Keats would have loved it here. In a 10-day stay at the Villa Real Hotel, he could have reeled off an ode to a different Grecian urn every day. The rest of us can just scoff our scrambled eggs while staring at them, musing that beauty is truth, truth beauty and those gorgeous little pastries are far too nice to resist.

Yes, even the breakfast room at the Villa Real is stuffed with antiquities. Along with the spectacular array of artisan breads, pastries, muffins, fruits, hams and cheeses, and a big modern sculpture made of dried flowers and plants wrapped in wire netting, there's an eye-popping collection of vases dating from the fourth century BC.

In the sitting room next door, there are Roman mosaics of birds, fish and deer. There are more in the corridors, and in the lobby there's a statue of the Roman god Aesculapius dating from the first or second century AD. It's all juxtaposed with big leather sofas, strategically placed (and rather peculiar) contemporary sculptures and shiny marble floors. For this hotel, one of 11 in the Derby Hotel collection, seeks to embody the twin passions - history and luxury - of its creator, the archaeologist and entrepreneur Jordi Clos. The emphasis here is on comfort and class, but guests can also use the facilities of the much funkier sister hotel, the Urban, just round the corner, including its sixth-floor sun terrace and pool.

You can eat very tasty food, too - in the elegantly minimalist East 47 restaurant and bar, surrounded by real Andy Warhols, or in the Europa Restaurant, where the chef aims for a balance between "conceptual modernity and traditional tastes". The "Grand Tasting Menu" will set you back €125 (£83), and the Beluga caviar €200 (£134) for 50g, but there are (thank God) cheaper options for the less extravagant.


Villa Real Hotel, 10 Plaza de las Cortes, Madrid, Spain (00 34 91 420 3767; In the heart of one of the main cultural quarters in Madrid, the Villa Real is a short walk from the Museo del Prado, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, the Reina Sofia Cultural Centre, the Retiro Park and many of the financial, political and commercial institutions of Madrid.

Time to international airport: a 20-minute drive from Madrid Barajas.


Some of the rooms have Roman mosaics in the bathrooms. Mine didn't, but the bathroom was gorgeous: lined with Carrara marble and full of fluffy white towels and gleaming steel. The room was comfortable and chic, with a design emphasis on contemporary elegance; all clean lines and lots of burnished mahogany. All the rooms have a lower lounge area with a big leather sofa. There are luxury suites, too, with bedrooms and lounge on the same level, as well as duplexes with Jacuzzis and "junior" suites where you get works of art as well as space.

Keeping in touch: There's free internet access in the lounge and Wi-Fi in the rooms, although you have to pay €18 (£12) for 24 hours' usage.

Freebies: Shampoo, soap, body lotion and shower gel.


Double rooms from €150 (£107) room only.

I'm not paying that: Hotel Miau, Calle Principe 26 (00 34 91 369 7120) has doubles from €90 (£64) including breakfast.