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The best historic and iconic hotels in London

From a Georgian lodging house to art deco glamour, here are the best historic and iconic hotels London has to offer

Written by
Danielle Goldstein
&
Time Out editors
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Listing London’s best historic and iconic hotels is simple – it’s keeping it to just ten that’s the challenge. The seventeenth-century George Inn is the city’s last remaining galleried coaching inn, but is now run as a pub, so we start instead as Regency London becomes Victorian: with nineteenth-century temples to opulent leisure and grand railway hotels.

There are also a growing number of period reconstructions in London, the best of which can catch the atmosphere of an era as brilliantly as a costume drama. And then there are high points in the history of modern hotels in the Big Smoke, including pioneers like homegrown architect Oswald Milne and supposedly the first ever boutique hotel (tied with San Fran, but we'll take it). Enjoy our personal picks of the best historic and iconic hotels in London.

Looking for more options? Check out London’s best Airbnbs

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  • Hotels
  • Boutique hotels
  • Soho
  • price 3 of 4

In 1830 a hack writer moved into a Georgian lodging house at 6 Frith Street, where he died in poverty. That was William Hazlitt and he was the greatest essayist of the Romantic era. The site of his home was given a diligent, atmospheric period reconstruction, creating an idiosyncratic hotel of wood panelled walls, portraits and antique furniture, where you’ll feel like you’re sleeping in Regency London – albeit with proper plumbing and 24-hour room service.

Brown's
  • Hotels
  • Mayfair
  • price 4 of 4

Opened in 1837 – the very dawn of Victorian London – by a manservant and a former maid to Lord Byron’s sister, Brown’s was destined to become one of London’s grandest hotels. It’s something of a Zelig, popping up at key moments of history – to host Britain’s first phone call in 1876, the Roosevelts' honeymoon, Haile Selassie and even the Dutch declaration of war on Japan during World War II.

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Great Northern Hotel
  • Hotels
  • King’s Cross

If you’re after a hotel to represent the great era of railway hotels, that period when rail companies sought to bolster their reputations by providing grandiloquent station accommodation, you’d choose the Midland Grand (now the St Pancras Renaissance), right? Wrong! The St Pancras is a sensational building, yes, but as a hotel, we prefer the more adventurous rebirth of its older (1854) and curvier King’s Cross rival, the Great Northern.

Claridge's
  • Hotels
  • Mayfair
  • price 4 of 4

You wanted history and Claridge's has it in spades. Originally known as Mivart's, when it was founded in 1812 by the father of biologist St George Jackson Mivart, the hotel was sold to the Claridge family in 1854. Since then it's played host to Queen Victoria, Audrey Hepburn, Mick Jagger and Winston Churchill, and Crown Prince Alexander II of Yugoslavia was actually born in suite 212. A Golden Age glamour runs throughout, with a lobby designed by art deco pioneer Oswald Milne.

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  • Hotels
  • Strand
  • price 4 of 4

You can keep the Ritz – it’s just a knock-off of the Paris original anyway. Nope, when it comes London hotel names that everybody knows, the Savoy’s our pick. Opened by Richard D’Oyly Carte in 1889 as an adjunct to his theatre, he not only grabbed César Ritz as manager, but also bagged French chef Escoffier – 'the king of chefs and the chef of kings' no less. The Savoy has the cocktailing pedigree of the American Bar, too, and suites from which Monet painted the Thames.

The Beaumont
  • Hotels
  • Mayfair

The Beaumont reopens August 20.

Given its proximity to the Grade II-listed Selfridges building, it'll come as no surprise that this was once the parking garage for well-to-do shoppers of the 1920s. Until, that is, renowned restaurateurs Corbin and King turned it into the stunning five-star hotel that inhabits the site today. It was taken over in 2018 by the Barclay brothers, owners of The Ritz, who have since added a new all-day dining lounge dubbed The Gatsby Room and sheltered al fresco dining terrace looking out over Brown Hart Gardens, which only accentuate the Art Deco glamour thanks to the French architect who designed them, Thierry Despont.

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Blakes
  • Hotels
  • Chelsea
  • price 4 of 4

Blakes makes a strong case for having been the world’s first boutique hotel – that buzzword category of small, individualist, design-led places that started to pop up across the globe from the early 1980s. Anouska Hempel’s pioneering property certainly fits the definition, leading the way with its cosmopolitan, orientalist vibe and rooms designed with individual character, rather than to fit a convenient template.

The Hoxton, Shoreditch
  • Hotels
  • Shoreditch
  • price 2 of 4

We all deserve a little luxury now and again, even if our budgets only stretch to the £150/night mark. So big thanks to The Hoxton for pioneering the airline pricing strategy – earliest bookings get the cheapest rates – and bringing high-end design to the masses. This Shoreditch site is the OG of the chain, which was created by Pret A Manger's co-founder Sinclair Beecham, with sister sites in Holborn, Amsterdam, Paris and America.

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  • Hotels
  • Boutique hotels
  • Seven Dials
  • price 4 of 4

We’d argue that Kit Kemp’s Firmdale hotels are the most influential this millennium, with her trademark oversized headboards and bold, clashing colours, the all-round artiness of her interiors and her top-class facilities (an in-house cinema here, a bowling alley there) now echoed across the luxury sector. But with Firmdale you never feel your comfort is being compromised by design dictates, especially at our ageless fave: the Covent Garden Hotel.

Shangri-La at The Shard
  • Hotels
  • London Bridge

Last but not least, the modern London icon about which the word ‘iconic’ gets bandied more than any other: the hotel occupying floors 34-52 of The Shard. What could be more ego-boosting than staying somewhere you can see from pretty much everywhere in London, and from which you can see pretty much everything in London? At the top, the Gong cocktail bar is good fun and swimming in the skinny infinity pool even more so.

B.COM London Widget

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