London can be an expensive place, but if you're coming for a relatively short stay suddenly the luxury hotel scene opens right up to you. There are few better cities in the world to have a short term blow out, where the building you're staying in is as memorable as the city around it.
Or maybe you're a Londoner who just needs to step outside of your own four walls, away from your own bed, for a night or two? If lockdown taught us anything, it’s that a change of scenery does us good every now and again.
Here we round up the best London hotels for a short stay with your significant other. They range from the reasonable to the high end of the price scale, but they all have a special something to recommend them above the rest.
The one with Seventies cool: The Standard
A red bubble lift is the only pop of colour on the beautiful brutalist facade of The Standard Hotel in King’s Cross (the group’s first London outpost), but it’s a sign of things to come. Walk inside, straight through to the open plan lounge/bar/restaurant, and you’ll be met with a tribute to confidently cool Sixties and Seventies interior design – Austin Power’s swinging London with a dash of counterculture Hollywood Hills; walnut panelling, soft leather sofas, furry walls and shag carpeting, geometric shapes and optical-art murals – all conceived by American designer Shawn Hausman. He was inspired by the building’s previous life as a library during that period, so you’ll find a selection of carefully curated books in the lounge too.
Venture up into one of the 266 rooms, and you’ll discover tastefully kitsch homages to London transport designs (in the rooms facing St Pancras), minimalist mixes of relaxing wood furnishings and plants (in the windowless Cosy Core rooms at the centre of the building), and in some of the suites towards the top of the building, an al fresco bathtub and private bars (as well as complimentary raincoats. Not quite as glamorous, granted, but very, very useful in London).
The luxurious suites would be a worthy location for a cocktail party, but there are already plenty of places to do that within the hotel: walk past the DJ-booth in the lounge and you’ll find the swanky Double Standard and Isla bar/restaurants (the former sells delicious dive bar staples, the latter seafood and small plates). Then there’s Decimo on the 10th floor, where Michelin-starred chef Peter Sanchez-Iglesias merges the Spanish food of his upbringing with the Mexican food he’s grown to love. And last but certainly not least, you can shoot up to the rooftop bar, which provides panoramic views across the capital (and a top tier cocktail menu, of course.) There are plenty of specials on, too, including a self-care suite and a 'stay for three, pay for two' deal.
The one with an unbeatable location: ME London
It's hard to imagine a slicker all-round package for a one-night weekend stay than the Foster & Partners-designed ME hotel in the old Marconi building at one end of the Aldwych opposite Waterloo Bridge. From the moment you arrive in the reception area which features an impressive 30 metre atrium, it's hard not to feel as if you have docked onto a luxury space station. The minimalist and monochrome rooms are cleverly kitted out and include various light settings which only add to the sci-fi feel. Upstairs is a very cool terrace which serves brunch during the day and becomes a destination bar by night.
The STK steak restaurant is glamorous and buzzy, while the in-house Italian is a little more laid-back. Oh, and did we mention the location that perfectly straddles East and West, and is within throwing distance of a post-checkout stroll along the Thames or shopping trip to Covent Garden. A booking you won't regret.
The one that stands tall: The Stratford
Walk out of Stratford International Station, look up, up and up again, and you’ll be met with one of London’s most unique skyscrapers: the Manhattan Loft Gardens. Opened in the summer of 2019 and dreamed up by the architects behind the Burj Khalifa and One World Trade Centre, this double-cantilevered tower is sliced open by gravity-defying sky gardens and features both apartments and a hotel, which is all part of an ambitious plan to create a ‘vertical community’ in the skyline of the rejuvenated postcode.
The hotel is called The Stratford, and it occupies the first seven floors of the building. And while you’d expect the glass-panelled drama to follow you inside, things become far more calming as soon as you enter. Danish design studio Space Copenhagen, who were responsible for the first Noma restaurant, have given the interior an airy Scandinavian feel, with high ceilings, mid-century furnishings and earthy tones throughout. The impressive rooms are just as understatedly luxurious and soothing, with stone bathrooms, soft bedrooms and floor-to-ceiling windows – which means plenty of great natural lighting for all those braggy Instagram photos you’re bound to take.
