One of the best things about London is by far its collection of incredible hotels; from classic West End landmarks to hip hangouts in Shoreditch, here are the best 30 all tried and tested for you to enjoy.
45 Park Lane
The luscious feminine curves on the outside of 45 Park Lane used to be echoed by luscious feminine curves on the inside too, back when the building was home to the original Playboy Club, hopping with Bunny Girls. These days it’s an Art Deco-styled, contemporary-art-filled 45-room hotel (and part of the Dorchester Collection – the mother ship is just across the way).
The vibe is masculine, with lots of dark wood, suede and leather. Tasty little rabbit dishes are no longer on the menu – Wolfgang Puck’s superior steakhouse, Cut, is said to have the widest selection of beef in town.
Address: 45 Park Lane, London W1
Telephone: +44 20 7493 4545
Ace Hotel London Shoreditch
It would be easy to mistake the lobby of the Ace for a hipster lounge-bar full of Sipsmith-sipping, brioche-burger-chomping creatives. Whatever it is, it works beautifully, from the waiters dressed in all-grey Nike Air Max and mint Sibling jumpers in Brasserie Hoi Polloi to the denim bedspreads and hoodie dressing gowns in the rooms. By day, divert yourself in the neighbourhood’s plethora of buzzy galleries; by night, head back to the Ace and seek out its blink-and-you’ll-miss-it basement bar (entry is from the street), where you can get down to disco, golden-age hip-hop and electro, or simply look on coolly while stroking your goatee.
Address: Ace Hotel London Shoreditch, 100 Shoreditch High Street, London E1
Telephone: + 44 20 7613 9800
This used to be a multi-storey car park, you may be surprised to learn. No wonder Chris Corbin and Jeremy King (The Ivy, The Wolseley, Colbert, etc) wanted to invest their elegant hotel with a more colourful history, even if that meant making the history up themselves.
The Beaumont, therefore, is named after Jimmy Beaumont, a fictional character from Prohibition-era New York. Hence the Art Deco trimmings, wood panelling, vintage photos, and red-leather banquettes in the Grill Room, where the hotdogs are as good as the saumon à la Parisienne. In this context, Antony Gormley’s astonishing ‘Room’ literally sticks out like a sore thumb – a three-storey sculpture extruding from one side of the building, which also happens to contain a suite.
Address: The Beaumont, 8 Balderton Street, London W1
Telephone: +44 20 7499 1001
Part of the Maybourne Group, which also manages Claridge’s and The Connaught, The Berkeley is a bit like both but not much like either. A child of the early 1970s, there are no heritage trappings; instead, the look is cool, low-key, non-specifically modern. Marcus Wareing supplies Michelin-starred gravitas. Soothe your aching muscles and achieve a state of serenity at the Blue Bar, or at the much-lauded spa.
The views over Hyde Park from certain of the treadmills in the gym are excellent; the rooftop pool is itself as pretty as a picture, though too small to be of much use to anyone who actually wants to swim. By way of compensation, there is Andre Fu’s 278-square-metre Opus Suite, supposedly the largest in the capital.
Address: The Berkeley, Wilton Place, London SW1
Telephone: +44 20 7235 6000
Every hotel is to some extent a theatrical space. Some more so than others, and very few more so than Blakes. It’s dramatically different before you even cross the threshold – its unmissable dark-grey exterior has the force of a thunderclap. Inside, the plot thickens amid decadent bohemian clutter – objects and curios from all over the world compete for attention with antique pieces and richly textured fabrics.
Rooms are wildly dissimilar, though all are elegant and slightly louche, with come-hither four-posters, low lights, smoke and mirrors (you’re actually allowed to smoke in your room). If only in terms of its spirit of grown-up playfulness, the other London hotel to which Blakes bears comparison is, oddly enough, The Goring. It’s testament to the enduring charm of Anouska Hempel’s vision that, although the hotel has been going for 30 years now, and has lately changed hands, it’s still as youthful and witty as any of the countless boutique hotels that it inspired.
Address: Blakes, 33 Roland Gardens, London SW7
Telephone: +44 20 7370 6701
Terence Conran’s first hotel – whoops, ‘multi-functional space’ – comprises a dozen large, expensively pared-down rooms in a converted warehouse in Shoreditch, showcasing the work of Conran’s favourite designers (Mies, Corbu, et al) against gallery-style white walls and exposed brick.
The good looks continue in Albion, a self-styled ‘caff’ with shop and bakery attached, and the swishy restaurant, where City swells and media types nibble on frogs’ legs and do their best to deplete the well-stocked wine cellar. Upstairs, there’s something of a Manhattan state of mind at the rooftop bar, an oasis of good taste above the nitty gritty big bad city, albeit an oasis with a 24-hour soundtrack of sirens and revelry. If you’re a light sleeper, pack earplugs.
