European romance and charm on the Gran Vía
By Geri Dreiling
“Let’s do something different,” I suggested to E before my fifth visit to Madrid. “Let’s check out a new hotel.” He paused for a few moments. The Eurostars Madrid Tower Hotel had been great – modern, spacious and sophisticated. Trying something new meant risking disappointment. “It will be an adventure,” I prodded. He sighed gently and then we began researching Trip Advisor. Ultimately, we settled on Hotel Atlántico. After we booked I fretted silently, worrying it would turn out to be a disaster.
Instead, it turned out to be a wonderful choice.
The hotel is located on the Gran Vía, one of the most recognized and photographed streets in Madrid. Translated as the “Great Way,” the street is filled with ornate buildings of varying architectural styles, many topped with domes. The Gran Vía is eye candy for tourists and photographers and has served as a backdrop for literary works, films and demonstrations.
The story of the building that houses the Hotel Atlántico dates back to 1910. According to the hotel’s website, the Marquis of Falces commissioned the architect Don Joaquín Saldaña to build residential housing. What he created was an architectural landmark with “an eclectic French style, a wide variety of friezes, jambs, tympanums, balustrades and finishes, all decorated with an allegorical, fantastic approach.”
We booked online and received a couple of advantages. First, the hotel offered a 10 percent discount for online booking. In addition, guests who booked a room for four nights in a row or more received an additional 40 percent discount. We requested a room with a balcony despite the warnings of some reviewers that balcony rooms facing the Gran Vía can be noisy. It was suggested that light sleepers should ask for an interior room. After staying in New York City hotel rooms, I did not think that the Gran Vía was nearly so loud.
My plane landed around 9 am which put us at the Hotel Atlántico early. The hotel staff gave us a choice of waiting about an hour and a half for a room with a balcony or immediately checking in with an interior room. Even with jet lag that left me weary and sleepy, I was determined to have a balcony room. The front desk staff kept our luggage while we went out to explore. In retrospect, walking outside in the sun was probably the best thing for a faster adjustment to the 7-hour time difference. We grabbed lunch at Rodilla, a chain of sandwich restaurants that serves fare such as the Iberico ham sandwich that I find goes well with a stomach that is still getting adjusted to the long trip from St. Louis.
When we finished and headed back to the hotel, our fifth floor corner room was ready.
The room was bright and cheerful. The modern bathroom was clean and spacious for a 100-year old building. The balcony was delightful. The drapes could be pushed aside and the blinds raised for access to the French doors that opened up to the balcony. The original hardware on the French doors was intact – the knob was a gold ring that twisted, releasing the levers that locked the door into the frame. It took me a few minutes to figure out how it worked but once I got it, I just loved the ritual of opening those doors. A black wrought iron railing curved out from the building, wrapping around the door opening, to allow for a beautiful view. Because the room was situated on the corner of the building, we had a bonus window in the bathroom that also opened for another great view of the Gran Vía. It did not have a screen so the pictures came out crisp and clear.
In addition to the prime location and the romantic room, the Hotel Atlántico offered two additional features that it made it a great choice. It has a ninth floor terrace and lounge. Guests can sit outside on the rooftop and enjoy cocktails, a small assortment of tapas like serrano ham, manchego cheese and olives as well as sandwiches. I visited in January so we enjoyed cocktails from the warm lounge inside but did venture out to take photographs. We also climbed up into the hotel’s dome for more sweeping views of Madrid.
The second feature that also made Hotel Atlántico a great choice was the breakfast buffet. With our online book special, the price was 5 euros per person per day. The breakfast buffet included a wide variety of traditional Spanish menu items as well as offerings common in the United States. The Spanish omelet, which includes potato as well as egg, was offered every day. There was serrano ham, a soft white cheese known as queso de Burgos, as well as eggs, bacon, cold cereal, fruit, Danishes and juice. There are two coffee machines as well as a coffee bar. As an American who loves coffee, I discovered a silver coffee pot containing American-style coffee at the coffee bar. I raided it every morning.
Coffee was perhaps the only drawback to the hotel. The rooms do not contain their own individual coffee pots. But the hotel accommodates American guests who crave coffee, making it available whenever you want it. From the hours of midnight to 7:30, you have to make sure to take the right elevator to reach it. There are two elevators at Hotel Atlántico. One is just inside the entrance and the other is located at the far end of the reception desk. It is the elevator past the reception desk that you need to take to the floor where breakfast is served. Once there, you can get reach the coffee machines that dispense free coffee in a variety of styles.
The hotel staff spoke English as well as Spanish so communication was never a problem. The front desk, the breakfast servers and the ninth floor bartender were all courteous and professional.
Overall, the stay at the Hotel Atlántico turned out to be a delight. It is an adventure that I am eager to repeat.