What makes a great hotel? In coming up with this list of the 100 best hotels in London, we considered a heady mix of factors – from definables like design, location, service, amenities, architecture, and value for money, to less tangible elements like ambience, history and the character of the reception cat. Then we factored in what we think Time Out readers would want from a hotel – whether a five-star in Mayfair, a budget option near the Eurostar, a chic cheap hotel in Camberwell or a Bloomsbury-era B&B minutes from the British Museum. So, a definitive list of the best hotels in London with something for everyone? We think so.
100 best hotels in London: top ten
What to say about this London icon? It starts on floor 34 with a spacious foyer and restaurant and the kind of luxe, cosmopolitan neutral looks you’d expect, and extends up to floor 52, which houses western Europe’s highest swimming pool, a fitness room and a bar. In between, guest rooms have wraparound floor-to-ceiling windows (even in the bathrooms) and are furnished in glamorous Asian-international-contemporary style with luxury materials – think marble and silk. As though acknowledging it’s all about the views, they all have binoculars.
From its Mayfair location to its clientele list, Claridge’s is sheer class and, with its signature art deco redesign, still simply dazzling. It begins with the OTT Dale Chihuly chandelier in the sumptuous foyer and doesn’t let up, from Simon Rogan’s Michelin-starred Fera restaurant through the discreet bar to the deco- or Victorian-style rooms.
Unsurprisingly, Sir Terence Conran’s intimate Boundary puts design to the fore, right from its rooftop bar to its restaurants and 17 rooms. Each of the latter contains a handmade bed, classic furniture and original art, and larger rooms and suites are themed around famous designers or design movements, including Charles and Ray Eames and Eileen Grey. Our favourite? The Heath Robinson room, decorated with sketches of hilariously complex machines.
Anouska Hempel’s row of Bayswater townhouses is all sleek lines and a zen-like monochrome feel, with an Asian influence in rooms divided by slatted sliding screens for windows, wardrobes and bathrooms. The large terrace running along the front of the building, with trees planted for an arbour-like effect, is a big summer asset.
In keeping with its Park Lane location, the Dorchester is the bee’s knees, from its thoroughly, opulently classical interior and grand lobby to its first-class restaurants employing some 90 chefs. A cutting-edge attitude encompasses state-of-the-art mod cons and a magnificent spa complete with glittering tearoom: the Spatisserie.
This positively palatial London institution is the place to head if you like the idea of a world where jeans and trainers are banned and jackets must be worn by gentlemen when dining. Its opulence isn’t for everyone, and neither are its prices, but if you fancy being a brief interloper, book well in advance and pack your gladrags for an elegant afternoon tea at the Palm Court or dinner at the Michelin-starred Ritz Restaurant, a riot of murals, ceiling frescoes, statues and drapes.
Kit Kemp has teamed her trademark bold colours with antique and distressed furniture to create this grandly proportioned Firmdale complex of hotel, apartments and cluster of shops around a courtyard that’s great for warm days – as is the secret rooftop garden. On cold ones, the basement bowling alley is a nice alternative to the attractions of Piccadilly Circus.
This small but charming Clerkenwell townhouse is as creakily calm as a country manor house, with individually decorated rooms kitted out in sumptuous old-fashioned furnishings. The honesty bar in the bright and airy drawing room at the back opens onto a sweet little patio.
This Holborn offshoot of Hoxton Shoreditch is at least as good as Sinclair Beecham’s original, and better-placed for central London major sights like the British Museum. Rooms come in a range of sizes, from Roomy down to Shoebox, which you might get for less than £90 all-in on a Sunday.
Soho House’s London stayover perfectly captures the atmosphere of Shoreditch with its fun and slightly retro design. Rooms decked out in pastel-coloured tongue-and-groove feel fresh and a bit like beach huts; perfect for the excellent rooftop pool in the members’ club next door and the holiday vibe throughout. If you crave more space, High Road House in Chiswick, also owned by Soho House and sharing its ethos and style, has 14 bedrooms from less than £100 for a double room.
100 best hotels in London: 11-20
The playfully ship-themed public spaces, Thames-side location and Tom Dixon furnishings, all done in a post-modern deco-style minimalism, make this one of the most fun upscale hotels in the city – and that’s before you discover the bar in a glass cube on the roof and the cosy Curzon cinema.
Set in Selfridges’ former garage, the Beaumont is pure art deco fantasia, courtesy of ace restaurateurs Chris Corbin and Jeremy King. The duo have applied their trademark attention to detail to create a totally stunning space filled with dark-wood panelling, curvy deco furnishings, portraits on the walls: the effect is comfortable and clubby. Antony Gormley’s ROOM, a womb-like sculpture-slash-suite opened to visitors during London’s Open House, is the room to stay in.