Address: Boundary, 2-4 Boundary Street, London E2
Telephone: +44 20 7729 1051
This Mayfair grande dame submitted to a thoroughgoing facial in 2005, at the hands of owner Rocco Forte’s sister Olga Polizzi, who gave it a whole new complexion, nipping and tucking her way around all that lovely old oak panelling, wrought-iron and stained-glass.
The result is a contemporary classic that respects the past without getting stuck in it. Former guests such as Rudyard Kipling and Agatha Christie, were they to return, might have to steady their nerves over kedgeree or roast beef at the excellent Hix restaurant.
Address: Brown’s, 33 Albemarle Street, London W1
Telephone: +44 20 7493 6020
Bulgari Hotel & Residences
Just when you thought the vita in this part of town couldn’t get any more dolce, along came this gem from the great Roman jewellery house. It’s all very hard-edged and stealthily spoiling, but softened and enlivened with thoughtful design touches such as bedside lamps inspired by Bulgari’s classic silver candlesticks.
A grand staircase spirals down from a superb ground-floor bar to an even better basement restaurant (Rivea, by Alain Ducasse – who may technically be a Frenchman but is in his cooking an honorary Italian). Indeed, the clever use of subterranean space is one of The Bulgari’s distinguishing features – there’s a serious screening room, the swimming pool is positively radiant with golden mosaic tiles, and the spa is among the biggest and best in the city.
Address: Bulgari Hotel & Residences, 171 Knightsbridge, London SW7
Telephone: +44 20 7151 1010
Hotel Café Royal
This revamped Regent Street landmark combines fin de siècle opulence with streamlined modernity. There are subtle references to its storied past – vases filled with tulips are a silent salute to Oscar Wilde, who once drank so much absinthe in the Grill Room that he hallucinated he was cavorting in a field of the flowers.
The Grill Room has been turned into a bar, and its opulent gilt and mirrors have been sexed up with a frankly immodest blush of red furnishings. Recover your composure downstairs at the Akasha spa, which specialises in watsu aquatic-massage treatments.
Address: Hotel Café Royal, 68 Regent Street, London W1
Telephone: +44 20 7406 3333
Over the years Claridge’s has acquired an almost mythical aura, making it something more than the sum of its parts. Not that there’s anything wrong with its parts – an irresistible hybrid of flapper-tastic Art Deco, grand Victorian flourishes and low-key, streamlined contemporary luxe. To pass through its oddly fragile-feeling revolving doors is to pass into another, lovelier world. Afternoon tea in the foyer and a drink at the bar (or, better still, in the tiny Lalique-panelled fumoir) are de rigueur, and dinner at Simon Rogan’s Fera restaurant, which has a ghost-white, leafless tree as its disconcerting yet mesmerising centrepiece, is exceptional.
Address: Claridge’s, Brook Street, London W1
Telephone: +44 20 7629 8860
Lately restored to its former glory and simultaneously whizzed into the 21st century with the addition of a new, minimalist, Asian-inspired wing and an exquisite Aman Spa. Yet the stolid Englishness of the place remains intact – a quality embodied in its celebrated central staircase (dark and woody of bannister, bright and stripy of carpet), which apparently drove Ralph Lauren into such a fit of longing that he commissioned a replica of it for his Madison Avenue shop. The Connaught Bar is a mini Art Deco masterpiece, and both Hélène Darroze’s Michelin-starred restaurant and the less formal Espelette are outstanding (the latter with a view onto a magical Tadao Ando water sculpture outside).
Address: The Connaught, Carlos Place, London W1
Telephone: +44 20 7499 7070
Corinthia Hotel London
As delicious as the huge slice of cake that it resembles when seen from the right spot by the Thames. No fewer than 1,001 Baccarat chandeliers illuminate the double-height, Victorian-pillared lobby, whose parquet floors and elegant palette of creams, caramels and charcoals with splashes of lime-green hint at the splendours beyond.
Guests with a list of London landmarks to be checked off will find this a convenient base, within striking distance of Downing Street, Trafalgar Square, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Theatreland and the South Bank (if you take one of the top-floor suites with a terrace, you can save yourself some time and see all of them at once). The ESPA Life spa occupies four levels, with 15 treatment ‘pods’, a marble-and-leather spa lounge, glass-encased sauna and steel-lined pool.
