The best hotels in South Kensington
The decor here is neatly conceptual: each price band keyed to South Ken’s cultural attractions – astronomy for single/double rooms, music for superior, ornithology for deluxe, and so on. The same low-key attention to detail is carried through the whole property, a Victorian townhouse brought up to date with en suite bathrooms, movies on demand and media hubs. Public spaces include a library and gym, as well as The Drawing Rooms (where you can get snacks) and Apero restaurant.
Looking over the busy road into Kensington Gardens, the Baglioni is appropriately posh for its setting: from the porte cochère to the butlers, who each have responsibility for a floor. This is Italian hospitality on the grand scale – with none of the superciliousness that such luxuriousness might imply. The decor in the public areas has no anxieties about excess, giving them their own charm, but the bedrooms have more self-control and are as a consequence rather chic.
Combining hotel-style 24-hour concierge and basic cooking facilities, these serviced apartments are a good option for businessmen and travellers who want the freedom to fend for themselves. The rooms are smart and bright, if a bit lacking in imagination, with clearly defined living and sleeping areas; the galley kitchens are rather dapper, with black worktops, black-and-white splashback tiling and the full range of equipment. A welcome hamper provides necessities, from milk to dishwasher tablets.
If you want to holiday in 1890s South Ken, the Gore could be your perfect time machine. From a parquet-floored lobby hung with tapestry and antique portraits, the grand staircase sweeps up to bedrooms with bookcases and oak beds, delicately carved in the nineteenth century. The Tudor Room suite is spectacular, with its oak beams, grand fireplace and fifteenth-century minstrels’ gallery, but a more modern sensibility added the flat screen telly – and the cocktail list at Bar 190.
Grand rows of white stucco townhouses characterise South Ken: the Kensington is in one such. Its rooms are a refined mix of pale shades with pops of bright colour to make sure you’re paying attention, and gain extra points for such show-stopper furnishings as a beautifully lacquered four-poster bed or the free-standing bathtub with gold claw feet. While the interconnecting restaurant rooms are a bit subdued, despite some striking art, funky naked-bulb chandeliers dramatically illuminate the bar.
We cynical Brits might be tempted to describe the London outpost of this German chain as a hostel, but it’s certainly a cut above what you’d expect under that category. In addition to dormitories, there are private twin and four-person rooms, sparsely but pleasantly done out, and appealing public spaces including a café-bar, games area and terrace, as well as free wifi throughout the premises and 24-hour reception. The location is superb, right next to the Natural History Museum.
Kit Kemp has built an empire of exquisitely designed, calm and welcoming hotels. Of her Firmdale group, this is the most affordable – yet, oddly, it is one of our favourites. Through the ground-floor public rooms, her attention to detail (the fresh flowers, decorations cut from bird books into pop-ups) is evident, and the bedrooms are bright with bold colours and full of light. There’s something spring-like about the hotel – even in the depths of winter.
This B&B slumbers happily on a square near Kensington Gardens, just a short walk from the Albert Hall and the museums. It hasn’t moved with the times – but then its return guests clearly don’t feel it needs to, drawn back to an atmospheric Victorian townhouse where the chandeliers, gilt-framed mirrors and bold wallpaper of a rather grand entrance hall lend a little pizzazz to the rather more pastel-shaded but good-sized rooms.