The city’s first railway hotel, opened in 1854, has been reborn as a 91-room classic thanks to a fabulous refit; railway fans will love couchette rooms with beds snugly fitted into the window to echo sleeper carriages. Each floor has a pantry full of jars of vintage sweets, fresh cakes, tea and coffee, newspapers, books, and even a USB printer.
This latest addition to the growing CitizenM chain (there are Bankside and Shoreditch ones too) is affordable, chic and dependable, from its self-check-in to the youthful contemporary styling of its slick café-bar and reception area. Rooms are small but well-designed, with wall-to-wall windows, drench showers, free wifi and movies, and funky coloured lighting, air-con and blackout blinds all controlled from an in-room tablet.
True to its name, the Gothic Revival Midland Grand, built into the front of St Pancras in 1873, really has been reborn, looking for all the world like it was built by a giant sometime during the industrial revolution… then redecorated, recently and ever so slightly naffly, by his comfort-loving new spouse. Design is sensitive to the original’s context across 120 grand rooms and suites in the historic hotel, and an equal number in a new wing.
Granite and oak bathrooms, a lovely panelled library, pinstriped wallpaper mixed with floral upholstery… it could only be the interior design work of Kit Kemp at her best, and in one of her best-located hotels. Sit in the 1920s Paris-style Brasserie Max or outside for a perfect view of Covent Garden boutique life.
The breathtaking Lobby Bar and Michelin-starred Eneko restaurant set this modern conversion (from the 1907 offices of the Morning Post) up beautifully. And the rest of the hotel doesn’t disappoint, from Frette linen and bathroom mini-TVs to an environmentally friendly loo-flushing system. A cosy screening room, excellent spa and a swimming pool with an underwater sound system playing soothing music may dissuade you from ever stepping outside.
The old Swiss Centre building on the edge of Leicester Square made way for the UK’s first W Hotel a couple of years back. Trademark glamorous bars, upmarket food and even a private 3D cinema clearly illustrate the hipness of the brand, and the functional but spacious rooms set over ten floors are well equipped, with their own munchie boxes. FIT (the hotel’s state-of-the-art fitness facility), next to the pale and serene Away spa on the sixth floor, offers fine views over Soho.
This very recent addition to the five-star Courthouse family brings the elegant Old Street Magistrates’ Court bang up to date with modern must-haves like a rooftop bar, spa, pool, 196-seat cinema and bowling alley. But its USP lies in the space and its history; to imagine former ‘visitors’ like Joe Orton and the Krays in one of the the original courtrooms (now the main casual fine-dining restaurant and an ultra-exclusive members’ bar), or indeed in one of the five cells pressed into service as bar booths, really is special.
Historical figures echo in the halls of old-school Brown’s, among them Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie and Agatha Christie – whose ‘At Bertram’s Hotel’ was inspired by the hotel. But the comfortable and elegant Mayfair hotel – London’s first ever – is firmly rooted in the twenty-first century with all mod cons, among them a spa, walk-in showers and free airport transfers, plus arresting original art by the likes of Tracey Emin and Bridget Riley.
100 best hotels in London: 21-30
The hotel loved for its mix of Edwardian neoclassical and art deco acquired a host of grand new features in its oh-so-twenty-first-century £100 million refurb, including an atrium pool with a jet-stream. But we love it for its star-filled history – where else can you stand in the same spot that Monet painted the Thames, or Vivien Leigh met Laurence Olivier?
The London Edition makes a big impact as you walk into its grand hall of a lobby, complete with double- height rococo ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows and marble pillars. Bedrooms are similarly impactful: akin to lodges or dachas, with matte oak floors, wood-panelled walls and more faux-fur throws tossed on luxurious beds. Larger rooms come with sofas, some have large furnished terraces, and all have rainforest showers and Le Labo toiletries (with the hotel’s woody signature scent).
The staff wear Converse, the fittings are Starck, and the former BBC recording studios are A-lister suites in this deluxe west-London hotel set in the former BBC White City. Rooms are designery but in a cool, understated way, and they’re roomy too – the smallest is 23 square metres – with in-room tablets, Handy smartphones, and granite bathrooms with White Company toiletries. Don’t miss the spa – particularly the Snow Paradise cabin chilled to -15C and designed to complement the hot-cold therapy.
The latest baby in the now six-strong Montcalm family has all its siblings’ fizz-pop-bang features, and then some. Russell Sage’s design is to the fore, as you’d expect, with statement copper pipe lighting and silk-lined corridors, but it’s the little touches that we think make it exceptional; in-room Nespresso machines, Elemis and Hermès toiletries, a complimentary smartphone service with unlimited 3G internet data and selected free local and international calls add real value.
Incongruously set in a Grade II-listed former town hall in the otherwise grungy heart of Bethnal Green, this upscale aparthotel is a masterclass in refitting a classic space, retaining many beautiful original features but jazzing the whole thing up with contemporary art in pale-toned, spacious and well-appointed rooms and apartments. The sultry Peg + Patriot cocktail bar, excellent Typing Room and Corner Room restaurants and a basement swimming pool with sparkly tiles all add to the appeal.
