Viva Espana! Madrid’s Magical Hotel Villa Magna

HOOD: Central Madrid, Spain
VIBE: Sophisticated
PROPERTY SIZE: 150 rooms
ROOM STYLE: Contemporary
WE LOVE: The location – right in the heart of Madrid

WORDS BY: Ian Pryer – visited Nov 2015

In the course of ones travels, there are occasional confluences resulting in an outstanding and memorable experience.

A recent and first trip to Madrid combined with a stay at Villa Magna was magical.

Hotel Villa Magna, a former palace although totally remodeled, is located on Paseo de la Castellana. This extraordinary tree-lined boulevard (it cannot be called a street) is one of the major thoroughfares of Madrid but because of its width, traffic never presents a problem. As one draws up to Hotel Villa Magna, one cannot fail to notice the efficiency and sophistication with which the whole arrival process is handled. An air of calm pervades as luggage quietly disappears and one is escorted to the reception desk for a noticeably smooth check-in.

The décor of the lobby, soft muted tones, interesting sculptures, comfortable furniture foretell of what one might expect from a stay at Hotel Villa Magna. Directly off the lobby is their very pleasant bar (they believe that the best gin and tonics in Madrid are served here) and lounge area. Although both are accessible to non-guests, neither is ever overcrowded.

Lobby bar

Adjacent to the bar is a casual indoor/outdoor eating area offering a range of snacks and tapas appropriate to the time of day.

Patio Magnum
Indoor/outdoor dining

On the other side of the lobby is Restaurant Villa Magna which serves as a breakfast room in the morning and then becomes one of Madrid’s leading restaurants at lunch and dinner.

Restaurant Villa Magna

The rooms are as comfortable as the lobby would suggest, fitted with every convenience one would expect from a hotel of this standard (daily newspaper, safe, tea and coffee making facility etc.). Even the television set, when not in use, looks like a mirror.

Prestige 02
Grand Prestige Room

Adjacent to reception is the Concierge for whom nothing appears to be too much trouble. Their restaurant recommendations were all superb. My wife and I weren’t necessarily looking for gourmet experiences but rather establishments where we could rub shoulders with locals. Lateral at 89 Paseo de la Castellana was “buzzing” at 9 p.m. Platea, just around the corner from the hotel is truly a Centro de Ocio Gastronomica, a very upmarket food court with live music and a wonderful atmosphere. We were directed by the Concierge to an area about 300m from the hotel where we were told we would find any number of tapas bars. We ate and drank most reasonably at Makkila but am sure that any would have been equally wonderful.

An absolute Madrid must – El Rastro Market on a Sunday morning: a taxi ride (fares are most reasonable and cabs readily available) from the hotel should not to be missed. If shopping is important, Madrid’s biggest department store, El Corte Ingles, is directly behind the hotel and connected to it. The main entrance of El Corte is on Calle Serrano, Madrid’s most elegant shopping street with every conceivable “brand”. The major art galleries are within walking distance or a short taxi ride away. Like most cities, Madrid has a “hop-on, hop-off” bus and there is a stop less than 200 m. from the hotel.

Book a private, custom tour of Madrid here

In this most elegant and exciting city, Hotel Villa Magna is truly wonderful.

As a Goldman/Travelcall client, the following amenities are included:

  • Buffet breakfast in Restaurant Villa Magna each day
  • Tapas and wine once during the stay
  • Room upgrade, subject to availability
  • Complimentary internet access
  • Villa Magna sweets box
  • Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
  • Round trip airport transfers for Executive Suite Bookings & above

Truly Remarkable Turkey – Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet

HOOD:  Istanbul, Turkey. A few steps from Istanbul’s most important landmarks in Sultanahmet
VIBE: Neoclassical cool
PROPERTY SIZE: 65 guest rooms and suites
ROOM STYLE:  Modern, spacious with lovely Turkish touches
WE LOVE:  The fact that this property was once a prison (over 100 years ago)
INSIDER TIP: Sunset cocktails on the roof terrace listening to the call to prayer. A quintessential and unforgettable Turkish experience.

WORDS BY: Chris Cheyne, General Manager, Goldman Travel Corporation

Nestled between the tourist hot spots of the Aya Sofya, the Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace, the Four Seasons Istanbul at Sultanahmet is a perfect location to base yourself in Istanbul – particularly for first time visitors as all the major historical monuments are within easy walking distance.

