxury Collection Hotel, San Sebastian plays a key role in San Sebastian’s legacy. It officially opened in 1912, after the local government recognized the region’s increasing popularity with wealthy travelers. Designed by the renowned French architect Charles Mewes, Hotel Maria Cristina holds both river and sea views, as well as a landmark restaurant named Café Saigon with sightlines out to the famous Victoria Eugenia Theatre. Central, sophisticated and steeped in the town’s history, Hotel Maria Cristina is a fabulous homebase for exploring San Sebastian–much as it has been for visiting royals and aristocrats over the years.

Gehry and Grapes in Elciego

After a few days a la playa, take the scenic, two-hour drive south to Elciego–affectionately known around the world as “the city of wine.” Postcard-ready hills undulate as far as the eye can see; the vintners specialize in rioja, the famous red wine. Perhaps it’s no surprise, but wine tours and tastings are the de facto activity in Elciego, though the town itself holds a late Medieval reverence–it was founded in 1583.
Yet, somewhere that’s brilliantly and proudly of-this-era: The Hotel Marqués de Riscal, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Elciego. It is the sole hotel–anywhere–designed by the renowned architect Frank Gehry, and it is a local attraction in and of itself. With mercurial sails and ribbons wrapping its exterior, the structure is awe-inspiring–and a unique place to temporarily call home.

Hotel Marqués de Riscal also features two restaurants–1860 Tradición and Marqués de Riscal Restaurant–helmed by Francis Paniego, a Michelin-star winning chef. These, plus a highly celebrated spa called Spa Vinothérapie® Caudalie that offers inventive treatments leveraging the health properties of grapes. After exploring, perusing and soaking up Spain, a day of treatments here is the perfect way to conclude your Iberian getaway.

Metropolitan–and Magnificent–Madrid

To round out your Spanish getaway, board a train south to the capital city of Madrid. Gloriously historical and yet thrillingly anachronistic, Madrid has long been a beacon of sophistication and urbane magnetism. It is rife with baroque splendor and palatial architecture, yet at the same time, it has become a haven for modern day creatives and forward-thinkers, who have populated the city with in-the-know art galleries, speakeasies and homegrown streetwear labels. There are few places in the world where such temporal clashes meld together quite so seamlessly: Madrid feels a bit like a time machine, both in reverse and looking to the horizon. It’s mesmerizing.

A Madrid must-see is a visit to the Museo Nacional del Prado, where guests may behold dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch’s intriguing The Garden of Earthly Delights. The world-renowned museum is has works from Goya, El Greco and other greats, but this painting alone is worth a visit. Surreal and dream-like, it mirrors, a bit, the feeling one gets by wandering Madrid’s streets.
Santo Mauro, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Madrid stands just five minutes from the Prado. Its neighborhood is known as “the golden triangle,” a tony enclave that has played home to aristocrats and bohemians alike. Santo Mauro itself is housed in a 19th century palace, replete with fountains, terraces, and centuries-old chestnut trees that was once the home of a Duke of Santu Mauro. Fashioned in a classical French style and replete with a traditional Spanish restaurant called La Biblioteca Gresca and an innovative cocktail lounge called Gresca Wine Bar, the hotel has plenty to offer within its walls. Yet, it’s also ideally situated in a central location to peruse all that Madrid has to offer. One must: Take a 20 minute walk from Santo Mauro to Parque del Retiro, one of the grandest public outdoor spaces in all of Europe.
While Spain could take a lifetime to explore, this arc provides a rich, dynamic immersion into this beloved Iberian destination. Make sure, when it’s time to leave, to pack a few bottles of rioja, too.

Experience This Itinerary

San Sebastian

Hotel Maria Cristina

Since it opened in 1912, the 136-room Hotel Maria Cristina, a Luxury Collection Hotel, San Sebastian has been intimately linked to the history and cultural life of San Sebastian. In the late 19th century the seaside town on the southern point of the Bay of Biscay became a favorite destination for royalty and aristocrats who came to enjoy the sunshine and newly recognized therapeutic properties of sea bathing.
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Hotel Marqués de Riscal

Designed by internationally renowned architect Frank Gehry, Hotel Marqués de Riscal, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Elciego is a masterpiece in the heart of the City of Wine. This stunning 2Ist century chateau features 61 guestrooms and suites with exceptional designer touches and enviable views of the countryside, medieval town of Elciego or the striking architecture. Enjoy local cuisine and fine wines at 1860 Tradición or Marqués de Riscal Restaurant, or soak up the benefits of the grape at the Vinothérapie® SPA Caudalie Marqués de Riscal.
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Santo Mauro

The Hotel Santo Mauro invites you on a journey to the XIX century, staying in the home of one of the most influential figures in Madrid society at that time, the Duke of Santo Mauro. With its French-influenced design and architecture, the hotel consists of three buildings set in the most sophisticated private garden in Madrid, with fountains and terraces shaded by ancient chestnut trees.
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