No hotel in London is more English than the family-owned Goring, famous for the place where the Middleton family stayed before the feted wedding (terribly handy for Buckingham Palace, darling). Expect lots of chintz, mahogany and silk, together with genteel luxury: polite tent cards ask you not to use your phone or conduct business during afternoon tea. For a true ‘Downton Abbey’ experience, book a suite and the services of a footman are yours.
Eschew modern styling and views for these four Georgian townhouses, named after eighteenth-century essayist William Hazlitt, and you won’t regret it. The flamboyance and exquisite attention to detail are spot-on, but the addition of modern luxuries like TVs (discreetly hidden away in antique cupboards, of course) creates an elegant whole in the heart of Soho.
The noisy exuberance of Soho is firmly left outside in this Firmdale favourite: tucked away in a mews, the place is wonderfully quiet, with what was once a car park now feeling like a converted loft building. Big contemporary bedrooms are peaceful too, with nicely judged Kit Kemp touches lifting the decor beyond bland.
As original as when Anouska Hempel opened it in 1983, Blakes and its maximalist decor have stood the test of time, a living casebook for interior design students. Behind the singular black-painted row of townhouses, each room is in a different style, with influences from Italy, India, Turkey and China. Exotic antiques picked up on the designer’s travels – intricately carved beds, Chinese birdcages, ancient trunks – are set off by sweeping drapery and piles of plump cushions, but Blakes doesn’t rest on its laurels; 2016 has seen a new restaurant inspired by an old-fashioned steamer, and the darkly sumptuous Blakes Below bar.
Right by St Paul’s Cathedral, the contemporary glass atrium of The Grange conceals 433 rooms, as well as a range of bars and restaurants, a health and fitness club with swimming pool and an Ajala Spa. ‘Female friendly rooms’ (including backlit make-up mirrors and extra shelving space as well as spy-holes and CCTV in the corridors) are an unusual touch; put-out males can debate whether such twenty-first-century separation of the sexes is wise or insulting in the sports bar.
100 best hotels in London: 31-40
No designer flash in the pan, the Sanderson remains a statement hotel, a Schrager/Starck creation that takes clinical chic in the bedrooms to new heights. Colour is generally conspicuous by its absence: the design throughout is all flowing white net drapes, gleaming glass cabinets and retractable screens. The (residents-only from midnight to 3am) Purple Bar sports a button-backed purple leather ceiling and fabulous cocktails.
This award-winning hotel in Notting Hill looks like the home of our dreams: there’s gloriously retro and modern decor here and there, Penguin books for bedtime reading, and even bathroom products from Neal’s Yard Remedies. The Laslett has succeeded in doing such a fine job of celebrating the best bits of London art and design, you won’t want to leave. Split across five interconnected townhouses, the hotel also offers 24-hour room service, complimentary gym passes and in-room spa treatments.
Ace arrived in Shoreditch from the US a few years back, turning a tatty Crowne Plaza into 250+ spacious bohemian rooms with an emphasis on original and artisanal touches. It continues to impress with a vibe that’s informal, young and fun, with DJs every night (including Time Out London’s very own music and nightlife editor), plus a cute juice bar, a coffee shop, and even a flower shop run by hip florist Hattie Fox.
London’s hotel scene is stuffed with topnotch quintessential Englishness a la ‘Downton Abbey’, but few can lay claim to being the watering hole of James Bond creator Ian Fleming and (some say) the home of the world’s best martini. Beyond Dukes’ bar, chic understated rooms feature regal purple and gold accents and manly but lovely marble bathrooms. The Cigar and Cognac Garden is the place to head for a post-dinner puff (though only of cigars purchased from the hotel).
There’s a refreshing lack of attitude at this Clerkenwell spot, where staff are friendly and the eco-credentials impressive; free Brompton bikes for guests’ use, for example. Rooms feature walk-in showers with REN smellies. The downstairs restaurant, Bistrot Bruno Loubet, is a more experimental version of Loubet’s excellent King’s Cross restaurant Grain Store. For a similar experience but in the West End, there are 24 rooms at Zetter’s Georgian townhouse in the shoptastic Marylebone.
The choice of many visiting celebs headed for vox pops and chat shows at the BBC TV Centre opposite is the kind of understated, charming hotel that endures because of its timeless appeal, first-class service and winning spaces, from the art deco Palm Court, where afternoon tea is served, to the cocktail bar and Chinese-influenced spa. Rooms are distinctly, indubitably English.
Famous for its low rates, the Hoxton also deserves credit for well-thought-out rooms. Sure, they’re on the small side and weekend rates can be high, but hey, you’re in the heart of Shoreditch, at one of the hippest hotels in the city, in one of the hippest cities in the world. And if you come on a Sunday you can enjoy all that hipness for less than £80 a night. Hip-hip hooray!