This part of the city conjures images of the Constantinople of old, with spice traders and merchants rubbing shoulders with explorers; a very different experience then you will have on the Taksim Square side of the city, with its modern eateries and stylish boutiques.

Take a walk along Divanyolu Cadessi to reach the Grand Bazaar – only about 15 minutes, past shops, restaurants, and Mosques.

Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet
Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet

The hotel forms a square, with half the rooms looking in on a lovely garden and restaurant. We stayed in a Deluxe King category room, comparable to most junior suites, such was its size.  Sporting views looking down to the garden, glimpses of the minarets of Aya Sofya, an oversize bathroom with deep soaking tub, luxurious amenities, and a small entry foyer, this was both elegant, and comfortable.

For the fitness inclined, the hotel offers a very well appointed gym in the lower ground floor; large change rooms are stocked with toiletries and big fluffy towels.  There is also a large, clean sauna, and rain shower with body jets to rinse off and cool down in.  For those guests wishing a full Turkish spa experience, you can enjoy the facilities at the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus (a short drive or tram ride across town), or visit the local Hammams (the AyaSofya Hurrem Sultan Hammam is just up the road), where you can be massaged in a mountain of soap bubbles, and scrubbed to your shiny-skinned best!

Overall our stay was very good.  For its location, comfort, and service, I would certainly recommend the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet – particularly if you want to immerse yourselves in the history of the old city, but enjoy a little bit of pampering and luxury while you do it.

AMENITIES: (book with us for)

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Daily full breakfast, for up to two in room guests
  • Fresh Fruits
  • USD100 Food & Beverage credit

Take a Grand Tour of Italy with Belmond

HOOD: Italy
VIBE: Sophisticated schlepping
PROPERTY SIZE: Six iconic properties to choose from
ROOM STYLES: Indigenous chic
WE LOVE: The possibilities! Venice, Florence, and Portofino can be done five star, in seven stunning nights
INSIDER TIP: Wherever you stay, Belmond’s concierge have complied a list of unforgettable cultural, culinary, wellness and active experiences

WORDS BY: Josh Ogilvie

Italy’s back on our European bucket list (as if it was ever off).

Belmond is currently offering the perfect excuse to embark on your dream Italian grand tour by offering seven nights, in your choice of two or more of their lux Italian abodes, for one flat weekly rate. Choose from:

Prices start at EUR€540 + tax per night. Book with us for additional amenities like preferential access to room upgrades, complimentary breakfast and hotel credit across the hotels.

J.K. Place Roma

‘HOOD: Via Condotti, Spanish Steps Area
ROOM STYLE: Contemporary
WE LOVE: Location, service + decor

WORDS BY: Virtuoso
Toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain and wish for a stay at J.K. Place Roma. Just off Via Condotti near the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon and other major attractions, this 30-room residential hotel places you in the very heart of the Eternal City. The beautifully restored 17th-century building maintains its neoclassical dignity, while rosewood canopy beds, Carrara marble bathrooms and smart touches like complimentary minibars make for a chic, cozy retreat. A glass ceiling adds to the elegance of the art-filled lobby. JKCafe serves a tempting array of Italian and international dishes. Continue reading

Toscana,Venezia, Firenze e Roma – ti amo!

It’s been a few weeks since my last post. Wow, what a ride it’s been. I am sitting here at a desk probably made in the 1950’s in my room at the iconic Hotel Gellert in Budapest (Hungary) where we have been based for the past few days. So once again, I will go back a bit and will explain what we have been up to during this wonderful adventure. I’ll try and keep it brief so will mention a few highlights and post a few interesting pics as well! Continue reading

Au Revoir Provence, Buongiorno Italia

It’s early morning, birds are chirping and the church bells are ringing outside as I write this from our lovely villa in Incisa Val d’Arno, Tuscany (Italy). Located about 20 mins outside Florence on the fringe of the city, Relais Belvedere is perfect ( for our needs. It’s been quite the couple of weeks so will rewind to where #goldmanadventure left off in my last post and give an update on what we have been doing.

