The Albergue Juvenil Santa Cruz de Marcenado in Madrid’s Argüelles neighborhood is just what the name promises: a good old youth hostel. That means they offer you a bed, a warm shower, a little something to fill the stomach in the morning and someplace to wash your clothes. But that’s it.
The breakfast would leave most of my friends hungry (fortunately I’m not a breakfast person). There’s no internet – if you want to get online you have to take your computer to the Starbucks round the corner where each drink buys you 45 minutes of wireless access. The common area looks more like a waiting room. And since there’s just 1 key for each room with the last one out leaving the key at the reception – which isn’t always manned – you’ll find yourself waiting there on a regular basis. Bring a book. The rooms: my first look at my 4 bed dorm had my mind racing about what I could have possibly done to have ended up in jail – there’s barely any space, just one narrow window, and to number the beds they used the same fond that I only know from prison movies…
On the bright side: when you close the window, the room is actually quiet, everything is clean, there are enough showers, and the staff is really friendly. Even though their English is limited. But that shouldn’t surprise as I didn’t seem to fit their usual guest profile: during the weekend I spent there my fellow guests were mainly Spanish, and most of them ladies on the other side of 50. Also, I found it quite easy to walk to all the main downtown Madrid attractions (if you don’t like walking: bus and subway are just round the corner as well).
One more thing: this is a traditional youth hostel which means to get the standard rate of 13 Euro per night you have to show a Hostelling International membership card. If you don’t have it a surcharge of 3,50 Euro per night applies for the first 6 nights. After that, however, you’ll have acquired a 1 year Hostelling International membership. Congratulations!