London is one of those cities where it pays to indulge your more expensive tastes—in shopping and dining, of course, but also where you sleep. Stay in one of the city’s top hotels and you’ll not only walk in the footsteps of Hollywood royalty (think Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant), actual royalty (ahem, Kate Middleton), and historical icons (Queen Victoria; Winston Churchill), you’ll also be in close proximity to all of the best sights, from Buckingham Palace to Piccadilly Circus. Find your kind of quintessential English holiday at one of London's best luxury hotels.
In many ways, The Savoy paved the way for London’s current luxury climate. Opened in the Theater District in 1889, it was the first hotel in the city to use electricity and elevators. That grandeur continues today at the landmark 268-room property, where a three-year renovation completed in 2010 has restored the grande dame to its former splendor. Many of Pierre-Yves Rochon–designed rooms overlook the Thames and incorporate Art Deco and Edwardian flourishes, from Murano glass chandeliers to silk curtains. Downstairs, you might have a hard time choosing between the elegant chateaubriand at Gordon Ramsey’s Savoy Grill and the traditional Sunday roast at Simpson’s in the Strand.
It’s where Rudyard Kipling finished The Jungle Book, Agatha Christie was inspired, and Alexander Graham Bell made the first telephone call, but there’s more reason than pedigree to stay at Mayfair’s legendary Brown’s Hotel. Designer Olga Polizzi transformed the 1837 property back in 2005, converting its moody, masculine look into a modern refuge with limestone baths and contemporary art. The assemblage of 11 Georgian townhouses contains 117 neutral-hued rooms, but the public spaces are where the hotel really shines thanks to carefully restored stained-glass windows, oak paneling, and wrought iron bannisters. Don’t miss the sophisticated afternoon tea—a favorite of Queen Victoria—served in the library-like English Tea Room.
When your neighbor is Buckingham Palace, luxury is bound to follow suit. You’ll see it as soon as you arrive at the Ritz London, a Piccadilly stalwart since 1906, where white-gloved doormen welcome you through the revolving entry doors and uniformed staff attend to your every wish. Afternoon tea is served in the Palm Court, a glistening jewel box with crystal chandeliers and gilded surfaces; the setting is rivaled only by the mirror-paneled dining room at the Michelin-starred Ritz Restaurant. After dinner, retire to your guest room, a French-style cocoon clad with traditional floral motifs, silk curtains, and a marble-mantel fireplace.
The Langham, London
Though The Langham’s stately façade honors its past—opened in 1865, it is one of London’s oldest grand hotels—the sumptuous Marylebone property embraces the present with a contemporary aesthetic that’s worthy of the 21st century. All 380 well-appointed rooms feature streamlined furnishings and classic finishes (think nailhead trim and picture-frame wall molding) along with modern conveniences like flat-screen LCD televisions and marble baths. David Collins revamped the storied lilac-hued Artesian Bar with chinoiserie-themed chandeliers and resin tabletops that reflect their warm glow. If cocktails aren’t your thing, head to the Chuan Spa, where a Himalayan rock salt sauna offers relief after a day spent shopping on tony Oxford Street.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more proper English hotel than The Connaught—just ask Gwyneth Paltrow, a frequent guest. Situated in an Edwardian brick building on leafy Carlos Place, the Mayfair gem has become even buzzier thanks to a new restaurant by Jean-Georges Vongerichten as well as an Aman Spa that specializes in Asian-inspired treatments. But the real draw is the service: each of the 119 rooms—many have heated-seat Japanese toilets, fireplaces, and antique furnishings—includes its own designated butler. Need a shoe shine? Staff will bring you a cocktail while they buff your loafers and press your suit jacket.
With its grandiose mix of chintz, crystal, and Easter-egg hues, Hyde Park’s The Lanesborough is the portrait of an English grande dame thanks to a generous restoration masterminded by designer Alberto Pinto. The multi-million dollar renovation has recaptured the property’s Regency-style glamour, whose 93 rooms are now clad in traditional velvet, gold, and antiques; request a room overlooking Buckingham Palace’s gardens for a memorable stay. The upscale Franco-British dishes (duck breast confit with figs and chestnuts; lobster with lemon-curry velouté) are presented just as beautifully as the interiors at Michelin-starred Céleste, an elegant dining room outfitted with marble busts, Federal-style mirrors, and antique lanterns.
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Chances are good that its reputation precedes it—after all, Claridge’s is perhaps London’s most glamorous hotel. The property has hosted the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Winston Churchill and sits just a short stroll from the chic boutiques and shops of Mayfair; appropriately, its rooms fetch prices in keeping with that history and the neighborhood. The 203 rooms are split between Art Deco and Victorian décor but all have marble baths stocked with locally sourced Cowshed products. When it comes to dining, you’d be forgiven if indecision strikes you: do you choose afternoon tea and a seat under the Chihuly chandelier in the Reading Room, or the gray-hued ambiance at Michelin-starred Ferra? The good news? Either way, you can’t go wrong.
Royals watchers worth their salt are all too familiar with The Goring, the family-run Belgravia hotel where Kate Middleton and her clique prepared for her wedding to Prince William. Across the street from Buckingham Palace, the 1910 property feels like the setting for an English-country fairytale, with its individually decorated guest rooms dressed in floral wallpaper, curated antiques, and curious wooden sheep. Wood-paneled drawing rooms provide the backdrop for romantic tête-à-têtes, where you may find your own Prince Charming before sharing a cognac at the damask-covered bar—or, in warmer months, engaging in a game of croquet.