The Corinthia’s conversion from government offices to a grand hotel takes in an expansive lobby complete with central dome, dark wood and silk-covered walls in high-spec rooms and luxurious bathrooms with pool-like oval baths, all done with a light, modern touch that avoids self-importance or stuffiness. The Espa spa and subterranean pools (with jacuzzi, steam room, sauna and hot seats) form a complex over two floors.
Opened in an eighteenth-century hospital building as a club for creative people, Covent Garden’s Hospital Club has 15 rooms across a range of categories, including the windowless but well-designed Sleeper. All feature REN toiletries, contemporary artworks, upscale retro tech and high-fashion sex toys.
Soho House’s central London spot is a Grade II-listed, 1730s townhouse-turned-chic-hotel. Four floors of bedrooms run from full-size with early Georgian panelling and reclaimed oak floors to a sweet split level ‘Broom Cupboard’ room, which can be had from the website for as little as £115. Whatever the size, all come with Apple TV and Bose iPod docks, as well as bathrooms with rainforest showers and Cowshed products. The atmosphere is that of a gentleman’s club that’s both low-key and luxurious.
100 best hotels in London: 41-50
Kit Kemp’s Firmdale hotels are mostly unaffordable to mere mortals, but this South Kensington one keeps prices lower and quality high, with bright, generously sized bedrooms that carry the Kemp trademark mix of bold and traditional. Best of all, there’s a large, tree-filled garden, and breakfast is served in a pretty conservatory.
André Balazs, the man behind the celeb-friendly Chateau Marmont in LA and New York’s Mercer, has a gift for creating exclusive hotels with incredible buzz, and did exactly that with this former fire station, whose lovely red-brick exterior is matched inside by sumptuous colours and design that marries restrained and imaginative beautifully. If you plan to stay in one of the 26 refined suites and want to eat in, book well in advance for Nuno Mendes’s restaurant.
A terrific addition to Kit Kemp’s Firmdale portfolio, this block-sized building was designed by John Nash, the architect of Regency London. Wow-factors include the bling basement swimming pool and bar (shiny sofas, twinkly roof) and the central location. Rooms are generously sized (as are the bathrooms), individually decorated and discreetly stuffed with facilities, and there’s plenty of attention from the switched-on staff. The street-side bar and restaurant are top-notch and the breakfast is exquisite.
St Martins Lane led the way in flamboyant, theatrical hotel design when it opened in the ’90s, courtesy of Philippe Starck’s playful decor. Clever renovation has managed to update the wow factor for the twenty-first century with mood-interactive light displays and smart TVs, while retaining the stunning floor-to-ceiling windows. Some rooms have private balconies, all offer access to a neighbouring gym, bike loans, and a laundry service for workout wear.
Now a fine exponent of Kit Kemp’s much imitated fusion of flowery English and avant-garde, this gorgeous hotel was once a dental hospital. Public rooms have colourful murals and Bloomsbury Set paintings by the likes of Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, while bedrooms mix English understatement with bold flourishes and feature trademark polished granite and oak bathrooms. The Oscar restaurant and bar are classy and busy with a smart crowd of media and advertising folk.
London’s first ME by Meliá is a deluxe beauty by Foster + Partners, modelled on the lines of the 1920s Marconi House next door but with resolutely modern styling – like the breathtaking nine-storey pyramid atrium and rooms featuring triangular windows with views onto Aldwych. The tenth floor roof-terrace bar offers exceptional views. The Meliá White House near Regent’s Park has all the modern touches and style, but much cheaper rooms (581 of them, from around £120 for a double) in a great 1930s apartment block.
A Regent Street bolthole made up of chic apartments at reasonable long-term rates. The East-meets-West decor is classic 1990s minimalist, but bright, clean and containing a fully equipped kitchen alongside the usual hotel amenities. There’s no bar, but you can get breakfast and snacks.
The decor behind the facades of these five Georgian houses is a mix of restrained country-house florals and intellectual sophistication that’s just right for Bloomsbury’s studious yet decadent history. The library and conservatory open onto fragrant walled gardens, the ideal place for the breakfast served there in summer.
The lines of leafy trees standing sentinel outside soften the otherwise beautiful but imposing red-brick exterior of this Marylebone classic grand hotel, a worthy architectural equal to the likes of the Renaissance and Andaz Liverpool Street. It’s traditional through and through, with marble, gilt and glitz aplenty, and if the decor in the rooms is a little on the safe side, they’re as plush and comfortable as they come.
Shoreditch gets all the hip plaudits, but Malmaison, on a lovely cobbled square on the edge of the Square Mile, is just as well-placed for an East End night out without the weekend crowds – though you might find some of the cannier ones enjoying the pleasingly understated design and lovely basement brasserie.
