The Top 20 hotels in London, from classic West End landmarks to hip hangouts in Shoreditch, all tried and tested by the editors of Condé Nast Traveller.
Part of the Maybourne Group, which also manages Claridge’s and The Connaught, The Berkeley is a bit like both but not much like either. A child of the early 1970s, there are no heritage trappings; instead, the look is cool, low-key, non-specifically modern. Marcus Wareing supplies Michelin-starred gravitas. Soothe your aching muscles and achieve a state of serenity at the Blue Bar, or at the much-lauded spa. The views over Hyde Park from certain of the treadmills in the gym are excellent; the rooftop pool is itself as pretty as a picture, though too small to be of much use to anyone who actually wants to swim. By way of compensation, there is Andre Fu’s 278-square-metre Opus Suite, supposedly the largest in the capital.
Address: The Berkeley, Wilton Place, London SW1
Telephone: +44 20 7235 6000
This Mayfair grande dame submitted to a thoroughgoing facial in 2005, at the hands of owner Rocco Forte’s sister Olga Polizzi, who gave it a whole new complexion, nipping and tucking her way around all that lovely old oak panelling, wrought-iron and stained-glass. The result is a contemporary classic that respects the past without getting stuck in it. Former guests such as Rudyard Kipling and Agatha Christie, were they to return, might have to steady their nerves over kedgeree or roast beef at the excellent Hix restaurant.
Address: Brown’s, 33 Albemarle Street, London W1
Telephone: +44 20 7493 6020
Over the years Claridge’s has acquired an almost mythical aura, making it something more than the sum of its parts. Not that there’s anything wrong with its parts – an irresistible hybrid of flapper-tastic Art Deco, grand Victorian flourishes and low-key, streamlined contemporary luxe. To pass through its oddly fragile-feeling revolving doors is to pass into another, lovelier world. Afternoon tea in the foyer and a drink at the bar (or, better still, in the tiny Lalique-panelled fumoir) are de rigueur, and dinner at Simon Rogan’s Fera restaurant, which has a ghost-white, leafless tree as its disconcerting yet mesmerising centrepiece, is exceptional. Eternally on our list of the best hotels in London.
Address: Claridge’s, Brook Street, London W1
Telephone: +44 20 7629 8860
Corinthia Hotel London
As delicious as the huge slice of cake that it resembles when seen from the right spot by the Thames. No fewer than 1,001 Baccarat chandeliers illuminate the double-height, Victorian-pillared lobby, whose parquet floors and elegant palette of creams, caramels and charcoals with splashes of lime-green hint at the splendours beyond. Guests with a list of London landmarks to be checked off will find this a convenient base, within striking distance of Downing Street, Trafalgar Square, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Theatreland and the South Bank (if you take one of the top-floor suites with a terrace, you can save yourself some time and see all of them at once). The ESPA Life spa occupies four levels, with 15 treatment ‘pods’, a marble-and-leather spa lounge, glass-encased sauna and steel-lined pool.
Address: Corinthia Hotel London, Whitehall Place, London SW1
Its walls were apparently built to withstand practically anything that nature or man could throw at them; The Dorch’s reputation is similarly robust. Whether or not it’s entirely to your taste – one look at The Promenade just off the lobby should be enough to make up your mind – there’s no denying its wow-factor. It has two of the best hotel restaurants in town (Alain Ducasse and the recently revamped Grill), one of the most enduring nightspots (China Tang) and one of the best bartenders (the ageless Giuliano Morandin). There is impressive variety among the rooms – from the impeccable 1950s time-capsule apartments by Oliver Messel to classic chintz to the most smoothly contemporary – and the spa inspires fanatical loyalty.
Address: The Dorchester, 53 Park Lane, Mayfair, London W1
Telephone: +44 20 7629 8888
Practically hidden down a barely existent alleyway between St James’s Street and Green Park. Practically hidden is how they like it here. Hushed, discreet, cosy and ever-so-English – yet by no means sombre, stuffy or stuck-up. How could anyone remain sombre, stuffy or stuck-up after a martini perfectly prepared by Alessandro Palazzi in one of the greatest bars on the face of the earth? This was supposedly where Ian Fleming first envisioned James Bond ordering his favourite drink ‘shaken, not stirred’. Nigel Mendham’s basement restaurant Thirty-Six is delightful; so is the entirely unexpected explosion of colour in the PJ Lounge champagne bar next to it.
Address: Dukes, 35 St James’s Place, London SW1
Telephone: +44 20 7491 4840
Four Seasons Hotel Park Lane
The proverbial oasis of calm over the Circus Maximus that is Hyde Park Corner. Trust Four Seasons stalwart Pierre-Yves Rochon to keep things elegant but well and truly on the down-low. There are no expressive upheavals or synapse-battering splashes of colour here – apart, perhaps, from the red chairs in the excellent Italian restaurant Amaranto (which is as good for breakfast as it is for dinner). Otherwise, the most conspicuous decorative features are the use of discreet walnut and sycamore panelling in the rooms, and the large-format black-and-white fashion photos from Vogue in the corridors. The spa on the tenth floor has serene park views, and perpetuates the chilled-out ambience.
