Travel concepts come and go, but the very best have human interest at their heart, with the ability to tug at the emotions and inspire us to head off to new destinations. The hotelier and entrepreneur Alfonso López Roldán knows the totemic power of travel all too well and has distilled his experience into a new hostel concept for Madrid. ‘The Hat’ is pitched at those with a spirit of adventure, a love of city life and urban pace and who are willing to let their direction be steered by the people they meet and the places they stay in, not just the recommendations of a guide book.
This insider experience shapes The Hat. López Roldán’s take on contemporary community blends the functional forms of an efficient design-centric hotel with the hard-wearing simplicity of a hostel. Wooden bunks and contemporary pieces are paired with original fixtures and seductive spaces, especially the rooftop bar. ‘We think of it like a big house, a community centre of art, cuisine and traveling,’ he explains, ‘for us, hotels are dead – they are boring places just to be alone in or perhaps to hide with someone. Ours is a place to share, not just for tourists but for locals too.’ Based in a townhouse close to the Playa Mayor, The Hat is a place to stay, meet, eat and attend events. It’s a focus for a trip but also a generator for other things, with art exhibitions, book readings and even English lessons all making use of the space.
The hotelier is a perpetual traveler himself, racking up time in 55 countries to date. ‘People come and stay with us for many different reasons – celebrations, traveling, meeting other people – but ultimately it’s all about taking positive experiences home with them,’ he says. As well as being a seductive and inspirational destination, The Hat is also highly sustainable, with a biomass energy source providing all hot water. Food is organic and materials are used sparingly, from a ban on plastics to a lack of business cards. Pared down, but not ascetic, López Roldán hopes these values will be shared by all those who visit.
The central location means The Hat is well placed for walking tours of the city, but for longer journeys, López Roldán uses his trusty BMW C 650 Sport. ‘In this business it is really important to meet people every day, so you need fast transportation to get around the city,’ he explains, ‘and once you try a scooter there is no way back.’ Describing a typical week, López Roldán says that he has met two photographers, two artists, three DJs, two chefs, a lawyer, an architect, and a civil servant. ‘If you tried doing that in a car or even with the Metro it would take you two weeks,’ he adds.
Urban mobility brings vitality to The Hat, driving a business model based on community involvement, art, books and the sharing of ideas. ‘A business must go hand in hand with the city,’ López Roldán says, ‘it’s all about creating a sense of community.’ Hopefully there’ll be more to come, with another Hat set to open in 2016. López Roldán’s decision to follow his dream seems to be paying off, and wherever he lays his hat next you can be sure his preferred mode of transport will be on hand to help him stay on the pace and bring a new vision to a new city. ‘I can’t stay at the same point for more than two minutes. So that drives me on. You have to keep moving. Always moving.’