100 best hotels in London: 51-60
Warm, friendly service coupled with bohemian chic and arresting objets d’époque make this delightfully unpretentious B&B in the heart of Marylebone a sight to behold. Amenities include good coffee, a free rein with hot beverages in an upstairs lounge full of knick-knacks, and hearty breakfasts in a gorgeous pine-floored dining room/kitchen.
In keeping with its City location, South Place is a nice balance of formality for its expense-accounters and levity for their guests. Interior decor impresses with conversation-piece art, touch controls in the rooms, and a Bond-themed pool room and library, complete with vinyl and turntable. There’s a pretty interior courtyard garden bar too.
Kitsch and fun, this well-located hotel has gimmicks aplenty – loft suites named after the heroines of psychedelic rock classics (Lucy, Lily, Jude, Ruby and Eleanor); private terraces, hammocks and even a suite with an eight-person outdoor hot-tub – but the real draw is its well-designed rooms for competitive prices. The bar’s lounge area is a good spot to relax, and travellers with pooches will love its dog-friendly touches, including dog beds, bowls and treats.
With its abundance of exposed brickwork, a cool bar and buzzing small-plates restaurant, Artist in Residence is a little slice of Shoreditch in the sleepy-but-convenient environs of Pimlico. It’s the third in a boutique chain (there are others in Brighton and Penzance), meaning it’s great value (doubles from £160 a night) but also great fun. Also, it’s actually, really well positioned for central sights – the river, Westminster Abbey, Tate Britain – as well as Victoria station, which is a five-minute walk away.
If you’ve no head for heights but want to be near Borough Market, this is a great alternative to the Shangri-La. The bronzed-metal façade with its colourful murals is a clue to the modernity on offer in this affordable, central hotel that features a pool, gym, bar and affordable dining room, as well as contemporary rooms with free wifi.
A grand location in St James’s is the perfect setting for this oh-so traditional grand hotel, set in a former a banking hall. The feeling throughout is one of timeless elegance; muted tones, mahogany furniture and heavy fabrics keep everything quiet and calm, while Nespresso machines and Roberts iPod docks bring a touch of modernity. Don’t miss the Balcon brasserie with its twin spiral staircases.
Behind a Victorian stucco property, Ampersand zings with splashes of bold colour against its dove grey and duck-egg blue decor. The colour extends to the lounge, where afternoon tea is served at comfy colourful sofas and armchairs in scarlet velvets. Botanical drawings reference the nearby South Kensington museums.
This Premier Inn’s position right by the London Eye, the Thames, Westminster Bridge and Waterloo station is a gift for out-of-towners on a bargain weekend break. Check-in is quick and pleasant, rooms are spacious, clean and warm, with free wifi and decent bathrooms featuring very good showers, and extra points are garnered for its friendly and efficient staff. Breakfast, a buffet-style affair in a comfortable dining room, is extra but provides ballast for the day.
The Trafalgar is part of the Hilton chain of hotels, but the mood is young and dynamic, and it’s housed in the imposing edifice that was once the headquarters of Cunard (this was where the Titanic was conceived). To the right of the open reception is the boisterous Rockwell Bar; breakfast downstairs is accompanied by gentler music. It’s the none-more-central location, however, that’s the hotel’s biggest draw.
It’s brand new and as such on no-one’s list yet, but there’s no doubt it soon will be, for Indian hotelier Lalit’s first London post is a stunner. There’s its setting for a start, in the grammar school where novelist Lawrence Durrell was a pupil, and the cost of the refurb (£50 million) for 70 rooms filled with high-end furnishings and fabrics like mother of pearl and silk. But what we’re most excited about are the Indian themes the group has brought to London – from traditional English afternoon tea with an Indian twist to Indian dishes in the former school’s great hall and a basement spa offering Indian therapies.
100 best hotels in London: 61-70
How do you make a lounge full of white and black contemporary furnishings seem cosy and welcoming? Hard to achieve, but the owners have succeeded at B+B Belgravia, which takes the B&B experience to a new level with a style that’s fresh and sophisticated without being hard-edged or overly precious. A gleaming espresso machine provides 24/7 caffeine, and there’s a large but somewhat dark garden to sit in at the back.
Wealthy American visitors make annual pilgrimages here, their arrival greeted by their regular concierge, as English as roast beef, and a glass of sherry in the room. Yet amid the old-school luxury (butlers on 24-hour call) thrives inventive modernity (the resistance pool in the spa). Some rooms feature the inspired decor of South African owner Beatrice Tillman: Our favourite? The Safari suite, containing tent-like draperies and leopard-print upholstery.
The Chelsea Myhotel feels a world away from its sleekly modern and masculine Bloomsbury counterpart. The Sloane Square branch has a softer, more English aesthetic, with white wicker headboards, velvet cushions and BeeKind toiletries in the guestrooms. These feminine touches contrast nicely with the mini-chain’s feng shui touches, Eastern-inspired treatment room and sleek aquarium. Breakfast and cold dishes are served in a bar-restaurant with a modernised farmhouse feel, while Pellicano serves Italian food.
