Fodor's London (2015)
Main Table of Contents
Hotels by Neighborhood
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Updated by Jack Jewers
Queen Elizabeth hasn’t invited you this time? No matter. Staying at one of London’s grande-dame hotels is the next-best thing to being a guest at the palace—and some say it’s even better. Happily, however, there is no dearth of options where friendliness outdistances luxe—London, thank goodness, has plenty of atmospheric places that won’t cost a king’s ransom.
That noted, until fairly recently it was extremely difficult to find a decent hotel in the center for less than £150 per night. Things have improved, thanks in part to the global recession, but also to a modest flurry of new midprice hotels that have sprung up in the last few years.
It’s all so different if money is no object. London has some of the very best and most luxurious hotels in the world. On the other hand, freshly minted billionaires favor the rash of new hot spots, like the Corinthia or ME London, while fashion plates always book Kit Kemp’s super-stylish hotels (such as the Covent Garden and the Charlotte Street). But even these places have sales, and you can sometimes snag a bargain within the reach of ordinary mortals—particularly in the off-season—or just be a spectator to all the glamour by visiting for that most traditional of high-society treats, afternoon tea.
Meanwhile, several midrange hotels have dropped their average prices in response to the choppy waters of the global economy, which has pulled some fantastic places, such as Hazlitt’s, the Rookery, and Town Hall, back into the affordable category. And there’s a clutch of new, stylish, and super-cheap hotels that are a real step forward for the city. The downside is that these places tend to be a little out of the way, but that’s often a price worth paying. Another attractive alternative includes hotels in the Premier and Millennium chains, which offer sleek, modern rooms, lots of up-to-date conveniences, and sales that frequently bring room prices well below £100 a night.
At the budget level, London has also come a long way in the last couple of years, albeit with a catch: to find a good, reasonably priced B&B, you must be prepared to look outside the very center of London. This means that you have to subtract the city’s notoriously high transport costs from any savings—but on the plus side, the Tube can shuttle you out to even some far-flung suburbs in under 20 minutes. Prepare to be just a little adventurous with your London base and you will be rewarded by a collection of unique and interesting bed-and-breakfasts, in the kinds of neighborhoods real Londoners live in—places likeKing Henry’s Road, the Cable Street Inn, and the Church Street Hotel. And if you’re willing to fend for yourself, the city has some great rental options.
But if you are interested in luxury, London is just the place. Although the image we love to harbor about Olde London Towne may be fast fading in the light of today’s glittering city, when it comes time to rest your head, the old-fashioned clichés remain enticing. Choose one of London’s heritage-rich hotels—Claridge’s supplies perfect parlors; the Savoy has that river view—and these fantasies can, and always will, be fulfilled.
Where should you stay? With hundreds of London hotels, it may seem like a daunting question. But it doesn’t have to be. The selections here represent the best this city has to offer—from the most-for-your-money budget B&Bs to the sleekest designer hotels.
NEED A RESERVATION?
Yes, hotel reservations are an absolute necessity when planning your trip to London, so book your room as far in advance as possible. The further in advance you can book, the better the deal you’re likely to get. Just watch out if you change your mind—cancellation fees can be hefty. On the other hand, it is possible to find some amazing last-minute deals at mid- to high-range places, but this is a real gamble, as you could just as easily end up paying full rate. Fierce competition means properties undergo frequent improvements, so when booking inquire about any ongoing renovations that may interrupt your stay.
Typical check-in and checkout times are 2 pm and 11 am, respectively. Many flights from North America arrive early in the morning, but having to wait six hours for a room after arriving jet-lagged at 8 am isn’t the ideal way to start a vacation. Alert the hotel of your early arrival; large hotels can often make special early check-in arrangements, but almost all will look after your luggage in the meantime. Be prepared to drop your bags and strike out for a few hours. On the plus side, this can effectively give you a whole extra day for sightseeing.
Note that rooms can vary considerably in a single hotel. If you don’t like the room you’re given, ask to see another. Hotels often renovate room by room—you might find yourself allocated a dark, unrenovated room, whereas a bright, newly decorated room awaits just down the hall. Be prepared for the fact that, while smoking is now banned in public areas, this doesn’t apply to hotel rooms—so be firm and ask to change if you’re given a smoking room and didn’t request one.
Some hotels include breakfast in the price of the room. It ranges from a gourmet spread to what is known as the “full English” (one fried egg, two “bangers”—that’s English-style sausage links—two thick slices of bacon, a grilled tomato, sautéed mushrooms or baked beans, and toast). In many budget hotels and B&Bs, this is the only hot breakfast available. Most expensive hotels (and the most imaginative small ones) may also offer pancakes, French toast, waffles, and omelets. Luckily, virtually all accommodations also offer packaged cereals, muffins, yogurt, and fresh fruit, so when the sausage-and-bacon brigade begins to get you down, go continental.
Keep in mind that some facilities come with the room rate while others cost extra. So, when pricing accommodations, always ask what’s included. Modern hotels usually have air-conditioning, but B&Bs and hotels in older buildings often do not, and it is generally not the norm in London. Wi-Fi is common, but don’t assume it’s free (large hotels in particular can charge outrageous fees). If you want a double room, specify whether you want a double bed or a twin (two single beds next to each other). All hotels listed have private bathrooms unless otherwise noted.
If you’re planning to visit in the fall, winter, or early spring, start monitoring bargain online prices a few months before your trip and book whenever you see a good rate. Chains such as Hilton, Premier, and Millennium are known for their low-season sales in which prices can be as little as half the normal rate. And business-oriented hotels frequently have lower rates on weekends.
The exchange rate between the pound and the dollar is also unpredictable, so if it’s looking good when you book, an advance-payment deal could end up saving you a decent amount of money. TIPThe Visit London Accommodation Booking Service (020/7932-2020 | www.visitlondon.com) offers a best-price guarantee. Also try the clearinghouse websites Late Rooms (www.laterooms.com), Booking (www.booking.com), and Last Minute (www.lastminute.com).
Prices in the reviews are the lowest cost of a standard double room in high season, including 20% V.A.T.
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Westminster, St. James’s, and Royal London | Mayfair and Marylebone | Soho and Covent Garden | Bloomsbury, Holborn, and Fitzrovia | The City | East London | South of the Thames | Kensington, Chelsea, Knightsbridge, and Belgravia | Notting Hill and Bayswater | Regent’s Park and Hampstead
Listed alphabetically by neighborhood.
WESTMINSTER, ST. JAMES’S, AND ROYAL LONDON
Fodor’s Choice | The Corinthia.
HOTEL | The London outpost of the exclusive Corinthia chain is design heaven-on-earth, with levels of service that make anyone feel like a VIP. There’s an eye-popping Moderne lobby; the Northall restaurant is a treasury of soaring columns, Edwardian woodwork, and futuristic chandeliers; the Massimo restaurant—a ravishing David Collins masterpiece—has candy-striped columns that nod toward medieval Siena; even the shop is drop-dead chic. Guest rooms in cool, masculine tones have beautiful city views, and spacious bathrooms have underfloor heating, so even your toes will feel pampered. Pros: so much luxury and elegance you’ll feel like royalty. Cons: prices jump to the stratosphere once the cheapest rooms sell out. | Rooms from: £395 | Whitehall Pl., Westminster | 020/7930-8181 | www.corinthia.com | 294 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Embankment.
FAMILY | DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London Westminster.
HOTEL | Spectacular views of the river, Big Ben, and the London Eye fill the floor-to-ceiling windows in this rather stark, steel-and-glass building steps from the Tate Britain, and a plethora of techy perks await inside. These include Skype-enabled phones (allowing for free calls) and Macs in every room. Cribs, baby baths, Nickelodeon, special menus, and baby food are on tap for kids. The restaurant and bar serve Modern British cooking. Pros: amazing views; flat screens and other high-tech gadgetry. Cons: small bedrooms; tiny bathrooms; TV has to be operated through a computer (confusing if you’re not used to it). | Rooms from: £219 | 30 John Islip St., Westminster | 020/7630-1000 | doubletree3.hilton.com | 444 rooms, 16 suites | Some meals | Station:Westminster, Pimlico.
HOTEL | With Buckingham Palace just around the corner, this hotel, built in 1910 and now run by third-generation Gorings, has always been a favorite among discreet VIPs—including Kate Middleton’s family on the night before her marriage to Prince William in 2011. It’s popular for its Edwardian style: the striped wallpaper, floral curtains, patterned carpets, and brass fittings that make it luxurious and welcoming at the same time. Pros: elegant, spacious rooms; prices have come down recently. Cons: price is still too high for what you get; interiors a bit fussy. | Rooms from: £306 | 15 Beeston Pl., Grosvenor Gardens, Victoria | 020/7396-9000 | www.thegoring.com | 68 rooms, 6 suites | Some meals | Station: Victoria.
Fodor’s Choice | Hotel 41.
HOTEL | Designer credentials and high-tech gadgets are everywhere in the impeccably coordinated black-and-white rooms, some split-level and all gorgeously furnished with extraordinary pieces drawn from every corner of the globe. All have exquisite bed linens, feather comforters, and luxurious marble baths. Even the hotel entrance is unique: an elevator sweeps you up to the fifth-floor lobby, where you can relax on a buttery leathery couch in front of the fire. A “whatever, whenever” button on the telephone connects you with helpful, amiable staffers who provide exactly that, and breakfast is served until a magnificently lazy 1 pm on Sunday. Pros: unique place opposite Buckingham Palace; great service; unlimited free Wi-Fi. Cons: unusual design is not for everyone. | Rooms from: £347 | 41 Buckingham Palace Rd., Victoria | 020/7300-0041 | www.41hotel.com | 26 rooms, 4 suites, 2 apartments | Breakfast | Station: Victoria.
Lime Tree Hotel.
HOTEL | In a central neighborhood where hotels veer from grimy bolt-holes at one extreme to wildly overpriced at the other, the Lime Tree gets the boutique style just about right—and at a reasonable cost for the neighborhood. Gracious hosts, Matt and Charlotte, offer comfortable, contemporary rooms and delicious cooked breakfasts that set you up nicely for the day. The breakfast room backs on to a sweet little garden and thoughtful extra touches include a guest computer and a guidebook library. Pros: lovely and helpful hosts; great location; rooms are decent size (though the cheaper rooms are small). Cons: some rooms are up several flights of stairs and there’s no elevator. | Rooms from: £155 | 135-137 Ebury St., Victoria | 020/7730-8191 | www.limetreehotel.co.uk | 25 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Victoria, Sloane Sq.
Sanctuary House Hotel.
B&B/INN | This is a classic example of what the British mean when they refer to an “inn”—a pub with bedrooms, albeit one of exceptionally good quality for London. Guest rooms are decorated in muted autumnal tones, with decent-size beds, antique-style furnishings, and Algotherm products in the bathrooms. The pub serves decent traditional British fare, but can get extremely busy from when the office crowd descends at 5 until late. Pros: cozy, authentic London feel; friendly staff; wow-location right in the heart of Westminster. Cons: pub can be noisy (light sleepers should ask for a room as far from the ground floor as possible). | Rooms from: £110 | 33 Tothill St., Westminster | 020/7799-4044 | www.sanctuaryhousehotel.co.uk | 34 rooms | Breakfast | Station: St. James’s Park.
HOTEL | This sweet and rather elegant old hotel, on the premises of London’s first B&B (in 1881), is a decent, well-located option—but only if you can’t get a discount rate at a plusher hotel for the same price. It’s a cheery little place, with comfortable (if small) bedrooms, in which muted modern color schemes clash only slightly with the kind of floral fabrics your grandmother would love. The restaurant serves decent but unimaginative British and European cuisine; however, you’re just a couple of blocks from London’s Victoria train station and the multitude of eateries close by. Pros: good location; free Wi-Fi. Cons: price is a bit high for what you get; rooms and bathrooms are tiny; no elevator. | Rooms from: £167 | 142-144 Warwick Way, Victoria | 020/7834-5163 | www.windermere-hotel.co.uk | 19 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Victoria.
HOTEL | Immortalized in song by Irving Berlin, the Ritz is synonymous with London’s high society and super-rich decadence. The central lobby, with its chandelier and balconies circling above, is a photo opportunity waiting to happen. The lounges are as gorgeous as ever, but the bedrooms are bastions of 1980s Louis XVI style, with acres of luxurious fabric, and glittering chandeliers. With a ratio of two staff members to every bedroom, you’re guaranteed personal service despite the hotel’s massive size. However, guests must sit up straight: formal dress is encouraged, jackets are required in the bar and restaurant, and jeans and casual shoes are forbidden in public areas. What’s more, the staff can be so snobby they verge on downright rude. This place feels much more about showing off than relaxing, but then money doesn’t always buy class. Pros: historic luxury hotel; service at every turn. Cons: snooty service; some rooms have views of a nearby wall; tediously old-fashioned dress code. | Rooms from: £444 | 150 Piccadilly, St. James’s | 020/7493-8181 | www.theritzlondon.com | 136 rooms | Some meals | Station: Piccadilly Circus.
Fodor’s Choice | The Stafford London by Kempinski.
HOTEL | This is a rare find: a posh hotel that’s equal parts elegance and friendliness, and located in one of the few peaceful spots in the area, down a small lane behind Piccadilly. All the accommodations are luxurious and chic, but those in the 18th-century stable block—with cobbled mews entrances, gas-fueled fireplaces, and exposed beams—are especially pleasant. It’s hard to check in without meeting the gregarious manager, and his unshakable cheeriness is mirrored by the upbeat and helpful staff. The popular little American Bar has ties, baseball caps, and toy planes hanging from the ceiling. Pros: great staff; big, luxurious rooms; quiet location. Cons: traditional style is not to all tastes; perks in the more expensive rooms could be more generous. | Rooms from: £348 | St. James’s Pl., St. James’s | 020/7493-0111 | www.kempinski.com/london | 81 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Green Park.
MAYFAIR AND MARYLEBONE
Fodor’s Choice | Athenaeum Hotel and Apartments.
B&B/INN | This grand hotel overlooking Green Park offers plenty for the money: rooms are both comfortable and lavishly decorated, with deeply comfortable Hypnos beds, plasma-screen TVs, luxurious fabrics, and original contemporary artworks. Breakfasts are luxurious and varied, with endless Continental and cooked options. If you need more space, you can choose one of the apartments (£600-£780 per night) that occupy a row of Georgian town houses next to the main hotel buildings, each with separate living, dining, and sleeping areas and tiny, fully equipped kitchenettes. The spa is available only to guests, ensuring you can always get an appointment, and the restaurant serves butter-rich European cuisine and a full afternoon tea (£29)—an elegant experience, complete with honey from bees in Regent’s Park. Pros: peaceful park views; handy for Buckingham Palace and Piccadilly; great value for elegant setting. Cons: bathrooms are almost all small. | Rooms from: £342 | 116 Piccadilly, Mayfair | 020/7640-3557 | www.athenaeumhotel.com | 111 rooms, 46 suites and apartments | Breakfast | Station: Green Park.
Best Western Premier Shaftesbury.
