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mflocco Aug 18th, 2003 07:35 AM

Intimate boutique inns in Madrid/Barcelona
My wife and I are headed to Barcelona and then Madrid (in that order) and are fans of small, personal boutique style hotels. Signature places we've enjoyed in the past are Residenza Cellini in Rome and the Gaige House Inn in Sonoma. We're looking for an inn with about 20 rooms with high end service. Price isn't a huge constraint. I understand that these are large cities and, we're not going to be able to find a "casa rural", but that's the exact idea we're looking for. Any suggestions would be appreciated.


Maribel Aug 18th, 2003 09:00 AM

Those wonderful, small (under 20) highly personalized inns are very easy to find in the Spain countryside (I could give you a list of dozens!), but they're lacking in Madrid and Barcelona. I always seek these out myself.

The closest I've found in Madrid is a very high end, exp. (296 euros) 5 star boutique hotel, the lovely, antique filled, 28 room jewel box "Orfila" in the embassy district of Chamberi, a member of Relais&Chateaux. The staff who gave me my very complete tour seemed very attentive and used to delivering very personalized service, since they receive many diplomats. The interiors were decorated by Pascua Ortega, decorator to the Royal Family/Madrid society and it has a tiny but beautiful torch lit terrace for evening dining that's become quite "the place to be".
The Prado is a 15-20 min. walk away.

Other larger, with 50 rms, and even more expensive options would be
the AC Santo Mauro (the AC service-oriented group's flagship), where celebrities stay, in the same district,
and the "Adler" (belongs to a German co.) in the very upmarket Salamanca residential/shopping district on a great corner-Veláquez & Goya. Dobles here run 330 euros, however (ouch! but if price isn't a huge constraint...).

A Fodors favorite has been the Derby Villa Real, member of LHW, next to the Westin Palace, but it has 100 rooms, not the intimacy you seek and rates often equal to those of the Palace.

Rusticae does represent a new boutique property, La Quinta de los Cedros, in an exclusive northeastern residential district of Arturo Soria but far from downtown Madrid. You'd need to taxi or metro for all sightseeing. It's a pink Renaissance palace, which looks like a Tuscan villa, with 22 rooms, classical decor, antiques, and garden and its restaurant is supervized by a leading chef. We LOVE the top tier Rusticae
selections with their very personalized service and beautiful decor. They also represent the small Reisdencia del Viso.
See them all at

Finally, there's something I haven't seen, just read about: a new place run by aristocrat Marta Medina. She's turned her spacious apt. in an 18th c house overlooking the Royal Opera House into a luxurious 7 room B&B, called simply "Casa de Madrid". She's an interior designer, art historian and the one behind the Casa de Carmona outside of Seville. Rooms are decorated with family heirlooms. Brk. can served on a silver tray in bed.
I stayed in a B&B owned by Spanish aristocrat-sherry baron in Sevilla, the Casa 7, and loved the experience. Doubles from 160 euros

Hope this gives you some ideas.
Now, I have to think about the Barcelona question...

rex Aug 18th, 2003 09:16 AM

I won't try to compete with the Madrid answer. In Barcelona, it might be that is a pretty good match for what you are seeking. Not likely to be proposed as the most obvious location for a tourist/visitor to the city. But perhaps a much ebtter price than if WERE located "closer in".

Best wishes,


Maribel Aug 18th, 2003 09:22 AM

About Barcelona,
I love staying in the Eixample district with its fascinating Moderniste architecture but I can't come up with a Cellini equivalent.

Last yr. I saw the Hotel America, in a great location just west of the Passeig de Gracia. Again, not as intimate as you seek, but with only 60 rooms they seemed to provide lots of extras and personalized service. I would stay there myself, even though the decor is your typical catalan disseny, sleek & minimalist rather than sumptuous & antique-filled.
The latter is harder to find, as minimalist, "vanguardista" decor and high tec is very much in vogue in Bcn-it's what's done. You may or may not like the designer look.

