Choosing where to lay your head in London can be a tricky affair. With a plethora of snazzy design hotels, some of the grandest, oldest establishments around and a frankly bewildering array of so-so spots offering cheap-as-chips theatre dinners to baffled tourists, it can be tempting to book into the nearest Premier Inn and be done with it.
Well, don’t. Opt for one of these beautiful boutique hotels instead and you’ll be laughing. Trust us.
The Independent’s hotel reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and book, but we never allow this to affect our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.
We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.
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Best for flamboyant design: Zetter Townhouse
The fashionably eccentric interiors at Zetter Townhouse extend from four poster beds fringed with garlands of union jacks, to stuffed kangaroos and miniature wooden boats. Known to some as the home of The Zetter’s “Great Aunt Wilhelmina,” the snug boutique bolthole housed in two grand Georgian buildings also serves some truly terrific cocktails from master mixologist, Tony Conigliaro.
Doubles from £221
Best for an urban setting: The Ham Yard
If you need to be in Mayfair or Soho, Ham Yard is perfectly located as its housed in an “urban village” setting at the bottom of Regent Street. The light-filled modern building is decked out with signature Kit Kemp interiors (all neon lights and furniture are the colour of highlighter pens). Make sure you stop by the dazzling wall of 135 interconnected clocks, and the beautiful fourth-floor roof terrace, which is filled with olive trees, puffs of lavender and vegetable beds.
Doubles from £662 per night
Best for modest budgets: Hoxton Hotel
East London’s first “destination” hotel opened in 2006 and it’s since won legions of fans for its affordable rooms in a great location. Sure, its “shoebox” rooms are on the small side, but they’re smartly designed and you’ll get a fridge stocked with snacks, a cool retro phone to use, fast wifi and access to some of Shoreditch’s coolest street art sites on your doorstep. The enduringly popular Hoxton Grill also serves up pretty great American comfort food from its red leather booths.
Doubles from £138
Best for quirky artwork: Artist Residence
Occupying a handsome five-storey regency terrace in Pimlico, this hotel’s grand surroundings belie its quirky cool interiors. You’ll find other Artist Residences in Brighton, Penzance and Oxfordshire, but the rakish touches to this London branch – scattered kilner vases and bedside tables made from milking stools – as well as a buzzy cocktail bar downstairs and pop art pieces scattered throughout its 10 rooms, make it a must-visit.
Doubles from £225
Best for the fashion crowd: The Mandrake
Remodelled from a Riba-winning building in swanky Fitzrovia, the Mandrake is inspired by its medicinal botanical namesake. When it opened its doors in 2017, the luxury spot (which pays homage to “healing and positive energies”) was an instant hit with the capital’s fashion crowd, who flocked to its moody dark corridors and Instagrammable, foliage-filled inner courtyard. Its 30 texture-filled rooms, set over four floors are some of London’s sultriest.
Doubles from £272
Best for pared-back chic: Boundary Hotel
Unsurprisingly, rooms at Terence Conran’s design hotel The Boundary Project are easy on the eye. Each comes with a handmade bed, clean-lined furniture from Eames, Mies Van de Rohe and Le Courbusier, and original artwork on the walls. You could do worse than to spend an evening on the rooftop bar and grill (with views across London’s East End skyline), and there’s always Redchurch Street round the corner, if you’re in need of some retail therapy.
Doubles from £145
Best for theatre-lovers: Henrietta Hotel
Neighbourhood: Covent Garden
Want to be in the thick of it but don’t want to compromise on style? The Henrietta – the first London outpost from the Paris-based Experimental Group – gives great access to London’s bustling West End, without feeling like a tourist trap. Rooms are a zingy mix of leopard print wallpaper, marble skirting boards and geometric floors, and there’s also an 80-seat restaurant on site for a thoroughly decent pre-theatre dinner.
Doubles from £236
Best for history buffs: Great Northern Hotel
Neighbourhood: King’s Cross
London’s first railway hotel has just got a multi-million-pound refurbish. Dating back to 1854, the charming Great Northern Hotel now stands proud between the Eurostar’s St Pancras terminal and King’s Cross. Mini rooms modelled on sleeper carriages sit alongside pantries filled with tea, coffee and cakes (it’s more “help yourself” than “room service” here), but the main draw is the extra hours’ sleep you’ll get being so close to the train platform – we calculate it as a breezy three-minute dash.
Doubles from £188
Best for a buzzy neighbourhood: Ace Hotel
The Ace Hotel has achieved a rare thing – as well as its jazzily designed restaurant Hoi Polloi on the ground floor, the UK branch of the American indie chain also has a basement club that is genuinely cool – there are no city suits in sight here. Rooms are reasonably priced too and filled with dark wood floors, concrete walls and fun amenities such as record players and acoustic guitars. There are even co-working spaces, an entrance lobby crammed to the rafters with flowers and a sauna on site.