HOTEL | At this member of the Best Western chain right in the heart of the West End theater district (you can count three theaters within sight of the front door alone), the small, pleasingly Victorian exterior gives way to ultramodern rooms inside, with neutral rugs, white walls, dark curtains, and sleek furniture. However, the pricing policy is disappointingly opaque—the ludicrous rack rate of £1000 per night only appears to be charged in the most exceptional of circumstances. Still, the actual price is a good deal for the location. Pros: unbeatable location for theaters, shopping, and museums; cheap for the neighborhood. Cons: rooms are tiny; you pay for the location, rather than its amenities. | Rooms from: £120 | 65-73 Shaftesbury Ave., Piccadilly | 020/7871-6000, 866/891-7710 in U.S. | www.shaftesburyhotel.co.uk | 69 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Piccadilly Circus.
HOTEL | Founded in 1837 by James Brown, Lord Byron’s “gentleman’s gentleman,” this hotel occupying 11 Georgian town houses holds a treasured place in London society. Nowadays the interior has a slightly more modern edge, thanks to a top-to-bottom renovation by the Forte chain. Fans of the hotel still love the old world ambiance, although a few complain that it’s not quite the atmospheric old place it used to be. Nonetheless, it’s a well run operation, filled with the kinds of top-end extras you’d expect with this kind of price tag. The subtle, contemporary guest rooms have office spaces and marble bathrooms equipped with luxurious products, while the staff is exceedingly professional. Pros: elegant spaces; attentive service; good afternoon tea. Cons: even the most basic room is very pricey. | Rooms from: £348 | 34 Albemarle St., Mayfair | 020/7493-6020, 888/667-9477 in U.S. | www.roccofortehotels.com | 88 rooms, 29 suites | Breakfast | Station:Green Park.
Chesterfield Mayfair Hotel.
HOTEL | Deep in the heart of Mayfair, the former town house of the Earl of Chesterfield welcomes guests in wood-and-leather public rooms that match the dark-wood furnishings in the bedrooms—small, but like fashion magazine spreads, with bold designer wallpaper or tones of fawn and gray. There are bargains to be had if you book online in advance, and the service is excellent. One neat little detail: the honey at breakfast comes from the hotel’s own hives—on the roof! Pros: laid-back atmosphere; attentive service; great afternoon tea. Cons: prices rise sharply if you don’t get the cheapest rooms; some rooms are tiny; restaurant is old-fashioned and very expensive. | Rooms from: £245 | 35 Charles St., Mayfair | 020/7491-2622, 877/955-1515 in U.S. | www.chesterfieldmayfair.com | 94 rooms, 13 suites | Breakfast | Station: Green Park.
FAMILY | Fodor’s Choice | Claridge’s.
HOTEL | The well-heeled have been meeting—and eating—at Claridge’s for generations, and the tradition continues in the original art deco public spaces of this super-glamorous London institution. Guest rooms are soothing and suave, and spacious bathrooms have enormous showerheads. Enjoy a cup of tea in the lounge, cocktails in the stylish bar, or, better still, a meal in chef Simon Rogan’s much talked about new restaurant. Perhaps Spencer Tracy said it best when he remarked that, when he died, he wanted to go not to heaven, but to Claridge’s. lCan’t afford a night here? Claridge’s afternoon tea is a seriously fun, high class treat—but make sure you book in advance. Pros: see-and-be-seen dining and drinking; serious luxury everywhere—this is an old-money hotel; comics, books, and DVDs to help keep kids amused. Cons: better pack your designer wardrobe if you want to fit in with the locals. | Rooms from: £420 | Brook St., Mayfair | 020/7629-8860, 866/599-6991 in U.S. | www.claridges.co.uk | 136 rooms, 678 suites | Breakfast | Station: Bond St.
Fodor’s Choice | The Connaught.
HOTEL | A huge favorite of the “we wouldn’t dream of staying anywhere else” moneyed set since its opening in 1917, the Connaught has many dazzlingly modern compliments to its famously historic delights. These include up-to-date rooms done in smooth taupes and creams and—the ultimate sign of devil-may-care swagger—a swanky bar with patinum-plated walls. Chef Hélène Darroze runs the titual, Michelin-starred restaurant; alternatively, the afternoon tea (around £35) is a great splurge. Incidentally, as ever with blue bloods, the clue is in the name-this elegant hotel was named in honor of Queen Victoria’s son, the Duke of Connaught. Pros: legendary hotel; great for star-spotting. Cons: history comes at a price; bathrooms are small. | Rooms from: £480 | Carlos Pl., Mayfair | 020/7499-7070, 866/599-6991 in U.S. | www.the-connaught.co.uk | 87 rooms, 34 suites | Breakfast | Station: Bond St.
HOTEL | At this small, exclusive hotel in a discreet cul-de-sac, ample natural light brightens contemporary-style rooms decorated in shades of cream and chocolate. The hotel’s trump card is that, for such a central location, it’s remarkably peaceful. Pros: low-key ambience; peaceful setting. Cons: can be a bit quiet for some; price is still rather high for what’s available. | Rooms from: £249 | 35 St. James’s Pl., St. James’s | 020/7318-6585, 800/381-4702 in U.S. | www.dukeshotel.com | 78 rooms, 12 suites | Breakfast | Station: Green Park.
Fodor’s Choice | The Dorchester.
HOTEL | Few hotels this opulent manage to be as personable as the Dorchester, which opened in 1939 and boasts a prime Park Lane location with unparalleled glamour—gold leaf and marble adorn the public spaces, and guest quarters are awash in English country house-meets-art deco style. Guest rooms have Irish linen sheets on canopied beds, acres of brocades and velvets, and Italian marble and etched-glass bathrooms with exclusive toiletries created by Floris. In 2012, 22 new Dorchester and Park Suites were redesiged by Alexandra Champalimaud to add modern touches to the timeless style. Three elegant-to-the-point-of-fussy restaurants include one three-Michelin-star spot helmed by Alain Ducasse that is always making headlines. Afternoon Tea in the lobby is a classic, while the award-winning spa, unveiled in 2009, is popular with locals and in-house guests; as with the hotel, both categories include a healthy dose of celebs and the jet set. Pros: historic luxury in 1930s building; lovely views of Hyde Park; top-notch star-spotting; excellent spa; Michelin-starred dining from Alain Ducasse. Cons: traditional look is not to all tastes; prices are high; some rooms are rather small. | Rooms from: £414 | Park La., Mayfair | 020/7629-8888 | www.thedorchester.com | 195 rooms, 55 suites | Breakfast | Station: Marble Arch, Hyde Park Corner.
HOTEL | Wonderfully old-fashioned Durrants is awash in old-English good taste and sits on a quiet corner, not far from the Wallace Collection, within premises that have served as a hotel since the late 18th century. Oxford Street and the smaller, posher boutiques of Marylebone High Street are just outside the door, so you could hardly be better placed for shopping. Inside, the public areas are all wood paneling, leather armchairs, and patterned carpets, and guest quarters are genteel. Bedrooms at the back of the hotel are smaller than those at the front, but they are also quieter and air-conditioned. lCheck online for enticing last minute discounts. Pros: comfortable; relaxed base for exploring; free Wi-Fi. Cons: not all rooms are air-conditioned; some rooms are small; creaky online booking system. | Rooms from: £230 | 26-32 George St., Marylebone | 020/7935-8131 | www.durrantshotel.co.uk | 87 rooms, 5 suites | Breakfast | Station: Bond St.
Four Seasons Park Lane.
HOTEL | A racy departure for the Four Seasons, this hotel has an English clubhouse look with a dose of boudoir. Mannered paintings of horses dot the walls in the lobby, but instead of staid hunter green or beige, the walls are a bright lacquered red. In the restaurant, the saucy vibe continues with zebra-print chairs bathed in low lighting. Upstairs, the palate shifts and becomes softer. Enormous black-and-white glamour shots from the 1950s and 60s dominate the hallways, and rooms evoke an ocean liner from days gone by, with square hardware, brown walnut wood, and mirrored sliding doors. Plaid comes into play in armchairs and curtains giving the decor an appropriate Britishness. Don’t miss the spa on the top floor; in the treatment rooms, massive windows seem to hold all of Hyde Park inside a snow globe. Pros: highly elegant rooms; excellent spa; lovely location next to Hyde Park. Cons: not for strict traditionalists; haute design comes with high prices. | Rooms from: £420 | Hamilton Place, Park Lane, Mayfair | 020/7499-0888 | www.fourseasons.com/london | 147 rooms, 46 suites | Multiple meal plans | Station: Hyde Park Corner.
Gloucester Place Hotel.
HOTEL | Just a couple of blocks from Marble Arch and Hyde Park, this small, friendly hotel won’t win any style awards—its guest rooms are far from fancy—but, almost better, they are clean and comfortable. Each has satellite TV and air-conditioning, a rarity for most hotels in this price range. A buffet breakfast is included, or choose a heartier cooked option for just a few pounds extra. You can have a vegan breakfast, too. lCheck the website for special offers that can reduce the price by as much as two-thirds. Pros: great location; huge discounts for stays of four nights or more; free Wi-Fi. Cons: shabby decor; stairs to climb and no elevator; some rooms have shared bathrooms; some rooms in separate building. | Rooms from: £155 | 55 Gloucester Pl., Mayfair | 020/7486-6166 | www.gloucesterplacehotel.com | 19 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Marble Arch, Bond St.
InterContinental London Park Lane.
HOTEL | Overlooking busy Hyde Park Corner and the Queen’s back garden (much to her chagrin, allegedly), this hotel’s luxurious rooms are aimed at high-end business travelers. Comfortable and slightly masculine, they incorporating dark woods, with rich curtains and bedspreads. You will really feel treated like a king if you take one of the suites, where special guest services range from free snacks and a dedicated butler to a spin in an Aston Martin, should you feel like it. Pros: central location; business facilities. Cons: no park views with standard rooms; prices can shoot up in mid-summer; £15 a day charge for Internet access is a bit rich given the room rates. | Rooms from: £323 | 1 Hamilton Pl., Park La., Mayfair | 020/7409-3131, 871/422-9200 | www.intercontinental.com | 447 rooms, 60 suites | Some meals | Station: Hyde Park Corner.
Fodor’s Choice | The Langham.
HOTEL | Hotel pedigrees don’t come much greater than this one—built in 1865, the Langham was the original luxury hotel in the city, all but inventing the very image of what a great London hotel looked like. Good fortune didn’t last: it closed in the 1940s, and spent much of the 20th century being used as office space by the BBC, before finally reopening in 2010 after a renovation that was rumoured to cost nearly £100 million. The public spaces are flawless, from the spectacular, light-filled atrium, with its soaring marble pillars, to the restored ballroom, which now houses Roux at the Landau, Michelin starred chef Michel Roux’s outstanding modern French restaurant. Guest rooms are spacious and modern, with sumptuously comfortable beds, although bathrooms in the basic rooms are disappointingly small. Pros: beautiful building; impeccably good service; comfortable bedrooms; great restaurant and bar. Cons: price rises considerably once cheapest rooms sell out; bathrooms in basic rooms are somewhat utilitarian. | Rooms from: £370 | 1C Portland Pl., Mayfair | 020/7636-1000 | www.langhamhotels.co.uk | 331 rooms, 47 suites | Multiple meal plans | Station: Oxford Circus.
London Marriott Park Lane.
HOTEL | The ornate facade and beautiful public rooms of this swanky hotel date to 1919, though the sizeable bedrooms are standard Marriott fare, with neutral decor, comfortable mattresses, and lots of business accoutrements. The location at the Oxford Street end of Park Lane gives access to great shopping on Bond Street and lovely strolls through Hyde Park. The 140 Park Lane bar has its own cocktail, the Crantini 140, a heady mix of white cranberries, vodka, and Cointreau. Pros: great location; big bedrooms. Cons: a bit nondescript; very busy streets outside. | Rooms from: £499 | 140 Park La., Mayfair | 020/7493-7000 | www.marriott.co.uk | 148 rooms, 9 suites | Multiple meal plans | Station: Marble Arch.
HOTEL | This grand hotel at the edge of Park Lane might have a modern look, but the attitude toward providing solid comfort and luxury is decidedly old fashioned. Contemporary rooms, in tones of toffee and cream, have comfortable king-size beds. The champagne bar is a good place to meet a few well-heeled locals over a glass of fine bubbly, before heading to sample some excellent modern British cuisine in the restaurant. The small spa (“wellness center”) has a workout pool and relaxing treatment rooms. Pros: great location off Park Lane; dedication to pampering and comfort. Cons: eye-wateringly pricey; old-fashioned approach might seem stuffy to some. | Rooms from: £540 | 34-40 Great Cumberland Pl., Mayfair | 0207/402-4288, 877/898-1587 in U.S. | www.montcalm.co.uk | 143 rooms, 27 suites | Some meals | Station: Marble Arch.
FAMILY | No. 5 Maddox Street.
RENTAL | Just five minutes’ walk from Oxford Street, this is a great option for those who tire of traditional hotels: 12 luxury suites—some with balconies and working fireplaces—filled with everything you could ever need, including a handy kitchen. Cupboards are ready-stocked with everything from cookies to herbal tea, and if you don’t feel like fending for yourself too much then room service will deliver groceries or fetch meals from local restaurants. You can also borrow CDs, DVDs, or even a bicycle. Guests have access to a nearby health club. Pros: cozy and private; room service will deliver meals from local restaurants. Cons: no elevator; no communal lobby can make you feel isolated; suites get booked far in advance. | Rooms from: £266 | 5 Maddox St., Mayfair | 020/7647-0200 | www.living-rooms.co.uk | 12 suites | No meals | Station: Oxford Circus.
Radisson Blu Edwardian Berkshire Hotel.
HOTEL | In a dangerously good location for shopaholics, with Oxford Street on the doorstep, the pleasant and well-run Radisson Berkshire (pronounced ‘Bark-sha’) offers a similar level of service to some of the more established hotels in the neighborhood, at a lower rate. Guest rooms are small but modern and well designed, with subtle, earthy color schemes. lCheck the website for deals and special offers that can bring the price down considerably—especially in the off-season. Pros: great location; good restaurant; free Wi-Fi; worthwhile deals and promotions. Cons: walk-in rate is still quite expensive; small bedrooms. | Rooms from: £246 | 350 Oxford St., Mayfair | 020/7629-7474, 1800/967-9033 toll-free in U.K., 1800/333-3333 toll-free in U.S. | www.radissonblu-edwardian.com | 145 rooms, 2 suites | Multiple meal plans | Station: Bond St., Oxford Circus.
22 York Street.
B&B/INN | This Georgian town house has a cozy, family feel, with polished pine floors and plenty of quilts and French antiques in the homey, individually furnished guest rooms. Pride of place goes to the communal dining table where guests share a varied continental breakfast. There’s also a sweet little lounge that guests can use. Pros: good location for shoppers; friendly hosts; very flexible check-in times; entirely non-smoking. Cons: if you take away the great location, you’re paying a lot for a B&B; not everyone enjoys socializing with strangers over breakfast. | Rooms from: £130 | 22 York St., Mayfair | 020/7224-2990 | www.22yorkstreet.co.uk | 10 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Baker St.
