A Hilton DoubleTree masquerading as a quaint boutique hotel in the heart of Madrid
Hilton as a brand doesn’t have a particularly aspirational reputation. Sure, its hotels are mostly comfortable and are more than serviceable, but the average Hilton usually lacks the glamour or pizzazz or charm that a mid-level Hyatt or a legacy Starwood property (RIP) might have. Hilton’s DoubleTrees are some of the worst offenders when it comes to generic corporateness — they’re typically marketed to business travelers, and utilitarian design doesn’t lend itself well to pleasing aesthetics — but the brand’s sole property in Spain is an obvious outlier. While “DoubleTree” might not evoke images of boutique luxury, the one in Madrid should very well challenge your assumptions.
Located in the heart of Madrid’s El Centro neighborhood, the DoubleTree Madrid-Prado is situated, as the names might suggest, right in the central district of Madrid. It also won’t surprise you to learn that the property is about three blocks to the east of the Prado Museum. You’d be hard pressed to find a better spot to use as your “base” on a trip to Madrid. You can walk pretty much everywhere, nearby public transportation is abundant, and you can get to and from the airport in under 45 minutes. It’s perfect.
From the very first moment that you approach the front door, you’ll immediately be struck by the sense that this isn’t a typical DoubleTree. This isn’t some massive glass building in an office park, but rather an Old World-style building on a quiet side-street with a facade oozing with charm.
Instead of a massive lobby with a capacity for (seemingly) a thousand people — as is common at the average DoubleTree — there are just a couple of standing desks. It’s a quaint entrance, befitting of a boutique property, that’s well-lit, inviting, and sleekly (but not blandly) appointed. The style of it, however, does not match the exterior facade. It’s much more contemporary, and is reflective of the hotel’s decor.
As is DoubleTree tradition, you get a cookie that appears to be freshly-baked when you check in. The gift makes for a warm welcome, and while it’s hardly unique, it goes a long way in further reminding guests that this Madrid property is neither bland nor faceless (never mind the fact that you get cookies at every single DoubleTree in the Hilton portfolio).
Note that if you prepay for your room, which I did, you’ll receive an email from the front desk “inviting” you to hand over your credit card details from the hotel’s partner, Comercia Global Payments, prior to your arrival. Furthermore, if you fail to complete this task before your check-in date, your reservation will be cancelled. The email looks like it could be a scam, but know that it’s genuine. If you see a page that looks like the following…
…know that you’re in the right spot!
Dealing with this can be a bit of a hassle, but the plus side is that it does make checking in quite painless. Indeed, all I had to do was hand over a credit card, as one usually does, and I was issued a key. The most challenging part, believe it or not, was making sure that cookie crumbs didn’t spill everywhere.
A mere three minutes after first arriving, I was already on my way up to the room: a King Deluxe (read: a standard) room just up above on the second floor. There’s an artsy staircase and an old-timey elevator…
…although that said old-timey elevator is out of commission. Instead you have to take a more-boring but a more-functioning one right around the corner. Luckily the stairs do work without a problem!
The hallways in the hotel, like the lobby, are pretty contemporary-looking in terms of their style, but there is something immensely charming about the plush blue carpeting and the unique art fixtures.
I was assigned room 103, a room that costs as much as the standard offering, but it is on the corner of the property and is marginally bigger than its peers.
Despite being a small boutique property — emphasis on small — under the guise of the DoubleTree label, the room projects a strong first impression. The room felt neither drab nor utilitarian, in part due to the contemporary minimalist-yet-tasteful furnishings and the “wood” (ie laminate) floors.
There’s no way around the fact that there isn’t a lot of space to move around, especially if you’re assigned a room with a king bed. One on hand, that’s too bad, but on the other, what else would you expect from a centuries-old building in downtown Madrid?
Thanks to high ceilings and a wall of windows facing the street — plus a ton of bright-but-not-hot light fixtures — the room at least feels quite airy and spacious.
The view out of said windows is charming in the sense that you can look out on to a scene with classic European architecture in a charming neighborhood.
But the downside to this is that, in room 103, you’re perched juuuuuust above street level and feel kind of exposed. If you’re modest, you’ll want to have your drapes drawn at all times. On a surprisingly positive note though, almost no noise from the street made it up to the room.
The bed itself, while teetering on the edge of being too big for the space, is incredibly comfortable. It’s firm without being slab-like, and soft enough to make the sleeping arrangements feel luxurious without being too cushy for its own good. For those who fuss over the thread counts of sheets, you might find these ones to be a bit coarse, but that, along with everything else, all comes down to personal preference. After a day of walking around Madrid, this is nevertheless a great place to recharge.
Flanking the bed on both sides are two night tables equipped with all the fixings you’d expect in a contemporary chain: lights, an alarm clock with a USB input, a telephone, a pen & pad of paper… the usual.
