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Hotel Review: The AC Hotel Carlton Madrid

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During Gay Pride weekend, when Madrid hotels were all but overflowing, TPG Contributor Nicholas du Pont was able to secure space at the AC Hotel Carlton Madrid, a fairly convenient hotel that offers clean, quiet accommodation — but not much else.

The mural-accented façade of the AC Hotel Carlton Madrid.

The recently renovated 122-room AC Hotel Carlton Madrid is situated a stone’s throw from the Atocha train station, which makes getting to and from Madrid’s airport (or anywhere else in Spain, for that matter) very easy. For more than a year now, taxis in Madrid have been offering a €30 (about $36) fixed fare to and from the airport, and my own taxi journey took only about 20 minutes.

Booking & Check-in Experience

As a Category 5 Marriott property, the hotel is bookable for 25,000 points per night. Only four days prior to arrival, booking easily through the hotel’s website, I managed to secure rates of €85 ($95) per night for two weeknights and €120 ($134) per night for two weekend nights.

Note: Through August 31, 2015, you can earn 80,000 bonus points with the Marriott Rewards Premier Visa card, enough for a three-night stay at this hotel.

My arrival at the hotel was fairly uneventful — aside from the fact that I nearly fell into the lobby.

The infamous lobby entrance at the AC Carlton. Photo courtesy of the hotel.
The infamous lobby entrance at the AC Carlton. Photo courtesy of the hotel.

Next to the hotel’s revolving front door, there’s a small sign indicating that travelers with luggage should ring the bell and wait outside; a sign, I might add, that you’d have to be rather astute to see — particularly after a long day of traveling. Since I didn’t have a lot of luggage and it was 102 degrees outside, I wasn’t keen on waiting and decided to chance going in. However, it bears mentioning that as soon as you come through the revolving door, you’re on a flight of steps, so be ready to move quickly or trip … as I did. (I’d soon discover that I wasn’t the only one who either didn’t see the sign or simply heed its warning; over the next few days, my breakfast routine became “have a cup of coffee and watch people fall into the hotel lobby.”)

Once I recovered from my near-fall, I was quickly and efficiently checked in by a helpful young woman whose English was superb. She politely explained that unfortunately, no room upgrades were available but that I could help myself to anything from the mini-bar during my stay, free of charge — definitely a fair deal. Wi-Fi here is free of charge in the lobby, however you’ll need to pay for standard in-room Wi-Fi unless you’re a Marriott Rewards member and book directly through Marriott. As a Gold elite member, I was privy to complimentary premium Wi-Fi, and was immediately offered a voucher for seven days’ access that was good for five devices.

Guest Room

The bed in my clean, slightly anonymous standard room.

My standard Guest Room was large enough and spotlessly clean, with a modern, if slightly anonymous, feel to it. Wood and leather trim around the headboard and wood floors contributed to the stoic, almost clinical feel of the place. Nonetheless, I found it perfectly comfortable.

For those who are looking for a dark room in which to get a great night’s sleep, the Spanish-style persianas (exterior blinds) here are better than any blackout curtain you’ve seen — perfect for catching some Zs after a long night on a plane.

The closets have plenty of space, an iron and a safe — all of the standard amenities one would expect, but nothing above and beyond. And though most overseas hotels that cater to the business crowd feature at least one universal outlet in their rooms, here there were none, and the front desk was short on adapters.

AC-branded amenities in the bathroom.
AC-branded amenities in the bathroom.

In the bathroom, the only amenities were a house-branded shampoo and shower gel, but when I requested a few extras, the front desk did send up conditioner, shaving cream and a razor. The bathroom itself was well appointed but nothing extraordinary. Most rooms have stand-alone showers (though some also have tubs), and mine was certainly large by European standards.

A small detail, but one that pleasantly surprised me, was the mini-bar. It wasn’t overflowing with anything spectacular, but the prices for its items were basically what you’d pay on the street, as opposed to the hyper-inflated prices that you usually find in hotels.

The surprisingly reasonable mini-bar price list.
The surprisingly reasonable mini-bar price list.

The hotel has a full-service lounge, AC Bar, that serves food throughout the day. The breakfast buffet here (€17.60 or about $20) is what you’d typically expect in a hotel, with some Spanish touches — a full selection of cold meats including iberico ham, chorizo and lomo, aged and new manchego cheese, pan con tomate and scrambled eggs that were made from fresh eggs as opposed to the powdered nonsense that some hotels favor.

Breakfast at the AC Carlton is basic but filling.
Breakfast here is basic but filling.

I also had lunch in the hotel, and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food; the cool, zesty gazpacho was one of the best I’ve ever had. In addition to serving lunch in the restaurant, they also serve the full menu at the large tables in the lobby area, which are good for smaller meetings.

Behold, the masterfully well-done gazpacho served at the AC Hotel Carlton Madrid.
Behold, the masterfully well-done gazpacho served at the AC Hotel Carlton Madrid.

The hotel also has a small gym that features a few treadmills and some free weights.

Overall Experience

When in Madrid, the AC Hotel Carlton is a good option if you just need a quiet spot with basic amenities where you can rest your head at night and have easy access to trains and the airport. However, for me, nothing here stood out as a “wow!” or begged to be revisited. Rooms here often go for less than €100 (about $112) a night, which is good value for your money — but if you’re using points, your 25,000 points per night can definitely get you a better room elsewhere.

If you’re looking for an atmosphere of luxury or extensive business amenities, this isn’t the best place to stay; for hotels that are better suited to these needs, check out TPG’s review of his stays at the AC Santa Mauro Madrid, the InterContinental Madrid and the Westin Palace Madrid — and be sure to see Destination of the Week: Madrid.

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