Fodor’s Choice | Dorset Square Hotel.
HOTEL | Reopened in June 2012 after extensive updates and refurbishment, this boutique hotel, in one of London’s most fashionable neighborhoods, occupies a charming town house. Rooms and suites have been individually designed anew with bold colors, handwoven carpets, eclectic artwork, and knick-knacks from around the globe. Amenities include flat-screen TVs, Tivoli radios, iPod docking stations, and marble bathrooms with Miller Harris products. The drawing room, with high ceilings, cozy fire, graceful windows, and honor bar, is a perfect spot to relax with a cocktail. English brasserie-style cuisine is served in the Potting Shed Bar & Restaurant, a smart, intimate neighborhood find. Pros: ideal location; lovely design; welcoming vibe. Cons: some rooms are small; no bathtub in some rooms; fee for WiFi. | Rooms from: £252 | 39 Dorset Sq., Marylebone | 020/7723-7874 | www.firmdalehotels.com | 35 rooms, 3 suites | Breakfast | Station: Baker St.
Hyatt Regency London—The Churchill.
HOTEL | Even though it’s one of London’s largest hotels, the Churchill is always abuzz with guests smiling at the purring perfection they find here, including warmly personalized service and calmly alluring guest rooms. The shimmering lobby is in Robert Adamesque 19th-century style, and there’s a hip connection with the Frieze Art Fair. There are two restaurants: Locanda Locatelli, one of best Italian restaurants in London, and the more traditional Montague, overlooking Portman Square. Guest rooms are lovely and modern, and suites are hung with cutting-edge art on loan from the Saatchi collection. No-nonsense business travelers and VIPs appreciate the highly convenient Portman Square location, and so will you. Pros: comfortable and stylish; efficient service; up to three can stay in one room. Cons: feels more geared to business than leisure travelers. | Rooms from: £269 | 30 Portman Sq., Marylebone | 020/7486-5800 | www.london.churchill.hyatt.com | 389 rooms, 45 suites | Breakfast | Station: Marble Arch.
Fodor’s Choice | The Landmark London Hotel.
HOTEL | A glass-covered, eight-story atrium sets the scene at this truly grand hotel, where the huge bedrooms are richly furnished and have marble bathrooms (odd-numbered rooms overlook the Winter Garden beneath the glass roof). Built by a wealthy industrialist to serve a planned channel tunnel rail link in 1899, the Landmark was the victim of atrocious timing twice in its life—first when the original tunnel was canceled, and again 40 years later when it was requisitioned by the army during World War II. Lavishly reborn in the late 1990s, it has been going strong ever since. Pros: amazingly luxurious; one of the few really posh London hotels that doesn’t make you dress up; good discounts are available. Cons: two-night minimum stay at certain times. | Rooms from: £234 | 222 Marylebone Rd., Marylebone | 020/7631-8000 | www.landmarklondon.co.uk | 299 rooms, 47 suites | Breakfast | Station: Marylebone.
Park Plaza Sherlock Holmes Hotel.
HOTEL | Named in honor of the fictional detective who had his home on Baker Street, rooms here have a masculine edge with lots of earth tones and pin-striped sheets (along with hyper-modern bathrooms stocked with fluffy bathrobes). The bar has an appropriately clubby feel, with wood floors and leather furniture. Despite the name, this is not a theme hotel, although they do run 1920s murder mystery nights twice a month (May to November; £63 including dinner). Pros: nicely decorated; near Marylebone High Street; international electrical outlets, including those that work with American equipment. Cons: have to walk through the bar to get to reception; not well soundproofed from the noisy street. | Rooms from: £168 | 108 Baker St., Marylebone | 020/7486-6161 | www.sherlockholmeshotel.com | 99 rooms, 20 suites | Breakfast | Station: Baker St.
You can stay in small, homey B&Bs for an up-close-and-personal brush with city life (Parkwood Hotel; Arlington Avenue), or find yourself in what is really a modern guesthouse, where you never meet the owners (B&B Belgravia; The Main House). The main benefit of staying in a B&B is that the price is usually cheaper than a hotel room of comparable quality, and you receive more personal service. However, the limitations may be off-putting for some: although you can sometimes arrange for daily maid service, there’s usually no restaurant, bar, or room service. Prices start at around £60 a night, and in that bracket the grimmer places are legion, so make your choice carefully. Prices usually (though not always) go up for more central neighborhoods and larger and more luxurious homes. It’s a nice option, both for seasoned travelers who want a more authentic taste of London, and for those trying to travel well without busting their budgets.
This popular global network of private lets and small bed-and-breakfasts has several hundred London-based properties listed on its website. | www.airbnb.co.uk.
Host & Guest Service.
Host & Guest Service can find you a room in London as well as in the rest of the United Kingdom. This a great source for bargains, and you know that all properties have been vetted by the agency, but the website functionality is a bit creaky. | 103 Dawes Rd., Fulham | 020/7385-9922 | www.host-guest.co.uk | Full payment in advance.
SOHO AND COVENT GARDEN
Fodor’s Choice | Dean Street Townhouse.
HOTEL | Discreet and unpretentious, but oh-so-stylish—and right in the heart of Soho—this place has a bohemian vibe and an excellent modern British restaurant, hung with art by, among others, Peter Blake and Tracy Emin. Inside, comfy sofas and heavy upholstered chairs jostle for space; and many beds are four-poster. It’s all very hip and au courant, which comes at a price—but here lies one of London’s best hotel bargains: so long as you don’t mind getting a small room (and the smallest is positively Lilliputian), a Sunday night stay here can cost as little as £115. Pros: übercool; resembles an upper-class pied-à-terre. Cons: prices can double on certain nights in summer; some rooms are extremely small; rooms at the front can be noisy, especially on weekends. | Rooms from: £175 | 69-71 Dean St., Soho | 020/7434-1775 | www.deanstreettownhouse.com | 39 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Leicester Sq., Tottenham Court Rd.
HOTEL | This disarmingly friendly place, full of personality, robust antiques, and claw-foot tubs, occupies three connected early-18th-century houses, one of which was the last home of essayist William Hazlitt (1778-1830). Traditional style and furnishings form a large part of its appeal, but it’s devoid of certain modern amenities—as the owners say, “In 1718 there were no elevators, and there still aren’t”. Nearby are more restaurants than you could visit in a year. Pros: great for lovers of art and antiques; historic atmosphere with lots of small sitting rooms and wooden staircases; truly beautiful and relaxed. Cons: no in-house restaurant; breakfast is £12 extra; no elevators. | Rooms from: £250 | 6 Frith St., Soho | 020/7434-1771 | www.hazlittshotel.com | 20 rooms, 3 suites | No meals | Station: Tottenham Court Rd.
The Soho Hotel.
HOTEL | At this redbrick, loftlike getaway, public rooms are boldly designed with bright colors and big artworks, while the large bedrooms are calmer, most with neutral, beige-and-cream tones, or subtle, sophisticated pinstripes, all offset by modern furniture. The bar and restaurant, Refuel, is consistently excellent, and there are movie-screening rooms downstairs (in case the wide-screen TVs in the bedrooms aren’t big enough for you). Pros: small and sophisticated; comfortable beds; great in-house restaurant. Cons: bar can be crowded and noisy on weeknights. | Rooms from: £360 | 4 Richmond Mews, off Dean St., Soho | 020/7559-3000 | www.sohohotel.com | 91 rooms, 4 apartments | Some meals | Station: Tottenham Court Rd.
Fodor’s Choice | Covent Garden Hotel.
HOTEL | It’s little wonder this is now the London home-away-from-home for off-duty celebrities, actors, and style mavens, with its Covent Garden location and guest rooms that are World of Interiors-stylish. Done up in painted silks, style-anglais ottomans, and 19th-century Romantic oils, the public salons are perfect places to decompress over a glass of wine, and guest rooms use mix-and-match couture fabrics to stunning effect. For £35, the popular Saturday-night film club includes afternoon tea or dinner in the brasserie and a film in the deluxe in-house cinema. Pros: great for star-spotting; super-trendy. Cons: you can feel you don’t matter if you’re not famous; setting in Covent Garden can be a bit boisterous. | Rooms from: £342 | 10 Monmouth St., Covent Garden | 020/7806-1000, 800/553-6674 in U.S. | www.firmdale.com | 55 rooms, 3 suites | Some meals | Station: Covent Garden.
Fodor’s Choice | ME London.
HOTEL | One can only imagine the endless concept meetings that went into this shiny, new luxury spot that brought a touch of modern cool to the Strand, but the result—a happy mix of high fashion and futuristic hipster—is almost achingly on-trend. Designed by noted architecture firm, Foster and Partners, the sleek, subtly lit public areas give way to bright and spacious bedrooms with sci-fi modern gadgetry like custom-controlled mood lighting. The two on-site restaurants are both outposts of fashionable New York eateries—STK and Asselina—but the rooftop bar is the real star. The view of the Thames, from the Shard in the east to the old Battersea Power Station in the west, is one of the best in the city. Other on-site facilities inlcude plenty of meeting space and a 24-hour gym. Pros: sleek and fashionable; full of high-tech comforts; excellent service; stunning views from rooftop bar. Cons: design can sometimes verge on form over function; very small closets and in-room storage areas. | Rooms from: £450 | 336 The Strand, Covent Garden | 0808/234-1953 | www.melia.com | 141 rooms, 16 suites | Breakfast | Station: Covent Carden.
HOTEL | An Edwardian building, with an artsy lobby and understated blend of contemporary and classic, provides pure, modern luxury in a great location for theaters and shopping. Guest rooms are equipped with feather comforters, Italian linen sheets, and ample elegance, and suites have such amenities as private gyms, kitchens, and terraces. The gorgeous swimming pool in the health club has underwater speakers that play music you can hear only when you dive in. Pros: understated luxury; ultracool atmosphere; good deals and special offers, including big advance booking discounts. Cons: all this luxury doesn’t come cheap; fashionable ambience is not always relaxing; design sometimes verges on form over function. | Rooms from: £298 | 1 Aldwych, Covent Garden | 020/7300-1000 | www.onealdwych.co.uk | 93 rooms, 12 suites | Breakfast | Station: Charing Cross, Covent Garden.
Fodor’s Choice | The Savoy.
HOTEL | One of London’s most famous hotels has emerged from a £220-million renovation, and the old girl is looking like a superstar again. Individually designed guest rooms are as cosseting as they were when they welcomed Elizabeth Taylor on her first honeymoon. There is still no grander stage-set in London than the main stately-home lobby, or a more glamorous setting than the adjacent Thames Foyer, a dreamy salon done up in black-and-white chinoiserie and pink orchids. Gadgets such as iPod docks and LCD TVs are oh-so-discreetly incorporated so as not to destroy the effect as you prepare for cocktails at the oh-so-iconic American Bar (which maintains a very strict first-come-first-served policy, so who knows who you’ll be standing in line with). There are four superb restaurants: Simpson’s in the Strand, the Savoy Grill, the Thames Foyer, or Kaspar’s Seafood Bar and Grill, with its gorgeous panoramic view of the river. Pros: one of the top hotels in Europe; iconic pedigree; Thames-side location; less snooty than many others of its class. Cons: everything comes with a price tag; guest rooms can be surprisingly noisy, particularly on lower floors; right off the super-busy Strand. | Rooms from: £390 | The Strand, Covent Garden | 020/7836-4343, 800/257-7544 in U.S. | www.fairmont.com/savoy-london | 206 rooms, 62 suites | Breakfast | Station: Covent Garden, Charing Cross.
The Trafalgar London.
HOTEL | This former 19th-century office building, retaining many original features, is in a superb location, and some guest rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows with extraordinary views of Trafalgar Square and The City. Twenty one rooms are split-level, with upstairs space for chilling out and sleeping space below. Bathrooms have deep tubs, full-size toiletries, and mini-TVs. Go up to the roof garden for spectacular views of the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and the London Eye. Better yet, ask for Room 303 to enjoy these exquisite views in privacy. Pros: amazing location and views; spacious rooms; a fresh, contemporary hotel that defies the cookie-cutter Hilton norm; good reductions on weekends. Cons: interior is somewhat austere; rates more than double on some weekdays; though you’re unlikely to want to drive here, parking is a massive £40 per night. | Rooms from: £293 | 2 Spring Gardens, Trafalgar Sq., Westminster | 020/7870-2900 | www.hilton.co.uk | 127 rooms, 2 suites | Breakfast | Station: Charing Cross.
HOTEL | The location of this branch of the Hilton chain is grand enough from the outside that many passers-by mistake it for just another of the West End theaters by which it is surrounded. Guestrooms present a much more modern vibe, with bold color schemes and contemporary furnishings, together with a few welcome extras such as plasma screen TVs. Rooms are a fairly decent size, given the London average. Befitting the address, the elegant in-house restaurant offers pre- and post-theater menus if you’re off to see a show. Pros: superb choice for theaters; well equipped modern rooms. Cons: few discounts or deals; feels more chain-hotel than the grand exterior would suggest. | Rooms from: £209 | Aldwych, Covent Garden | 020/7836-2400 | www.hilton.co.uk | 281 rooms, 17 suites | Breakfast | Station: Charing Cross.
BLOOMSBURY, HOLBORN, AND FITZROVIA
B&B/INN | One of the best bargains in Bloomsbury is a stone’s throw from King’s Cross and the Eurostar terminal, and though rooms are very small and the neighborhood is still somewhat “edgy,” few places are this cheery and clean for the price. Television and Wi-Fi (“where service reaches”) are included, but that’s about it—you even have to ask for an alarm clock. Pros: low price, with breakfast included; friendly service; central location. Cons: zero frills; stairs to climb; some rooms have shared bathrooms. | Rooms from: £86 | 17-19 Argyle St., Bloomsbury | 020/7837-9575 | www.alhambrahotel.com | 52 rooms | Breakfast | Station: King’s Cross.
B&B/INN | Simple, friendly, and pleasantly quirky, this little B&B, once the home of pre-Raphaelite painter Sir John Everett Millais, is on an elegant Georgian street within walking distance of the West End and the British Museum. Bedrooms are comfortable and well designed, double-glazed windows keep street noise at bay, and some rooms overlook a small garden. This is a clean, comfortable and friendly place to stay, and unless one of the bigger hotels around here is having a sale, you’d be very hard pressed to beat it for the price. Pros: friendly staff; check-in from 7 am; good location for museums and theaters; free Wi-Fi. Cons: some rooms are very small; bathrooms have showers only; few services. | Rooms from: £110 | 83 Gower St., Bloomsbury | 020/7636-2115 | www.arosfalondon.com | 16 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Goodge St., Euston Sq.
HOTEL | This is a solid, dependable budget choice in a pricey district (close to the West End and British Museum)—clean and comfortable, but with basic amenities. Don’t be confused by the website—this really is the Celtic Hotel, now merged with the neighboring (and longer-established) St. Margaret’s. There’s no restaurant, but in the heart of Bloomsbury you’re spoiled for choice of places to eat. Pros: triple and quad rooms available; free Wi-Fi; good location close to the British Museum and the West End. Cons: no-frills approach means few extras; no elevator; cheaper rooms don’t have private bathrooms. | Rooms from: £79 | 62 Guilford St., Bloomsbury | 020/7837-6737 | www.stmargaretshotel.co.uk | 35 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Russell Sq.
