NH Collection Palacio de Aranjuez
In early May 2019 during a visit to Madrid we decided to see El Palacio Real de Aranjuez. We stayed at the NH Collection Palacio de Aranjuez and this is my first hotel review.
We had planned to take a 6 day holiday in Madrid, and more or less at the last minute we added a visit to see the Royal Palace at Aranjuez.
Making the reservation
Using Booking we found the 4-star NH Collection Palacio de Aranjuez, which is located directly opposite the Royal Palace. According to the NH website this hotel boasts an 'unbeatable' location right opposite the Royal Palace, and "spacious, soundproof rooms with ultra-thick mattresses and a choice of pillows". They also mention free wi-fi, minibars and satellite TV, and free fitness facilities. They also serve a full buffet breakfast, have a lobby bar and restaurant, and underground parking (15€ per night).
One point I picked up on from the hotel website was that breakfast was served between 08:00 and 12:00 on weekends, and on top of that they have a 15:00 check out on 'Lazy Sunday'.
Great to see breakfast offered through to midday on weekends, and a Sunday check out at 15:00 is outstanding (even if it is only available to NH 'Reward Members').
Using Booking we had reserved a 35m2 'premium room with view', but upon arrival we were offer the possibility to upgrade to a 70m2 'junior suite with view' for only 35€ per night extra. Naturally we took it.
Interesting whilst I could find the junior suite option described on the NH website, I could never get a price offer for it. So I've no idea if the upgrade was a good deal or not.
Two nights (Friday and Saturday) in a 'premium room with a view', breakfast included, was 399.64€, on both the NH website and Booking. However NH was also offering 5% off for NH 'Reward Members', and you get the Lazy Sunday check out to 15:00.
One of the weird things was that the 'special deal' prepay online non-refundable offer on the NH website was more expensive than if you just paid at the hotel (i.e. 174.87€ against 170.00€). Logic was restored if you were a NH 'Reward Member' (i.e. 155.81€ against 161.50€).
Our expectations were high. Booking rated it as a 'superb' 9.1, and with a 9.5 for location (on 1,721 reviews). Everyone liked the location, and found the rooms big, quiet, clean and comfortable. Many visitors mentioned the friendly, professional staff. Also many people mentioned going for a room upgrade to get a view of the palace. Trip Advisor gave the hotel a 4.5/5.0 (1,158 reviews), with a 5/5 for location.
Arriving at the hotel
Our in-car gps brought us right up to the hotel front door. But I must admit the main entrance was so discrete (dare I say bland) that I had to look twice to see the hotel sign on the wall. The good thing was that there were free parking spaces just in front. After check-in and going up to the room, I took the car around to the side entrance to the hotel underground garage.
Above we have the entrance as see on the hotel website, and below we have the entrance as we as arrived.
The entrance lobby
Walking into the main entrance lobby I was somehow surprised by the dullness of it all. The photos on the web (above) show quite a bright lobby, whereas in my mind I saw a far duller and banal décor (below). I think it was just too many overlapping tones with no real bright spots. I felt that the décor in the breakfast room was brighter and more interesting.
Check-in was quick since we were the only people in the reception area. We had booked a 'premium room with view', but for 35€ per night we took an upgrade to a 70m2 'junior suite with view'. We had room 316, which 'naturally' was on the 2nd floor.
Part of the reception area is a glass covered atrium (above) that has now been more or less closed off by a set of semi-transparent curtains (below). Looking closely these curtains were hiding an interesting view down to the ground floor reception, but more importantly they were hiding dirty widows.
I think the biggest criticism I could make about the decor is that it was bland. The hotel is next to a Spanish Royal Palace, and most visitors to the hotel will be tourists, but the decor was total bland and anonymous. The breakfast room decor could have been copied throughout the hotel and bedrooms to liven things up a bit, but I would have really preferred a decor that 'set the scene' for our visit to the Royal Palace.
Below we have a photograph taken from the hotel website, but I was never able to find this location in the hotel we stayed at.
The lift from the garage through to the 2nd floor was very, very slow, but it had the advantage that it was quite near both my parking space in the garage and our room. The suite itself was very large, and consisted of a sitting area, a dressing area, a bedroom, a large bathroom, and a separate shower room.
The bland decoration was again repeated in the bedroom with what the hotel called "natural colours with rich hardwood floors". All true, but they don't mention the black and white wall prints, the dark furniture, the dark wood fittings, the dark sandy coloured curtains, and the dark grey carpet. The result was that the ceiling lighting and 11 different types of feature lighting never managed to give the rooms a warm, bright look. It did not help that the rooms on the 2nd floor have quite small windows, all covered also by semi-transparent net curtains. You can pull back all the curtains to get more light in to the room, but the sitting room is quite deep and there is only one small window. The bedroom has two windows and is much brighter. I also counted 30 different sockets, switches and assorted wall 'command things' (see below), so it may be me that was not able to get the kind of bright lighting I like.