In terms of food options, there’s the much-raved-about Allegra restaurant on the seventh floor and Kitchen E20 by the entrance. The latter is overseen by Head Chef Josh Deacon (formerly of the Stratford Brasserie), who arrived after lockdown and has crafted a modern British menu with an Australasian influence. Like everything else at The Stratford, it is unpretentious and impressive. Then there’s the sky terrace on the seventh floor – well worth the entry price alone.
The one with the unforgettable rooms: Blakes
This magnificent 5 star Kensington boutique can lay claim to being perhaps London's most stylish hotel for numerous reasons - from the Victorian town house exterior to the gorgeous bar area - but it is the rooms that really stand out. Originally established by the celebrated designer Anouska Hempel, each one is the essence of unfussy sophistication full of delightful details. Not for nothing is Blakes a cult choice among many of the capital's visiting artists and designers.
Food-wise you're onto a winner too. The restaurant, freshly renovated as of last summer, aims to conjure up the interior of 'a beautiful old fashioned steamer sailing up the Bosphorus'. Quite how accurate that is we're not sure, but the contemporary, Mediterranean-influenced menu attracts non-guests from all around the city for good reason (we recommend the grilled octopus and lobster paccheri pasta) - intimate and cheerful yet glamorous, it is one of the best dining spaces in London.
The one with the cheese: No. 10 Manchester Street
From its glorious West London red brick façade through to its smart, chic rooms and excellent in-house restaurant, No. Ten Manchester Street is a classic example of a four star hotel that feels by and large like a five star. Throw in one of the best locations imaginable for a relaxed exploration of the city away from the chaotic tourist beats of Trafalgar Square et al, and you’ve got a great option for any weekend stay.
Even more so, at the moment. The hotel has rustled up a package deal in which guests can enjoy a two-night stay in an executive room that includes an experience at nearby cheese mecca La Fromagerie. The small, charming restaurant is a perfect romantic spot to dip some charcuterie and potato in a classic Fondue Savoyarde – washed down with a crisp Chignin Vers les Alpes. It’s an Alpine treat, only with no mountains outside. Unless you decide to climb the Tower of London afterwards, we suppose. Hurry, though: the £315 package ends this year.
The one for serious shoppers: The Arch London
The Fenwicks food hall. The menswear floor at Selfridges. Flagship stores for Burberry, Michael Kors, Apple and many more. There's no doubt the space between Bond Street, Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus make up the best area in London to spend a little money and treat yourself. The problem is it's hectic as all hell.
What you need is a quiet, luxurious and beautifully finished boutique hotel you can escape to without so much as a single stop on the tube: welcome to The Arch on Great Cumberland Place, the ideal launchpad for hitting the January sales. A blend of Georgian grandeur and English heritage (and modern facilities, natch), it's a five star hotel with an easy-going atmosphere and - in Hunter 486 (pictured) - one of the best restaurants in the area.
The one with the atrium: The Landmark London
In a city not exactly short on impressive dining spaces, the restaurant at The Landmark London still manages to be breathtaking. Positioned beneath an eight-storey glass roof and lined with palm trees and balconies, the effect is feeling like you're in an exotic outdoor plaza in sunny climes rather than a 5 star hotel a stone's throw from Baker Street.
Luckily, the food matches the setting, with sumptuous modern-European cuisine served by night and one of the best breakfasts in the city come morning. The rooms, too, are delightful: tasteful and spacious.
The Landmark London is charmingly old-fashioned (afternoon tea is still a cornerstone of its appeal, as is the slightly chintzy decor), a quality that extends to a quietly luxurious atmosphere and impeccably attentive staff.
The one with the best views: Shangri-La
The real reason to pick the Shangri-La over any other luxury hotel in London is, of course, the breathtaking views. Located at the top of The Shard – the capital's tallest (and increasingly iconic) structure – the whole of the city is on display, whether you're eating, swimming or propped up on your bed. Watching the light change in the sky as London sleeps, wakes, works and plays is really something special. Luckily, the hotel and its staff do not rest on their laurels as a result of the Shangri-La's huge advantage – the rooms are immaculate, the European-Asian food and inventive cocktails superb (at TĪNG and GŎNG respectively) and the indoor pool at (almost) the very top is a small slice of heaven. Then even run regular Cultural Salon events too – the first was with designer Paul Smith, with many more exciting speakers planned for the year ahead.