San Domenico owes much of its tasteful, historic look to interior designer and one-time owner Sue Rogers, who transformed this former private residence into a boutique hotel masterpiece in which all the categories of guestroom feature original furnishings or antiques. Royal portraits, Victorian mirrors and Empire-era travelling cases are complemented by fabrics of similar style and taste, offset by contemporary touches to bathrooms. The spacious bedrooms enjoy wide-angle views of London, some from little balconies.
This isn’t the only hotel in London to provide butlers, but to our knowledge it is the only one that offers ‘a secured gun cabinet room’ for the hunting season. This is traditional British hospitality for those who love stern portraits in the halls but all mod cons in their room, down to TVs in the en suite. The modern wing houses a swanky spa and 60 square-metre swimming pool.
The mini-chain’s second London hotel shares the virtues of the first, with obliging service, crisply designed rooms (most with balconies) with colourful decor and all mod cons, and quirky but appealing touches, like free local calls, jelly beans and internet, and an iron and kettle in the room. More traditional facilities like a gym and well-priced breakfast menu add to the appeal, and prices are decent for the City location.
Right at the ExCeL convention centre exit, Aloft, from the swanky W chain, is refreshingly original. Service is winningly offhand and rooms nicely finished, including a remote keyboard to operate the telly, free wifi, and a decently appointed wet room. Your room card also gets you into the pool and fitness centre, which includes a steam room and sauna.
On the touristy side of Paddington and within a brisk walk of the appealing Merchant Square development, this small budget hotel is a retro-futurist dream, with metal panelling, lots of royal blue and pod bathrooms. The studio and apartment around the corner above a pub are more minimalist chic, but like the rest of the hotel, which offers rooms from around £100, a bargain – respectively, £120–£150 and £150–£200, with breakfast included.
If you’re on a budget, the fast-expanding Z chain is a cast-iron bargain. In this one, the breakfast room/bar exits onto Old Compton Street, and the hotel behind it is chic and cheerfully run, down to free wine and nibbles of an evening. The 85 rooms are small but have everything you need. Around the corner, Z Piccadilly offers more of the same, with en suite shower-only wet rooms and a well-priced buffet breakfast.
Owners Danny (a former model) and his sister Noshi Karne describe their Paddington hotel as ‘fashion rock ’n’ roll’; we think it’s excess at its best. Different-themed rooms (including ‘Honky Tonk Afro’, a tribute to the 1970s and the slightly alarming-sounding ‘Better Red than Dead’) have housed an impressive list of smart celebrities who clearly know excellent value when they see it.
100 best hotels in London: 71-80
The 39 masculine rooms at this Grade II-listed Georgian house near Westminster are a gadget fan’s dream: there’s underfloor heating in the bathroom, while lighting and curtains are all operated by finger-tip control pads. Our favourite? The one that turns the ‘smart glass’ of the bathroom walls opaque for privacy. Oh, and no kids under 13.
It may not be the crème de la crème, but as no list of London hotels would be complete without at least one Earl’s Court entry, Twenty Nevern Square wins out for an immaculate modern-colonial style. Exotic and antique furnishings are everywhere, with the beds the stars of the show, from elaborately carved four-posters to Egyptian sleigh styles, all with luxurious mattresses. Try to wangle one of the rooms that look out onto the pretty eponymous square.--
The Dutch invasion of stylish budget hotels continues with this Brick Lane offering focused on community and sustainability: the hotel works with local cycling charity Bikeworks and with Food Cycle. Rooms that are individually styled in bright tones and determinedly youthful, fresh decor start from just under £58 a night (for the ‘smart’ room with no view) but all have TVs, rain-shower bathrooms, free tea and coffee and wifi throughout.
The central feature of the Hub’s ‘concept’, courtesy of budget chain Premier Inn, is an app that controls everything from booking and checking in to basic room controls and even a guide to the local area. The rooms are small but well-designed, and keenly priced for their locations; along with this one, there are branches at Tower Bridge, Brick Lane, Goodge Street and Westminster, all with rooms starting at £69.
Two grand Victorian South Kensington townhouses make up this wonderfully OTT fin-de-siècle period piece, founded by descendants of Captain Cook. Bedrooms all have fantastic nineteenth-century carved oak beds, and the suites are spectacular: tragedy queens should plump for the Judy Garland room with her old bed (and replica ruby slippers).
This dependable budget option in a great Bloomsbury location has private rooms for £50 or so a night, an in-house cinema and individual room lockers (bring your own padlock). There’s free wifi throughout, 24-hour laundry, reception and luggage store, and a lounge that hosts regular gigs and DJs.