Also on the elegant Passeig de Gracia is the new, hip & trendy 45 rm. Prestige

The catalan H10 chain delivers a great product with lots of amenities at a reasonable price with young, friendly, "can do" staff, and they've opened several boutique properties, including the 37 room 3 star Hotel Raco del Pi in the Gothic Quarter, converted from an old family home, built around a patio.

Rusticae and Inns of Spain represent a brand new boutique hotel in the Barri Gotic, the Hotel Neru, which I havne't seen.

Hope there's something here somewhere that catches your eye.

mflocco Aug 18th, 2003 03:32 PM

Maribel and rex,

What can I say? Thanks so much. Maribel - you're either a travel addict or a travel agent, but regardless, you've restored my faith in finding quality, educated opinions on the Internet. I'm sure you guys know how it is when you post a question like this and get a response like "WE HATED MADRID - COULDN'T FIND A/C!!!!" Regardless, thanks for the incredible list of recommendations. It's difficult to find the sort of accommodations we desire in any large city without sacrificing location, which is an absolute shame when you are trying to see a city. Personality and character seem to have been thrown out the window in favor of size and profits.

Anyhow, off of my soapbox - this will be our first trip to Spain (hopefully of many) and I hope to come back with good reports. I'll be sure to post my experience up in Rants and Raves or on this board to give back. If there is anything else you can tell me regarding my choices (Madrid/Barcelona), if I should change those locations, etc. (we'll only be in Spain for the first week of December on a quick getaway), please feel free to voice your opinion. We aren't married to the Barcelona/Madrid itinerary and I've received a bit of pressure to drop Madrid and add San Sebastian, but I'm not convinced that's the best choice (although we are gastronomes).

Regardless, thanks to both of you.


Maribel Aug 18th, 2003 03:36 PM

Well, if you're gastronomes (as I am), the Basque Country is your paradise! Right now, along with Catalunya, it's producing Europe's most exciting food, says last Sunday's NT Times magazine (and I wholeheartedly agree). I'm a Basque Country addict! It's my passion. But enough of that...
Your files are on their way...

I could write volumes (and have!) on San Sebastian to Bilbao! And then there's the Pays Basque...but that's a whole other story!

Maribel Aug 18th, 2003 03:41 PM

Make that "NY Times"!
How short is your trip? Could you do BCN then fly to Bilbao and fly back from there instead?

mflocco Aug 18th, 2003 04:05 PM

I have the luxury of a flexible schedule, so doing BCN - Bilbao is definitely possible. My issue is that I will have to book a one way to MAD in order to catch a Continental flight from there (it's all we fly and we get our First Class upgrades, so I'd have a hard time changing that portion). As currently planned, we'd be headed out on November 30th for a December 1st arrival and planned to head back December 8th. I could probably stretch the travel out a bit, but we're going to be tired as we're coming off of a multiple city travel prior to departing for Spain...

Maribel Aug 18th, 2003 04:27 PM

HI Mark,
If you're interested...
We've taken the 10:10 a.m. Iberia one way from Bilbao to Madrid for the past 2 years;
jet service, about an hr., lands on time. We also need to catch a US Air flight to the US. That's all we fly because it's non-stop to home, and we upgrade with ff miles to Envoy. There's also an earlier 8:30 Spanair that's fine. Just so you'll know...

mflocco Aug 18th, 2003 05:17 PM

Thanks, Maribel.

I'll look into that. I'm hearing that you would also omit Madrid and add Bilbao and San Sebastian, is this correct? I'm pretty much sold on that idea because of the food aspect and because I'll be able to find those intimate accommodations I desire. My wife is concerned because it's our first trip to Spain and doesn't want to miss out on any of the major sights. Any input? Again, thanks for your help. If you get tired of this thread at any point, you can stop replying and I'll still be extremely thankful for your input.

Maribel Aug 18th, 2003 06:13 PM

Hi Mark,
Since you now have my email (files), just ask those specific questions about the Basque Country directly.