There are also foldable reading lamps baked in to the headboard that are easy to miss; they easily could be mistaken for decorations. The switch controlling their brightness is even smaller.
Power outlets, in this room, come in twos (for a total of seven. Four at the bed, two at the desk plus a universal outlet, and then there are two more in the bathroom. There are several more USB ports to boot). Two can be found on either side of the bed. Whether or not those are sufficient depends on what devices you’re traveling with, but the set up worked for me. It helps that all are easily accessible and smartly spaced apart; there’s nothing worse than when you plug in a charging brick and it obstructs access to another outlet.
Opposite the bed lies everything else that you could want in a hotel room (aside from a place to go to the bathroom), and just like the bed, everything seems just a tad bit too big. Then again, it’s not like the interior designers have a lot of space to work with, and high ceilings and big windows can only work so much magic.
The desk is far from ornate, but the wood grain looks good and feels pleasant to the touch, and there’s plenty of space to spread out and work. The chair however is nowhere near as pleasant. Hopefully you don’t rely on chair backings for support when you work!
There are thankfully lots of plugs: two USB ports, two European outlets, and one universal outlet are present and ready to serve the business travelers that DoubleTrees typically cater to.
A 49 inch flat screen television is mounted directly above the desk. It offers a respectable number of channels in a number of different languages, although the quality of the feeds (at least the English ones) are standard-, and not high-, definition.
Immediately adjacent to the desk is a standing cabinet of sorts and an awkwardly-placed armchair. The latter just doesn’t look like it belongs. Or rather, it does fit in stylistically, but there’s not enough room for it to fit in comfortably; where else could you put it though? You have to actively walk/squeeze around it when going to and from the far side of the bed, and it’s not like there’s an abundance of space where it could go instead. I suppose it could be nice to sit in and watch TV, but having this hulking cabinet right next to you might feel a bit claustrophobic. No thanks.
At least the cabinet does provide a tangible value-add. It’d be convenient if there were drawers for clothes, but would that be as fun as…
…a decently-stocked snack bar? Probably not! That said, the collection on offer here is far from unique, and it mostly checks all the boxes. There’s a kettle and coffee pot that can be used to brew (complimentary) tea and coffee, which are kept alongside the requisite creamers and sugar cubes.
If the hot, liquid caffeine won’t suffice, there’s a “half-bottle” of red wine smack-dab in the middle too.
A cabinet within the cabinet holds a mini-fridge, and it’s loaded up with all kinds of soft drinks, beer, sparkling wine, and a respectable collection of spirits.
While there are 17 different beverages available — plus coffee and tea — the snack selection isn’t as strong. There’s a single bag of chips, another of crackers, trail mix, and some candy… and that’s it.
The prices are, as you might expect, overpriced — a single bottle of Coke paired with a bag of chips isn’t worth ~$8.00 — but relatively speaking, it’s not bad for a city hotel in Europe.
If you hold elite status with Hilton, you’ll also get two bottles/cartons of water upon your arrival, along with a couple of chocolates and a “welcome!” note from the general manager.
Finally, on the wall nearest the door, you have a truly full-length mirror. Seriously, it’s like, 8 feet tall.
There’s a short hallway connecting the main sleeping/working/living area to the door, and off of it, there’s a catch-all mounted on the wall, the only closet and significant storage area in the room, and, most importantly, the bathroom.
The bathroom is like everything else in the hotel, which is to say that it has a small footprint, but because of more smart interior design choices and good lighting, it feels much bigger than it is. The marble tiles adorning the walls are particularly stylish and luxurious looking.
Clearly this bathroom is classy and inviting, but as a result of the small space it occupies, some things seem to be stacked on top of each other when you’re using them. For example, to get in to the bathtub, you have to step around the toilet. If you’re like me, I don’t want to be anywhere close to the place where I do my business neither before nor after scrubbing myself clean and freshening up. Then again, I am a diva; perhaps this is a non-issue for everyone else.
Once you get around the commode, you’ll encounter a cardinal sin of shower design: the controls are not accessible from outside the water stream.
This means that to turn on the shower, you have to be either really flexible or really quick or really lucky to avoid getting doused by cold water. Don’t believe me? Here’s what it looks like when you try to reach around…
And thanks to the strong water pressure will ensure that you get lots of water, no matter the temperature! The silver lining to this though is that if you shower in the morning, you’ll be treated to quite the wake up, and once the water heats up, you’ll be in for a soothing (invigorating?) experience.
The shower is terrifyingly close to the toilet…
…which is directly across from the sink and counter. If you have decently long arms, you can practically sit on the toilet, lean far enough forward, and wash your hands.