We had the most wonderful stay at Terre Blanche (TB). This resort has the best kids club and Concierge team I have ever seen and experienced.I know it’s a big call,but it’s true. The kids participated in many activities including painting, swimming, games and kids club lunches and dinners (great options) which meant that Nat and I could have some quality time and enjoy what the resort had to offer. I loved the fact that the kids club nannies (plenty of supervision for kids of all ages) would come up to us at breakfast and ferry the kids into very cute kids club buggies and then whisk them away to the club. The concierge team couldn’t do enough for you when enquiries were made about where to eat or where to go. Maps were always at hand and car stocked with cold water and engine running when we were ready to depart. Special mention to ‘Eladia’ at the concierge team. She really is a star at TB.

The area that this resort is located is perfect for families or couples. There are six quaint towns located within 10 – 25 minutes away and we got to explore each one during our stay (Seillans, Fayence/Tourettes (giggle), Callian, Montauroux ,Saint Paul En Foret and Mons). One was cuter than the next although my favourite two were Fayence (for the wonderful weekend food and clothes markets) and Callian (for the atmosphere and fantastic restaurants for the kids). Walking around and listening/seeing both villages in action was a really joy for me and the family as we really felt immersed in the French countryside. One of my favourite things about the area actually was the SMELL. It rained on and off for a bit during our stay at TB and once the sun came out after a downpour, the smell of the Lavender was intoxicating. I just stood there and breathed it all in. It was like being in an outdoor L’Occitane who were having a sale on everything Lavender (get it?). We also loved paddle boating around Lac de Saint-Cassien (Lake Cassien) and having lunch at one of the many beach clubs around this beautiful lake. We decided to get a bit more adventurous during the last couple of days while we were at TB, so we drove to Mougin for dinner (famous medieval town known for its beautiful art and jewellery), Nice for the day (how are those rocky beaches?!!), and Monaco for ice cream (as you do). All up, a wonderful experience and I can’t wait to explore this region further in the future.  I am so happy I have a better understanding of this area now!

We bid farewell to TB and drove about 5 hours east along the A8 to chic Forte Dei Marmi (FDM), Italia! What a drive that was. I love driving in Europe, it really gives me a sense of freedom and speed (they drive VERY fast even in the slow lane). We stopped for lunch at a really cute sea side beach town called Pietra Liguria which was a real find. Lots of locals enjoying the beach and sunshine. We had lunch in the main Piazza, had a great coffee and then headed back to the car and the final km’s to FDM. It’s so strange to cross an open border from one country to the next and suddenly the street signs, architecture and language just change. From one moment to the next. Imagine that happening in Australia? Food for thought. Oh.. and while we are on the topic of food. I ate so much cheese in France that I almost felt like I needed to hand over my Medicare card over at every Fromagerie I walked into. Just sayin.

So, we drive into FDM, check into our hotel ( and met up finally with my best buddy Steve, lovely KD and little one Evie. So happy to meet up with them and have a wonderful couple of weeks! The hotel was clean and comfy with a great pool for the kids. Located about 5 mins drive from the centre of town, UNA was perfectly located for our needs. Walking around this town at night was a real treat. Everyone dressed up and riding beautiful Italian bicycles, laughing and having wonderful conversations (I think). It’s a town that makes it easy for one to smile and appreciate life. Food + fashion + beach + great Italian food = Forte Dei Marmi. Steve and I visited an Italiano barber, had shaves and buzz cuts and we all went to the beach and soaked it all up.They shut down the middle of the city during the evenings so it becomes a really great place to walk around, have dinner, get some ice-cream and even enjoy the fun amusement park they set up for the summer. The kids loved the mini motor cars that are set up for kids to drive around the main Piazza. Oh.. they also throw in some poor ponies that you can ride in the midst of this mini car mayhem as well. Picture that.. kids screaming with delight driving mini cars chasing mini ponies. Not a good mix but somehow it works. Poor ponies.

As mentioned we are now in Tuscany and will post more about this in my next post. We have visited Florence (I honestly love this city) and already enjoying the vino.

I am so delighted that Goldman Travel won Best Corporate Agency (single location) in Australia last Saturday night at AFTA’s National Travel Industry Awards 2014. Well done to the team ! Many thanks to all our wonderful suppliers who put in their nominations for us. It really makes this trip so much more special. Onwards and upwards GTC!!