Address: Four Seasons Hotel Park Lane, Hamilton Place, London W1
Telephone: +44 20 7499 0888
The Goring has been owned and run by the same family since it opened a century ago. It shows. The hotel possesses a no-expense-spared quirkiness for which you will search in vain elsewhere. It is a glorious one-off. Rooms and suites are elegant and opulent, from the smallest Splendid Rooms to the silkily sumptuous Belgravia Suites and the duly palatial yet winningly homely Royal Suite, where Kate Middleton spent her last night as a single woman. The bar is the quintessence of cosiness, the restaurant Michelin-starred, the private garden the biggest of its kind in London and as pleasing to contemplate on a rainy day as it is to wander around on a sunny one.
Address: The Goring, Beeston Place, London SW1
Telephone: +44 20 7396 9000
Ham Yard Hotel
First things first: it’s got its own bowling alley. A 1950s bowling alley, no less, imported from Texas. Nine properties down, Kit Kemp’s design sensibility continues to impress. Here, her fondness for acid accents, contemporary art and rampant eclecticism imparts its own peculiar energy. Little about Ham Yard’s public spaces suggests ‘hotel’. Sink into a chintzy armchair before an open fire with a volume plucked from a library shelf, or nibble a savoury tartlet in the drawing room served on china designed by Kemp for Wedgwood – the tone is almost clubby. Only better, because clubs don’t have bowling alleys.
Address: Ham Yard Hotel, 1 Ham Yard, London W1
Telephone: +44 20 3642 2000
Hotel Café Royal
This revamped Regent Street landmark combines fin de siècle opulence with streamlined modernity. There are subtle references to its storied past – vases filled with tulips are a silent salute to Oscar Wilde, who once drank so much absinthe in the Grill Room that he hallucinated he was cavorting in a field of the flowers. The Grill Room has been turned into a bar, and its opulent gilt and mirrors have been sexed up with a frankly immodest blush of red furnishings. Recover your composure downstairs at the Akasha spa, which specialises in watsu aquatic-massage treatments.
Address: Hotel Café Royal, 68 Regent Street, London W1
Telephone: +44 20 7406 3333
Minimalists, modernists, fanciers of all things sleek, shiny, geometrical and monochrome – this is not the place for you. The Lanesborough was always an unrepentant riot of Regency splendor. In 2015 it reopened more unrepentant, riotous and Regency-splendid than ever. The Royal Suite, at £26,000 a night, is supposedly the most expensive in London – gilty as charged – but certain of the Junior Suites are among the most charming and cleverly contrived hotel rooms you will find anywhere. The celebrated Library Bar and cigar terrace are still there, little altered. The main restaurant, Céleste, deserves mention as one of the most spectacular dining rooms in town, with decorative cues from Wedgewood and daylight from God, via a gorgeous ‘sky dome’.
Address: The Lanesborough, Hyde Park Corner, London SW1
Telephone: +44 20 7259 5599
If it feels as though The Langham has been there forever, that’s because, in hotel terms, it pretty much has. But a century and a half on, it’s looking grand, as sophisticated and elegant as it did when Napoleon III spent the night. These days the Victoriana and chinoiserie are offset by smooth, occasionally quirky contemporary elements – notably in the award-winning Artesian bar, with its timber chandeliers, imitation-snakeskin flooring and resin-topped tables. It would be difficult to name a finer hotel restaurant than Roux at the Landau, where father-and-son dream team Albert and Michel Roux Jr have been casting their culinary spells for the past five years.
Address: The Langham, 1C Regent Street, London W1
Telephone: +44 20 7636 1000
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
The Queen learnt to dance in the ballroom of this splendidly florid pile. A great deal has changed since then. There’s now an award-winning, state-of-the-art spa, Zeitgeisty restaurants by Daniel Boulud and Heston Blumenthal, and perpetually packed bars (not one, not two, but three, and all terrific in their very different ways). In other respects, however, the MO retains elements of its gentler, more cosily traditional past, and its sense of Edwardian propriety. A refurbished Royal Suite was revealed at the end of 2014; Her Majesty might well have enacted a little plié of pleasure at the sight of all those crystal chandeliers, Lalique lamps and other reassuringly familiar fixtures. The clippity-clop that rises faintly from the Hyde Park side as horses from the Household Cavalry make their way past the hotel never gets old.
Address: Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1
Telephone: +44 20 7235 2000
Metropolitan by COMO Park Lane
Plain on the outside, plain on the inside – only you’re talking about two very different kinds of plain here. While the Metropolitan’s exterior is anonymous to the point of charmlessness, the interiors are, particularly for this part of London, a pleasant surprise. Icy-calm, uncluttered and understated, though with some arresting and endearing touches – vivid block-coloured carpets, splendid orchids, big sofas arranged alongside big windows the better to enjoy the big views over the park outside. Though no longer in the first flush of their youth, the Met bar, Nobu restaurant and Shambhala spa continue to deliver the goods.
