Well established as a design capital — the famed Victoria and Albert Museum was founded in the 19th century as a design museum — London has become the world’s best hotel city.
England’s capital also hosts upstarts like The Hoxton, which opened its first hotel in 2006 in Shoreditch, an East End neighborhood, helping to transform the district and redefine the hotel lobby as a creative hangout, aglow with laptops.
Game-changers like Chiltern Firehouse — opened in 2013, still white hot, and not just because it’s got a secret smoking room — and The Ned, the 252-room hotel and members club opened in 2017 by the founder of Soho House, continue to rewrite the rules of what hotels can be: a place to rest your head, of course, but cultural touchstones, too. That’s why The Standard chose London for its first address outside the United States — on Euston Road in a striking 1974 Brutalist building, opening officially in the fall.
In the city’s current hotel-opening boom times (the Great Scotland Yard Hotel is due late 2019), here are five standouts.
Vintry & Mercer
Named for the 14th-century merchants and traders who established this district as the City of London, this 92-room hotel is 100 percent powered by renewable energy and has a rooftop terrace, where lunch comes with views of St. Paul’s and the Shard.
Velvet headboards, leather door handles and vintage-map wallpaper give the individually designed rooms lush character; lots of plants in the public spaces create a business traveler’s bolt-hole; and Do Not Disturb, an underground speakeasy with leather banquettes and images of Zeigfield Follies girls on the walls, has its own sultry entrance set back on Garlick Hill.
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
Just before a major renovation was to be unveiled last year, a fire ripped through this property, so the old-world behemoth had to be renovated again — for a total cost of $192 million. The results are shockingly luxurious and certainly not for the faint of wallet (nor for anyone with a shopping, er, problem, given the proximity to the fashion temples of Knightsbridge), but well suited to one of the few hotels on Hyde Park.
You can set your Rolex by the Royal Horse Guards riding by every morning at 10:30 on the way to the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.
Very near Tower Bridge and the Tate Modern, this 193-room hotel is a refurbished 1905 magistrate’s court. While there’s a whiff of businessman’s hotel design in the rooms (it’s part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection), some details from the architect John Dixon Butler’s Edwardian original are intact — such as the Y-shaped central staircase.
There are cheeky allusions to the building’s history, too: a coffee table in the Orwell Suite was made from benches etched by former prisoners, a glass chandelier in the lobby is made up of tiny handcuffs, mug shots decorate the Courtroom bar and the coffee roasted on site is called — wait for it — Shakedown.
The original Cadogan Hotel, where Oscar Wilde was arrested in 1895, was built in 1887. After a four-year, $48 million restoration, it’s now a 54-room (and suite) boutique hotel in central London with lots of exclusivity, including access to the mulberry trees and tennis courts of the private Cadogan Place Gardens.
Original design details — working fireplaces, mosaic floors, wood paneling — have been preserved, and rooms have a plush residential vibe with little sofas, intricate molding and eclectic art under recessed lighting. The hotel also landed a couple of key collaborations: with an independent bookshop, John Sandoe Books, for a small library of British literature; and with the chef Adam Handling, a 31-year-old Scottish darling of the London food scene, for its restaurant and all of its food and beverage.
The Hoxton, Southwark
A new 14-story building among the converted factories on the south side of Blackfriars Bridge, London’s third Hoxton hotel is due to open in September. The 192 rooms — designed by Ennismore Design Studio — come in five categories: Shoebox, Snug, Cosy, Roomy and Biggy, all fitted with British-made new and antique furniture.
The rooftop restaurant overlooks the Thames. Perks standard to the brand include a minibar that guests can stock with local products from the hotel’s shop (at supermarket prices) and a free breakfast bag delivered daily to the room.
A new twist: the inclusion of Working From_, a six-floor shared work space within the hotel, with 744 desks, five meeting rooms, its own entrance, a winter garden and a wellness studio with class programming curated by the every-body fitness company Refinery E9.
52 PLACES AND MUCH, MUCH MORE Follow our 52 Places traveler, Sebastian Modak, on Instagram as he travels the world, and discover more Travel coverage by following us on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up for our Travel Dispatch newsletter: Each week you’ll receive tips on traveling smarter, stories on hot destinations and access to photos from all over the world.