The Westin Palace, Madrid

Discussion in 'Starwood | Preferred Guest' started by SST, Mar 5, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. SST
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    SST Silver Member

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    What a great hotel! Just finished five nights. Got a junior suite upgrade as a Platinum, pleasant, quiet room on the 5th floor, about as far from the elevators as possible. Worried a little about the staff congregating at the linen area nearby, but they proved not to be loud after all. The #1 virtue of the hotel is its location: you are essentially across the street from the Prado and the Thyssen museums, and a couple blocks from the Sofia. You couldn't be better located for an art walk! We purchased the combo tickets for all three museums, and found each one to be outstanding as a means of starting each of three days. Art fix, then go out and explore the city.....

    Because the morning breakfast spread is so absurdly expensive (but also because we ate like pigs on each prior evening and were uninterested in a big, magnificent breakfast) we didn't partake downstairs in the beautiful dining room. Also, be forewarned that drinks are not inexpensive at the bar. Consequently, it was always deserted, so no problem getting a table.

    The staff couldn't be nicer--- train schedules with the concierge, taxis plentiful (although the drivers won't come unless you get a staff member to beckon them), plenty of information for the asking, and the housekeeping and room service staff were both unobtrusive and pleasant when you did interact.

    A curious gold-vending ATM in the lobby provides you with the ability to collect precious metals if you have that as a goal of your trip---- we didn't, and never did see anyone actually even looking at the machine. But then, I don't buy much in hotel gift shops or clothing stores either, and you never know when a Kruggerand might come in handy.

    The suite bathroom was wonderfully large and nicely appointed, with an amazingly fast-filling tub. TV had few HD channels, and a limited supply of English-language fare (BBC, CNBC, CNN and Al Jazeera, plus a couple more; nothing really entertaining.) High speed internet access was good, but I never could get my wifi Kindle to link into it. Luckily a lot of businesses have wifi access if you ask for the password. I didn't find any nearby open networks. I need to get newspapers over the Kindle, and so I made an evening sojourn up Avenida Prado to a nice little bar with wifi each evening--- actually a nice ritual, but I'd be unsatisfied if I didn't get the wireless access free as a Platinum.

    The Atocha train station is either a 15 minute walk away, or you can get down to it in about 5 by using the bus most of the way. The buses and metro in Madrid are easy to use and straightforward; get a map that shows you the bus routes. We got the 3-day tourist transit pass (13 euros) and it came with an excellent little folding map that showed where buses go in detail. It's only a 30 minute fast train run down to Toledo, which is worth seeing, but make sure you get the schedule to/from at the Concierge desk and stick to your booked connection, because the RENFE train personnel are utterly inflexible about letting you on the train without advance bookings, and the seats are booked solid often, apparently. There's no standing or riding in the food car, apparently, even if you can see plenty of empty seats on the train (which is odd, as there are no intermediate stops).

    We went up to El Escorial, too, which was certainly worth doing, but the train is much slower than to Toledo (it's about an hour). No seat reservations on that local train.

    It's an easy walk up the street from the Palace to Sol, the big plaza, and to the Playa Mayor. There's a wonderful marketplace just off the Playa Mayor. The Sunday flea market is interesting but not filled with treasures: I had imagined a lot of antiques, and it was more everyday stuff.

    We ate wonderful food; Bodega Botin, Casa Paco, fine tapas a lot of places. The plaza Santa Ana has some good tapas and is nearby the hotel. In all, this hotel is well-located, the rooms are pleasant and comfortable, the staff is helpful--- and central Madrid is an easily walkable city.
     
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  2. Travel2Food
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    Travel2Food Silver Member

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    Excellent review.

    We stayed there over Thanksgiving (5 nights, departed Dec 1), and found the service good. Our room overlooked the Thyssen museum. Quiet and comfortable. I booked us with a prepaid rate, which was quite reasonable. There are any number of decent restaurants within walking distance along the side streets. Most are tourist-friendly, with pricing not outrageous.

    I second the comments about prices of breakfast and the bar. We avoided the breakfast charges entirely by going around the corner to Starbucks (ugh) and had muffins, coffee, tea, and juice for about 10E (for 2). Watch your bags if you choose that option as we witnessed an attempted bag-snatching inside the Starbucks.

    Madrid Metro is reasonable, you can get multi-day transit passes, but US mag-stripe-only credit cards will not work (use cash). We bought transit passes at the airport upon arrival - there is a small airport zone supplement.

    Only one complaint: check-out. At 6:30 AM there was a LONG line of folks for checkout, including some flight crew. It took 15-20 minutes to process all of us, there was only one person working that early.

    Aside from the check-out issue, I'd rate the Palace on-par with the Excelsior in Rome.
     