I'm loath to tell you which intinerary to choose!
If your wife wants to see the major sites, perhaps for your first trip you should choose Madrid, with day trips to Segovia &Toledo.
I can't take sides here!

But some day, for foodie heaven, I'd fly to BCN then to Bilbao and do San Sebastián-Bilbao, with meals at Mugaritz (WOW!!!!!), Arzak, Fagollaga or Akelarre (plus there are 200 more you could easily choose....).
This is a gastronome's paradise. Plus pintxos (tapas) in San Sebastián's Parte Vieja (Old Quarter) and Bilbao's Casco Viejo (ditto).
And I'd have Gabriella Ranelli de Aguirre of Tenedor Tours of S.S. show me around. She knows all the chefs and their kitchens intimately and is a fountain of knowledge about the Basque Country's gastronomy, plus extremely personable.

And most importantly, we have two wonderful contributors here who live in Euskadi, both cova from Bilbao and crisitina from Donostia who can answer your questions about their home cities far better than I!

wayno Aug 19th, 2003 10:52 AM

Following up on Maribel's mention of Hotel America in BCN, since you're not going until Nov./Dec., I'll be able to report back on it. We're spending 4 nights at the America the 2nd week of Sept. Also, we are following the itinerary that you have been discussing -- 4 nights in BCN and 4 in San Sebastian, largely because of the food prospects [and it is also our 1st visit to Spain]. We are flying between BCN and Bilbao. I can give you a report if you think it will help.

Maribel Aug 25th, 2003 06:50 PM

You might like reading this recent "Bcn hotel update" from the Sunday Telegraph travel secion, particularly their review of the Prestige. Read it here:

mfk59 Oct 9th, 2003 06:34 PM

Hi Maribel,
Your info and tips are amazing.
If you know it, how would you "rate" the Condes de Barcelona hotel w/ the new America; or the Prestige Passeig...hotel???

Maribel Oct 10th, 2003 08:36 AM

I love the Eixample location of the Condes, the Prestige and the America. The Prestige and the Condes are right on the stylish Passeig de Gracia with its Modernista architecture, tony shopping (along with the lower Diagonal, it's BCN's Madison Avenue), casual but hip restaurants like Tenorio
Braseria and multiple pintxos (tapas) bars.
The America is on a side street in the Left Eixample but within a couple of blocks of the P de G. Both superb locations and a very safe area. For location alone, they're all terrific. I haven't personally seen the Prestige yet.

How would I rate the C de B versus America? Probably the same, although their styles are very different.

As you know, the 183 room Condes is very "old style", Old World classic, 2 converted late 19th century palaces across a side street from each other with marble floors, the original columns, Art Nouveau touches, a bar/lounge with pianist in evenings, rooftop terrace, affiliation with local health club, etc. The executive rooms are newer and done in a more contemporary style.

The boutique America is done very much in the new BCN design vein with furniture to match: that hip, trendy, postmodern decor in primary colors. If you choose an executive room, you get extras such as fax, CD player, exercise bike, internet TV, coffee maker, daily paper, Jacuzzi bath. All rooms have bathrobes & slippers, cordless phones, voice mail. The hotel has a roof top pool and small gym with sauna as well. It depends on which style pleases you more.

Maribel Oct 10th, 2003 09:13 AM

For anyone interested in the brand new boutique "Casa de Madrid", read more about it here:

We love the "chic retreat" hotel choice in Seville, the tiny 6 room Casa #7.

lornamd Oct 10th, 2003 09:28 AM

Re: Casa De Madrid

I will be staying at this new hotel in 2 weeks.I will happily post a report when I return.They opened in February 2003 and they say they have had some Americans but not a lot to date.

It looks GORGEOUS on the web and if you request the brochure, it is large and beautifully photographed in both English and Spanish translation. I hope it will be a real find, with thanks to Maribel.

I will also stay at Casa Numero 7 in Seville.

Thanks Fodorites and will answer any and all questions upon my return!!

mfk59 Oct 12th, 2003 09:18 PM

Hi Maribel,
Thanks, as usual, for your hugely informative and descriptive report on the Barcelona hotels.