There are a lot of positives with the room. Firstly the bed was large, perfectly prepared and there were 3 alternative types of pillows available (see below). And the bedside tables were nice and big, and I love the fact that there was no bedcovers or throws which are just a nest of germs. Another thing my wife appreciated was that there were plenty of normal coat hangers, and not those stupid things that you need to un-hooked and re-hooked every time you use them. Another good point was that the safe was big enough for my MacBook Pro, and plenty of other stuff. And of course with 30-odd different sockets, switches, etc. there were plenty of sockets everywhere for charging my iPhones, Fit-Bit's, MacBook's etc.
Just to keep everyone happy, here's a few negatives. For me the biggest negative is that you have to be a contortionist to get in the shower and close the door (see below). Given the size of the bathroom they could have come up with a slightly larger shower, or just sliding doors. You can see below that the shower cabin is as wide as a bathtub and the shower door folds into two leaving little space to close the door once you are in the shower.
On top of that there is no handle on the inside of the shower door, so once inside it was very difficult for my wife to get the shower door open again.
Another point is that the bedroom TV sits in a corner on top of cabinet for the coffee machine (see below). The TV looks like it was a 42" but the bedroom is so big that sitting in bed you are too far away to really appreciate what your are seeing, but still we had another TV in the sitting room.
In addition I never managed to get the heating/cooling system to heat, all it wanted to do is blow cool air. And the heated towel rail in the bathroom, never heated.
We could not be bothered to go out and hunt around for an evening meal. Staying two nights we simply used the hotel restaurant. In the lobby there is a bar and a series of tables. On the hotel website these tables are laid for lunch/dinner, but during our stay they remained bare and thus added to the impression of a dull and empty lobby.
Anyway we went down for dinner, which was served in a small room just of the lobby. I think there might have been 6-8 tables in the room, and we were the only guests on the first night. The service was fine, but not being able to serve a couple of glasses of cava in Spain is unacceptable (we were told we would have to buy a bottle). The menu was minimalist, but we managed to find something to tempt our taste buds. My wife's chicken was edible but totally uninteresting, and my steak was slightly over cooked but acceptable. The bread was fine, but we had to ask for some olive oil, and it came without a salt shaker. I had a couple of glasses of an average red wine. On our second night the small restaurant was half full, and my steak was better prepared.
Frankly I expected more from a NH Collection hotel, and I made the mistake not to pre-source a couple of nearby restaurants.
Breakfast is taken is a room just off the lobby. The room is an example of a warm décor that should be copied throughout the hotel. You can't find everything you might want for breakfast, but there are plenty of interesting alternatives. We appreciated the selection of teas, fruit, etc., but we are always disappointed not to have freshly pressed orange juice - remember we are in Spain!
The gym is quite small, but probably adequate for someone wanting to keep in form. There are two changing rooms (male and female) each with a small sauna and a WC and shower for handicapped users. I asked at the reception to use the sauna and 45 minutes later it was at 70°C, and when I left it was at 90°C. The facilities are fine, and there were plenty of towels and shower sundries. I had a good sauna and shower, but I do have a few minor comments. Firstly, it would have been nice to have a few face flannels and some combs. Secondly, there were 3 pieces of fruit, and an empty lightly chilled fridge, however I would have appreciated some water. Thirdly, it would be nice to have some wall clocks. Lastly, it might have been nice for someone from the reception to have popped down just to see that everything was fine. But like I said, I spent about 60 minutes there and had a good sauna and shower.
Pro's and Con's
Let me address some of the strong negatives expressed by past clients at the hotel. I did find our 'suite with a view' a bit dark, the décor bland, and the shower cabin very cramped. It is true that the furnishing had the odd bit of (normal) damage, and a bit of loving care would no doubt be appreciated. However, overall the room was clean (a bit more effort in the corners would be nice), nothing was soiled, the door locked properly, and sound proofing 'sounded' perfect. Generally we found the suite comfortable but totally impersonal. The bathroom could certainly be better designed and the shower really needs a re-think. The present arrangement with the shower door needs changing.
Let me be perfectly clear, there are perhaps 10 rooms at the front of the hotel that have nice views of the Royal Palace. That means that all the other rooms overlook two side streets (see below). We would have been very disappointed with the views from these rooms.
There are some positives. Great location, good breakfast, direct access to the garage, good beds and pillows, rooms very spacious, wi-fi worked fine.
There are a few practical negatives that need to be solved, but the bland decor and total lack of 'atmosphere' is just down to (for want of a better word) a lack of 'loving care' by the management. Maybe a bland 'relay' hotel is what most guests want, but the real challenge is for the staff the make guests want to come back. Unfortunately, if we were ever to return to this hotel it would only be because the alternatives were worse.