Ideal for budget travelers with a penchant for partying, Hotel Ateneo is a clean, no-frills property located steps from the Puerta del Sol, ground zero for tourism. The 18th-century building was once home to the Ateneo, a club founded in 1835 to promote freedom of thought. Air-conditioned rooms feature spacious bathrooms, a surprising perk considering the hotel’s economical price point and central location. Madrid’s top attractions, from the Golden Triangle of museums to the Royal Palace to the Plaza Mayor, are all at your fingertips here. And for better or for worse, so are the city’s most bumping discotecas, whose thronging revelers may keep you awake until the wee hours if you’re a light sleeper.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Hotel Ateneo is located on Calle de la Montera, a street as known for its shopping as it is for its prostitutes. While the area is perfectly safe, it may make certain families and individuals uneasy.
Basic but cozy, rooms are paneled in wood and well-illuminated. Small groups can spread out in the “triple” and “family” rooms that sleep up to four. Fourth-floor digs stand out for their quaint sloped ceilings and skylights.
Balcony-access rooms, though wonderfully sunny, are also the noisiest. For quality shut-eye, ask for an interior-facing room.
Featuring plastic cups, flimsy towels, and basic amenities—par for the course for a hotel in this price range—the bathrooms’ redeeming quality is their ample size.
You won’t want to spend much time in this dark and dated lobby, though comfortable couches and armchairs, as well as an espresso machine, are at guests’ disposal. The 24/7 reception staff will happily make sightseeing recommendations.
With the hotel breakfast priced at €9, you’re better off starting your day with a half-dozen churros or a slice of tortilla de patata at any of the casual restaurants in the neighborhood.
At two minutes from kilómetro cero, the historic nucleus of Spain’s radial highway system, Hotel Ateneo is about as central as you can get. You can walk to most of the city's main sights, but should your feet get tired, Sol (Lines 1, 2, 3 plus local and regional trains) is right outside your door.
Hotel Ateneo is dangerously close to Madrid’s most fabled churro spot, San Ginés, a 24-hour café where towering platters of crisp-fried doughnuts are served piping hot by white-clad waiters. Churros con chocolate are the perfect way to end a tapas crawl on and around Cava Baja, the city’s most archetypal—if slightly touristy—tapas street where you’ll find stalwart old-school restaurants like Casa Lucio, Casa Lucas, and Botín, the oldest restaurant in the world founded in 1725.
A seven-minute walk from the hotel, La Coquette, Madrid’s premier blues bar, offers a terrific—and free—nightly show from Tuesdays to Thursdays in an arcaded brick cellar. Although the venue’s size might be likened to a sardine can, the upside is that every seat is front-row— it’s always a thrill to watch the talented musicians jam out right in front of you. When the show winds down, keep the night going at Joy Eslava, a perennially crowded dance hall, or at El Amante, a trendy discoteca frequented by Spanish celebrities.
WHY WE LIKE IT
Hotel Ateneo is decidedly unfancy, fantastically affordable, and meticulously clean. The fact that an independently run hotel has existed in this neighborhood for so many years is a testament to its dependability. Just be sure you pack your earplugs, especially if you’re staying over the weekend—you’re going to need them.