Fodor’s Choice | Charlotte Street Hotel.
HOTEL | Tradition and modern flair are fused together in this super-stylish Soho retreat, beautifully decorated with unique printed fabrics from designer Kit Kemp. Bathrooms are truly impressive, lined with gleaming granite and oak—with walk-in showers and flat-screen TVs, so you can catch up on the news while you soak in the deep tub. The restaurant, Oscar, is excellent for European cuisine, and the bar is a trendy (though pricey) local hangout. You can indulge in a delicious afternoon tea by the fire in the spacious drawing room. lThey run a Sunday night film club here that’s excellent value: a three course dinner or afternoon tea, plus a movie in the plush private screening room, for just £35. Pros: elegant, luxurious; great attention to detail. Cons: the popular bar can be noisy; reservations are necessary for the restaurant. | Rooms from: £300 | 15 Charlotte St., Bloomsbury | 020/7806-2000, 800/553-6674 in U.S. | www.firmdalehotels.com | 46 rooms, 6 suites | Breakfast | Station: Goodge St.
Crescent Hotel London.
B&B/INN | On one of Bloomsbury’s grand old squares and within walking distance of many top attractions, this friendly, attractive B&B includes use of tennis courts and private gardens in the square—a great spot for picnics on a sunny day. Rooms are small and simply decorated in cheery colors and breakfasts are big and hearty—but although the overall effect is somewhat utilitarian, the basics are well covered. Pros: lovely, convenient location; friendly staff. Cons: price too high for what you get; functional design, shabby around the edges; no elevator; bathrooms are tiny and some have only a tub. | Rooms from: £121 | 49-50 Cartright Gardens, Bloomsbury | 020/7387-1515 | www.crescenthoteloflondon.com | 27 rooms, 10 with bath | Breakfast | Station: Russell Sq.
Grange Blooms Hotel.
HOTEL | In this white Georgian town-house hotel, just around the corner from the British Museum, rooms are not too tiny by London standards, and those in the back look out onto a leafy green garden. Service is excellent, with a concierge and porter always on hand to help. The public areas are a bit old fashioned, with bright carpeting, curtains, and sofas, but the effect is more pleasantly traditional than stuffy and staid. Pros: great location; overall good value; good prices if you book early through the website. Cons: bathrooms could use an upgrade; guests can be bumped to sister hotel if fully booked; no air-conditioning; street noise in some rooms; price rises steeply on weekdays. | Rooms from: £81 | 7 Montague St., Bloomsbury | 020/7323-1717, 800/2247-2643 | www.grangehotels.com | 26 rooms, 1 suite | Some meals | Station: Russell Sq.
HOTEL | The most contemporary of the hotels around Bloomsbury’s Cartwright Gardens offers sleek, quiet, and comfortable bedrooms and perfectly appointed public rooms. With space for four, the quad rooms are a good choice for traveling families. For those who tire of eggs and sausage every morning, breakfast includes a choice of fresh croissants and 10 kinds of cereal. Pros: good location; friendly staff; use of private garden; wider breakfast choice than many small London hotels. Cons: rooms are quite small; no air-conditioning; no elevator. | Rooms from: £120 | 61-63 Cartwright Gardens, Bloomsbury | 020/7387-1551 | www.harlingfordhotel.com | 43 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Russell Sq.
B&B/INN | This friendly little hotel is great value given the location: a short walk from the British Museum in one direction, and Soho and Covent Garden in the other. Guest rooms won’t win any design awards, but they’re comfortable and clean. Breakfasts are good and extremely filling (although there’s not much choice past the traditional “full English”). There’s a small guest lounge and even a little garden out back—a nice touch for a B&B right in the center of town. Pros: great location; friendly staff; free Wi-Fi; 15% discount on stays of one week. Cons: some rooms are very small; nearly half have shared bathrooms. | Rooms from: £85 | 63 Gower St., Bloomsbury | 020/7636-3199 | www.jesmondhotel.org.uk | 15 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Goodge St., Euston Sq., Warren St., Russell Sq.
HOTEL | Directly across the street from St. Pancras International station (for the Eurostar), the snazzy, well-designed, modern bedrooms here surround guests with startlingly contemporary style and amenities that include powerful showers and espresso machines. Rooms come in different sizes, with the more spacious ones on the upper floors, where huge windows take in the cityscape, such as it is. The new Karpo restaurant serves decent international cuisine. Pros: comfortable beds; great location for Eurostar; short hop on Tube to city center. Cons: neighborhood isn’t great; standard rooms are small; interiors may be a bit stark for some. | Rooms from: £130 | Belgrove St., King’s Cross | 020/7843-2222 | www.hotelmegaro.co.uk | 49 rooms | Breakfast.
B&B/INN | Don’t expect many bells or whistles in this former Georgian townhouse, but the sunny, attractive rooms overlook the British Museum. Some of the guest rooms are quite spacious, some have floor-to-ceiling windows, and some overlook the museum. The little apartments (£165-£265 per night) give you a bit more space to move around in and have a tiny kitchen. The small, paneled breakfast room downstairs can rightfully be described as “cozy,” and the family that runs the place could hardly be friendlier. Pros: friendly staff; double and triple rooms are large by London standards; a short walk from West End theaters. Cons: mattresses are quite thin, as are walls; no elevator. | Rooms from: £135 | 24 Bloomsbury St., Bloomsbury | 020/7636-3735 | www.morganhotel.co.uk | 15 rooms, 5 apartments | Breakfast | Station: Tottenham Court Rd., Russell Sq.
The Portland Hotel.
HOTEL | Around the corner from leafy Russell Square and an easy walk to the British Museum and Covent Garden, the Portland offers spacious and comfortable bedrooms, with large bathrooms, seating areas, and kitchenettes. It’s among several hotels on the same street that are owned by the Grange Hotels chain; this means that you might book here and actually end up staying in another hotel, and while the quality is comparable, not all amenities are the same—be clear with your requirements when you book. Pros: great location; large rooms; kitchenettes offer alternative to restaurants; staff is friendly. Cons: restaurant is in neighboring hotel, requiring a walk down the street to breakfast; prices rise hugely after cheap rooms are sold. | Rooms from: £142 | 31-32 Bedford Pl., Bloomsbury | 020/7580-7088 | www.grangehotels.com | 18 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Holborn Rd.
The Ridgemount Hotel.
B&B/INN | Mere blocks away from the British Museum and London’s West End theaters, this handsomely fronted guesthouse has clean, neat, and plainly decorated rooms at a bargain. The welcoming public areas, especially the family-style breakfast room, resemble sweetly cluttered Victorian-style parlors. Breakfast is hearty and filling, and some room overlook a leafy garden. An interesting historical note: No. 67 was once owned by Elizabeth Stride, who later moved to the East End and fell victim to Jack the Ripper. Pros: good location for theaters and museum; helpful staff; family rooms (accommodating up to five) are excellent value. Cons: decoration is basic; no elevator; cheapest rooms have shared bathrooms. | Rooms from: £78 | 65-67 Gower St.,Bloomsbury | 020/7636-1141 | www.ridgemounthotel.co.uk | 32 rooms, 15 with bath | Breakfast | Station: Goodge St.
B&B/INN | Undoubtedly Bloomsbury’s most avant-garde hotel, this 19th-century building has been renovated with an appealing mix of shabby chic and modern comfort (“half rough, half luxury” as the owners themselves put it). Bits of old battered walls and remnants of the old, torn wallpaper are deliberately left in place next to elegant beds, claw-foot tubs, designer lighting, and original artwork (they’ve even been known to keep an artist-in-residence). The whole effect is so extraordinary that the hotel regularly features in designer magazines. Pros: art and design lovers will be dazzled; free Wi-Fi. Cons: no restaurant or bar; cheapest rooms book up fast; in a neighborhood locals would describe as somewhat “dodgy”; some rooms share bathrooms. | Rooms from: £159 | 1 Birkenhead St., Bloomsbury | 020/7837-5338 | www.roughluxe.co.uk | 10 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Kings Cross.
HOTEL | At this fashionable and surreal “urban spa” in a converted 1950s textile factory, the lobby looks like a design museum: bedrooms have sleigh beds and a mix of over-the-top Louis XV and postmodern furnishings. Amenities include a holistic bath house and indoor-outdoor fitness classes. Those inclined to less exertion will enjoy the Asian-influenced restaurant, Suka, which fuses Malaysian and British cuisine, and the Alice in Wonderland-themed “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party,” a quirky spin on traditional afternoon tea. The courtyard is a lovely and romantic spot, especially by candlelight. Pros: popular with design mavens; your every whim gratified. Cons: “designer cool” can be self-consciously hip; bar and restaurant are so exclusive it’s hard to get in. | Rooms from: £275 | 50 Berners St., Bloomsbury | 020/7300-1400 | www.sandersonlondon.com | 150 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Rd.
Fodor’s Choice | St. Pancras Renaissance.
HOTEL | Reopened in 2011 after nearly a century of dereliction, this stunningly restored Victorian landmark—replete with gingerbread turrets and castle-like ornaments—started as a love letter to the golden age of railways; now it’s one of London’s most sophisticated places to stay. Originally built in 1873 to serve wealthy passengers for the adjacent St. Pancras rail station, the restoration has adapted the hotel’s original High Victorian features to huge effect, from the soaring, redbrick reception area to the sumptuous, gilt-trimmed bar and restaurant, a reworking of the old station’s booking hall. Guest rooms are far more modern; done in minimalist grandeur, they are spacious and comfortable, with an understated elegance and a host of up-to-the-minute gadgetry. Pros: unique and beautiful; faultless service; just an elevator ride to the Eurostar. Cons: very popular bar and restaurant; streets outside are busy 24 hours. | Rooms from: £239 | Euston Rd., King’s Cross | 020/7841-3540 | www.marriott.com | 207 rooms, 38 suites | Breakfast | Station: Kings Cross St. Pancras. National Rail: Kings Cross St. Pancras.
Thistle Bloomsbury Park Hotel.
HOTEL | A block away from leafy Russell Square and a short stroll from the British Museum, the location of the Thistle Bloomsbury Park Hotel is outstanding, though once you get past the handsome frontage and gleaming lobby, everything seems decidedly more average—though not necessarily in a bad way. This is the kind of place where all the basics are covered, but little else, with decent service to boot. Guest rooms are simple and small, with mass-produced furniture. Pros: great location; family rooms cost only slightly more than doubles. Cons: only family rooms are a bargain, otherwise too expensive for what’s on offer; rates rise sharply if you don’t book some way in advance; somewhat utilitarian rooms. | Rooms from: £132 | 126 Southampton Row,Bloomsbury | 0871/376-9007 | www.thistle.com | 95 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Russell Sq.
Fodor’s Choice | Fleet River Bakery Rooms.
RENTAL | We’ve heard of a restaurant with rooms before, but never this: four modern, spacious studio suites, upstairs from an artisan bakery. The suites come with kitchens, comfortable living areas, and large, sleep-in-till-noon beds. (Actually, don’t do that—you’ll miss the delicious breakfast and coffee downstairs, which is included in the room rate.) The kitchens are reasonably well equipped, but if you don’t feel like fending for yourself, the bountiful restaurants of Covent Garden are just a 10-minute walk away. Apartments sleep two, but extra beds can be accommodated for families (£15 per child, per night). Pros: comfortable modern apartments; breakfast from bakery but freedom to prepare your own meals; Sir John Soanes Museum, British Museum, and Covent Garden all within half a mile; free Wi-Fi. Cons: few services; no kids aged five and under. | Rooms from: £120 | 71 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Holborn | 020/7691-1457 | www.fleetriverbakery.com | 4 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Holborn.
HOTEL | So striking it was featured in the movie Howards End, this landmark structure (built by the Pearl Assurance Company in 1914) now houses a beautiful hotel with a clubby atmosphere. Guest rooms were fully renovated in 2013, with subtly elegant India Jane fabrics and huge, comfortable beds. The Holborn Dining Room has won praise for its excellent modern British food, while the hotel bar is a joy, with its marble-and-walnut decor and battered shelves lined with antiquarian books. And if you feel in need of some serious pampering, the Sense day spa in the basement is a peaceful, relaxing cocoon. Pros: gorgeous, romantic space; excellent restaurant; great spa; friendly service. Cons: luxury comes at a price; area is a ghost town at night and on weekends. | Rooms from: £295 | 252 High Holborn, Holborn | 020/7781-8888, 888/767-3966 (in the U.S.) | www.rosewoodhotels.com/en/london | 342 rooms, 14 suites | Some meals | Station: Holborn.
RENTAL | Down a quiet backstreet, a 10-minute walk from the British Museum, these serviced apartments are spacious, modern, and extremely well equipped, including a kitchen with dishwasher and washing machine. Those on the top floor have large terraces, ideal for a morning coffee or alfresco dining. A maid cleans the apartments once a week, and there’s a staffed reception area, but otherwise you’re pretty much left to your own devices to live like a Londoner. There are plenty of good restaurants and bars in the neighborhood, and a grocery store is a block away. Pros: more independence than hotels; pleasant and spacious accommodations; on-site parking. Cons: exterior is dated; you must provide own bedding for baby cots. | Rooms from: £232 | 82 Lamb’s Conduit St., Holborn | 0845/122-0405 | www.sacoapartments.co.uk | 30 apartments (mixture of studios, 1-, 2-, and 3-bed) | No meals | Station: Russell Sq.
Fodor’s Choice | The London Edition.
HOTEL | A solidly bohemian air permeates this handsome new hotel in the heart of Fitzrovia, which opened to much fanfare in the fall of 2013. Guest rooms are decorated in deep tones of chocolate and oatmeal, with large and comfortable beds. Bathrooms have cavernous freestanding tubs or huge showers. But really it’s all about the nightlife here, sophisticated though it is. Berners Tavern, the main bar-restaurant, is gorgeously designed, with old paintings filling almost every inch of available space on the cool mid-gray walls. Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton runs the kitchen, though the vibe is kept casual. The exclusive Punch Room is the most intimate of the two dedicated cocktail bars, with its creatively prepared (and communally served) alcoholic punches. Pros: very fashionable; great bars; beautifully designed bedrooms. Cons: service shows a few teething problems; reservations are essential in the Punch Room. | Rooms from: £315 | 10 Berners St.,Fitzrovia | 020/7781-0000 | edition-hotels.marriott.com/london | 173 rooms | Multiple meal plans | Station: Oxford Circus.
London Chain Hotel Primer
Here’s a quick rundown of some hotel chains worth considering:
easyHotel: One of the first chains to bring “pod hotels” to London, the easyHotel chain specializes in very cheap (less than £50 a night for a double) rooms that are clean, secure, and offer all the basics, but are teeny-tiny and have no free extras at all. | www.easyhotel.com.
Grange Hotels: This chain includes a mix of moderately priced hotels with neutral interior design, good service, and gadgets for business travelers. | www.grangehotels.com.