Okay, maybe things aren’t that close together, but it feels like it. If you take a big step back while you’re brushing your teeth, you’ll bump in to the toilet. This is a good time to reiterate that a lack of space is to be expected at a city hotel in a centuries-old building in a European capital. There’s just not going to be a lot, if any, extra room. If you set your expectations appropriately, you won’t be disappointed AND you’ll appreciate the useful design features like the ample counter space for your belongings.
The DoubleTree Madrid also gives you A LOT of amenities. How can you be mad about a relatively cramped bathroom when you’re given six total bottles of Crabtree & Evelyn toiletries?
And if that’s not enough, there are all sorts of complimentary supply kits, like a toothbrush and toothpaste, a razor and cream, and thread, needles, and buttons (for fashion emergencies), among other things.
There’s a built-in vanity mirror mounted on an extendable arm off to the side of the main mirror, along with a few power outlets available for shavers and hair dryers and whatnot…
…And there’s also extra towels, a hair dryer, and a hair straightener under the sink.
All the basics and then some are accounted for, but perhaps the coolest feature of the bathroom comes in the form of a built-in stereo system. Is it practical? Not particularly, but listening to the music of your choice through a surprisingly good speaker while showering/going through the mundanities of flossing is delightful.
Hopefully the neighbors didn’t hate me too much. I never heard them either though. So, all’s well that ends well?
Anyway, more amenities can be found in the closet right next to the entrance to the bathroom.
Nothing that you’d find in here is as cool or as impressive as a stereo system integrated in to a bathroom, but there is a simple pleasure to putting on slippers after a long day and a hot shower.
There’s also a pair of robes available for use, which are of average quality but they too are so nice to don and lounge around in.
The hotel does make it very clear though that these robes are “on loan” only. Don’t try to take one home with you or else you’ll be hit by an unpleasant bill. As per the front desk, a robe is €89. These robes are not worth $50, let alone nearly $100!
Lastly there’s a shoe polishing mitt, also produced by Crabtree & Evelyn, available for your use.
The closet otherwise is a little bit on the small side, but it’s remarkably similar to what you would find pretty much anywhere else in the world. There are shelves and drawers and hangers, plus a safe and ironing kit. If you’re visiting Madrid for an extended stay and/or traveling with more than one traveling companion, there probably won’t be enough space for all of your clothes, so plan accordingly.
The DoubleTree Madrids’ rooms, despite their small footprints and, uh, “quirky” features, are both stylish and supremely comfortable. It’s clear that a lot of thought went in to how they appear, and while the architects’ jobs are done, the housekeepers still do a lot to maintain the excellent room designs. Their attention to detail is astonishing. For instance, I took a nap one afternoon on the side of the bed closer to the windows before leaving for dinner. When I came back later on, the bed was turned down as such:
As another courtesy, housekeeping left a note informing me of a taxi strike that would/could impact my future travel plans. It was a thoughtful gesture that gave me the opportunity to plan my trek to the airport the following day. Much appreciated!
And finally, they slipped a coupon for the in-house restaurant: Kirei by Kabuki, a Spanish-Japanese fusion place that has about a dozen other locations throughout the country. There just may have been an ulterior motive for giving me this though…
Anyway, the most impressive aspect of the service was that the interactions were so minimal. It was strange in a way; I never once saw a housekeeper, but whenever a housekeeper was needed, the job would get done. The same goes for the receptionists, the concierge team, and the restaurant wait staff. They were always there… but not. Perhaps they’re all spying on the guests?
The rest of the hotel is small — as you would expect — and its few public spaces are neither big nor particularly well-laid out. The layout is best thought of as a collection of disconnected nooks, like the one pictured below that’s near, but not inside, the lobby.
Across from this pair of chairs sits a credenza containing some reading materials and rudimentary snacks. It’s convenient to have these around, but it’s hard to imagine a situation in which a guest would actively seek this out to spend time.
These fixtures are in addition to a communal work table that’s located directly across from the main reception area in the foyer of the onsite restaurant. It’s really kind of awkward when you think about it.
The gym in the basement too is tiny — and it doesn’t even have the tall ceilings like the other rooms do — but there’s enough equipment available so that guests can get some exercise. That said, there probably isn’t enough space to support more than a half-dozen visitors at any one moment. At least the machines are high quality and everything is kept clean.
There’s a bar back upstairs in a room that’s separate from the seating areas pictured above AND the main restaurant. The space is attractive for sure, but I never once saw anyone — no guests and no employees — here. Perhaps this set-up is exclusively self-service, or maybe it’s just something to fill the space. In any case, it’s here…
…and it’s complementary to another, DIFFERENT bar located in the DoubleTree’s onsite restaurant, Kirei.
For 75 percent of its opening hours, Kirei is part of a full-service chain that serves Spanish-Japanese fusion cuisine throughout the country. It’s a neat concept and the menu looked really tasty, but the restaurant was inexplicably closed the two times I wanted to eat there. Oh well, maybe next time, but some forewarning would’ve been nice. For the other 25 percent of the time, the restaurant hosts daily breakfasts that are free for Hilton elite members.
