For a compact city, Madrid has an unusually large number of hotels. In fact, so many new properties have opened in the past few years that there are concerns that there are too many, in the centre at least. For visitors, of course, this can only be a good thing.
Intense competition means higher standards of accommodation and service, even in the lower-priced places. In particular, the difference between budget and mid-range hotels is becoming increasingly marginal, with the newer hostales now offering en suite bathrooms in most rooms. And, across all price brackets, staff are friendlier and keener to help than ever before. Fans of boutique hotels, meanwhile, will be pleased to hear that the concept has finally made it to Madrid.
Though Madrid is pretty small for a capital city, its accommodation is spread over a wide area, so it's a good to have an idea of what you want before you book.
Mid-range & budget hotels
Sol & Gran Vía
These two areas are the best areas for mid-range accommodation right in the thick of things, and, though pretty touristy, are home to a clutch of decent bars and restaurants.
Malasaña & Chueca
Heading north of here, Malasaña has a choice of good budget pensiones, particularly along C/Palma. Bordering Malasaña to the east, Chueca is home to some great one-off properties. Both areas, especially Malasaña, boast a real neighbourhood vibe.
Huertas & Santa Ana
South of Chueca, lively Huertas and Santa Ana are both great areas for cheap pensiones and, increasingly, boutique hotels. On the edge of here, the Paseo del Prado provides a variety of budget accommodation right on the doorstep of the Big Three art museums.
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Retiro & Los Austrias
Upmarket areas include Retiro and Los Austrias. Though located across town from each other (Retiro is between the Prado and the Retiro park in the east, Los Austrias is adjacent to the Royal Palace to the west), both are home to Madrid's old money, and both are peaceful – though bars and restaurants can be expensive.
Salamanca & Chamberí
Just north of the Parque del Retiro, around the chic shopping street C/Serrano, is Salamanca. If you feel at home among the smart, wealthy set, you'll blend in well here. Business travellers should head for Chamberí, to the north of the centre, and, further north, to Chamartín, both of which are convenient for transport to the airport.
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Note that a hostal, also known as pensión, is closer in meaning to 'guesthouse' than 'hostel'. Not all hostales have someone on the door 24 hours a day, so check how to get back in at night. These places, often full of dark corridors and odd decor, tend to be efficient family-run affairs, and while some owners speak English, any effort on your part to attempt a few words of Spanish will be well received. It's also worth noting that many hostales and pensiones are located up several flights of stairs in old buildings with no lift. If this is likely to be a problem, check before you book.
Aparthotels are generally made up of self-catering suites or small apartments, usually with kitchen facilities (sometimes basic), reception and maid service. They offer reduced weekly, monthly or longer-term rates, so are handy if you're staying in town for a while.
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Much of Madrid's youth hostel accommodation is situated outside the city centre, within easy reach of the mountains – great if you're into walking or skiing. A list of council-owned youth hostels in and around the city can be found on the website www.munimadrid.es (go to 'Tourist Information' then 'Find Accommodation', then 'Rural Lodgings').
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There's a fair sprinkling of campsites all around the Madrid region and towards the Guadarrama and Gredos mountains. Most are open year-round. A full list of local sites is available from tourist offices.
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If you arrive in Madrid without accommodation, try one of the following agencies: Brújula: a private agency based in Atocha (91 539 11 73) and Chamartín (91 315 78 94) railway stations, Brújula can reserve rooms in any price category. You must leave a payment as a guarantee for the reservation and you will also be charged a €2.50 booking fee. See also Viajes Aira (91 305 42 24/www.viajesaira.com) which has three hotel reservation desks in the arrivals area of Barajas airport. It mainly deals with hotels of three stars and above, although it does have some hostales on its books. There is no booking fee.
Star ratings are somewhat arbitrary in Spain, and the difference between four- and five-star hotels can be hard to spot. Mid-range hotels have not been the city's strong point, but this is beginning to change thanks to chains such as Room Mate and High Tech Hotels.
Bargain hunting: in all but the cheapest hotels, plenty of cut-price offers are to be had at weekends and over the summer. In fact, nabbing a luxury hotel at a knock-down price is probably easier in Madrid than in most other European cities, especially if you book early. Check websites or call direct for details.
Breakfast: this meal is not included unless otherwise stated, so make sure you add it into your budgetry calulations.
Hip hang-outs: Madrid doesn't get any hipper than the Hotel Urban, the Hotel de las Letras, or the ME Madrid Reina Victoria.
Celeb-spotting: try the ME Madrid Reina Victoria for celluloid stars, the Ritz for anyone who's on a promotion tour, and the Hotel Santo Mauro for those searching for secrecy.
For unusual décor: at the Hotel Villa Real you could end up with a Roman mosaic in your bedroom, or in the Hotel Puerta América get a room designed by the world's finest architects.
Hotels charging over €300 for a standard double room are categorised as 'luxury'; those costing between €150 and €300 are classed as 'expensive'; 'mid-range' is between €60 and €150; 'budget' is less than €60.
While every effort and care has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this guide, the publisher cannot accept responsibility for any errors it may contain. Before you go out of your way, we strongly advise you to phone ahead and check the particulars.
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