  3. NJUPINTHEAIR
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    NJUPINTHEAIR Silver Member

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    My wife and I recently spent 5 nights at this hotel at the end of May 2011, and I must say that we had one of the best times that we had ever had at any SPG hotel that we had ever had the pleasure to stay at for a considerable length of time (you will see why I say this later in the thread). Moreover, this was on a pure points stay, since the almighty Dollar is truly in the crapper right now.

    First, I would like to thank the management of the The Palace, as well as its exemplary service personnel who catered to every one of our whims and needs with a smile and without any delay.

    Second, to all those who have posted online about this property, I greatly appreciate all your insights, as well as the various PMs I had received from all of you in response to my inquires.

    I will add that I believe that I was fortunate in that my wife and I had arrived on a Monday and we left on a Saturday and this permitted us to obtain quite a nice suite upgrade as a result of my Platinum status for this reward stay. I believe we were also helped by the fact that there were no conferences at the hotel on the day of our check-in, otherwise, the suite that I had received, likely would have been unavailable to us, as it most certainly would have been reserved by a paying customer.

    In fact, I had been informed by the GM that the hotel regularly has a 75% occupancy rate, and this is not solely due to its fantastic location for the tourists that regularly flock to Spain's Capital. One might notice that just up the street from the hotel is a building that houses Spain's legislature and various governmental ministries -- so it is not hard to believe that politicians, their aides, lobbyists and all sorts of business persons also stay at this property due to its proximity to these power centers.

    In addition, two major insurance companies are across the street from the property, and it is the one that is directly across the side street from the hotel - Groupama -- that has this really nice animated clock/carillon with moving figures. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkJuIZOcb6I

    The above video really does not display the whimiscal nature of the show, which I believe runs every day at 12 Noon, 3 PM, 6 PM and 8 PM -- the bellmen certainly will know the correct answer should you ask -- so try to see it as it is right on your doorstep!

    We took the Aerobus into town from the airport and we alighted at the Plaza Cibelles which was about a 10 - 15 min straight shot to the hotel. The only problem that I initially had encountered was that I could not find the entrance to the hotel when arriving from this direction! I thought that it would have been somewhere on the street corner fronting the Neptune Fountain Plaza - somewhere near the Starbucks and the VIP restaurant, but instead, it was up one of the side streets from the hotel.

    We arrived at around Noon, and although I cannot assure you that every Platinum member would receive the type of reception and treatment that my wife and I had received, it would be remiss of me not to thank the management of the hotel for permitting us to sleep off our overnight flight in a temporary room as our suite was then occupied -- after all, the prior guest had understandably requested a 4 PM late check-out and it would then take some additional time to clean the suite.

    First of all, those of you who are seeking enormous hotel rooms, or humongous suites, this may not prove to be a suitable property for your tastes, as this is Europe, after all, and rooms are often smaller than those found in North America. Secondly, this property is located in probably one of the most exquisite positions in downtown Madridr and space certainly is at a premium here. Finally, the hotel will also be celebrating its centenary next year, and back then, a premium was just not put on large hotel rooms, and this property reflects that tradition.

    However, you should know that I found the rooms to be more than adequate as they were quite well furnished even if they are a bit compact, and they utilized their space limitations in an intelligent and efficient manner. Furthermore, although I personally am a fan of minimalist modern design, or modernist and comfortable decor found at most US Westin properties, the traditional furnishings of this hotel are quite appropriate and in keeping with the esthetic of the property.

    The room that we initially were assigned -- # 610, I believe -- had an inner courtyard view and although I was advised it was one of the smallest in the hotel, I still found it quite acceptable, perhaps because it was in the shape of a square and its closet space was recessed into the wall, not as a wardrobe, freeing up floor space. Further, the bathroom was fairly large, esp. with respect to the room.

    We were later moved down the hall to Room # 636 -- The Palace Suite -- it even has a plaque outside its door -- that had a small entranceway leading directly to a living room, whereas the sleeping quarters were through a door off to one's left. There was a door to the right, but it appeared to be a connecting entranceway to the room next door and it appeared to be locked. Whether it was a powder room or something else, I do not know as we had no need of it.

    The living room was quite nice and was well furnished with period furniture and within each of the eaves (as it was sited in one of the magnificent cupolas atop the building) there was an inlaid glass panel with hotel's logo etched in script. In addition to the full size sofa, there was an easy chair, a dining room table for 4, a work desk against one of the walls of the room, as well as the obligatory Flat Panel TV on what I guess was the mini bar. If one were expecting a huge room within which to throw a wild party, I guess one might have been dissatisfied, but if one had hoped to conduct a quiet business meeting or perhaps a romantic soiree, then this room would be perfect for your needs. The elegant surroundings for this vacationing party of 2 more than exceeded our expectations!