Address: Corinthia Hotel London, Whitehall Place, London SW1
Telephone: +44 20 7930 8181
Dean Street Townhouse
This Soho House outpost comprises three adjoining Georgian townhouses close to the original club. Rooms (Tiny, Small, Medium and Bigger) are fetchingly pale and interesting, and no two are exactly alike. Care has been taken over every little detail – mirrors, lighting, throws, digital everything.
The descriptively named Dining Room dishes up oysters, Scotch eggs, mince-and-potatoes, sherry trifle. And while the silvered tea and coffee tins hint at the black-Labs-and-wellies wholesomeness of sister property Babington House, this is more Dangerous Liaisons territory, providing stiff competition for the nearby Soho Hotel.
Address: Dean Street Townhouse, 69-71 Dean Street, London W1
Telephone: +44 20 7434 1775
Its walls were apparently built to withstand practically anything that nature or man could throw at them; The Dorch’s reputation is similarly robust. Whether or not it’s entirely to your taste – one look at The Promenade just off the lobby should be enough to make up your mind – there’s no denying its wow-factor.
It has two of the best hotel restaurants in town (Alain Ducasse and the recently revamped Grill), one of the most enduring nightspots (China Tang) and one of the best bartenders (the ageless Giuliano Morandin). There is impressive variety among the rooms – from the impeccable 1950s time-capsule apartments by Oliver Messel to classic chintz to the most smoothly contemporary – and the spa inspires fanatical loyalty.
Address: The Dorchester, 53 Park Lane, Mayfair, London W1
Telephone: +44 20 7629 8888
Practically hidden down a barely existent alleyway between St. James’s Street and Green Park. Practically hidden is how they like it here. Hushed, discreet, cosy and ever-so-English – yet by no means sombre, stuffy or stuck-up. How could anyone remain sombre, stuffy or stuck-up after a martini perfectly prepared by Alessandro Palazzi in one of the greatest bars on the face of the earth? This was supposedly where Ian Fleming first envisioned James Bond ordering his favourite drink ‘shaken, not stirred’. Nigel Mendham’s basement restaurant Thirty-Six is delightful; so is the entirely unexpected explosion of colour in the PJ Lounge champagne bar next to it.
Address: Dukes, 35 St. James’s Place, London SW1
Telephone: +44 20 7491 4840
The Goring has been owned and run by the same family since it opened a century ago. It shows. The hotel possesses a no-expense-spared quirkiness for which you will search in vain elsewhere. It is a glorious one-off. Rooms and suites are elegant and opulent, from the smallest Splendid Rooms to the silkily sumptuous Belgravia Suites and the duly palatial yet winningly homely Royal Suite, where Kate Middleton spent her last night as a single woman. The bar is the quintessence of cosiness, the restaurant Michelin-starred, the private garden the biggest of its kind in London and as pleasing to contemplate on a rainy day as it is to wander around on a sunny one.
Address: The Goring, Beeston Place, London SW1
Telephone: +44 20 7396 9000
Four Seasons Hotel Park Lane
The proverbial oasis of calm over the Circus Maximus that is Hyde Park Corner. Trust Four Seasons stalwart Pierre-Yves Rochon to keep things elegant but well and truly on the down-low. There are no expressive upheavals or synapse-battering splashes of colour here – apart, perhaps, from the red chairs in the excellent Italian restaurant Amaranto (which is as good for breakfast as it is for dinner).
Otherwise, the most conspicuous decorative features are the use of discrete walnut and sycamore panelling in the rooms, and the large-format black-and-white fashion photos from Vogue in the corridors. The spa on the tenth floor has serene park views, and perpetuates the chilled-out ambience.
Address: Four Seasons Hotel Park Lane, Hamilton Place, London W1
Telephone: +44 20 7499 0888
Ham Yard Hotel
First things first: it’s got its own bowling alley. A 1950s bowling alley, no less, imported from Texas. Nine properties down, Kit Kemp’s design sensibility continues to impress. Here, her fondness for acid accents, contemporary art and rampant eclecticism imparts its own peculiar energy. Little about Ham Yard’s public spaces suggests ‘hotel’. Sink into a chintzy armchair before an open fire with a volume plucked from a library shelf, or nibble a savoury tartlet in the drawing room served on china designed by Kemp for Wedgwood – the tone is almost clubby. Only better, because clubs don’t have bowling alleys.