The one with the hidden secrets: Batty Langley's
It's hard to know where to begin describing this boutique hotel in Shoreditch, so let us start by listing some things it is not: modern, sleek, minimalist, boring. Instead, it's a slightly bonkers, absolutely beautifully designed and fantastically original Downton Abbey-esque bolthole situated (somewhat incongruously) on the cusp of East London's trendiest quarters. Full of books, fireplaces and ornate touches, it bucks every contemporary trend for hotels and is all the better for it.
There is no restaurant at Batty Langleys (although a wonderfully cosy and well-stocked honesty bar is free to use and they will deliver an A+ bacon sandwich to your room for breakfast), meaning most of the focus has been put onto the rooms. They are uniformly stunning - lavishing appointed with cheeky and surprising design details (one has a toilet accessible via hidden door in the book case). It really is like stepping into another era, and yet the feel is fun, not stuffy. For an imaginative choice in a great part of town, look no further.
The beautiful one: 11 Cadogan Gardens
From the entrance onwards, it is clear that a visit to 11 Cadogan is a visit to one of London's most aesthetically pleasing boutique hotels. Inside the sumptuous drawing room, library and terrace only enhance this impression, as do the glorious staircases. Classically British in design, you'll fall for the place right away - and that's before you've even reached the stunning bedrooms - feeling for all the world like the head of an important Victorian townhouse.
Head downstairs into restaurant Tartufo, though, and suddenly you're transported to an elegant example of contemporary fine dining. Chef Manuel Oliveri has put together a menu of contemporary European cuisine that strikes the perfect balance between pristine presentation and full, robust flavours. If you're looking to explore Chelsea and Knightsbridge, you won't find a more relaxing and satisfying base than this.
The one with the whisky: Athenaeum
This family-run 5-star hotel in Mayfair is as charming and perfectly located a spot as you could wish for, with one significant upperhand over most its rivals. 270 bottles decorate their specially appointed whisky bar, manned by an expert Sommerlier. Walk in an amateur, leave an expert in the greatest drink of them all, and what foods to pair it with.
The one with the history: The Savoy
The name alone conjures the height of British glamour, as it has more or less since the doors first opened in 1889 when it was London's first and only luxury hotel. Today, the rich history of The Savoy sits comfortably alongside first class modern service and facilities – the art deco of the famous American Bar is joined by the contemporary luxury of the Beaufort Bar, and a traditional roast – still one of the best in town – is available, besides the best in modern seafood at Kaspars. Decades on, The Savoy is still among the very best places to stay in town, and no where else can match it for basking in the sense of historic splendour, and thinking of the innumerable famous faces who have passed through it before you.
The one that wants you to go explore: Nadler Victoria
Staying at any of the other hotels on this list – particularly for a short stay – you're going to feel that familiar pressure to make the most of the facilities. The problem with that is you use up valuable time that could be spent exploring one of the best cities in the world. To solve this problem, the Nadler forgoes having its own spa / restuarant / gym and instead set you up with access to equivalent outposts near its enviable location – dinner and a show, for example, at the excellent St James Theatre just next door.
The upshot for you? A beautifully equipped room a stones throw from Buckingham Palace, far lower rates than you'd normally pay for a hotel in the area and the chance to explore rather than stay in 'getting your money's worth'. It's a winning formula.
The one the royals love: The Ritz
The name of this hotel is so tied up in our idea of luxury and British history, it can be hard to believe it actually exists. That sense of unreality is only heightened by actually walking through the doors, where you enter another, far more refined world in which every corner of the building is lavishly appointed and the staff - understandably - ooze with pleasure at where they work. Not for nothing is the Ritz where the royal family prefer to stay: within seconds you feel like royalty, too.
The stunning dining areas - topped by the main restaurant which ranks among the grandest in London - serve peerless British fare, while our favourite spot is definitely The Rivoli, a small bar made up of conspiratorial hubs and corners where the cocktails hit the sweet spot (so often missed in London) between classic and inventive. The rooms are as you'd expect: huge and traditionally glamourous. The Ritz is in one of the best posts in London but really, there is very little chance you'll feel like leaving.
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