Doubles from £151 per night
Best for museum visits: Number Sixteen
Neighbourhood: South Kensington
Number Sixteen is actually a row of four early 19th-century townhouses, just two blocks from South Kensington tube station – putting you within striking distance of some of London’s most incredible museums and galleries. The entrance is discreet (you may need a helping hand to find it), but once inside you’ll find a smattering of classic Kit Kemp touches, from the beautiful driftwood chandelier in the drawing room, to the striking quality street purple and sunflower yellow pops in the library. Rooms are classy-cool and there’s also a tree-filled private garden for soporific al fresco cocktails.
Doubles from £27
Best for a proper London view: Hotel Cafe Royal
Neighbourhood: Piccadilly Circus
Few hotels have as “London” a location as Hotel Cafe Royal, in a discreet location in a very indiscreet place: Piccadilly Circus. This gorgeous heritage property has retained its historic features (check out the old-school lifts) as well as some seriously starry guests that have included David Bowie and Sir Winston Churchill.
The suite to ask for is 202 (the Regent suite), a vast space with three (three!) balconies overlooking the flashing billboards of London’s most OTT public space, which make the most wonderful, surreal place to enjoy a drink before shuffling downstairs to sushi and grill restaurant Laurent Cafe Royal. The hotel has just launched three-Michelin-star chef Albert Adrià’s Cake & Bubbles concept, where you sip champagne alongside posh desserts, naturally.
Rooms from £440
Best for a sexy vibe: Blakes Hotel
At the end of a gorgeous residential street in Chelsea is matte-black Blakes, one of London’s most coy hotels. Designed by interiors superstar Anoushka Hempel, this five-star boutique toes a cosy line between discreet, sexy and outrageously eclectic: each of the rooms and suites are individually designed (the Biedermeier suite, above, is all black wood, antique furniture and mountains of satin cushions), many with four-poster beds and thick, billowing drapes. Things get racier still in the dim-lit, mirrored Blakes Restaurant downstairs, which at the weekend becomes a Chelsea institution serving decadent plates of burrata, grass-fed rib-eye steak and lobster pasta. The subterranean Blakes Below members’ club, also designed by Hempel, is where things ramp up a notch on weekend evenings with a DJ and beautiful crowd.
From £340 a night
Best for business travellers: Vintry & Mercer
Neighbourhood: The City
Vintry & Mercer is part of a growing band of contemporary leisure hotels in London’s businessy heart. The sister property to Kensington’s Ampersand Hotel is buried amid the narrow streets just behind Mansion House station, home to the City of London’s historic livery halls. It’s from this plum location that Vintry & Mercer takes its name and inspiration: Vintry for the wine heritage, Mercer for fabrics.
Despite its historic location, this 92-room property makes a seriously modern statement: there are plants sprouting from the lobby, bulb lamps and cosy leather armchairs tucked into every corner. Rooms are compact but jauntily decorated, with each design detail reflecting the hotel’s heritage: there’s bespoke fabrics in popping jewel tones, palm leaf wallpaper and antiquated maps of the area (plus a free minibar and upscale C.O. Bigelow toiletries in the bathroom). The Mercer Roof Terrace provides spellbinding views of a City sunset alongside its farm-to-table steaks and fish; while sexy-cosy downstairs speakeasy DND wows with its jewelled photographs and playful barrel-aged cocktails. Inside tip: the Martina, made with rum, lemon juice and soy sauce, is named after the owner’s girlfriend and a solid-gold bet.
Rooms from £175
Best for film buffs: Victory House
Neighbourhood: Leicester Square
Sandwiched between the Prince Charles Cinema and Leicester Square is Victory House, an 86-room boutique overlooking the Odeon cinema. The hotel, housed in a late-19th century building that was once L’Hôtel de l’Europe, is very much inspired by the area: silent films are projected onto the deep purple walls, while cinematic black-and-white photos everywhere give it a whiff of Parisian glamour. The rooms and suites aren’t deluxe in size, but rather thoughtfully designed with gold lamps and hooks; some suites on the sixth floor, the highest in the hotel, come with characterful round portholes and drooping eaves.
Overlooking Leicester Square might not be everyone’s idea of a good night’s sleep, but there’s an answer for that too. Everything inside the rooms and suites at Victory House is included in the rate, including a set of earplugs.
Rooms from £158
Best for afternoon tea: 100 Queen’s Gate
Neighbourhood: South Kensington
Hotel and embassy-strung Queen’s Gate runs between groomed Kensington Gardens and South Kensington, meaning some of London’s best museums and galleries are almost on the doorstep (the V&A and the Natural History Museum to name just two). Technically part of Hilton’s Curio Collection, this boutique-in-vibe property is housed across grand townhouses that were the former home of aristocrat William Alexander.
The rooms and neat and plush, with velvet soft furnishings, fun additions like old-style telephones and cosy fireplaces. Downstairs, suntrap atrium Botanica serves an Instagrammable afternoon tea of traditional sandwiches and scones; while in-res restaurant WA (named after the building’s former proprietor) serves a menu of French fusion dishes. The hotel’s various artefacts – tweezers in a glass cabinet, a portrait of Virginia Woolf – add to the ever-so-slightly cerebral feel.
Rooms from £184
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