Madrid took its time getting the hang of the whole designer hotel thing, but wow, it’s really going for it now. As this is a city which loves nothing more than going over the top given the slightest encouragement, it is perhaps not surprising that it has some seriously fun places to stay. Of course, like all major cities, it has its share of boring beige chain hotels too.
Central Madrid is pretty walkable – provided you like walking and aren’t wearing six-inch stilettos. Sights, shops, restaurants…all mostly within about a mile’s radius of the Puerta del Sol. So is that the best place to look for a hotel? Actually, probably not – it’s pretty touristy and noisy, though undoubtedly handy.
I’d take Plaza de Santa Ana as the centre of the universe, as that’s near the big museums, has a lively neighbourhood feel, and you can walk to shops and restaurants. A lot of my recommendations are within a ten-minute walking radius of there, now I come to think about it.
There are also quite a few in the Salamanca district, which is more upmarket, near the smart shops, and the right side of town for getting to and from the airport without being stuck in a traffic jam for half an hour.
As a tourist, you’re not going to be spending much – if any - time uptown (around the upper section of the Paseo de la Castellana, near Plaza Castilla), so unless you want to spend half your time on the metro or the bus, or blowing your budget on taxis, you’re better off somewhere central – unless you find a great deal, obviously.
Rates change all the time these days, so we can’t be totally on the button with prices unfortunately. The ones given here are for a double room in low season, so I’m really sorry if you click through when there’s a big trade fair on or something and the rate is suddenly astronomical.
Madrid gets a lot of business travellers, so rates are often higher during the week than at weekends. Quite a few of my recommendations are, however, in the more characterful category, which are more popular with tourists than business people, and then the reverse is true. Maddening, I know.
August is very hot in Madrid, so rates tend to drop substantially then. But as hotels, museums, shops and restaurants have air-conditioning, and the cooler nights are magical, it is worth considering visiting then.
On a hotel’s own website, tax (8 per cent) is usually not included in the rate.
Breakfast is also not included, unless otherwise stated. Having breakfast out in a bar is a real experience in Madrid, and almost always much cheaper than in a hotel, so just bear that in mind.
By the way, while some of the more avantgarde hotels now have espresso machines in the rooms, kettles are a rare thing indeed.
A lot of the cheaper places…
...are in side streets downtown, but if the area is a bit dodgy, I have pointed it out. Some of these are called hostales rather than hotels, which is just a different classification system for small places, often on a floor of an apartment block, with a more personal touch and with fewer facilities than a hotel. There is often no reception at street level, and you may have to ring a doorbell to get in, particularly at night.
Hostales can be really basic, if not downright grotty, but there has been a bit of a revolution in recent years with a new wave of designer places, and I hope you like the ones I’ve picked.
The smoking ban which came into force at the beginning of 2011 means that hotels may assign up to 30% of rooms for smokers - but are not required to do so. A lot of hotels these days are totally non-smoking and smoking is now not allowed in public areas in any hotel.
I’ll be adding to this list all the time, so do keep coming back to this section to check what’s new. I am constantly on the lookout for that perfect ‘little gem’ (don’t you love a cliché?), and one day, eternal optimist that I am, might even find it!