Best hotels in the West End
One of the grand dames of London’s hotel scene had £220 million spent on its refurbishment in 2010, but still cuts a serious dash with its mix of age-old charm and Edwardian and Art Deco styles. Fans who are happy to spend £500 a night on a room (not including breakfast) return year after year for the super-luxe attention to detail, from the front desk to the bathroom fittings, as well as for the location looking out over the river on the Strand. As far as sustenance goes, you’ll be in good company: The Savoy Grill, now helmed by Gordon Ramsay, has hosted everyone from The Queen to Marilyn Monroe.
The location of this 82-room, seven-floor, no-frills hotel couldn’t be better if you want to be in the flashing-lights thick of it: slap-bang between Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus. What’s more, rooms, which come with tea-making facilities, Nespresso machines, free fast wifi, free soft drinks in the minibar and good rain showers, are pretty sizeable given the price tag. Breakfast is included and there’s a small gym, while a restaurant provides non-fuss fare – pasta, pizza, burgers – which can also be ordered in advance and taken up to your room.
If you want to be adjacent to Oxford Street but not pay through the nose for the privilege, try this cheap and cheerful backpacker hostel in the heart of Soho. You won’t find much in the way of fancy details, but there are dormitory rooms, twins and doubles (starting at a very reasonable £55), along with a roof terrace, roof garden and a guest-only bar. Wifi’s free too, and breakfast can be had for a fiver. For location and price, it’s hard to beat: the whole of the West End is walkable from your base here on Dean Street.
If you’re looking for contemporary glamour with a side of eccentricity, try this Firmdale Hotel, which is perfect for Regent Street, Oxford Street and Soho shopping. It’s a big space which includes a clutch of boutiques and some contemporary apartments set around a central courtyard which is busy in summer with alfresco drinkers and diners. Co-owner Kit Kemp’s imaginative use of colour is in evidence throughout, with eye-catching art and fabrics used to great effect. There’s also a library, a cinema/theatre and even – should the mood strike you(!) – a bowling alley.
Like its sibling up the road just off Old Compton Street, this Z hotel in Piccadilly offers simple but comfortable rooms for less than you’d pay elsewhere, along with the added quirk of free wine and cheese in the lobby every evening between 5pm and 7pm. Rooms are a bit of a squeeze – ditto the beds – and don’t come with fridges, but there are tea- and coffee-making facilities, TVs, free wifi and power showers in the en suite wetrooms. Really though, aside from the wallet-friendly price, the draw here is the location: quiet but super-central.
It’s hard to imagine that central London’s most striking looking hotel was, until a few years ago, that least inspiring of spaces: a car rental garage. Now, with Antony Gormley’s part-suite, part-sculpture ROOM sitting imposingly out front, it looks more like an art gallery than a hotel. Inside, its handsome Art Deco touches and slick, professional service make it a great choice for those looking for cool, luxurious class that’s conveniently located for a quick dash to Selfridges.
Another gem with an unbeatably buzzy Soho location is Hazlitt’s. Named after William Hazlitt, an eighteenth century writer, the hotel comprises four connected Georgian townhouses and oozes traditional decadence with touches like four-poster beds, freestanding bathtubs, working fireplaces, an honesty bar and a library, along with contemporary details like iPod docks, REN toiletries and smart TVs. The knowledgeable front desk staff can help with theatre tickets, restaurant reservations and even club guest lists.
The surprise at this hotel run by the Soho House group is the price. If you book online in advance, rooms can be had for as little as £115. They’re on the small side, sure, but you’re in the heart of the West End with endless shopping, drinking and dining options. If you want to stay put, the ground floor restaurant is popular with local trendy, media folk and the unassuming terrace out front offers some of Soho’s best people-watching.
Another backpacker option which offers private rooms too, is this hostel just a short hop from Oxford Street, and one of six YHA branches in London. There are 104 beds here starting at £23, with dorms and private rooms on five floors above a large pizza café and bar (which are open to non-guests). The YHA are a dab hand at catering for a young crowd on a budget, and this branch showcases its expertise by being tidy, clean and sensibly thought-out – access to rooms is via keycard and there is free wifi.
The Edition has a camp, theatrical feel about it, which is probably unsurprising given that the man behind it is Ian Schrager – he who brought the world Studio 54. It’s a sexy, fancy space: think plenty of marble along with ornate ceilings and a colossal silver egg-shaped objet d’art for a chandelier in the lobby bar. Rooms mix modern-day hunting lodge tropes (dark wood, warm lighting) with sensible, sleek practicality. Naturally, there's an on-site basement club called, ahem, Basement, while Michelin-starred Jason Atherton runs the Edition’s much lauded restaurant, Berners Tavern.