Granted, it’s not quite the Langham and you’re more likely to bump into BBC bods down from Salford than the celebs who’ve flown in for ‘The Graham Norton Show’, but the Langham Grange Court is almost as close to the BBC TV Centre as its more famous namesake, and double rooms start at less than £100, so it’s perfect for a weekend of shopping and sightseeing. The modern, airy rooms feature luxury marble bathrooms, there’s a stylish French restaurant, and the distinctive black and white exterior make it very easy to find.
There aren’t too many first-class hotels around Lincoln’s Inn Fields, which is a shame as it’s just far enough away from Covent Garden to be a haven from the teeming masses – and the quiet courtyard outside this restored Edwardian mansion helps. Inside, contemporary design is mixed with original art nouveau features in rooms with marble bathrooms, Nespresso coffee machine and Czech & Speake toiletries. The spa’s gorgeous too, but our favourite thing? The 200 single-malt whiskies on offer in the bar.
A luxury hotel with a boutique feel, the May Fair is colourful, excessive and a cut above the safe design directions that some five-star hotels take. Lush tones and sumptuous fabrics are the order of the day here, in both public spaces like the indoor May Fair terrace and through to the rooms, which include an entertainment system with a choice of music and movies.
Craftsman José Raido is behind this attractive and original family-run hotel, near Camberwell Green. A Hispanic theme dominates: think funky bathroom tiles in the bright, high-ceilinged bedrooms, for example, and imported Mexican film posters, while the bed frames were forged by José himself. A good breakfast is served for £5, and there’s an honesty bar too, not to mention plenty of local buzzing options to whet your appetite and easy access to nights out in Brixton and Peckham.
100 best hotels in London: 81-90
The sprightly offspring of the venerable Dorchester, which it faces across a twinkly-treed forecourt, has translated the famously high standards of its parent into a buzzier, boutiquier form. A personal host is sharply suited in grey, you can borrow folding bikes, and rooms come with considered touches such as a yoga mat, designer glassware and in-safe electrical outlet. Technology is state of the art, with TVs embedded in the bathroom mirror (so that you can watch from the giant marble bath); and touchscreens controlling room functions electronically.
This small, fashionable townhouse hotel fills a couple of Grade II-listed Georgian residences with sharply appointed rooms graded according to size. All have a cool and trendy look, with cafetières and ground coffee as well as TVs. The decision to combine the bar and reception desk (situated at the back of the house) means you can get a drink at any time and retire to the graciously modern lounge. Service is at once sharp and very obliging.
In 2007 the red-brick Great Eastern became the first of Hyatt’s new Andaz portfolio, bringing in down-to-earth, well-informed service and eco-friendliness in an affordable but upscale space. The bedrooms wear style-magazine uniform – Eames chairs, Frette linens – but free services (local calls, healthy minibar) are an appreciated touch. Food and drink options include British nosh at the 1901 restaurant in a magnificent former ballroom with a stained-glass dome and a traditional pub, and the cinema – set in the basement Masonic Temple, a feature of the original hotel – appropriately favours horror movies.
Threadneedles boldly slots some contemporary style into a fusty old dame of a building that was formerly the grand Victorian HQ of the Midland Bank, bang next to the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange. The etched glass-domed rotunda of the lobby soars on columns over an artful array of designer furniture to create a calm but stunning space. Bedrooms are individual, coherent and soothing examples of City-boy chic, in muted beige and textured tones.
The foyer of this first London Dorsett (two more are on the way in the City) has serious wow factor, soaring up as it does through the hotel’s eight storeys with rich wooden wraparound balconies creating a warm but impressive introduction. Beyond it, 317 rooms mix modern architecture and design with original art deco features from the Grade II-listed former cinema overlooking Shepherd’s Bush.
An affordable hotel with tons of charm in the heart of Bloomsbury, the perkily styled Harlingford has light, airy rooms with evident boutique aspirations. The decor is lifted from understated sleek to quirky with the help of vibrant splashes from coloured glass bathroom fittings and mosaic tiles, creating something of a Scandinavian feel. The crescent it’s set in has a private garden where you can lob a tennis ball about by day or just dream under the trees on a summer’s night.
There’s a definite upscale masculine vibe at Ten Manchester Street; with classic but stylish decor, a lounge bar and an all-weather cigar terrace, it was designed as a place to sip a whiskey while puffing on a hand-rolled Cohiba before bedtime. Rooms are fairly compact but, on the plus side, the Edwardian building is well-located on a quiet back street that’s close to Marylebone’s upmarket restaurants and designer shops.
The Jenkins has been a hotel for almost a hundred years, though it was refurbished in 2013 and features everything you might expect in terms of amenities, including free wifi. The buffet breakfast is free too and the location, overlooking Cartwright Gardens in Bloomsbury, is as convenient as it is pretty. With rooms from less than £100, it’s a steal.
