It’s important to keep in mind: London is a pretty big city. (Don’t worry, we’ll wait for your shock to subside.) Yearly international visits to the capital number in the octuple digits — 2011 alone saw 15.3 million, and that was before the Olympics. There are few such massively powerful global arteries on the planet, and when every culture across the world is represented in your city, you’ve got to imagine there’ll be vast choice for accommodation. And while The Savoy and The Ritz might be the hotels most evocative of London’s inafmous opulence, the beauty of a city as old as Arthurian Legend is in its wide variety: townhouses, gastro-pub-straddling inns, kitschy hideaways, and sleek towers of pure, undiluted stylishness for the festival jet-set. Do you want to spot A-listers? Gaze upon Dickensian portraiture? Discover the unbridled fun of a gay hip-hop night? Or all of the above? To a traveler from across the pond, the choices could seem daunting. But never fear: we’ve narrowed down the best of London’s hotels, from the centuries-old, afternoon-tea-wielding biggies, to the quirky and quaint. All you need to decide is your desired neck of the woods, your holiday goals, and how soft you like your pillows.
Congratulations, you’ve discovered Camberwell! It’s the up-and-coming capital of art-school cool in the south, filled with character and a taste for what south London was like pre-gentrification. The Church Street Hotel has managed to welcome in a new era of visitors without losing any of Camberwell’s spirit — it’s a beautiful mishmash of olde English inn and Latino kitsch emporium all within spitting distance of art-school hangouts like The Stormbird and The Hermit’s Cove. It might be tough choosing from its rooms: will it be the “Habitacion Mambo Rey” or the “Poblito Solo”? Head to downstairs restaurant Angels & Gypsies for some of the most buzzworthy tapas in the city, and an impressive wine list.
Recommended for Best Hotels because: Hispanic kitsch is hard to come by in London, but The Church Street Hotel does sugar skulls and La Virgen shrines with staggering panache.
Photo courtesy of The Ace Hotel
We’ll admit it: there are bits of The Ace that are rife for parody. There are the rows of merch and gizmos at check-in, the guitars in the rooms, the hotdesking facilities at lobby-level. Sure, The Ace embraces all things zeitgeisty, but it does it with a knowing wink and a tasteful eye. It’s streets ahead of the outdated concept of a rock n’ roll hotel (though hotelier Alex Calderwood did add to that flavor of mythos when he passed away in one of the rooms prior to opening), and it’s been slowly garnering a reputation as artistic and culinary hub. Play from an in-room offering of vinyl records on a Rega record player in a suite for around £500, or cozy up in a standard room for a song — around £145, to be precise. Then head downstairs to their rotating selection of club nights.
Recommended for Best Hotels because: There may be branches in across the US and Panama, but London’s Ace Hotel is the most impeccably curated of the bunch.
The Rookery is quintessentially London: exquisite, winterey, and just a little bit spooky. With the goals of providing “civilised surroundings; old fashioned hospitality; friendly efficient service; [and] a location away from the roar of traffic”, there is indeed a reclusive glamour to The Rookery. It’s like stumbling across the (very stylish) mad woman in the proverbial attic, or finding a secret wing in a stately home. But, within walking distance of the Thames, St Paul’s and Old Street, it’s unlikely that you’ll forget you’re in the bustling capital. Retreat back to The Rook’s Nest (pictured) or the Dr Theophilus Garenciéres Suite after a day at the Tate Modern, and order up a hot drink before passing out in your leather armchair.
Recommended for Best Hotels because: It balances an autumnal ambiance with vintage interiors and modern restoration — it’s truly a masterpiece of London’s design heritage and invention.
The Sherlock Holmes allows you to let your inner-geek run wild with style. Just a street down from the actual 221b Baker Street, the hotel provides a fantastic offering for its guests: vicinity to the museum, and a tasteful respite away from the crowds. Disneyland the Sherlock Holmes Hotel is not, and after a day of tartan caps and gift shop goodies, you may want to feel like a proper grown up again with a grown up drink. The friendly lobby level bar staff will be happy to oblige. Rooms vary in size and price, from the utility-focused “Superior Rooms” to their loft suites and studio rooms.
Recommended for Best Hotels because: Sometimes a tourist’s gonna be a tourist! It’s nice to find a hotel that respects the great British institution of fandom.