    The bedroom with separate door off the hallway opened into a compact bedroom with a lounging chair. However, the signature hallmark of this room was not what was within its walls, but rather, what was without, for there was a door that opened onto its own private terrace overlooking the Neptune Fountain and the Ritz Hotel! We often had drinks late at night savoring the view, but you should be aware that they turn off the Neptune fountain's lights at midnight. Further, The Palace has the better view of the fountain, as it faces its front, whereas the Ritz ,only has a view of his behind!!

    The room's en-suite bathroom again was appropriately outlayed with a separate tub and as well a glass enclosed shower. The vanity was situated in the middle of the bathroom, the shower stall and tub to its left and the W/C to its right. The shower door, as well as the glass door leading to the W/C were each etched with the hotel's logo. Because the bathroom had both a tub and a shower stall, it actually felt a bit tighter than the bathroom of the temporary room that we had been assigned. In addition, two at a time at the vanity might prove somewhat challenging, I would think and my only other quibble would be that the shower stall ought to have door handles on both sides so that can pull it closed to insure a tight fit when taking a shower. However, I do not recall any significant water seepage on the floor when exiting the stall, so in all probability, it is just my predilection for exactitude that has a minor issue with this item.

    Nightly turndown was provided 4/5 nights and was quite nice.

    Finally, as an American of now some girth (unfortunately) a well working Air-Conditioning system is a requirement for me, and the hotel came thru with flying colors, in this respect. In fact, of the 2 rooms I sampled, each of them had an efficient air conditioning system, and on both of the Queen beds that I slept on, I received a direct, head-on blast from each of the A/C vents -- it was heaven! Those who like to sleep a bit warmer can simply turn up the thermostat, but for those of you, who like me, appreciate a cool breeze on them when they sleep, while the wife sleeps warmer, you will not be disappointed.

    And, yes, I did mention a Queen bed in each of those rooms that I had occupied. It did not matter to me, as I sleep on a Queen at home (yes, space is at a premium in my area, as well!) so that proved to be of no issue to me, but the hotel does have King bedded rooms, I believe, should you require a larger bed.

    As others have stated, at least for the SPG floor, the Green Marble and what appears to be dark Mahogany wood decor provides a striking interior design that bespeaks evident luxury without over the top flourishes, perfectly in keeping with the Old World tradition of the property.

    So too, does the lower lobby of the hotel with its grand upper steps leading to the upper lobby and Beaux Art/Art Nouveau domed dining room and adjacent bar. One can easily imagine well attired men and women at the very end of the Edwardian era, descending those magnificent steps, or more recently, American tourists flush with almighty Dollar, the only currency that really mattered in post-war Europe, after the carnage and destruction of WWII. Well, things certainly do change but one must soldier on!

    For those looking for the health club, it is on the seventh floor and is reachable via a flight of steps near Room # 650. Just go thru the nearby exit door and ascend to the next landing. The fitness room is available by key card access 24 hours/day and is quite well equipped, but the view from there, alas, is not of the Neptune fountain, but of some buildings. It has dual adjustable A/C units and a cold water dispenser with free ear buds, as well.

    I did not dine at the hotel as a result of the rather forbidding breakfast prices, but had I been there for the Sunday Opera brunch, I might have partaken in the offering. However, I can recommend a nearby restaurant for lunch or dinner -- La Finca de Susanna, which is within a couple of blocks of the hotel.

    La Finca de Susanna is part of a mini conglomeration of differently named restaurants, allof whom apparently offer a similar type of cuisine at various locations in and around Madrid. I had been told by the waitstaff that they all offer for the value conscious, the approximately 12 Euro Menu del Dia for lunch, which was certainly the best dining bargain we had while in the capital. Further, La Finca de Susanna would not look out of place on the Upper West Side of New York or in that city's SoHo or Tribeca neighborhoods, with smartly dressed waiters and crisp white linen tablecloths as I assume that the other restaurants are similarly decorated. Finally, I was also told that they do not offer a similar prix fixe dinner, but given that I saw a number of regular diners ordering huge plates of mussels at lunch, and that dish was not on the menu del dia, I can safely assume that must have a significant following at dinner, as well.

    Although we utilized the concierges very little for our tourist needs, as my wife speaks Spanish, they were invaluable to us for obtaining reservations on a moment's notice for Casa Botin, as the Palace name counts for something around Madrid!

    Yes, I know some may consider the restaurant as touristic, and I was seated with many other English speakers -- one table who we became quite friendly with and roamed the Spanish Capital at night after dining -- but the suckling pig was quite good, as well, and anyway, it is reputed to both be the oldest restaurant in the world, as well as having one Francisco Goya, as a former employee!

    As others have said, the Thyseen museum is across the street from the hotel and it is quite nice as it has a range of European art from over the centuries. What I was surprised at was that the Baroness only had started collecting in the 1980's! Additionally, there were a number of American artists represeneted -- Childe Hassam, Winslow Homer, etc.

