The hotel welcomes visitors with a new look

Opened in 1963 by John F. Kennedy, Loews Madison Hotel boasts class and culture. Having undergone a multi-million pound renovation in 2012, it reopened its doors in January 2013. Lynn Houghton stays at the hotel after its major facelift to see if the Madison lives up to its 5-star billing.

First impressions

The entrance to the hotel is quite diminutive but that's probably because this is a congested part of town. Attentive uniformed doormen open the doors for us and briskly take our luggage away. Though the lobby is not terribly spacious, it is tastefully decorated in shades of dove grey and cream colours with distinctive marble floors. There are colonial period lighting fixtures and plenty of comfortable seating in high-backed leather antique reproduction chairs. I was less impressed with the check-in staff, only because they had a slightly less friendly approach. The adjoining PostScript café area is adorned with colonial period portraits continuing the grey and taupe theme in the furnishings. On the left of the lobby entrance, the Federalist Restaurant bar boasts a fashionably furnished sitting area. My first impression of the hotel is it has an overall ambience of sophisticated elegance.

The Madison Hotel Concierge&BarAfter you check in, relax and have a drink at the Federalist bar
The Madison Hotel

Ideal for...

Though the Madison Hotel, with 353 rooms and 12 suites, is most popular as a conference hotel, it is also used to hold business meetings, weddings and parties. This hotel is definitely geared for business guests but its central location also makes it an attractive option for tourists as the White House and National Mall Monuments are all within walking distance.

The room

I was quite happy with our standard-sized room with two queen beds though I can't say it felt overly spacious. These rooms tend to be around 34 sq m (363 sq ft) but suites can be up to 135 sq m (1,472 sq ft). The beds were beautifully furnished with shades of red and taupe striped valances. Wallpaper was French Louis VII in keeping with American Independence slogans whilst the large cream-coloured leather chair in the corner of the room was a nice addition. The bathroom was beautifully done, with a bathtub of impeccable white tiles and shiny new fixtures throughout. Period pictures depicting the capital and classical architectural designs made the bathroom's dark grey walls feel a bit homier.

The Madison Hotel Independence ToileColonial themed wallpaper celebrates the area's historical culture
The Madison Hotel

Each room is equipped with a Keurig brewing machine, offering its guests free tea or coffee. The Wi-Fi is free and it is very easy to get online which is important for anyone on a business or conference trip.

Best room?

I stayed in a Deluxe room with two queen beds. This is the least expensive option, but if you want a room with a view, opt for a Luxury, Premium, Grand or Executive Terrace Room. If you want a more luxurious and spacious stay, opt for a suite where you'll be pampered by its granite and marble bathroom floors and panoramic city views.

The Madison Hotel Bed CollageNew modern touches gives the hotel a hip yet homy feel
The Madison Hotel, Lynn Houghton


As this is mainly a conference hotel, the only extra was a small fitness centre which has a sauna and steam room. There was no pool or spa. Neither was there a rooftop bar.

Eating and drinking

Breakfast was served in the PostScript café but is à la carte and an extra charge. Offerings here ranged from fresh fruit with a baguette for US$10 to Irish oatmeal priced at US$7. Speciality breakfasts were duck confit hash with fingerling potatoes and a wild mushroom frittata with local goats cheese costing US$15-18.

The Madison Hotel CoffeeRelax on a high backed leather chair while sipping coffee
The Madison Hotel

My husband and I dined at hotel's restaurant, The Federalist. The décor is distinctive yet relaxing. My husband chose the restaurant's speciality, Chesapeake rock fish, but was quite disappointed by skin that was not crispy nor was the fish very flavoursome. It was accompanied by rice that he described as "a bit soggy." I had the Amish chicken which was enormous. I had expected chicken breast but it was instead more like processed turkey roll. It was merely satisfactory but my sides of accompanying baked and quartered tomatoes was delicious. The tomato bisque soup, served as a starter, was excellent as was the panna cotta and blueberries dessert. But, frankly, service was slow, taking a considerable amount of time between courses and the waiters were obviously overstretched. On the plus side, the staff were very friendly.

The Madison Hotel FederalistThe hotel's restaurant, the Federalist
The Madison Hotel

Room for improvement

The concierge and room service staff were excellent as were the doormen in the lobby. But occasionally service could be a bit uneven. When I needed to notify the front desk to cancel an appointment and didn't want to leave my room it was virtually impossible to reach them by phone. The refurbishment means this hotel is sparkly clean and has an enjoyable ambience and while there are a few tweaks to be made on the service front, overall, it is a good value for money, particularly during off-peak periods.

Out and about

It's easy to walk to the White House and the monuments from your location at the Madison Hotel. It is also a short taxi ride to Capitol Hill, the Newseum, as well as the Smithsonian Museums (which are free). Taxis are inexpensive; with two travellers, it is about the same price as two metro tickets. Importantly, there are many good restaurants in the area. Georgia Brown, also on 15th Street, offers excellent Southern-style cooking and has discounted wine on a Sunday night. Lincoln Café; on 14th Street is a good choice for lunch and has speedy service and Southern food with a twist. Old Ebbitt Grill is an excellent nearby eatery that shouldn't be missed. It was built in 1856 and is furnished with mahogany panelling, velvet-lined booths and bevelled glass. Though famous for its oyster bar, breakfast is also a very nice option.

The Madison Hotel DC areaCapitol Hill and the International Spy Museum
iStockphoto / Thinkstock, Creative Commons/ sabl3t3k

In Chinatown, about 1.5 km (1 mile) away opposite the Verizon centre, is the popular International Spy Museum which is currently featuring an extensive exhibit of James Bond film villains. Built about 20 years ago, the Verizon centre hosts sporting events and entertainment and is credited with kick-starting the regeneration of this part of town. There are loads of restaurants here such as the Poste Brasserie and Rosa Mexicano, both of which are excellent.

1177 15th Street NW
Washington, DC
USA 20005
Tel: (202) 862 1600.
Prices for a standard room with king size bed start at US$199 and US$399 during high season (based on two sharing).

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