Malmaison: With lavish, elegant small hotels around the country, this upscale chain offers luxurious designer style, good restaurants, and trendy bars. | www.malmaison.com.
Millennium: Similar in style to Premier Inns, Millennium (and its other brand, Copthorne) hotels are targeted at both business and leisure travelers. They offer well-designed rooms with plenty of gadgets and have frequent sales. | www.millenniumhotels.co.uk.
myhotel: A chain of pricey hotels with designer style and trendy bars. myhotels offer reliable comfort and service, if you don’t mind the price tag. | www.myhotels.com.
Premier Inns: This chain features medium-size, moderately priced hotels. They’re known for their attractive look, and for frequent sales, which keep prices low. | www.premierinn.com.
Apex City of London.
HOTEL | At this sleek, modern branch of the small Apex chain near the Tower of London, bedrooms are reasonably spacious, with contemporary color schemes, 40-inch flat-screen TVs, and little sofas. The Addendum restaurant serves good, varied modern British cuisine, though you’re hardly lacking for dining options around this neighborhood. It’s worth checking out the website for good package deals and special offers, especially in the off sesason. Pros: great location; helpful staff; good advance booking discounts; free Wi-Fi. Cons: geared more to business than leisure travelers; price can rise sharply during busy times. | Rooms from: £126 | 1 Seething La., The City | 020/7702-2020 | www.apexhotels.co.uk | 130 rooms, 49 suites | Breakfast | Station: Tower Hill.
Crowne Plaza London—The City.
HOTEL | Don’t let the hotel’s all-business appearance put you off—it’s a polished operation, with stylish minimalist rooms, and just steps from the gleaming new Blackfriars Tube and train station in one direction, and bustling Fleet Street in the other. The hotel occupies the shell of an old stationery warehouse, on the former site of Henry VIII’s Bridewell Palace, and rooms, in cool shades of gray and cream, have soundproof windows to block out city noise. There are two restaurants: Refettorio serves high-quality rustic Italian cuisine, and the fabulously named Chinese Cricket Club specialises in modern Sichuan cooking. lThe Black Friar pub, directly opposite the hotel, is one of London’s true hidden gems—check out its stunning art deco back room. Pros: good prices available with advance booking; great location near the river and transport. Cons: neighborhood is super-busy during the day and empty at night. | Rooms from: £157 | 19 New Bridge St., The City | 0871/942-9190 | www.cplondoncityhotel.co.uk | 203 rooms, 3 suites | Breakfast | Station: Blackfriars.
Grange City Hotel.
HOTEL | With an eye on business, this sleek City hotel has everything the workaholic needs to feel right at home—chic bedrooms subtly decorated, modern furnishings, plenty of space (by London standards), and more. Women-only rooms have extra amenities ranging from more powerful hair dryers to extra-secure doors with peepholes and chain locks. Guests can exercise in the magnificent columned swimming pool, linger over sushi at the Koto Japanese Restaurant, or sip cocktails in the Isis Whisky Bar. Pros: good-size rooms; prices can drop considerably on weekends; women-only rooms are great for lone female travelers. Cons: a bit off the tourist track; some rooms overlook train platform; prices can soar midweek; online discounts tend to not allow changes or cancellation. | Rooms from: £152 | 8-14 Cooper’s Row, The City | 020/7863-3700 | www.grangehotels.com | 307 rooms, 11 suites | Some meals | Station: Tower Hill, Aldgate, Monument.
The London Mal.
HOTEL | This chic spot, on the edge of The City and handy for The Barbican, has stylish rooms that come with huge comfortable beds, bathrooms with tub and power shower, and plenty of amenities. Some rooms can take an extra bed for a child, and all have CD systems with a library of music on demand, as well as satellite TVs and free WiFi. The hotel prides itself on fast, high-quality room service, so breakfast in bed can be a pleasure. Pros: luxurious rooms; excellent service; good weekend discounts and package deals. Cons: neighborhood is off the tourist track; area can be quiet at night. | Rooms from: £215 | 18-21 Charterhouse Sq., The City | 0845/365-4247, 020/7012-3700 | www.malmaison.com | 95 rooms, 2 suites | Multiple meal plans | Station:Barbican, Farringdon.
Fodor’s Choice | The Rookery.
HOTEL | An absolutely unique and beautiful 1725 town house, the Rookery is the kind of place where you want to allow quality time to enjoy and soak up the atmosphere. Huge, wood-paneled bedrooms have heavy raw silk drapes, antique furniture, artfully scattered antiquarian books, and white marble bathrooms with deep claw-foot tubs big enough for two. The elegant, Regency-style drawing room has a well-stocked honesty bar, and the conservatory, with its small patio garden, is another relaxing place to unwind. There’s no restaurant, but room service is good-quality and reasonably priced. Breakfast, served in your room, features a large basket of freshly baked breads and pastries, juices and yogurts. Pros: helpful staff; free Wi-Fi; good deals in the off-season. Cons: breakfast costs extra; Tube ride to tourist sites. | Rooms from: £144 | 12 Peter’s La., at Cowcross St., The City | 020/7336-0931 | www.rookeryhotel.com | 30 rooms, 3 suites | No meals | Station: Farringdon.
HOTEL | The elaborate building housing this grand hotel in the financial district is a former bank, and the vast old banking hall—beautifully adapted as the lobby, with luxurious marble and mahogany panels—really sets the scene. Guest rooms are stylish and spacious, with modern bathrooms, big comfortable beds, and neutral coffee and cream colors, with dashes of deep burgundy. Given the location, it’s no surprise that this place looks as if it were custom-designed to please business travelers—the hotel even provides personalized business cards to all guests as a basic amenity. Pros: lap of luxury; excellent service. Cons: a bit stuffy for some tastes; prices rise sharply midweek; neighborhood is quiet at night. | Rooms from: £149 | 5 Threadneedle St., The City | 020/7657-8080 | www.hotelthreadneedles.co.uk | 63 rooms, 6 suites | Breakfast | Station: Bank.
Fodor’s Choice | The Zetter.
HOTEL | The dizzying five-story atrium, art deco staircase, and slick European restaurant hint at the delights to come in this converted warehouse—a breath of fresh air with its playful color schemes, elegant wallpapers, and wonderful views of The City from the higher floors. Thoughtful little touches, from the plethora of gadgets in every room to the exclusive 1,500-foot borehole from which the hotel draws its mineral water (yes, really) raise this place to something truly special. Across the street is the 13-bedroom Zetter Townhouse, a sister hotel offering the same quirky style with a touch more intimacy—and an excellent cocktail bar, too. Pros: huge amounts of character; big rooms; free Wi-Fi; award-winning restaurant. Cons: rooms with good views cost more. | Rooms from: £234 | 86-88 Clerkenwell Rd., Clerkenwell | 020/7324-4444 | www.thezetter.com | 59 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Farringdon.
Ace Hotel London.
HOTEL | The first European outlet of the super-hip Ace hotel chain fits right into the scenery in achingly cool Shoreditch, surrounded by galleries and on-trend boutiques every bit as style conscious as its own creatively minimalist interiors. Bedrooms are larger than average for London, with a deliberately industrial vibe, and large, firm beds. You’re never too far from a hipster design touch, either: vinyl and turntables in some rooms, or enormous, wall-sized retro prints in others. The Hoi Polloi brasserie serves modern British food, with a heavy emphasis on local ingredients, although this area is hardly lacking in trendy restaurants to choose from. Pros: extremely fashionable; large and comfortable bedrooms; great bar. Cons: not everyone will enjoy being surrounded by hipsters; price rises sharply midweek; street noise can be a problem. | Rooms from: £149 | 100 Shoreditch High St., Shoreditch | 020/7613-9800 | www.acehotel.com | 258 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Shoreditch High St.
HOTEL | Swanky and upscale, this hotel sports a modern, masculine design, and novel check-in procedure—instead of standing at a desk, guests sit in a lounge while a staff member with a handheld computer takes their information. Guest rooms are sparsely decorated with designer furniture, intensely comfortable beds, and a color scheme of white walls, charcoal floors, and ruby-red touches. The 1901 restaurant is exquisite, with marble floors and modern chandeliers, and the Champagne bar is popular with city workers. Pros: nice attention to detail; guests can borrow an iPod from the front desk; no standing in line to check in; “healthy minibars” are stocked with nuts, fruit, and yogurt. Cons: sparse interior design is not for all; rates rise significantly for midweek stays. | Rooms from: £123 | 40 Liverpool St., East End | 020/7961-1234, 800/492-8804 in U.S. | www.andaz.hyatt.com | 267 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Liverpool St.
Fodor’s Choice | Cable Street Inn.
B&B/INN | Wonderful modern art lines the walls of this former Victorian pub a mile east of the Tower of London, which has been beautifully restored and converted into a modern B&B. It’s all the work of Julian Cole, the gregarious and charming owner, who spent decades making arts documentaries—hence the wonderful collection of modern art that lines the walls. Guests can use the sitting room, which doubles as the breakfast room in the morning. There’s also a roof terrace, overlooking a striking mural that covers one side of a nearby building. Entitled The Battle of Cable Street, it commemorates a clash between local Jewish protestors and British Fascists that took place here on October 4th, 1936. Pros: true one-of-a-kind place; beautiful art; wonderful host; free Wi-Fi. Cons: 20-minute journey by DLR then Tube to the center. | Rooms from: £110 | 232 Cable St., East End | 020/7790-4019 | www.cablestreetinn.co.uk | 3 rooms | Breakfast | Station: DLR: Shadwell.
Fodor’s Choice | The Hoxton Hotel.
HOTEL | The design throughout this trendy East London lodging is contemporary—but not so modern as to be absurd—and in keeping with a claim to combine a country-lodge lifestyle with true urban living, a fire crackles in the lobby. The chic but casual restaurant is packed with friendly youth; the comfortable guest rooms have Frette linens and down comforters; the bar is popular with local office workers; and the Hoxton Grill combines American steak-house style with French bistro chic. Best of all, the hotel is outstandingly good value—stay on a weekend and you may even find yourself with change from £50. Pros: cool vibe; neighborhood known for funky galleries and boutiques; huge weekend discounts; way-cool restaurant; one hour of free international calls. Cons: price rockets during the week; away from tourist sights. | Rooms from: £59 | 81 Great Eastern St., East End | 020/7550-1000 | www.hoxtonhotels.com | 205 rooms | Breakfast.
Ramada Hotel and Suites Docklands.
HOTEL | Many of the sleek and modern rooms at this hotel, dramatically set at the edge of the river in the rejuvenated Docklands area of East London, have water views, while others have views of the city. Large desks, data ports, personal voice mail, and other amenities are geared to business travelers. The hotel’s restaurants and bars are handy, although there’s plenty to choose from in the surrounding area. Pros: waterfront views; free Wi-Fi; great value weekend rates. Cons: lacks character; area is tumbleweed quiet on weekends; about a 20-minute Tube ride to central London. | Rooms from: £89 | ExCel,2 Festoon Way, Royal Victoria Dock, East End | 020/7540-4820 | www.ramadadocklands.co.uk | 224 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Old St.
Town Hall Hotel and Apartments.
HOTEL | An art deco town hall, abandoned in the early 1980s and turned into a chic hotel in 2010, is now a lively and stylish place, with the best of the building’s elegant original features intact. There’s wit, too—the “Town Hall Tea Lady” goes door to door in the early evening, offering cocktails from her cart. Guest rooms are bright and airy and bathrooms are visions of white and chrome, but some sacrifice too much in the name of design, with only a curtain separating them from the bedroom. Pros: beautifully designed; lovely staff; big discounts on weekends. Cons: though touted as “cool” and “cutting edge,” this is not a good part of town; a 15-minute Tube ride from central London. | Rooms from: £148 | Patriot Sq., Bethnal Green, East End | 020/7657-8080 | www.townhallhotel.com | 98 rooms, 86 suites | Breakfast | Station: Bethnal Green.
SOUTH OF THE THAMES
Fodor’s Choice | Church Street Hotel.
HOTEL | Like rays of sunshine in gritty south London, these rooms above a popular tapas restaurant are individually decorated in rich, bold tones and authentic Central American touches—elaborately painted crucifixes; tiles handmade in Guadalajara; homemade iron bed frames. Breakfast is a tasty combination of organic breads, pastries, and smoothies, much of it sourced from nearby Borough Market, and there’s an honesty bar with a great selection of Spanish and American bottled beers. Pros: unique and arty; great breakfasts; lovely staff; closer to central London than it might appear. Cons: a trendy but not great part of town (stay out of neighboring Elephant and Castle); would suit adventurous young things more than families; a mile from a Tube station (though bus connections are handier); some rooms have shared bathrooms. | Rooms from: £70 | 29-33 Camberwell Church St., Camberwell, South East | 020/7703-5984 | www.churchstreethotel.com | 28 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Oval St.
London Bridge Hotel.
HOTEL | Steps away from the London Bridge rail and Tube stations, and handy for the South Bank, this thoroughly modern, stylish hotel is popular with business travelers, but leisure travelers find it just as handy and appealing. The diminutive but sleek rooms have an understated, contemporary look, and there are three spacious two-bedroom apartments (£250-£400 a night) that come with kitchen, living room, and dining room. Pros: good location for visiting South Bank attractions; free Wi-Fi; good deals available online in the off-season. Cons: small bedrooms; prices rise by £100 or more midweek. | Rooms from: £132 | 8-18 London Bridge St., Southwark | 020/7855-2200 | www.london-bridge-hotel.co.uk | 138 rooms, 3 apartments | Breakfast | Station: London Bridge.
London Marriott Hotel County Hall.
HOTEL | This grand hotel on the Thames enjoys perhaps the most iconic view in the city—right next door is the London Eye, and directly across the River Thames are the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. Until the 1980s this building was the seat of London’s government, and the public areas are suitably grand, full of pedimented archways, bronze doors, and acres of polished mahogany. All the businesslike bells and whistles you could ever want are available, and many of the warmly decorated, modern rooms enjoy that view. Pros: handy for South Bank arts scene, London Eye, and Westminster; great gym; good weekend discounts. Cons: interior design is overdone; breakfasts are pricey; rooms facing the river inevitably cost extra. | Rooms from: £315 | County Hall, Westminster Bridge Rd., South Bank | 020/7928-5200, 888/236-2427 in U.S. | www.marriott.com | 186 rooms, 14 suites | Breakfast | Station: Westminster, Waterloo. National Rail: Waterloo.
FAMILY | Premier Travel Inn County Hall.
HOTEL | The small but nicely decorated rooms at this budget choice share the same County Hall complex as the grander London Marriott Hotel County Hall, and though they have none of the spectacular river views, their selling point is the same convenient location at a decidedly lower price. The staff is helpful, and best of all for families on a budget are the foldout beds that let you accommodate two kids at no extra charge. Pros: fantastic location for the South Bank; bargains to be had if you book in advance; kids stay free. Cons: no river views; limited services; cookie-cutter chain hotel atmosphere. | Rooms from: £126 | Belvedere Rd., South Bank | 0871/527-8648 | www.premierinn.com | 313 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Westminster, Waterloo. National Rail: Waterloo.
Premier Travel Inn Southwark (Borough Market).