    In fact, all 3 major art museums are a credit to Spain, and they all should be visited if at all possible, and luckily, that is one of the strengths of the positioning of the hotel.

    As noted, the Thyssen is across the street (you pass it on your way to the hotel if utilizing the Aerobus), and the Prado is across another street from the hotel. Finally, the Reina Sofia, housed in a former hospital/convent, is no more than a 15 min stroll from the hotel, and the 4th major art institution -- the Caixa Forum -- one passes on the way to the Reina Sofia -- which also happens to be the same route one would take if one were to walk to the main railway station of Madrid -- the Atocha Station, also about a 15 min. walk from the hotel. By the way, I do not recommend you walk to the station with luggage unless you only have a backpack, as the streets can be crowded at times.

    The Reina Sofia and the Prado have free admission on some evenings and some weekend days, I believe, whereas the Caixa is always free (I did not visit this museum) and the Thyseen, as a private museum, is never free, so pony up for that one. But, if you are staying any significant time at the hotel, you should be able to do both of the major museums without cost due to the great location of the hotel. Each museum presented their artwork in up to date, modern surroundings, with effective lighting on many fo their respective masterpieces. My wife informed me that this was not always the case, and that when she last was in Madrid as a college student some time ago, the only game in town was the Prado, and that back then, the method of displaying the art was primitive, at best.

    All in all, we had a superlative stay which was made all the more so by the gracious hospitality of the GM and his employees. My wife and I will certainly be back, as we never even made it to Toledo or Segovia, opting instead to visit El Escorial (by the way, I think the roundtrip bus services might be a better way to go than the train we took from the Atocha station), as well as the equally worthwhile Royal Palace at Aranjuez.

    Final thoughts: In conversations with the GM, I held the view that this hotel absurdly flies the Westin flag and that it is better suited to be classified as a Luxury Collection property. He did not disagree, but of course, it is up to the owners and Starwood for that move. He explained that due to historical reasons, it was initially classified under the Westin flag. I advised that the Fairfax in DC, too, initially flew under that flag, but since its renovation -- bringing the hotel back to its Old World antecedents -- it now proudly and appropriately is classified as a Luxury Collection property.

    I also mentioned above that we had our best extended stay at any SPG property and I had to caveat that because we next went to Barcelona and stayed at the Le Meridien and received equally fantastic treatment, but as our stay was only for 3 nights (much too short!), this was an appropriate way to differentiate two equally excellent hotels who provide the best in terms of customer service, accommodations and location. My Le Meridien Barcelona review to follow at a later date!
    __________________
     
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  4. uggboy
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    uggboy Gold Member

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    Absolutely awesome and in-depth reviews in this fabulous thread! Thanks all! Amazing stuff and experiences!!!
     
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  5. Wurm
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    Wurm Silver Member

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    One of the very best hotel reviews I've read - on this or any other forum. Packed with useful and pertinent information, and greatly enhanced by the personalization. Kudos! :)
     
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  6. Kalboz
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    Kalboz Gold Member

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    Westin Palace Madrid is on offer through Vacationist.com for $234/night. Rates Include:

    • 2-person occupancy (one additional child may also occupy room with use of a rollaway and a charge of $70/night payable directly to hotel upon arrival)
    • Breakfast each morning
    • Free late check-out (4:00 p.m. - be sure to notify guest if you'd like to take advantage of this)
    [​IMG]
     
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  7. From NYC
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    Do stays from sites such as Vacationist.com count for SPG standings for stays and nights, or is it like other discount sites?
     
  8. Steven Schwartz
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    Steven Schwartz Gold Member

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    We were also upgraded to the balconied suite on the top floor, overlooking the fountain and the Prado. The "locked door" mentioned in a wonderful post above connected to a Junior Suite that they upgraded my non-statused son and daughter-in-law too so we basically had an incredible two bedroom apartment (but without the kitchen!).

    My grandson was also with us (he was 3 at the time). We did not have breakfast at the hotel but did have one dinner in the rotunda because it just seemed easier with the child. The food was fine and the staff was fabulous.

    We've had some great suite upgrades in Europe at a number of Starwoods but this and the Prince des Galles were certainly the two best.
     
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  9. SPG Champion
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    SPG Champion Official Representative

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    It is probably ineligible. There would be no question about it being ineligible if the stay is pre-paid to Vacationist.com instead of you paying the bill at check-out at the property.

    Best regards,

    William R. Sanders
    Social Media Specialist
    Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide

    spgchampion@starwoodhotels.com
     
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  10. From NYC
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    Thanks, William. Kinda what I figured. Haven’t yet done a Vacationist.com stay, so not sure how they handle the payment side. Besides, there’s always beatthetimer.com
     

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