Hotel Decider

London's Best Luxury Hotels

By: Alex Swanson

As Samuel Johnson uttered back in 1777, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” Despite the imminence of Brexit, it’s still true that London contains multitudes—the nightlife of New York, the resplendence of Rome, the stylishness of Paris and the antiquities of Athens (quite literally, thanks to our friend Lord Elgin). And, of course, an embarrassment of riches when it comes to luxury hotels. Here’s a local’s perspective on the city’s best options.

45 Park Lane

You’ve probably heard of the Dorchester, but what of its dapper gent of a little brother, 45 Park Lane? This gin martini of a hotel, with its chrome-banded exterior and Art Deco styling, is located just down Park Lane from its grande dame sister. But views of Hyde Park and proximity to Mayfair’s glitzy restaurants aren’t all the 46-room boutique offers. Big pluses include large, all-marble bathrooms, access to the Dorchester’s award-winning spa (when your neighbor has the best in the city, why would include your own?) and a rotation of contemporary British art exhibitions. A stay here calls for a wagyu ribeye at Wolfgang Puck’s in-house CUT, langoustine tempura at nearby Nobu and eggs benedict at The Wolseley.

Who it’s best for: Those who want the amenities of a large London classic, but prefer the seclusion and the personality of a boutique.

Hotel Café Royal

Just off Piccadilly Circus and in the fabulous confluence of Soho, St. James's and Mayfair, the Hotel Café Royal has a history as regal as its Grade-II listed building. Opened as a grand restaurant in 1865 by a French refugee fleeing charges of bankruptcy, the Royal was once considered to have the world’s best wine list and has hosted Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, Winston Churchill, Muhammad Ali and Princess Diana. Becoming a hotel in 2012, it traded bonbons for all-Carrara bathrooms, scones for a spa (which includes a candlelit 60-foot lap pool), and its single restaurant for four. The jewel box interiors of the original restaurant have been restored to full opulence in the Oscar Wilde Bar. Outside, great, rusticated slabs of Portland stone (the only stone that looks good in London’s ever-present rain) remind you that you’re in the heart of the Victorian city: Piccadilly and Theatreland are right outside; Trafalgar Square and the Mall are only a short walk.

Who it’s best for: Anglophile history buffs and literati; theatre-goers who want a cozy crashpad.

Milestone Hotel

The chic, 62-room Milestone Hotel occupies two landmark 1880’s townhouses just off Hyde Park’s southwestern corner—a charming residential area between South Ken and Kensington proper. That translates into neighborhood strolls in the early morning fog and a pint of bitter at a local pub (root out the foliage-covered Churchill Arms). The hotel itself is a hit parade of Old World extravagance: Think four-posters, rich draperies, chandeliers and patterned carpets. In the black-and-white styled Conservatory, guests can learn the art of sabering Champagne; in the Stable Bar, decked out in Highlands tartan, the signature drink is a shisha-perfumed Old Fashioned. Nearby highlights include the Science, Natural History and Victoria & Albert museums as well as a host of high-end restaurants (Indian favorite Zaika is just two steps away).

Who it’s best for: Those who want a residential feel away from the glitz and buzz of Town; Champagne lovers; traditionalists.

Brown’s Hotel

Founded in 1837 by Lord Byron’s valet, Brown’s claims to be London’s oldest hotel. (The fact that Alexander Graham Bell made Europe’s first phone call here is enough to establish its historic bona fides.) But it’s no museum piece. The property, which spans 11 terraced Georgian townhouses in the heart of Mayfair, was acquired by Rocco Forte in 2003 and had its interiors lightened up by his sister Olga Polizzi. Rooms combine antique elements (patinated glass, wood paneling) with contemporary touches. Downstairs, Tracey Emin’s neon proclaims “I loved you more than I can love” in the in-house Hix restaurant while Terence Donovan’s black-and-white photographs paper the walls of his namesake bar. The location rubs elbows with London’s elite, including the boutiques of Bond Street, the tailors of Savile Row and Jermyn Street and a host of high-end antique stores, notably Christie’s King Street flagship.

Who it’s best for: Ladies and gentlemen wishing to stay in the heart of perfectly tailored, upper-class London; serious shoppers.

Ham Yard Hotel

Hoteliers Kit and Tim Kemp’s most ambitious London property, the Ham Yard is no departure from their usual vibrancy. Interior designer Kit’s everything-must-clash attitude has a mesmerizing result: each of the 91 rooms is a cacophony of indulgently patterned furniture and a rainbow of tones (imagine pink herringbone on lime fish-eye). Somehow it all works, and makes for a more dynamic place to explore than some of London’s aging grande dames. Located in a courtyard just off Piccadilly Circus, the U-shaped building wraps around a cloister of boutiques, bars and restaurants and contains a 1950’s bowling lane imported from Texas and a hypoxic training center for enhancing performance. Despite the proximity of Soho and Regent Street, triple-glazed Crittall glass windows keep the noise out.

Who it’s best for: Visitors looking for a new alternative to the quintessential top-hatted London hotel.

The Savoy

Perhaps London’s most famous hotel, the Savoy has kept exemplary service and fine dining close to its heart since opening in 1889. Located right off the Strand and overlooking both the Thames and some of the city’s iconic landmarks, it received the most opulent renovation London has ever seen ($282 million) in 2010, imbuing the historic halls with all the necessary mod cons and fresh interiors. Rooms are now beige-brown, with light wood furnishings and the occasional flash of Art Deco flash in a carpet or framed print. Profanity-proliferating chef Gordon Ramsay serves up traditional British haute-cuisine (yes, it does exist), and the American Bar is justly celebrated by cocktail enthusiasts. It’s a terrific location for art lovers: The Tate Modern is right across the bridge in Southbank, Somerset House is just down the road, and St. Martin-in-the-Fields and the National Gallery are a five-minute walk.

Who it’s best for: Museum-hoppers; traditionalists.