Address: Ham Yard Hotel, 1 Ham Yard, London W1
Telephone: +44 20 3642 2000
Minimalists, modernists, fanciers of all things sleek, shiny, geometric and monochrome – this is not the place for you. The Lanesborough was always an unrepentant riot of Regency splendor. In 2015 it reopened more unrepentant, riotous and Regency-splendid than ever. The Royal Suite, at £26,000 a night, is supposedly the most expensive in London – gilty as charged – but certain of the Junior Suites are among the most charming and cleverly contrived hotel rooms you will find anywhere. The celebrated Library Bar and cigar terrace are still there, little altered. The main restaurant, Céleste, deserves mention as one of the most spectacular dining rooms in town, with decorative cues from Wedgwood and daylight from God, via a gorgeous ‘sky dome’.
Address: The Lanesborough, Hyde Park Corner, London SW1
Telephone: +44 20 7259 5599
If it feels as though The Langham has been there forever, that’s because, in hotel terms, it pretty much has. But a century and a half on, it’s looking grand, as sophisticated and elegant as it did when Napoleon III spent the night.
These days the Victoriana and chinoiserie are offset by smooth, occasionally quirky contemporary elements – notably in the award-winning Artesian bar, with its timber chandeliers, imitation-snakeskin flooring and resin-topped tables. It would be difficult to name a finer hotel restaurant than Roux at the Landau, where father-and-son dream team Albert and Michel Roux Jr have been casting their culinary spells for the past five years.
Address: The Langham, 1C Regent Street, London W1
Telephone: +44 20 7636 1000
The London Edition
A restaurant with rooms? That wouldn’t be entirely fair, but there’s no escaping the fact that chef Jason Atherton’s ground-floor Berners Tavern is the palpitating heart of the hotel. The lobby cocktail bar, oak-panelled, reservation-only Punch Room and nightclub Basement only increase the pulse-rate.
Ian Schrager’s considered, gimmick-free design has given the stucco, marble and stained-glass of the historic lobby a funky edge; upstairs, rooms are James Bond-slick, with buttoned-linen George Smith sofas alongside Scandinavian wishbone chairs and Schrager’s trademark floor-to-ceiling white drapes. They are also marvellously quiet, a perfect antidote to the hubbub below.
Address: The London Edition, 10 Berners Street, London W1
Telephone: +44 20 7781 0000
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
The Queen learnt to dance in the ballroom of this splendidly florid pile. A great deal has changed since then. There’s now an award-winning, state-of-the-art spa, zeitgeisty restaurants by Daniel Boulud and Heston Blumenthal, and perpetually packed bars (not one, not two, but three, and all terrific in their very different ways).
In other respects, however, the MO retains elements of its gentler, more cosily traditional past, and its sense of Edwardian propriety. A refurbished Royal Suite was revealed at the end of 2014; her Majesty might well have enacted a little plié of pleasure at the sight of all those crystal chandeliers, Lalique lamps and other reassuringly familiar fixtures. The clippity-clop that rises faintly from the Hyde Park side as horses from the Household Cavalry make their way past the hotel never gets old.
Address: Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1
Telephone: +44 20 7235 2000
Metropolitan by COMO Park Lane
Plain on the outside, plain on the inside – only you’re talking about two very different kinds of plain here. While the Metropolitan’s exterior is anonymous to the point of charmlessness, the interiors are, particularly for this part of London, a pleasant surprise.
Icy-calm, uncluttered and understated, though with some arresting and endearing touches – vivid block-coloured carpets, splendid orchids, big sofas arranged alongside big windows the better to enjoy the big views over the park outside. Though no longer in the first flush of their youth, the Met bar, Nobu restaurant and Shambhala spa continue to deliver the goods.
Address: Metropolitan by COMO Park Lane, 19 Old Park Lane, London W1
Telephone: +44 20 7447 1000
Designer Tom Dixon went full steam ahead with the maritime theme here, transforming Sea Containers House, a great lump of an office building on the south bank of the Thames, into a hotel that is meant to resemble a transatlantic liner.
A transatlantic liner, however, that also references Art Deco, Pop Art and disco, and that makes expressive use of a distinctly non-nautical palette (velvet banquettes in mimosa-yellow, wardrobes in bubblegum pink, staff uniforms in baby blue). Outside, there’s Tate Modern to your left, Shakespeare’s Globe to your right, and all of London seemingly spread out before you beneath the balcony of the hotel’s brilliant, brassy rooftop Rumpus bar.
Address: Mondrian London, 20 Upper Ground, London SE1
Telephone: +44 20 3747 1000
There have been a few changes at The Ritz in recent years. Above all there was the renovation of the Rivoli Bar (which serves the best-presented cocktails in London) and the acquisition of the magnificent William Kent House next door (César Ritz’s dream ever since he built the hotel in 1906).
