Living in London for 8+ years and with friends and family frequently visiting from all over the world, I’ve had the chance to scour this city for the truly top hotels that deliver a consistently quality experience—from intimate boutique hotels to quintessential English classics. Here is my honest take on five quite different hotels, but not one that will disappoint.
The Connaught Hotel
Probably the most quintessentially English of London’s top hotels. It reopened in December 2007 after a multi-million pound restoration, adding 33 guest rooms and suites. But don’t worry, the extra rooms haven’t let any of the traditional standards of service slip, and The Connaught continues to attract guests seeking understated style. The 125 rooms are stylish, but small, with all the latest technologies set into traditionally English fabrics and furnishings. It’s in a super location in Mayfair, at the steps of great galleries, shops and some of the business hustle, but remains low-key and sophisticated. If you want to get away from it all, yet stay in the city, head to the state-of-the-art gym with Thai massage treatments and stylish antique marble and oak furnishings, then top it off with a taste of fine French cuisine in the Michelin starred restaurant, Hélène Darroze at the Connaught. I come often for business meetings, and consider it one of my London offices!
Room rates from £339.
http://www.the-connaught.co.uk | Phone: +44 207 499 7070
Carlos Place, Mayfair | London W1K 2AL England
Number Sixteen Hotel
One of the most desirable addresses in London could be yours—for the duration of your vacation. This boutique hotel is located in a row of splendid white stucco Victorian townhouses in stylish South Kensington—steps from shops, restaurants and entertainment. I love Kit Kemp’s smart signature English meets Connecticut-style; it’s so full of homey charm you feel, well, at home! The 42 rooms are each individual, with different colors and patterns dominating the light and airy spaces. Many of them also look out over the garden/patio, and some have their own private courtyard with direct access to the public outdoor spaces—the gorgeous gardens and conservatory are perfect for breakfast and afternoon tea. I’m not too sure about having layered sheets instead of duvets, and staff tend to be young and less polished than you may be used to, but the vibe is very much relaxed and at home—great if you prefer intimate and cute boutiques to international chains. There’s no restaurant, but room service is available 24 hours a day to any of the private or public rooms, and the library and drawing room are perfect places to sit round the fire chatting to other guests. This is always one of my top recommendations for friends visiting London.
Room rates from £165.
http://www.firmdale.com | Phone: +44 20 7589 5232
16 Sumner Place | London SW7 3EG England
The Berkeley Hotel
This classic threw off its fuddy-duddy image years ago, and has become one of the places to stay for top fashion and business execs. There are 214 designer rooms to take your pick from; a few are in need a bit of a re-vamp, but most of them are spacious, with traditional colors and furnishings—some people like them so much they move in! All rooms come with TV, CD, DVD and WiFi, as well as film library and children’s services on request. Admire a birds-eye view of the city from one of only two rooftop pools in London, with retracting roof and views over Hyde Park. Fitness fans will love the high-tech gym, while the spa is available for soothing aching muscles—or simply indulging yourself with a selection of beauty treatments. Star spot in the swish Blue Bar, before sampling the tip-top fare in the two restaurants—after all, Marcus Wareing and Gordon Ramsay are in the kitchen. Traditionalists can rest assured that 19th century service standards have survived the 21st century style update …
Room rates from £249.
http://www.the-berkeley.co.uk |Phone: +44 20 7235 6000
Wilton Place | London SW1X 7RL England
Fresh from an expensive and handsome refurbishment courtesy of boutique hotel group Rocco Forte, this 19th-century Mayfair classic has been stylishly ushered into the 21st-century. Its 117 rooms and 29 suites are understated with contemporary furnishings and art, and fabrics in muted, natural tones. Historical details include British literature on bookshelves and photos of well-known English writers and politicians, such as former guest Winston Churchill, adorning the walls. The hotel has a small spa with three treatment rooms, and a state-of-the-art cardio gym open round-the-clock, but you’ll be spending most of your days on the town—Brown’s is a short walk from Bond Street shopping, the West End and St. James’ park. Don’t miss the hotel’s legendary afternoon tea, or a traditional English dinner at the Grill Room. Afterwards try a chic cocktail in the Donovan Bar with live jazz Monday to Saturday, and walls lined with the cool black-and-white photographs by the late, famed English photographer Terence Donovan. If you’re feeling cheeky, get a group together and take over the “Naughty Corner”—seating for 12 surrounded by some of Donovan’s more risqué pics. A great getaway for a special anniversary or a romantic city stay; don’t forget to order a “Box Brownie”—liquor-infused strawberries in champagne.
Room rates from £475.
http://www.brownshotel.com | +44 207 493 6020
Albemarle Street | London W1S 4BP England
The Portobello Hotel
Fantastically located steps away from Westborne Grove and the famous antique market of Portobello Road, this is undoubtedly one of the coolest hotels in London. It attracts an eclectic group of guests and is known for its discretion with famous clientele. More than one romantic tryst has gone unreported at the Portobello… along with Kate Moss and Johnny Depp’s famous champagne bath! Each of the bedrooms is intimate, and most look out onto the rose garden. One of my Insiders, Catherine Schreier, recently visited and said: “I love it for its totally decadent bedrooms—all extremely comfortable and fabulous, although bathrooms can be a little on the small side. The staff are extremely friendly and the service excellent.” An added bonus is that The Portobello is also jointly owned with the local (and literally just round the corner) famous Julie’s restaurant, so guests can go and enjoy a special discount. When you’re there, take advantage of the local private members health club—Lambton Place—one of the few places in London with an 18m by 10m pool. Catherine preferred to make use of their fully trained masseur rather than keep pounding those feet, but whether you are after exercise or relaxation, both are catered for at this fabulous spot.
Room rates from £200
http://www.portobellohotel.com | +44 207 727 2777
22 Stanley Gardens | London W11 2NG England
Considering a trip to London? It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the choices; check out my London Cheat Sheet with more top picks for where to stay, eat, and what to do in this great city to maximize your time and minimize your disappointment.
Suzanne Aaronson, Co-founder of Suzanne’s Files, is our Travel Curator. Stay in-the-know on her latest finds and insider tips by signing up to receive Notes from Suzanne’s Files, a free e-newsletter.