Funny thing: most designers (other than fashion ones) can’t afford design hotels. Not so Green Rooms, a new social enterprise that actually supports art and design, not least by offering visiting creative types a reduction on the already modest room and dorm rates (and yes, they check!). Furnishings are simple but stylish, with some items by fashion label Folk, and there’s a vibey café/bar plus regular out-there arts events. It’s in a converted art deco office building, out of the centre but near Wood Green tube for a speedy journey in.
The Sumner’s cool, deluxe looks have earned it many fans, not least in the hospitality industry, where it’s won a number of awards. You’ll understand why when you get here: from the soft dove and slatey greys of the lounge and halls you move up to glossily spacious accommodation with brilliant, huge showers. The breakfast room has vibrant Arne Jacobsen chairs to cheer you on your way to the museums, but the stylishly moody front sitting room is also a cosy gem.
100 best hotels in London: 91-100
Check in at the handsome attached boozer before heading to the separate front entrance for the hotel and a handful of well-appointed, atmospheric and surprisingly luxurious rooms. All are different, but the high-spec facilities (big TVs, drench shower) and quirky attention to detail (bottles of ale in the minibar) are common throughout. Expect some noise in the early mornings as the traders roll in, but proximity to the historic Smithfield meat market also means a feisty pub fry-up in the morning.
The Portobello has hosted the likes of Johnny Depp, Kate Moss and Alice Cooper (who used his bath tub to house a boa constrictor) over the last half century, but it’s a pleasingly unpretentious place, with a more civilised demeanour than its legend might suggest. The rooms are themed – the superb basement Japanese Water Garden, for example, has an elaborate spa bath, its own private grotto and a small private garden – but all are stylishly equipped.
This Bayswater branch exudes owner Mayflower Group’s signature style – modern, modish and moderately priced. The lobby and lounge are slick and glamorous, and the rooms are low-key with some vibrant, twirly eastern influences. Some of the larger family rooms retain their elaborate period pillars and cornicing. The bathrooms are a symphony in marble; the huge showers have deluge heads. There’s a pleasant little patio, upstairs at the back, for morning coffee and evening drinks.
Step into the hall or comfortably furnished sitting room of this imposing townhouse and it feels like the gracious home of a slightly dotty uncle, with decor in the public spaces comprising colonial swords and historic prints. Each room has its own style – from cool contemporary lines to a softer, more homely feel – and all are well equipped with kitchen appliances. The pretty garden with its fountain and heady scent of jasmine is a shady stunner.
After fighting on the front lines of the Earl’s Court budget-hotel style revolution, the Mayflower’s taken the struggle to other parts of London with the New Linden. But this is where the lushly contemporary house style evolved, proving that affordability can be opulently chic. Hand-carved Asian artefacts complement the richly coloured fabrics, and facilities are well up to scratch, featuring marble bathrooms, and Egyptian cotton sheets.
Tune now has five London hotels, and while the chain’s not as stylish as the Qbic, Z or Hub – we’re not sure about the lipstick red everywhere – the prices are keen (from £57) and locations are convenient: the Folgate Street one is brilliantly handy for Liverpool Street, and the original is across the river from the Houses of Parliament. To keep costs low pretty much everything aside from the bed is an optional add-on, including wifi and towels.
A bed for £17 in hipster-haven Shoreditch makes it onto our list for being the perfect club kids’ spot; right at the axis of Kingsland Road and Old Street and so walking – or crawling – distance from the East End’s best dancing spots. There’s a bar downstairs, Translate, too and also a laundrette, a café, a small interior courtyard and an even smaller roof terrace. There are dorm beds and private rooms (with TVs, kettle and coffee). Breakfast is free and includes the highly prized bagels from nearby Brick Lane.
There aren’t many places this close to Portobello Market that deliver such excellent value for money and impeccable service. Rooms have a bright, modern look and plenty of space, and the lounge, with its wood floor, leather-covered furniture, sprightly floral wallpaper and elegant mantelpiece, is a lovely place to linger.
The Clink hostel set the bar high for a party-style space when it opened in a 200-year-old ex-courthouse where the Clash once stood before the beak. Original wood-panelling and street-art decor create a winning mix, and the ClashBAR is a great space to reminisce about the best gigs ever. Other courthouse hotels are available nowadays, but they won’t come as cheap or grungily authentic as the Clink.
This family-run bed and breakfast is set in a converted factory in the conservation area of De Beauvoir Town in Islington and has four en suite rooms that surround a stylish loft space. A shared dining room-lounge area where guests have free run of the kitchen, a self-service breakfast and a courtyard garden make it feel homely, though if you want to explore, you have all of Dalston’s cafés and restaurants around the corner.
Find more hotel inspiration in London
Choosing the best romantic hotels in London was never going to be an easy task. We defy anyone to walk across Waterloo Bridge with your beloved by your side and not feel your heart glowing. The city really is one of the best places on earth to be loved up, especially if you pick a hotel where there’s champagne on arrival, breakfast is served in bed and the views will make your hearts soar.