Yet the main public spaces – including the adored Palm Court and dining room, aligned along the sumptuous gallery that runs the length of the building, from Arlington Street at one end to Green Park at the other – remain little changed. Here you still have a sense, enhanced by the rich, warm, golden glow of this part of the hotel, of having found yourself preserved in amber. No celebrity interior-designers have been let loose on the rooms, which retain their original Louis XVI style and a lustrous palette of pinks, yellows and blues. Ravishing.
Address: The Ritz, 150 Piccadilly, London W1
Telephone: +44 20 7493 8181
With their first foray into London, Rosewood has created not just a new hotel but a whole new neighbourhood: ‘Midtown’, previously known, without any of that implied New York spunk, as boring old Holborn. Yet the location is extraordinary, starting with the most unexpected of courtyards, like a mini Somerset House, from which a kind of country-house vibe emanates.
There are flat-capped doormen and jars of sweets in the lobby, and home-made sloe gin in your room, whose grey, taupe and cream colour scheme is subtly jazzed up with Asian accents. The perpetually jammed Scarfe’s Bar and the less frantic Mirror Room are at either end of a long bronze corridor separating the lobby from the outside world. The Holborn Dining Room, run by ex-Ivy head chef Des McDonald, adds a lively brasserie buzz. Sitting outside in the courtyard in summer with a glass of something chilled is a joy.
Address: Rosewood London, 252 High Holborn, London WC1
Telephone: +44 20 7781 8888
The Zetter Townhouse
Two adjoining Georgian houses on cobbled (or, if you’re wearing high heels, hobbled) St John’s Square, Clerkenwell, just across from sister hotel The Zetter. Supposedly inspired by Dickens’s London and in particular the gin distilleries for which this part of the city was once known. The curio-filled reception/cocktail lounge/breakfast room is, if not exactly Dickensian, at least chock-a-block full of zany drama and incident. Plonk yourself down on a velvet sofa and order a Twinkle (a Champagne-and-elderflower cocktail served in a delicate Victorian flute) and tapas-style bites by Bruno Loubet (his popular brasserie is in the neighbouring Zetter). Upstairs, rooms are furnished with reclaimed and vintage furniture and mahogany four-posters.
Address: The Zetter Townhouse, 49-50 St John’s Square, London EC1
Telephone: +44 20 7324 4550
The Shangri-La at the Shard
Never has a traffic jam on the Old Kent Road looked so enchanting – everything seen from The Shangri-La looks enchanting. The hotel occupies floors 34 to the 52 of Renzo Piano’s 87-storey London landmark.
The rooms (contemporary, creamy, Asian-influenced), restaurants (especially the romantic Ting) and bar (gin and rosemary – divine) are all fantastic, though nothing can compete with the extraordinary views over London, which turn every guest into a slack-jawed infant, lost in wonder, gazing out, palms to the window, all day long. At night, sitting cross-legged on the bed with the blackout blinds open is like being on a magic carpet, floating high above the ceaseless glow of the great city.
Address: The Shangri-La at the Shard, 31 St Thomas Street, London SE1
Telephone: +44 20 7234 8000
The Soho Hotel
Cleverly converted from a multi-storey car park (cf The Beaumont, above), the Firmdale Group’s Soho property remains one of London’s most fashionable hotels. There’s a great big fat Fernando Botero bronze sculpture of a cat in the lobby, probably contemplating his next saucer of milk in the adjacent Refuel bar, even though he could clearly do without it.
The rooms are a celebration of colour and pattern, richly varied, in designer and co-owner Kit Kemp’s characteristic eclectic-English style. Six apartments have private entrances, kitchens and sitting rooms. You know you’re in Soho when there’s not one but two screening rooms in the basement.
Address: The Soho Hotel, 4 Richmond Mews, London W1
Telephone: +44 20 7559 3000
Though people tend to think of it as monolithic and unchanging, The Savoy has something of a split personality and has in fact changed a great deal over the years. It’s decorated in Edwardian style on the Thames side – from which Monet and Whistler painted the river – but it’s quintessentially Art Deco on the Strand side. Rooms are large and traditional but never frumpy; and in a world of shrinking bathtubs, The Savoy’s remain satisfyingly deep.
The Savoy Grill and Kaspar’s seafood restaurant (named after the resident cat, which, being made of wood, is entirely hypoallergenic and seldom makes any trouble) are excellent; and the hotel is blessed with two of the finest watering holes in London, The American Bar, granddaddy of London’s cocktail bars, and its younger, sassier sibling, The Beaufort Bar. So don’t even try to make it an ‘either/or’ proposition – it must be an ‘and’.
Address: The Savoy, Strand, London WC2
Telephone: +44 20 7836 4343