Soho might just be the best place to stay in London. Why? Because, despite breakneck-speed gentrification, it’s still managed to retain – just – its independent spirit. It's home to the city’s best department store, Liberty, its best cinema, the Curzon Soho, and many of London's best restaurants, from wallet-friendly street food on Berwick Street to the buzzy, no-booking likes of Bao, or the Michelin-starred Yauatcha.
Similarly, when it comes to rooms – whether you want a bed in a shared dorm or a boutique hotel with famous folk in the lobby – the heart of London welcomes all budgets. Here’s our pick of the best hotels in Soho.
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The best hotels in Soho
As it’s owned by the Soho House group and is surrounded by some of the capital’s media heavyweights (the ground floor restaurant is a popular meeting spot), Dean Street Townhouse can feel a bit glitzy, though essentially these are nobodies – if it’s celebs you’re after, try the Soho Hotel around the corner. Rooms – albeit small ones – can be bagged for as little as £115, but our favourite thing about it is the unassuming terrace out front which offers superlative people-watching.
It’s not all high-end hotels here though. Sohostel is perfect for those not fussed about frills. You’ll find dormitory rooms, twins and doubles (starting at £55), a roof terrace and guest-only bar and roof garden, free wifi, and breakfast (£5). But really it’s the location that’s the star of the show: in the thick of the action, meaning that you could spend a week exploring central London from your base here on Dean Street and never have to set foot on – or have to pay for – public transport.
Soho Hotel, like may of the Firmdale hotels, nails cool, casual luxury. The vibe is very much celeb-on-a-day-off, so nobody is going to give you a funny look if you pitch up for breakfast in tracksuit bottoms and slippers. The design throughout, however, is knowingly and appropriately exclusive: check out the Fernando Botero cat in the lobby or the sumptuous marble bathrooms, which go some way to explaining the hotel’s appeal with famous folk. The two small cinemas on-site might help too.
If you’re on a budget but still looking for a little comfort, head for this branch of the Z hotel just off Old Compton Street. Sure, the rooms are small, and if you’re over six foot the beds are a squeeze, and there are no phones or proper wardrobes, but… really, at this price, for this location, you can’t complain. En suite rooms can be had from £69 and come with organic wool mattresses and duvets from Devon. And as if that wasn’t enough, there’s free wine and cheese in the evenings.
If you’re looking for period charm rather than contemporary artifice, try the four Georgian townhouses that make up this charming hotel, named after William Hazlitt, a spirited eighteenth-century essayist. And by charming, we don’t mean dreary; it’s overflowing with louche touches and staggering attention to detail. Think heavy fabrics, fireplaces, free-standing tubs and exquisitely carved half-testers, yet with modern luxuries in abundance too: air conditioning, double glazing, free wifi and even TVs in antique cupboards.
Like Soho Hotel, Ham Yard is another Firmdale Hotel that does contemporary class well. The group’s co-owner Kit Kemp’s trademark bold use of colour is in evidence, throughout an entire yard that Firmdale has turned into a grandly proportioned hotel, a separate block of hotel apartments and a cluster of boutiques. The central courtyard is well-populated with diners and drinkers on warm days, and although it’s a cavernous endeavour that could feel a little corporate, touches like an on-site library, the cinema/theatre and even a bowling alley make the whole thing feel like fun.
With a name like Sanctum, you might expect a spa-like, cocoon atmosphere rather than what you get here, which is a former MI5 research building turned into what looks like a club. In fact, it can feel like a club too, with a 24-hour bar with a multi-level terrace housing a hot tub. It’s all very rap video – some of the beds in the rooms even rotate – or should that be rock video? There’s even a guitar tuning service at reception.
Another quality budget option in Soho is the Nadler, a simple but stylish 78-room, four-star bolt-hole near Soho Square. Rooms come with Nespresso machines, mini kitchens, air conditioning and free wifi. There’s no bar or restaurant, but the front desk staff are good for local recommendations. Breakfast can be delivered to your room, but with the whole of Soho right on your doorstep, you’re better off popping out.
As the name suggests, this Grade II-listed 116-room five-star hotel is in a converted magistrates court and is perfectly placed for a spree at all the nearby Oxford Street flagships. When you’re done with that, among the attractions back in the hotel are a spa and sauna, a rooftop cocktail bar and even a 100-person private cinema which hosts a regular cult film club. Rooms are modern and well-equipped but it’s in the traditional that the hotel shines, such as its restaurant, Silk, which is housed in a wooden panelled converted courtroom, the site for the trials of John Lennon, Oscar Wilde and Mick Jagger, no less.
Soho is a hard place to pin down. The district – and its southern subsection Chinatown – teems with tourists going to West End shows, media professionals marching to work, hungry patrons sampling some of London's best restaurants and people looking to have a long night out at one (or several) of the area's clubs, bars and pubs.
The Chelsea Harbour Hotel
A five-star hotel right on, yep, Chelsea Harbour. That means you can grab some great views of the marina – as well as the spendy-looking boats bobbing up and down as they wait to hit the waves. The hotel features a health club, spa, valet parking, complimentary wi-fi and childcare, plus food and drinks at the Chelsea Riverside Brasserie, the Terrace and the Harbour Bar.