HOTEL | This excellent branch of the huge Premier Travel Inn chain is a bit out of the way on the South Bank, but is convenient for visits to Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and Borough Market. It sits on a quiet cobbled lane and offers the chain’s simply decorated rooms with 6-foot-wide beds (really two 3-foot beds zipped together) and a traditional-style pub-restaurant. Pros: ideally placed for visiting Tate Modern or the Globe Theatre. Cons: small rooms; uninspiring building; limited extras or services; rooms near elevators can be a little noisy (ask for one farther down the hall). | Rooms from: £98 | 34 Park St., Southwark | 0871/527-8676 | www.premiertravelinn.com | 56 rooms | Breakfast | Station: London Bridge.
KENSINGTON, CHELSEA, KNIGHTSBRIDGE, AND BELGRAVIA
HOTEL | A sense of style emanates from every surface of this sumptuous hotel in the heart of Kensington—but the playful, vintage vibe lends the property a refreshingly down-to-earth feel in a neighborhood that often feels cooler-than-thou. Guest room decor is whimsically inspired by the cultural institutions nearby—the Natural History Museum, the Victorial and Albert, and the Science Museum—with music, astrology, ornithology, and botany themes. Apero, the hotel’s main restaurant, specializes in Mediterranean cuisine, or you can take afternoon tea in the bright and colorful Drawing Rooms café. Pros: flawless design; great service; good restaurant. Cons: ground-floor rooms can be noisy. | Rooms from: £174 | 10 Harrington Rd., Kensington | www.ampersandhotel.com | 106 rooms, 5 suites | Breakfast.
HOTEL | A short walk from Gloucester Road Tube station and within walking distance of Harrods and the Kensington museums, the Ashburn is one of the better “boutique” hotels in this part of town. Guest rooms vary in size, but most are spacious enough, and flooded with natural light from elegant floor-to-ceiling windows. Downstairs is a charming, club-style bar with flocked wallpaper and heavy armchairs, where guests can drop in for a free glass of champagne in the evening. Meals are available in the bar or from room service. Pros: friendly atmosphere; free Wi-Fi; turndown gift (different every night). Cons: summer prices sometimes hike the cost. | Rooms from: £169 | 111 Cromwell Rd., Kensington | 020/7938-5970 reservations, 020/7244-1999 | www.ashburn-hotel.co.uk | 38 rooms, 3 suites | Breakfast | Station: Gloucester Rd.
RENTAL | Three redbrick Victorian town houses on a quiet residential street are the setting for Astons’s basic but decent studios and apartments. All are simple and small but well designed with tiny kitchenettes, and larger units have marble bathrooms and other extra touches as well. Some sleep families of four; others are barely big enough for two people. Pros: decent alternative to full-service hotel rooms; good location in upscale neighborhood; kitchenettes help save money on long stays. Cons: smaller apartments are tiny; furnishings somewhat bland and functional; few customer services; no elevator. | Rooms from: £115 | 31 Rosary Gardens, South Kensington | 020/7590-6000, 800/525-2810 in U.S. | www.astons-apartments.com | 43 rooms, 12 suites | No meals | Station: Gloucester Rd.
The Bentley London.
HOTEL | Close to but just far enough away to be shielded from the bustle of Kensington, this opulent hotel is an elegant escape within a creamy-white Victorian building. The lobby is a gorgeous explosion of marble, with high ceilings and chandeliers, and bedrooms are almost palatial in size, with silk wallpaper, golden furnishings, and fine marble bathrooms with whirlpool baths—some even have steam rooms. The Peridot restaurant serves modern British cuisine with Continental touches, and Malachite is a quiet bar for an after-dinner brandy. The marble Turkish steam room is a unique haven from the stresses of the day. Pros: luxurious rooms; gorgeous spa; great location. Cons: can be a bit stuffy; old-fashioned style won’t please everyone. | Rooms from: £204 | 27-33 Harrington Gardens, South Kensington | 020/7244-5555 | thebentley-hotel.com | 39 rooms, 25 suites | Breakfast | Station: Gloucester Rd.
Best Western Premier Shaftesbury Kensington.
HOTEL | These fresh and relaxing guest rooms, done in cool grays and earth tones and with firm queen-size beds, are just steps from Earl’s Court Tube station and offer a lot for your money. Bathrooms are small but well-designed, with modern bowl sinks, towel warmers, and big walk-in showers. Pros: good neighborhood; two-minute walk from the Tube; frequent online sales. Cons: small rooms; temperamental booking system, so make sure you bring your confirmation details; at the far edge of Kensington, farther from the museums than you might expect. | Rooms from: £136 | 33-37 Hogarth Rd., Kensington | 020/7370-6831, 084/5776-7676 | www.bw-shaftesburykensingtonhotel.co.uk | 144 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Earl’s Ct.
RENTAL | Most of the suites and small apartments in this attractive Georgian building have separate living rooms and kitchens and all rooms are tastefully decorated in contemporary style, with neutral carpets and a creamy pallette. The ambience is perhaps a little more geared to business than leisure travelers, but there’s plenty of space and a few handy extras, such as satellite TV, a DVD library, and free Wi-Fi. Pros: more space than you usually get with a serviced apartment, including laundry service and supermaket deliveries. Cons: a bit pricey for what you get; two-night minimum stay; no in-house restaurant or bar. | Rooms from: £132 | 26-27 Collingham Gardens, Kensington | 020/7244-8677 | www.collinghamapartments.co.uk | 26 rooms | No meals | Station: Gloucester Rd.
The Cranley Hotel.
HOTEL | Old-fashioned British propriety is the overall feeling at this small, Victorian town-house hotel, where high ceilings, huge windows, and a pale, creamy color scheme flood the bedrooms with light. Antique desks and four-poster or half-tester beds lend an air of historic authenticity, and even the bathrooms have traditional Victorian fittings (although the plumbing is completely modern). Afternoon tea and evening canapés, served with a glass of champagne, are complimentary—welcome after a long day of sightseeing. Pros: good-size rooms; attractively decorated; friendly staff; free evening nibbles are a nice touch. Cons: steep stairs into lobby; no restaurant; prices rise in mid-summer. | Rooms from: £184 | 10-12 Bina Gardens, South Kensington | 020/7373-0123 | www.thecranley.com | 29 rooms, 5 suites, 4 apartments | Breakfast | Station: Gloucester Rd.
easyHotel South Kensington.
HOTEL | London’s original “pod hotel” has tiny rooms with a double bed, private shower room, and little else, each brightly decorated in the easyGroup’s trademark orange and white (to match their budget airline easyJet). The reception desk can’t offer much in terms of service, and everything costs extra: £10 per day for room cleaning during your stay; £5 per 24 hours for a TV; £1 each for fresh towels. Wi-Fi ranges from £1 for 15 minutes to £30 for 30 days with various options between. The concept is a huge hit—it’s fully booked months in advance and several branches have opened (the website details locations). Just don’t expect any frills. At all. Pros: amazing price; safe and pleasant space. Cons: not for the claustrophobic—rooms are truly tiny and most have no windows; six floors and no elevator. | Rooms from: £49 | 14 Lexham Gardens, Kensington | 020/7216-1717 | www.easyhotel.com | 34 rooms | No meals | Station: Gloucester Rd.
The Gore Hotel.
HOTEL | Just down the road from the Albert Hall, this gorgeous, friendly hotel has a luxurious mixture of the comfortable and the extraordinary. The lobby evokes a wealthy estate from centuries past, and upstairs most rooms are spacious and beautifully decorated in calming neutral tones with rich fabrics. A few rooms are spectacular. One is a Tudor fantasy, with minstrel gallery, stained glass, and four-poster bed, and the Judy Garland Room, containing a sumptuous bed that the actress had flown over from America for her frequent stays here, is one of the themed deluxe rooms that recalls other notable figures. Pros: gorgeously designed spacious rooms; outstanding, attentive service; air-conditioning in all rooms. Cons: prices rather high; Wi-Fi is not free; bar can be noisy. | Rooms from: £204 | 190 Queen’s Gate, Kensington | 020/7584-6601, 888/757-5587 in U.S | www.gorehotel.com | 50 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Gloucester Rd.
Holland Park YHA.
B&B/INN | Clean, bright, modern dorm rooms in the most celebrated (and certainly the most pastoral) of London’s super-cheap places to stay occupy an historic Jacobean mansion and overlook a wooded park, where peacocks strut around the Kyoto Gardens. High Street Kensington and all of its offerings are just a few steps away. Dorm accommodations are super cheap, with breakfast included in the price—and if you’re really on a shoestring, the canteen serves inexpensive lunches and dinners, too. Pros: friendly and bright; beautiful setting. Cons: all but a small handful of accommodations are in same-sex dorms; youthful atmosphere can be boisterous. | Rooms from: £22 | Holland Walk, Kensington | 0845/371-9122 | www.yha.org.uk | 200 beds | Breakfast | Station: High Street Kensington.
Kensington House Hotel.
HOTEL | Ashort stroll from High Street Kensington and Kensington Gardens, this refurbished 19th-century town house has streamlined, contemporary rooms with large windows letting in plenty of light, comfortable beds with luxurious fabrics and soft comforters. Rear guest rooms have views of trees and mews houses. The Tiger Bar, also flooded with natural light, is a pleasant and open space to enjoy a glass of wine or a snack. Pros: attractive design; relaxing setting; free Wi-Fi. Cons: rooms are small; bathrooms are minuscule; the elevator is Lilliputian. | Rooms from: £168 | 15-16 Prince of Wales Terr., Kensington | 020/7937-2345 | www.kenhouse.com | 39 rooms, 2 suites | Breakfast | Station: High Street Kensington.
London Marriott Kensington.
HOTEL | A big favorite for the business crowd, this pleasant, modern outpost of the Marriott megachain is just one of several big-name hotels in this prime location. An enormous plexiglass frontage enlivens (and neatly soundproofs) the otherwise cookie-cutter exterior, but inside everything seems very shiny and new. It’s so geared toward business travelers that the breakfast room empties by 8:30, but it’s also about as smooth and well run as you could hope for. Guest rooms aren’t huge, but they’re quiet and comfortable. There’s a good bar, but you’ll probably want to eat out. Pros: friendly, efficient service; good neighborhood; one-minute Tube ride to Kensington museums. Cons: “could be anywhere in the world” business vibe feels impersonal; bedrooms are on the small side. | Rooms from: £169 | 147 Cromwell Rd., Kensington | 020/7973-1000 | www.marriott.com | 216 rooms | Some meals | Station: Earl’s Ct., Gloucester Rd.
HOTEL | This pair of intricately decorated Victorian town houses overlooking Kensington Palace and Gardens is an intimate, luxurious alternative to the city’s more famous high-end hotels, offering thoughtful hospitality and sumptuous, distinctive rooms full of antiques. You’ll be offered a drink upon arrival and can return to a snack in your room or leave for the park with a picnic basket. Many rooms have canopied beds, and each has a decorative theme—the Ascot Room, for example, is filled with the kind of elegant hats worn at the eponymous horse race. Pros: beautiful and elegant; big rooms, many with park views; excellent location; good package deal includes tickets to Kensington Palace and £50 of shopping vouchers. Cons: service can be a bit stuffy (it seems you’re not expected to do anything for yourself). | Rooms from: £342 | 1 Kensington Ct., Kensington | 020/7917-1000 | www.milestonehotel.com | 44 rooms, 12 suites, 6 apartments | Breakfast | Station: High Street Kensington.
HOTEL | With a Tube station opposite and Kensington’s many attractions nearby, this hotel is both convenient and alluring, its sleek and opulent lobby, with polished wood columns, a warming fireplace, and glittering chandeliers giving way to guest rooms with a traditionally masculine look. Neutral creams and earth tones are complemented by blond-wood desks and leather chairs. There are two bars and several restaurants, which means that you don’t have to go out if you’d prefer to stay in. Pros: good deals available if you book in advance. Cons: lighting in some bedrooms is a bit too subtle; bathrooms are relatively small; public areas and restaurant can get crowded. | Rooms from: £106 | 4-18 Harrington Gardens, Kensington | 020/7373-6030 | www.millenniumhotels.co.uk | 143 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Gloucester Rd.
RENTAL | This newly refurbished “aparthotel” in a creamy white Georgian town house offers a useful compromise between full-service hotel and the freedom of self catering in the form of comfortable rooms with a stylish, modern look and tiny kitchenettes. Basic Bijou rooms are very small, but extras such as Gilchrist & Soames bath products and an enormous flatscreen TV with entertainment library is a welcome extra. Larger doubles offer ample space for just a small amount extra, while some rooms have bunk beds—great for families. Pros: great alternative to hotel; handy mini-kitchens; free Wi-Fi; 24-hour reception. Cons: basic rooms are small; movies in entertainment system are pay-per-view; 15-minute Tube ride to central London. | Rooms from: £148 | 25 Courtfield Gardens, South Kensington | 020/7244-2255 | www.thenadler.com | 65 rooms | No meals | Station: Earls Court.
HOTEL | Guest rooms at this lovely luxury guesthouse, just around the corner from the Victoria & Albert Museum, look like they come from the pages of Architectural Digest, and the delightful garden is an added bonus. Chic yet homey, the guest rooms feature beautiful furniture and heavy fabrics, offset by nice little touches like piles of antiquarian books and flat-screen TVs set into the wall; bathrooms are clad in dark marble and polished oak. The staff is friendly, so lingering in the drawing rooms is a pleasure, and drinks are served in the leafy garden in summer. Pros: just the right level of helpful service; interiors are gorgeous. Cons: no restaurant; small elevator. | Rooms from: £276 | 16 Sumner Pl., South Kensington | 020/7589-5232, 888/559-5508 in U.S. | www.firmdale.com | 42 rooms | Breakfast | Station: South Kensington.
Fodor’s Choice | The Pelham Hotel.
HOTEL | One of the first and most stylish of London’s famed “boutique” hotels, this still-chic choice is but a short stroll away from the Natural History, Science, and V&A museums. At the end of a day’s sightseeing you can settle down in front of the fireplace in the gorgeous, wood-panelled drawing room with its honor bar or retire to the stylish, contemporary guest rooms by the doyenne designer of boutique hotels, Kit Kemp. Downstairs, Bistro Fifteen offers a modern take on British cuisine. Pros: great location for museum-hopping; gorgeous marble bathrooms; soigné interior design; lovely staff; good package deals for online booking. Cons: taller guests will find themselves cursing the top-floor rooms with sloping ceilings. | Rooms from: £220 | 15 Cromwell Pl., South Kensington | 020/7589-8288, 888/757-5587 in U.S. | www.pelhamhotel.co.uk | 47 rooms, 4 suites | Breakfast | Station: South Kensington.
HOTEL | Despite being on the notoriously traffic-clogged Cromwell Road, this excellent little place is one of the best boutique hotels in this part of London—and windows have good soundproofing. Bedrooms, done in earthy, slightly retro tones, are comfortable, well-designed, and very spacious by London standards; mezzanine suites have two levels. Out back is a pleasant walled garden where you can relax with a drink or join a summertime barbecue. Family rooms offer especially good value for money. The restaurant serves good modern British food. Pros: large bedrooms; stylish surroundings; helpful staff; advance booking can drop the price below £100. Cons: on a busy, unattractive road; 20-minute Tube ride to central London. | Rooms from: £117 | 181 Cromwell Rd.,South Kensington | 020/7244-2000 | www.therockwell.com | 38 rooms, 2 suites | Breakfast | Station: Gloucester Rd.
