The best hotels on South Bank
There’s usually a moment, when recommending an affordable hotel, when you have to hedge your bets: it’s good, but… Not so for CitizenM. It’s well designed, with the ground floor comprising a stylish café-bar and lounging area, as well as the DIY check-in (if you’re a newbie, there are staff on hand to help – and offer upgrades when available). The tiny rooms pack in everything you need, from tech to proper drench showers.
You know what you’re getting with a Marriott: business-smart decor, mod cons and smooth service that means you could be anywhere in the world and still know you’re at a Marriott. But you’re not anywhere in the world: you’re right on the Thames, amid the grandeur of County Hall, almost directly opposite the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, and in the shadow of the London Eye. Oh, and with a swimming pool too.
Right on the river by Blackfriars Bridge, about midway between the National Theatre and Tate Modern, the Mondrian is a tremendous addition to the hotels here. Actually designed in 1977 as a luxury hotel, the building languished as offices until 2014, when it fulfilled its original function and opened as high-design, beautifully equipped accommodation. The interiors evoke an ocean-going liner; the adventurous cocktails at Dandelyan are entirely out of this world. There’s another bar on the 12th floor and an arthouse cinema downstairs.
County Hall has a second hotel – and, amazingly, it’s affordable. High demand means this isn’t London’s cheapest Premier Inn, nor is the location as brilliant as the Marriott’s (the Premier Inn is tucked in the back corner of the building, away from the river), but you’re a minute’s walk from the London Eye, Sea Life London Aquarium, Shrek’s Adventure and London Dungeon, making this an ideal place to stay for families.
Just off the South Bank proper, you’ll nevertheless see the Shard – it’s currently the tallest building in western Europe. It is also where you’ll find the city’s first Shangri-La, the super-luxury Asian hotel brand. Occupying the middle floors of this extraordinary building, the hotel is smart, with good service, and topped off by a cocktail bar and one of the highest swimming pools in the world. And stunning views come as standard in the rooms (though for the best, bag a north-facing one).