The Boundary truly represents the soul of contemporary east London. Built from a converted Victorian warehouse, the red-bricked type that 19th century architects tried to reproduce from Chelsea’s architecture, the hotel offers more than you would have guessed from its unassuming front. Inside guests will find Albion, its lovely bakery and cafe, chic basement-level dining, and, of course, its rooms. Each room is individually themed by style; you might land yourself in the “Mies Van Der Rohe Room”, the “Young British Designers Room”, “The Le Corbusier & Charlotte Perriand Room”, even the brightly color-blocked “Bauhaus Room”. And truly, what could be more Shoreditch than that?
Recommended for Best Hotels because: The rooftop terrace can’t be missed, especially when the light stretches long into nighttime during the summer months.
You can save the artsy cutting-edge for your next London vacation — a stay at the Connaught is all about traditional magnificence and days of yore. But think more pearls-and-martinis yore than milkmaids-and-codpieces yore: The Connaught is like the Savoy’s quiet cousin, a 200-year-old establishment built on reserved elegance and unapologetic Englishness. Tucked away in the quiet winding roads of ultra-posh Mayfair, you might never want to leave the ornamental-ceilinged, roaring-fireplaced premises. With three bars, two restaurants, afternoon tea, Sunday brunch, and an award-winning spa (not to mention actual human butlers), you might have to shuffle around that pesky itinerary of yours.
Recommended for Best Hotels because: The Connaught’s hypnotic elegance makes it worth every penny. (And with a Deluxe King starting at £600.00, you’ll certainly be needing a lot of them)
Photo courtesy of Dean Street Townhouse
If you find yourself at the Dean Street Townhouse, odds are you don’t need to be told why you should be there. Hidden in plain sight, it’s the regular hangout of celebs like Noel Fielding and Sienna Miller, a stone’s throw from its ultra-glam parent company Soho House and the legendary Soho Theatre. And the hotel’s history is as rich as its decor: the structure dates back to 1732 and has hosted the likes of Francis Bacon, Oscar Wilde, Fred Astaire, and King Charles II’s mistress Nell Gwynne. And while the rooms, priced by size at an average of £300-ish for non-Soho House members, might set you back, they offer everything from free-standing in-room Victorian-style bathtubs to serene courtyard access.
Recommended for Best Hotels because: A stay at the Dean Street Townhouse drops you smack dab in the center of arts, media, and entertainment circles in fast-paced Soho.
It seems the latest London hospitality trend is to feel as though guests are simply not in London. And The Grazing Goat just about succeeds in constructing a world of dreamy rustic magic just off of Marylebone’s Portland Square. Adding to the feeling that you’ve wandered into some winsome Lake District Inn (rather than a few roads down from the frothing hordes of Madamee Tussauds) is its gastropub, built in the self-proclaimed style of “regency coaching inn meets modern-day manor”. After some Shetland salmon and Sipsmith gins you may feel like donning your wellies for a marshy evening stroll. Instead we recommend braving the high street or making your way to Hyde Park’s Speakers’ Corner.
Recommended for Best Hotels because: It’s styled with understated elegance and an otherworldly calm, yet somehow puts you at the nexus of some of London’s most vibrant areas.
It’s no wonder that the Zetter, and connected Zetter Townhouse, tops so many lists of London’s best hotels year after year. There’s the location (utterly charismatic, yet somehow still underrated, Clerkenwell), the diversity (rooms and suites vs townhouses), and the style. It’s a combination of that shiny gloss which might attract business travelers, and the detail-oriented, eclectic luxury you’d expect of the old European luxury hotels of lore. Neighbouring restaurant Modern Pantry, owned and operated by the Zetter team, opened in 2008, and offers the same kind of mod-retreat sensibility as its houses. But be warned: You may find it hard to tear yourself away from Clerkenwell’s nooks, so schedule yourself some outings.
Recommended for Best Hotels because: It’s not just a hip hotel — it’s a little micro-community of style and luxury in an environ that won’t overwhelm.
From the outside, Bethnal Green’s Town Hall comes across as more a sweeping citadel than a curated haven for east London’s trend-setters. But go through its doors and you’ll find just that: it’s as though Vogue’s creative directors took ownership of the hotel from The Shining. One wrong turn and you’ve wandered into The Corner Room, an intimate restaurant made up of all things concept-gastronomy, decorated, seemingly, with relics from a Steampunk convention. Another turn and you’re in an earth-toned, antique-ish corridor that could, without proper lighting, give you the heebie-jeebies. Art deco sconces, almost futuristic rooms, and sexily lit cocktail bars demarcate the stylish mishmash of aesthetics and tastes that culminate in Town Hall’s je ne sais quoi. Scratch that — je sais quoi: utter, enviable cool.
Recommended for Best Hotels because: It’s like ten different artists came together to form one extraordinary hotel. Your Instagram feed will combust in your palm from overuse.