Address: Metropolitan by COMO Park Lane, 19 Old Park Lane, London W1
Telephone: +44 20 7447 1000
There have been a few changes at The Ritz in recent years. Above all there was the renovation of the Rivoli Bar (which serves the best-presented cocktails in London) and the acquisition of the magnificent William Kent House next door (César Ritz’s dream ever since he built the hotel in 1906). Yet the main public spaces – including the adored Palm Court and dining room, aligned along the sumptuous gallery that runs the length of the building, from Arlington Street at one end to Green Park at the other – remain little changed. Here you still have a sense, enhanced by the rich, warm, golden glow of this part of the hotel, of having found yourself preserved in amber. No celebrity interior-designers have been let loose on the rooms, which retain their original Louis XVI style and a lustrous palette of pinks, yellows and blues. Ravishing.
Address: The Ritz, 150 Piccadilly, London W1
Telephone: +44 20 7493 8181
With their first foray into London, Rosewood has created not just a magnificent new hotel but a whole new neighbourhood: ‘Midtown’, previously known, without any of that implied New York spunk, as plain old Holborn. Yet the location is extraordinary, starting with the most unexpected of courtyards, like a mini Somerset House, from which a kind of country-house vibe emanates – a country house, however, with a tremendous sense of wit and panache. The style of the interiors is difficult to characterise, by turns demure and decadent, muted and glossy, traditional and contemporary. The overall effect is dazzling. The perpetually jammed Scarfe’s Bar and the elegantly elongated Mirror Room are at either end of an exquisitely lit bronze corridor that insulates the lobby from the outside world. The Holborn Dining Room, run by ex-Ivy head chef Des McDonald, adds a lively brasserie buzz. Sitting outside in the courtyard terrace in summer with a glass of something chilled is a joy.
Address: Rosewood London, 252 High Holborn, London WC1
Telephone: +44 20 7781 8888
Though people tend to think of it as monolithic and unchanging, The Savoy has something of a split personality and has in fact changed a great deal over the years. It’s decorated in Edwardian style on the Thames side – from which Monet and Whistler painted the river – but it’s quintessentially Art Deco on the Strand side. Rooms are large and traditional but never frumpy; and in a world of shrinking bathtubs, The Savoy’s remain satisfyingly deep. The Savoy Grill and Kaspar’s seafood restaurant (named after the resident cat, which, being made of wood, is entirely hypoallergenic and seldom makes any trouble) are excellent; and the hotel is blessed with two of the finest watering holes in London, The American Bar, granddaddy of London’s cocktail bars, and its younger, sassier sibling, The Beaufort Bar. So don’t even try to make it an ‘either/or’ proposition – it must be an ‘and’.
Address: The Savoy, Strand, London WC2
Telephone: +44 20 7836 4343
The Shangri-La at the Shard
Never has a traffic jam on the Old Kent Road looked so enchanting – everything seen fromThe Shangri-La looks enchanting. The hotel occupies floors 34 to the 52 of Renzo Piano’s 87-storey London landmark. The rooms (contemporary, creamy, Asian-influenced), restaurants (especially the romantic Ting) and bar (gin and rosemary – divine) are all fantastic, though nothing can compete with the extraordinary views over London, which turn every guest into a slack-jawed infant, lost in wonder, gazing out, palms to the window, all day long. At night, sitting cross-legged on the bed with the blackout blinds open is like being on a magic carpet, floating high above the ceaseless glow of the great city.
Address: The Shangri-La at the Shard, 31 St Thomas Street, London SE1
Telephone: +44 20 7234 800
The Soho Hotel
Cleverly converted from a multi-storey car park (cf The Beaumont, above), the Firmdale Group’s Soho property remains one of London’s most fashionable hotels. There’s a great big fat Fernando Botero bronze sculpture of a cat in the lobby, probably contemplating his next saucer of milk in the adjacent Refuel bar, even though he could clearly do without it. The rooms are a celebration of colour and pattern, richly varied, in designer and co-owner Kit Kemp’s characteristic eclectic-English style. Six apartments have private entrances, kitchens and sitting rooms. You know you’re in Soho when there’s not one but two screening rooms in the basement.
Address: The Soho Hotel, 4 Richmond Mews, London W1
Telephone: +44 20 7559 3000
The Zetter Townhouse
Two adjoining Georgian houses on cobbled (or, if you’re wearing high heels, hobbled) St John’s Square, Clerkenwell, just across from sister hotel The Zetter. Supposedly inspired by Dickens’s London and in particular the gin distilleries for which this part of the city was once known. The curio-filled reception/cocktail lounge/breakfast room is, if not exactly Dickensian, at least chock-a-block full of zany drama and incident. Plonk yourself down on a velvet sofa and order a Twinkle (a Champagne-and-elderflower cocktail served in a delicate Victorian flute) and tapas-style bitings by Bruno Loubet (his popular brasserie is in the neighbouring Zetter). Upstairs, rooms are furnished with reclaimed and vintage furniture and mahogany four-posters.
Address: The Zetter Townhouse, 49-50 St John’s Square, London EC1
Telephone: +44 20 7324 4550