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Virgin Hotel
Photograph: Martha WilliamsVirgin Hotel

What it's like to stay at the Virgin Hotel

Amy Cavanaugh
Written by
Amy Cavanaugh

I've stayed in many hotels over the years, but the Virgin Hotel is the first place I’ve used an app to control the room temperature, made pour-over coffee in my room and gotten a free ride in a Tesla. The new hotel, the first from the British airline, opened in January and is designed by Rockwell Group Europe. With Smeg refrigerators and swiveling desks, it's a dream hotel for people into design and technology.  

Before my visit (full disclosure: Virgin comped my stay), Virgin suggested downloading its app and filling out a form, The Know, with questions like what floor I prefer and favorite snacks (it's cheese and crackers, if you're wondering). The night before my reservation, I received an email to check in early and a barcode to scan at the front desk upon arrival. When I arrived to the hotel, I scanned my barcode at a computer and it spit out two room keys.

My room was on the 14th floor, and I could see a sliver of the river, so I have to imagine the view is better on the higher floors and from the rooftop bar, which is slated to open in a couple of weeks. There’s plenty to look at in the room, though, which has a bedroom/lounge, a bathroom/dressing room, and, if you have a suite, an extra room with a couch and a second TV. Each section of the room is divided by sliding doors with a peephole, so you can close off rooms when room service arrives or if you’re having people over.

The room is sleekly designed with light woods, red accents like a Smeg mini-fridge, a desk that swivels around, a chair made from a red Vespa and a pour-over coffee set-up from local Bow Truss Coffee Roasters (it’s just as easy to make pour-over as it is to operate a drip coffeemaker). The bed was pretty comfortable and had a padded backrest at one corner of the foot of the bed. And I'll just leave this here: The press release about the hotel said the bed “functions as a playpen and traditional bed," so interpret that as you'd like.

While my favorite snack didn’t appear on my stay, the app was pretty useful—I changed the temperature, perused dining menus for the hotel restaurants (here's a recap of my meals there), played iTunes over the in-room Bluetooth speakers and accessed my bill. You can also use it to request items from housekeeping and make dinner reservations. But it’s not perfect—I planned to order room service via the app, but the menu wasn’t identical to the card placed on my bed, so I did it the old fashioned way instead. And once you’re done with room service, you can use the app to request dish pick-up, which I did—but I also accidentally called for dish pick-up the night before, when I was playing around with the app. 

The visit ended on a fast note when the hotel’s red Tesla delivered us to our car, which was parked in the Loop. While a ride around the Loop makes it hard to get a feel for the fact that the electric car can go 0 to 60 in 3.2 seconds, it was a smooth ride and a pretty thoughtful service—they’ll take you up to two miles away, so you can save yourself cab fare if you’re heading out to dinner. You'll also arrive looking far cooler, which is pretty much how I felt the whole time I was staying at the Virgin.

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