The made-to-order selection in the morning is a lot more Spanish and European than it is Japanese, and these options are rather limited. It is possible to pay extra to order something more premium like ratatouille or eggs Benedict, but even still, you’re only looking at about a dozen total choices.
The quality of the “special” food also leaves something to be desired. It wasn’t bad per se, but the omelette I had was small (albeit by American standards) and really, profoundly salty. It’s never good when you maximize your daily healthy dose of MSG before 7:30am.
The complimentary buffet thankfully makes up for any of the deficiencies on the menu. Once you’re seated by a host, you’ll be given a cup of coffee or tea, a plate with individual jars of jam, and then you’ll be free to peruse the buffet.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise given what’s been written thus far in this review, but because the spread is so massive and the restaurant’s footprint is small, the food can’t all be contained in a single place. Instead, there are three separate nooks each with their own unique offerings.
Everything was well-stocked, especially by European standards. There were all kinds of fresh fruit, for instance…
…and cured meats and cheeses…
…and even some salad and sushi! The verdict is still out on weather or not the sushi was day-old/Kirei’s leftovers from the night before.
There were a few hot foods in serving trays too, but these were soggy-looking and unappealing. Then again, it’s hard to keep a dish warm AND appetizing. If you’re craving hot food, an item from the made-to-order menu would be your better bet.
The pastries and breads are one of the highlights of the spread, as there’s a wide variety to choose from and everything is relatively freshly-baked. A basket of piping hot churros were placed directly in front of me while I was perusing the selection one morning, and boy, that made for a breakfast to remember!
There were also a few quiches and flatbreads available. Truly something for everyone!
And of course, there’s plenty of “designer” dry cereals too.
Your drink options are equally varied. You can ask someone on the staff to bring you a beverage of your choice, or you can serve your self to any one of the six types of juice available.
If you’d rather brew your own coffee rather than having a waiter deliver it to you, there’s a machine available for use. In addition to “Americanos” it can also brew espressos.
Rounding out the drinks is a tub of ice filled with various wines (including cava for mimosas) and sparkling and still water.
And if you can’t find just what you want after going through all that, maybe, just maybe, you’ll find it in this miscellaneous cluster of accompaniments.
Like the rest of the hotel, this breakfast at this DoubleTree does an admirable job catering to a number of different travelers and tastes. No matter your preferences, you can easily get whatever it is you want here. Good luck finding dissatisfaction though.
Whether you’re traveling for business or for pleasure, the DoubleTree Madrid-Prado is one of your best bets in Spain’s capital city. It’s not a terribly expensive place to stay, but despite relatively low nightly rates, it feels like a luxurious boutique that should cost 30 to 60 percent more than it does. Sure, there are a few flaws, but ultimately they amount to nothing more than a few quibbles… if even that. The rooms are so very comfortable, the location is arguably one of the best in the city, and the staff is meticulous in their attention to detail. It all makes for an impeccable higher flyer value, and even if you don’t hold status with Hilton, this DoubleTree is worth a visit.
The good, the bad, the ugly of the DoubleTree Madrid-Prado
- The Good
- The “vibes” of the hotel are warm and sophisticated and stylish, but nothing is over-the-top or nouveau riche. This place epitomizes “classy.”
- It’s cliche to call a property’s location “unbeatable,” but…
- For a city hotel, nightly rates aren’t terribly expensive. The DoubleTree Madrid-Prado represents excellent bang-for-your-buck.
- There’s not a lot of space to work with on the property, but the designers here did a masterful job maximizing each available inch. Some compromises had to be made of course, but most everything is really well done.
- The Bad
- The rooms could be too small for some. A boutique property in the heart of an Old World capital city isn’t going to be spacious to begin with, but some might be put off by the limited space anyway.
- This hotel really can’t be considered anything more than just a place to sleep at night. Its offered amenities are limited.
- There are a few small misses, like a disappointing breakfast menu and confusing restaurant hours and ill-fitting furniture, that, while minor, do noticeably detract from what’s an otherwise exceptional hotel.
- The Ugly
- The design of the shower is so, so frustrating.
- The furniture seemed just a little bit too big for the room.
- The nightly rates, which are influenced by the limited room supply, could potentially become really expensive during peak tourist season.
“Another Weekend to Europe” Trip Report
- Introduction: Another Weekend to Europe
- Iberia Premium Economy, Airbus A350-900, JFK-MAD
- DoubleTree Madrid-Prado, Spain
- American Airlines Business Class, Boeing 767-300, MAD-JFK
- American Airlines Flagship Lounge, New York (JFK)
- 54 Hours in Madrid
Have you stayed at the DoubleTree Madrid-Prado before? What are your thoughts?