HOTEL | You can feel yourself relaxing the minute you enter this elegant Georgian town house. The interior design has a modern flair and guest rooms are painted in neutral tones with splashes of rich color. If the weather is good, relax in the small garden; in winter, warm your feet by the fire; in any season, take breakfast in the sunny conservatory. Pros: excellent location for shopping; small enough that the staff knows your name; attractive conservatory and garden. Cons: services are limited but prices high. | Rooms from: £201 | 54 Upper Berkley St., Marble Arch, Marylebone | 020/7723-2244 | www.thesumner.com | 20 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Marble Arch.
Think Earl’s Court.
RENTAL | These serviced apartments are a stone’s throw from Kensington High Street and a short walk from both Earl’s Court and Olympia. Each has everything you need, including a well-equipped kitchen with washing machine and dishwasher, plus cable TV and free WiFi. There’s a 24-hour reception and the apartments are serviced once a week. Think also runs a second apartment complex near Tower Bridge. Pros: brand new building; self-catering offers greater independence. Cons: payment is made when you book; bland, officelike exterior. | Rooms from: £118 | 26A Adam and Eve Mews, Kensington | 020/3465-9100 | www.think-apartments.com | 206 rooms | No meals | Station: High Street Kensington.
At Home Inn Chelsea.
B&B/INN | King’s Road and the rest of super-rich Chelsea is just a short stroll from this delightfully informal B&B, and you’d be hard pressed to find a better room in this neighborhood for the price. The hosts, the DeMare family, are an artistic family: Margaret designs jewelry, and Simon is overflowing with information about the house, the neighborhood, and London as a whole. Bedrooms are clean and decently sized, and while the bathrooms are tiny, you have everything you need. Pros: funky, charming, and just a bit eccentric—just like the real Chelsea; short Tube ride to tourist sites; free Wi-Fi; one room can be made a triple for £25. Cons: tiny bathrooms; few extras. | Rooms from: £110 | 6 Oakfield St., Chelsea | 020/7352-2970 | www.athomeinnchelsea.com | 2 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Earls Court.
The Cadogan Hotel.
HOTEL | This elegant and luxurious hotel is one of London’s most historically naughty hotels: it was once the home of scandalous actress Lillie Langtry, King Edward’s mistress in the 1890s, and where Oscar Wilde was staying (in Room 118) when he was arrested for “indecency” with a young man on April 6, 1895. Elegant creams and golds and postmodern guest-room design now prevail. The drawing room has rich wood paneling and deep, comfortable armchairs, and is a good place for afternoon tea and people-watching, as is the small, sophisticated bar. Breakfast includes healthy cereals and fruits alongside decadent pastries. Pros: luxurious but not stuffy; friendly staff; great location for shopping; free Wi-Fi; good special offers online. Cons: rooms are quite small. | Rooms from: £264 | 75 Sloane St., Chelsea | 020/7235-7141 | www.cadogan.com | 64 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Sloane Sq.
HOTEL | Rooms at this small, chic charmer—tucked away down a side street in an upscale neighborhood—are bijou tiny but sophisticated, with mauve satin throws atop crisp white down comforters. The beauty is in the details—the fire-warmed bar serves light meals and tea; there’s a relaxing spa; and the guest library lends DVDs and books. Tiny bathrooms are brightned by pale-pink granite countertops. The hotel claims to use feng shui principles in its design—good luck will be yours! Pros: stylish rooms made for relaxation; good neighborhood. Cons: price a bit high for what you get; tiny rooms; no restaurant. | Rooms from: £240 | 35 Ixworth Pl., Chelsea | 020/7225-7500 | www.myhotels.com | 45 rooms, 9 suites | Breakfast | Station: South Kensington.
Apartment Rentals & Home Exchanges
For a home base that’s roomy enough for a family and that comes with cooking facilities, consider renting furnished “flats” (the British word for apartments).
This company offers boutique hotels, tours, and cruises. Its offerings in London are extremely high-end. Annual membership is $195. | 767 Islington St., | Portsmouth, New Hampshire, USA | 603/430-4433, 800/843-4433 | www.hideaways.com.
Dozens of flats all over London, available for weekly rent, are on Interhome’s books. Properties range from suburban pied-à-terres to luxurious city-center apart | 800/882-6864 | www.interhome.us.
This agency has hundreds of luxurious flats in residential neighborhoods all over London, with prices starting at just over £1,000 per week. | Rooms from: £534 | 1251 N.W. 116th St. | Seattle, Washington, USA | 206/417-3444, 877/250-4366 | www.rentavilla.com.
Exclusively priced flats all over London are available through Villas International. Higher-end options start at around £1,800 per week—but as some sleep up to 10 people this can work out as a viable option for large groups. | 17 Fox La. | San Anselmo, California, USA | 415/499-9490, 800/221-2260 | www.villasintl.com.
Check out this agency for attractive small flats in Clerkenwell and Bloomsbury, starting at around £150 per night. | 19 Bedford Pl., Ground fl., Bloomsbury | 020/7636-8325 | www.acorn-apartments.co.uk.
The Apartment Service.
This agency specializes in high-quality executive apartments. Aside from a few super-cheap places in parts of town you wouldn’t want to stay in, prices start at around £75 per night for a one bedroom near the former Olympic Village in Stratford (East London), rising to around £540 per night for a two bedroom in Mayfair. | 5 Francis Grove, Wimbledon | 020/8944-1444 | www.apartmentservice.com.
At Home in London.
Rooms in private homes in Knightsbridge, Kensington, Mayfair, Chelsea, and west London are handled by this agency. Prices start at around £90 a night per room, making this a great alternative to budget hotels. | 70 Black Lion La., Hammersmith | 020/8748-1943 | www.athomeinlondon.co.uk.
The Bed and Breakfast Club.
Contact this company for delightful apartments in Kensington, Chelsea, and Knightsbridge, from around £50 to £125 per night with full English breakfasts. | 405 Kings Rd., Suite 192, Chelsea | 01243/370692 | www.thebedandbreakfastclub.co.uk | There’s a 2.5% fee for using a credit card; debit cards incur no fees; the full price of room must be paid in advance. Check cancellation policies carefully.
Coach House London Vacation Rentals.
This company arranges stays in the properties of Londoners who are temporarily away. Attractive apartments and houses are primarily in Notting Hill, Kensington, and Chelsea, and most cost around £115 to £160 per night. The minimum booking of five to seven nights is a bit limiting, though, and you must make a substantial security deposit (usually between £200 and £1,000), which is returned after your stay. | 2 Tunley Rd., Balham | 020/8133-8332 | www.rentals.chslondon.com | Payment by credit card only; 10% deposit required.
This agency has flats in historic buildings from £650 for a four-night-minimum stay. | Shottesbrooke, | Maidenhead, Berkshire | 01628/825925 | www.landmarktrust.org.uk.
One Fine Stay.
This agency will provide you with a fine apartment with fresh linen, toiletries, a kitchen full of basics, iPhones loaded with maps, and tips about the area from the owners. | 020/7097-8948.
Only upscale addresses are handled by Uptown Reservations, and they specialize in hosted homes or apartments for Americans, often business executives. Nearly all the homes on its register are in Knightsbridge, Belgravia, Kensington, and Chelsea. Prices start at around £125 per room, per night. There’s limited information on their website; bookings must be made over the phone. A nonrefundable deposit is req | Rooms from: £125 | 8 Kelso Pl., Kensington | 020/7937-2001 | www.uptownres.co.uk | 0.
If you would like to exchange your home for someone else’s, join a home-exchange organization, which will send you its updated listings of available exchanges for a year.
It costs from $99 per year for a listing and online access with this company. | 800/756-4663 | us.intervac-homeexchange.com.
HOTEL | This gracious boutique hotel is a favorite entry in the little black books of many a visiting high-society fashionista—Harrods is the merest toss of a diamond from the front door. The high-ceilinged, contemporary rooms have muted, sophisticated colors and a plethora of thoughtful extras: flowers and chocolates when you arrive, complimentary free afternoon tea, and even free drinks in the evening. Beds in deluxe rooms are huge, and junior suites have little sitting rooms that feel like designer furnishing stores. Four of the rooms have wrought-iron balconies. The exceptionally helpful staff make everything run as smooth as silk. Pros: gorgeous interiors; friendly and professional staff; air-conditioning; free Wi-Fi. Cons: standard doubles are much smaller than the price might indicate. | Rooms from: £276 | 33 Beaufort Gardens, Knightsbridge | 020/7584-5252 | www.thebeaufort.co.uk | 20 rooms, 7 suites | Breakfast | Station: Knightsbridge.
HOTEL | Convenient for Knightsbridge shopping, the very elegant Berkeley is known for its renowned restaurants and luxuries that culminate—literally—in a splendid penthouse swimming pool. The spacious rooms have William Morris prints, art deco flourishes, and lavish marble bathrooms. Chef Marcus Wareing’s eponymous, Michelin-starred modern European restaurant is outstanding, as is Pierre Koffman’s (also eponymous) less formal French bistro; the elegant Blue Bar is popular with celebrities; and at the whimsical Caramel Room, morning coffee and decadent doughnuts are served to well-groomed ladies who look as if they’ve never eaten such a thing in their lives. Pros: lavish and elegant; attentive service; prices aren’t quite as stratospheric as some high-end places. Cons: You’ll need your best designer clothes to fit in. | Rooms from: £420 | Wilton Pl., Knightsbridge | 020/7235-6000, 800/637-2869 in U.S. | www.the-berkeley.co.uk | 103 rooms, 55 suites | Breakfast | Station: Knightsbridge.
The Capital Hotel.
HOTEL | Nothing is ever too much at this elegant hotel that was formerly a private house—mattresses are handmade, sheets are 450-thread count, bathrooms are marble, and everything is done in impeccable taste. There are fine-grain woods, original prints, and soothing, country-chic furnishings throughout, and service is understated. All the rooms are spacious, but ask for one facing the front to get more space. The Outlaws at the Capital restaurant is a famous gathering place of the rich and famous—its Michelin star means that you’ll need to book your table well in advance. Pros: beautiful space; handy for shopping at Harrods. Cons: breakfast is expensive. | Rooms from: £279 | 22-24 Basil St., Knightsbridge | 020/7589-5171, 800/926-3199 in U.S. | www.capitalhotel.co.uk | 40 rooms, 10 suites | Breakfast | Station: Knightsbridge.
HOTEL | Sensationally soigné, chicly decorated, and feeling like your own private London home, this hotel has some truly luxuriant design touches, including guest rooms lavishly decorated with rich fabrics and a knockout white-on-gold dining room. Prints and posters by Matisse, Picasso, and Toulouse-Lautrec adorn the walls, and some rooms have pleasant views over the beautiful gardens in back. The two drawing rooms are good places to write letters or relax with a drink from the honor bar. Pros: lovely staff; great location; magnificent interiors; striking art. Cons: some style touches a little too froufrou—even if Toulouse-Lautrec would have approved. | Rooms from: £295 | 17-19 Egerton Terr., Knightsbridge | 020/7589-2412, 877/955-1515 in U.S. | www.redcarnationhotels.com | 23 rooms, 6 suites | Breakfast | Station: Knightsbridge, South Kensington.
The Levin Hotel.
HOTEL | This posh boutique hotel, created by the people behind the Capital Hotel, is owned by luxury-loving bon viveurs; expect duck-egg-blue walls, hyper-modern furnishings, and a champagne bar in every room. Yes, that’s right—each room has its own selection of pricey splits of bubbly, along with all the mixings (and directions) for making champagne cocktails. Downstairs, the relaxed Le Metro Bar & Brasserie serves French and English classics (steak frites, sausage and mash) paired with an outstanding wine list. Next door to Harrods, shopping locations don’t get any more prime than this. Pros: your own champagne bar; sauntering to Harrods. Cons: few bargains to be had. | Rooms from: £305 | 28 Basil St., Knightsbridge | 020/7589-6286 | www.thelevinhotel.co.uk | 12 rooms, 1 suite | Breakfast | Station: Knightsbridge.
Fodor’s Choice | Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park.
HOTEL | Built in 1880, the Mandarin Oriental welcomes you with one of the most exuberantly Victorian facades in town, then fast-forwards you to high-trend modern London, thanks to striking and luxurious guest rooms filled with high-tech gadgets. Legendary British chef and “food alchemist” Heston Blumenthal oversees the restaurant, or there’s New York-based Daniel Boulud’s French brasserie, Bar Boulud. There’s a butler on every floor, should you, for example, need assistance with the pillow menu (yes, really). lFor the 99% of us who can’t afford to stay here, cocktails in the Mandarin Bar offers a glamorous (and surprisingly relaxed) taste of London high society. Pros: great shopping at your doorstep; amazing views of Hyde Park; excellent service. Cons: nothing comes cheap; you must dress for dinner (and lunch and breakfast). | Rooms from: £395 | 66 Knightsbridge, Knightsbridge | 020/7235-2000 | www.mandarinoriental.com/london | 177 rooms, 23 suites | Breakfast | Station: Knightsbridge.
B&B/INN | At this modern guesthouse near Victoria Station, a clean, chic white color scheme, simple modern furniture, and a lounge where a fire crackles away in the winter are all geared to stylish comfort. Two rooms have a connecting door, effectively making a family suite. There are also nine self-contained studios and apartments, including compact kitchens, for around £100-£135 per night. Pros: nice extras like free use of a laptop in the hotel lounge; coffee and tea always available. Cons: rooms and bathrooms are small; unimaginative breakfasts; can be noisy, especially on lower floors. | Rooms from: £145 | 64-66 Ebury St., Victoria | 020/7259-8570 | www.bb-belgravia.com | 17 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Sloane Sq., Victoria.
The Luna Simone Hotel.
HOTEL | This delightful and friendly little family-run hotel, a short stroll from Buckingham Palace, is a real find for the price in central London. Though rooms are on the small side, they are clean and comfortable, with queen-size beds and power showers; a few have balconies that look out over the bustling Georgian street. The home-cooked English breakfasts—included in the price—are delicious. lBus no. 24, which stops opposite the hotel, goes past several major sights, including Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, and Trafalgar Square. Pros: friendly and well run; family rooms are outstanding value; superb location. Cons: tiny bathrooms; thin walls; no elevator or air-conditioning. | Rooms from: £134 | 47-49 Belgrave Rd., Pimlico | 020/7834-5897 | www.lunasimonehotel.com | 36 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Pimlico, Victoria.
RENTAL | A great little side operation from B&B Belgravia, these self-catering apartments represent fantastic value for money. They’re pleasant, contemporary spaces that have everything you need, plus a few useful extras such as free Wi-Fi and a free continental breakfast. Pros: great price; lovely location; all the independence of self-catering. Cons: lots of stairs and no elevator; check-in is at B&B Belgravia, six doors down the street. | Rooms from: £125 | 82 Ebury St., Victoria | 020/7259-8570 | www.bb-belgravia.com | 9 apartments | Breakfast | Station: Knightsbridge.
