The West End – aka the heart of London – spans Covent Garden to Regent Street, and Euston Road to the Thames (though no one can agree on its exact definition). It's synonymous with entertainment and it’s where you’ll find everything from celeb-magnet restaurants to perfect post-work pubs, as well as much of the city’s best shopping. And yes, when it comes to the best hotels, those with deep pockets are well catered for in the West End, but so too are those on backpacker budgets if you know where to look (that's where we come in). Here's our pick of the best hotels in and around the West End.
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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 meets art deco style. Fans who are happy to spend at least half a grand 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. Plus, the location looking out over the river on the Strand is far from a turn-off. As far as sustenance goes, you’ll be in good company: The Savoy Grill, now helmed by Gordon Ramsay, has hosted everyone from Marilyn Monroe to The Queen.
The location of this 82-room, seven-floor, no-frills hotel couldn’t be better if you want to be in the thick of it, flashing-lights and all. Every Hotel is slap-bang between Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus and the 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 no-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 reasonably priced dormitory rooms, twins and doubles, along with a roof garden and guest-only bar. Wifi is free, too, and a buffet breakfast can be had for under a tenner. 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 that 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, theatre/cinema and even 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 ROOM sitting imposingly out front, a sculpture serving partly as a suite, 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. Pleasing touches include four-poster beds, freestanding bathtubs, working fireplaces, an honesty bar and a library, along with contemporary details such as iPod docks, REN toiletries and smart TVs. The knowledgeable front desk staff can help with theatre tickets, restaurant reservations and even club guest lists.
Considering this offering comes from the Soho House crew, the prices are surprisingly affordable. Keep an eye on advance offers and you can get a room for under £150. They're a bit snug, but you're paying for the location. Dean Street is sandwiched between Oxford Street and Shaftesbury Avenue after all, where you'll find prime shopping, eating, theatre, cinema and nightlife. Its in-house eatery is the perfect spot for people-watching in the utmost comfort.
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 a little over a ocuple of tenners, with dorms and private rooms on five floors above a large pizza café and bar (both open to non-guests). The YHA is 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, well, Basement, while Michelin-starred Jason Atherton runs the Edition’s much lauded restaurant, Berners Tavern.
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