I've booked us at the Gran Hotel Domine in Bilbao w/ room facing the museum, on your recommendation. Will probably stick w/ the Condes and hope we get one of their executive rooms, though I am tempted by the "hitech" modernist look of the Prestige and the America..........I hate having to make these decisions...but for 6 nights there, I want to love our room!!! Silly, but whatamIgonnado???

Now, though we're holding a room at the Palace in Madrid, I've looked at numerous of the other more contemporary options there and also have read some "disjointed" reports ono the hotel in the Rants and Raves section. I'm seriously thinking about these hotels as an alternative to the Palace, and would, as usual, be so thankful for your or others' comments on:
the Bauza
the Preciados
the H10 Villa de la Reina

Location for easy walking to the museum triangle will be our main activity for the 2plus full days we have there.

So, a huge thank you in advance to Maribel, and/or anyone else who replies to this post.

Maribel Oct 13th, 2003 08:27 AM

I think you're really going to enjoy the Gran Dominé in Bilbao, especially those Guggen views and the roof top terrace. It and the Miró are now the 2 top contenders in Bilbao for my money.

In Madrid, I'd actually keep that room at the Westin Palace, as this 5 star Grande Dame has an absolutely unbeatable location for the museum triangle, and it's really pleasant to walk up the tree lined Paseo de Recoletos and Castellana Blvd at night, stopping in at the numerous bars, such as the Belle Epoque, Parisian looking Pabellón del Espejo for drinks (piano music out on the terrace). Plus the gorgeous Rotonda bar in the Palace itself is a great place for afternoon tea or pre or after dinner drinks and also offers a buffet for early evening dining. The only other 5 star with the Palace's enviable location for your 2 days would be the other historic Grande Dame, the Ritz (now owned by Orient Express), across the plaza or the boutique Derby Villa Real across the square from the Westin Palace, sister to the Claris, Astoria and Balmes in BCN.

While the other 3 you're considering are more modern, their locations are not quite as handy to the museums.
I personally don't like staying on the Gran Vía, Madrid's Broadway, although I'm in the minority on that. (In Manhattan I stay clear of Broadway and prefer hotels on the East Side, so this is just my own personal preference).
So, I like everything about the very pretty H10 Villa de la Reina except its location, even though it's on the least tawdry section of the G. V., further down towards the Plaza Cibeles and closer to the Prado than the other 2.
And while the new Hotel Preciados on pedestrian Preciados between Callao and Sol has a very hip look, I personally don't like the noise, congestion, "street life" (the gypsy women "working" their rosemary sprigs in and around FNAC are particularly annoying) of the Callao-Preciados-Puerta del Sol area, although many here on the forum find the location is perfect for exploring Old Madrid.

The kind of Ian Schrager-like Bauzá, Madrid's equivalent to a smaller W, the very most "hip, hot and trendy" of the 3 is located in the residential and high end shopping district of Salamanca but a looooooong walk (or bus, metro or taxi ride) from the Prado. I wouldn't suggest it for only 2 days of sightseeing in Madrid. I do stay in the upscale Salamanca district, my former home, away from downtown because I don't need to be that close for sightseeing, but the Bauzá, for me, is just a couple of blocks up too far north. It's a nifty hotel, and its restaurant just received a nice review in this month's British Conde Nast Traveller for its fusion cuisine in a lengthy article on new wave dining in Madrid, "Fusion Central" (30 euro degustation menu).
In the Salamanca quarter I prefer the area below, between Velázquez and the Castellana.

Hope this helps you to decide.

mfk59 Oct 13th, 2003 04:03 PM

Okay, you've settled it for me and ANOTHER HUGE THANKS TO YOU. You are an amazing resource!!

We leave on 4 November and are getting very excited about it, after all this planning!!!

Where do you next travel to? I'm sure that many of us would love to read your next postings on your ever-so-wonderful "finds."

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