NOTTING HILL AND BAYSWATER
Fodor’s Choice | The Main House.
B&B/INN | A stay in this delightfully welcoming B&B feels more like sleeping over at a friend’s house than in a hotel—albeit a particularly wealthy and well-connected friend. Each guest suite is spread across one floor of the converted Victorian town house. Guest rooms are spacious and uncluttered, with clean white linens, polished wood floors, modern furniture, and Asian art. There’s a little urban terrace, which is a lovely spot for retreating with a glass of wine or the morning paper. Guests enjoy special rates at a local gym, swimming pool, and spa, and get a discount for breakfast at the trendy Tom’s Deli nearby (owned by Tom Conran). Pros: unique and unusual place; charming and helpful owners. Cons: three-night-minimum stay is restrictive; few in-house services. | Rooms from: £110 | 6 Colvile Rd., Notting Hill | 020/7221-9691 | www.themainhouse.com | 4 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Notting Hill Gate.
B&B/INN | This no-frills B&B, in the heart of the Portobello Road antiques area above the pub and restaurant of the same name, offers comfortable guest rooms where double beds take up almost all the space. The best option is the split-level apartment (£180; sleeps six) with roof terrace, small kitchen, and soothing aquarium. The casual restaurant serves international food and has a great wine list, all at reasonable prices. Pros: great Notting Hill location; pleasant staff; free Wi-Fi. Cons: tiny bedrooms; “wet rooms” replace proper bathrooms (be prepared to shower by the sink); can be noisy; no elevator; if you want more than a continental breakfast, you have to pay £8 extra. | Rooms from: £75 | 95-97 Portobello Rd., Notting Hill | 020/7460-4910 | www.portobellogold.com | 6 rooms, 1 apartment | Breakfast | Station: Notting Hill Gate.
The Portobello Hotel.
HOTEL | One of London’s quirkiest hotels, the little Portobello (formed from two adjoining Victorian houses) has attracted scores of celebrities to its small but stylish rooms over the years, and the decor reflects these hip credentials with joyous abandon. Rooms are individually designed along classic themes with luxurious fabrics, statues, bric-a-brac and imaginative design flourishes. The intimate Japanese Room has paper lanterns and a little wooden conservatory; while the sumptuous Room 13 contains a genuine royal four-poster bed from Hampton Court. One room even contains an original Victorian “bathing machine” next to the bed—legend has it that Johnny Depp once filled it with champagne for his then-girlfriend Kate Moss. Pros: stylish and unique; celebrity vibe; guests have use of nearby gym and pool. Cons: all but the priciest rooms are quite small; may be too eccentric for some. | Rooms from: £234 | 22 Stanley Gardens, Notting Hill | 020/7727-2777 | www.portobello-hotel.co.uk | 24 rooms | Closed 10 days at Christmas | Breakfast | Station: Notting Hill Gate.
Garden Court Hotel.
B&B/INN | In this small hotel, formed from two 19th-century town houses in a quiet garden square, each room has a character of its own—some, such as those with original Victorian fittings, are nicer than others, but the elevator makes the upper floors more appealing (a relative rarity in older-style London hotels). Breakfast comes in the form of a cold buffet, although you can have a cooked breakfast for a few pounds. The lush little garden is a lovely hideaway when the sun shines. Pros: lovely garden; lots of charm; four-person family rooms are exceptional value. Cons: very basic ameneties; some rooms much better than others. | Rooms from: £95 | 30-31 Kensington Gardens Sq., Bayswater | 020/7229-2553 | www.gardencourthotel.co.uk | 12 rooms, 10 with bath | Breakfast | Station: Bayswater, Queensway.
HOTEL | Almost next door to Paddington Station, this glitteringly modern boutique hotel exudes cheerfulness, from the super-friendly staff to the bold, colorful design scheme with its futurist vibe. Public areas have a stark style that is playfully knocked off-kilter by touches such as painted skies in the guest corridors and arty oversized prints on the walls. Guest rooms are on the small side, but are better equipped than those in some chain hotels, with flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi, and double glazing (a real plus in such a busy area). There’s also a very good bar and restaurant downstairs. Pros: friendly and well run; outstanding service. Cons: not a great part of town unless you have to be near Paddington; price rises sharply during the week. | Rooms from: £180 | 16 London St.,Paddington | 020/7706-4444 | www.indigopaddington.com | 64 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Paddington.
Lancaster Hall Hotel.
HOTEL | This cheap and cheerful choice just north of Hyde Park offers clean, simple rooms at a decent price, along with a good buffet breakfast. Even cheaper rooms (£54) are available in the “youth wing,” where you don’t have to be young to stay, but you do have to share a bathroom. Pros: decent, inexpensive, no-frills accommodations; excellent central location five-minute walk to Hyde Park; short Tube or bus ride away from many sights. Cons: just the basics; only the Youth Wing has nonsmoking rooms; street noise; cheap beds; all double rooms have twin beds. | Rooms from: £90 | 35 Craven Terr., Bayswater | 020/7723-9276 | www.lancaster-hall-hotel.co.uk | 180 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Lancaster Gate, Paddington. National Rail: Paddington.
London House Hotel.
HOTEL | Set in a row of white Georgian town houses, this excellent budget option in hit-or-miss Bayswater is friendly, well run, and spotlessly clean. The tone is set right from the gleaming white lobby and minimalist public areas. Guest rooms are modern and well-maintained, and you can choose which particular room you want when you book—helpful to those on a budget (rooms in the basement, unsurprisingly, are the best bargain—but also the most cramped). Pros: friendly and efficient; emphasis on value for money; good location. Cons: some public areas feel a bit too clinical; smallest rooms are tiny. | Rooms from: £87 | 81 Kensington Garden Sq., Bayswater | 020/7243-1810 | www.londonhousehotels.com | 100 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Queensway, Bayswater.
B&B/INN | Just seconds from Hyde Park in one of London’s swankiest enclaves (the Blairs live a few doors away), this sweet little guesthouse is an oasis of value for money, with warm and helpful hosts and bright guest rooms that are simply furnished with pastel color schemes and reproduction antique beds. One grisly piece of historical trivia: the Parkwood is built near the site of the “Tyburn tree,” an enormous gallows used to execute prisoners from the Middle Ages until the time of George III (and frequently referenced by Shakespeare). A memorial on the street marks the spot. Pros: lovely hosts; free Wi-Fi; hotel guarantees to match or beat price of any other hotel of its class in the area. Cons: often booked up in advance; no elevator; front-facing rooms can be noisy. | Rooms from: £79 | 4 Stanhope Pl., Bayswater | 020/7402-2241 | www.parkwoodhotel.com | 18 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Marble Arch.
Space Apart Hotel.
RENTAL | These studio apartments near Hyde Park are done in soothing tones of white and gray, with polished wood floors and attractive modern kitchenettes equipped with all you need to make small meals. The standard units are quite small, but premium studios cost only £20 more and give you much more space to play. Bathrooms are new and modern, although they are not large. Pros: especially good value for the money; the larger suites have space for four people; handy location. Cons: no in-house restaurant or bar; minimum two-night stay required. | Rooms from: £140 | 32-37 Kensington Gardens Sq., Bayswater | 020/7908-1340 | www.aparthotel-london.co.uk | 30 rooms | No meals | Station: Bayswater.
HOTEL | Just around the corner from Paddington Station, this funky-looking little place has small, functional rooms (done to death in contemporary style) and even tinier bathrooms, but it’s cheerful, convenient, and well run. Bedrooms are designed with a kind of retro futurism that sits somewhere between playful and tacky—aluminum wall panels, plastic molded bathroom sinks, and smoked glass room dividers in the modest suites. It certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste, but Stylotel is a useful budget option in a city that’s still painfully short on cheap places to stay. Pros: bargain price; helpful staff; unique style. Cons: style will be too unique for some; tiny bedrooms and bathrooms; standard of decor needs updating in places; no elevator access to suites; Wi-Fi costs £2 per hour; one room has a fire escape in the bathroom. | Rooms from: £100 | 160-162 Sussex Gardens Sq., Bayswater | 0207/223-1026 | www.stylotel.com | 38 rooms, 2 suites | Breakfast | Station: Paddington, Edgware Rd. National Rail: Paddington.
RENTAL | This pleasant aparthotel, in a converted Victorian town house, is full of quirky design flourishes, from flock wallpaper in the sitting room to a suit of armor at the top of the stairs. All the studios and apartments have mini-kitchens and microwaves, and you can even preorder groceries, which will be stocked in your mini-refrigerator on arrival. Daily maid service as well as room service are also offered. Some rooms have working fireplaces, and one opens onto the leafy, paved garden. Pros: more space than most traditional hotel rooms; unique and pleasantly designed little apartments. Cons: a bit out of the way. | Rooms from: £140 | 30 Prince’s Sq., Bayswater | 020/7243-1270 | vancouverstudios.co.uk | 45 studios | No meals | Station: Bayswater, Queensway.
London School of Economics Vacations.
London School of Economics Vacations costs around £88 for a double with shared bathroom, or £92 for a double with private bathroom. The LSE also rent out self-catering apartments starting from £90 per night, and the earlier you book, the better. | Passfield Hall, 1-7 Endsleigh Pl., Bloomsbury | 020/7955-7676 | www.lsevacations.co.uk | No meals.
University College London.
University College London opens up its accommodations from mid-June to mid-September (for two-night minimum stays). | Residence Manager, Campbell House, 5-10 Taviton St. | 020/7837-6704 | www.ucl.ac.uk/residences | No meals.
REGENT’S PARK AND HAMPSTEAD
Glenlyn Guest House.
B&B/INN | An excellent option for travelers who don’t mind being a long Tube ride away from the action, this converted Victorian town house offers a high standard of accommodation a few miles north of Hampstead. Bedrooms are spacious, with huge flat-screen TVs, and a conservatory breakfast room opens onto a garden. There are also two serviced apartments, complete with kitchens. Pros: comfortable and friendly; you get more for your money than you would in central London; adjoining rooms can be converted to family suites; five-minute walk to Tube station. Cons: you have to factor in the cost and inconvenience of a half-hour Tube ride to central London; no restaurant. | Rooms from: £75 | 6 Woodside Park Rd., North Finchley | 020/8445-0440 | www.glenlynhotel.com | 27 rooms, 2 apartments | Breakfast | Station: Woodside Park.
Fodor’s Choice | The Hide.
HOTEL | This chic hideaway exceeds virtually anything you could hope to find in central London for the price; the downside is the half-hour Tube ride into town. Guest rooms are quite compact but elegantly designed, with chocolate-and-cream tones, minimalist furniture, and a couple of thoughtful touches, such as flat-screen TVs and a small (free) minibar. Bathrooms are modern and well equipped. Pros: excellent value for money; great service; free Wi-Fi; close to Tube station. Cons: far from the center; dull neighborhood. | Rooms from: £100 | 230 Hendon Way, Hendon,Hampstead | 020/8203-1670 | www.thehidelondon.com | 22 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Hendon Central.
B&B/INN | The name of this simple B&B means “the mistake” in Italian, and is also the punch line to the unlikely tale of how the original husband-and-wife proprietors met—but it neatly chimes with the cockney term “gaff,” meaning a simple, cozy residence. Standard rooms are indeed tiny and have few amenities, though some have four-poster beds, and the honeymoon suite (a mere £30 more than a basic room) has its own Jacuzzi. There’s a summer patio in the enclosed courtyard and the restaurant itself serves good, traditional Italian food at reasonable prices. Pros: unusual place with a cheerful atmosphere; no shared bathrooms. Cons: few services; no elevator; outside city center. | Rooms from: £90 | 107-111 Heath St., Hampstead | 020/7435-8965 | www.lagaffe.co.uk | 18 rooms, 3 suites | Breakfast | Station: Hampstead.
Premier Inn, Kew.
HOTEL | This excellent branch of the Premier chain is located in far-flung western London—not a practical base for exploring the center, but a really good deal with pleasant and spacious bedrooms and a genuinely helpful staff. The only real snag is the location—despite the name, it’s in the rather drab suburb of Brentford, rather than far more upscale Kew, although the palace and gardens are just a mile away. Pros: modern, comfortable, and inexpensive rooms; very helpful staff; location is fine for sights around Richmond and Kew. Cons: city center is a 15-minute walk followed by 35-minute Tube ride; breakfast not included in price; hotel parking is limited and costs £7.50 per day. | Rooms from: £57 | 52 High St., Brentford | London, Berkshire | 0871/527-8670 | www.premierinn.com | 141 rooms | Multiple meal plans.
B&B/INN | A find like this in London is as rare as hen’s teeth: a friendly, affordable Georgian town-house B&B, full of character, not too far from the city center. Alas, there are just two guest rooms, both renovated in bold modern color schemes with a smattering of art and antiques. Breakfast is served buffet-style in the kitchen. The only downside is the commute: it’s a 20-minute walk along the adjacent Regent’s Canal to the Tube station for the short hop into central London—or you could take the bus that stops outside. Pros: stylish and comfortable; friendly hosts; quiet street; cheap as you’ll ever hope to find for a place this nice in London. Cons: feels like a private house; shared guest bathroom; neighborhood is trendy but verging on not-so-nice. | Rooms from: £65 | Arlington Ave., Islington | 07711/265-183 | www.arlingtonavenue.co.uk | 2 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Angel, Essex Rd.
Hilton London Islington.
HOTEL | Next door to the Islington Business Design Centre, this hotel is sleek and modern, standing out starkly among the gray 19th- and 20th-century buildings of the surroundings. The hotel has standard, good-size rooms with all the usual amenities meant to ease the life of the business traveler. For guests with an eye for aesthetics, the higher rooms have panoramic views. Pros: lots of amenities for business travelers; handy restaurant and bar; trendy neighborhood; near a Tube station. Cons: not really geared toward leisure travelers. | Rooms from: £159 | 53 Upper St., Islington | 020/7354-7700 | www.hilton.co.uk/islington | 183 rooms, 6 suites | Breakfast | Station: Angel.
King Henry’s Road.
B&B/INN | Floor-to-ceiling books and art decorate this lovely B&B in Primrose Hill, the trendy “village” neighborhood north of Regent’s Park. The house looks nice enough from the outside, although nothing distinguishes it from the other modest Georgian town houses on this street—appropriate, really, given that the main attraction of this place is how authentically North London it feels. Guestrooms are comfortable and spacious, with minimalist, whitewashed walls and roll-top bathtubs (though smaller rooms just have showers or a shared bathroom). Hosts Ted and Carole are warm, cultured sorts, full of knowledge about the area. The home-cooked breakfasts are more than enough to set you up for the short Tube ride into town. Pros: unique, homey atmosphere; lovely hosts; great neighborhood. Cons: no extras; not very central; smaller rooms share a bathroom. | Rooms from: £120 | 30 King Henry’s Rd., Primrose Hill | 020/7483-2871 | www.onefinestay.com/london/king-henrys-road | 5 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Chalk Farm.
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