The Best Boutique Hotels in London Have Serious Style Game
As the saying goes, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” The same might be said of the city's best boutique hotels, which, with their designer digs, award-winning food, and inventive cocktails, are singlehandedly upping the British capital's style quotient.
Ham Yard Hotel
The Ham Yard Hotel is a feast for the eyes for fans of Kit Kemp—the British-born designer has injected her signature style into every nook and cranny of this 91-room Soho stunner. We’re talking about the so-clashy-it-works mix of spring colors, textiles, textures, and art. Along with the hotel’s eye-popping guestrooms, you’ll find a row of indie boutique shops lining the interior courtyard, private residences, a rooftop garden and bar, and a cinema and 1950s bowling alley in the basement. Do like the locals do and hit the restaurant for modern British staples (smoked haddock with chorizo and pepper; crab and salmon fishcake) and afternoon tea.
It took five years to revamp two Georgian townhouses into a hotel worthy of the trendy Spitalfields neighborhood—and the effort shows. All 29 rooms at Batty Langley’s are named after a famous local character (like silk merchant James Leman and courtesan Kitty Fisher), and done up with oil paintings and statement antiques like carved wooden armoires, tapestries, and bathrooms hidden behind bookshelves. The public spaces, including a drawing room and a parlor, are inviting and intimate, with velvet sofas arranged around fireplaces and paneled walls stacked with rows of aging hardcovers. If you love the look of this place, be sure to check out its sister properties in Soho and Clerkenwell, the Hazlitt’s and The Rookery.
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You might find it hard to believe that this boutique hideaway wasn’t, at one point or another, under the watch of British aristocracy. Across the street from Buckingham Palace’s Royal Mews, Hotel 41 has all the makings for a private London club—rich mahogany rooms lit by crystal chandeliers, roaring fireplaces framed by deep leather armchairs and guests reading international newspapers while sipping glasses of brandy. The 30 individually styled guest rooms are decidedly more modern, with aromatherapy pillows and black and white photographs.
This Mayfair landmark put its mark on the design world when it debuted in a former parking garage in 2014. The Anthony Gormley-created cuboid suite, which protrudes from the building’s front façade, is the statement piece (though it’ll run you a cool $16,000 a night). If you’d rather save the money, the other 73 Art Deco-style guest rooms are worthy alternatives—think dark hardwoods and bright marble, some with views over London’s chimneyed rooftops. Don’t miss a treatment at the all-white spa, followed by dinner at the buzzy Colony Grill Room, with its walls covered in colorful murals and beautiful coffered ceilings.
A-listers like Natalie Portman, Johnny Depp, and Alice Cooper have long sought refuge inside this shabby-chic sleep, tucked away on a quiet street in Notting Hill. Who could blame them? Two Victorian townhouses hide 21 individually-designed rooms that have quirky antique details (many found at Portobello Market) like circular beds, wall-to-wall murals, bay windows, and, in the most famous room of all, a claw-foot bathtub surrounded by tarnished mirrors. While we’re crazy about the design, it’s the hotel’s exclusivity that truly seduces.
In a neighborhood as posh as South Kensington, this Edwardian townhouse hotel blends in perfectly. The Ampersand’s interiors are a tasteful mismatch of patterns and colors (think armchairs in heron prints and flora-covered pillowcases) that pay homage to nearby landmarks like the Natural History Museum and the V&A, while more glamorous details like silk curtains and jewel-toned velvet headboards up the luxury factor.
New Zealand-born actress (and former Bond Girl) Anouska Hempel cashed in on her B-movie laurels to become the ne plus ultra of British designers. The Franklin, her latest work, a 35-room bijou built inside a row of Knightsbridge townhouses overlooking Egerton Gardens, exudes her moody-yet-whimsical style. We’re talking charcoal walls, mirrored beds, sandstone bathrooms, and luxurious Italian fabrics (silks, taffetas, and velvets in hues of gray and white) that culminate in the hotel restaurant. Don’t miss the nightly Champagne Sabering ritual in the bar, which also stocks a healthy selection of more than 22 types of gin.
Like the Experimental Cocktail Clubs of London, Paris, and New York, the Experimental Group’s Henrietta Hotel sits behind unmarked doors. An elegant townhouse hides 18 stylish rooms done up with brass light fixtures, 70s-style aluminum armchairs, hand-carved headboards, and mirrors everywhere. (The bathrooms, with their black-and-white floors and pastel-pink walls, are just as eye-catching.) The hotel’s pièce de résistance is its bi-level restaurant, with its glass roof, craft cocktails, and standout dishes like grilled octopus with split peas.
Artist Residence London
This relaxed neighborhood inn in Pimlico is as boho-chic as they come. Just two suites and eight boudoirs (dubbed “house rooms”) are done up in rakish odds and ends like milking crates refashioned as nightstands, rotary phones, and repurposed parquet floors; downstairs, there’s a great bar and restaurant run by acclaimed chef Michael Brennan that serves up creative indulgences like kimchi chicken wings and avocado lemonade.
Zetter Townhouse Clerkenwell
The inspiration behind this quirky townhouse is a fictional character dreamed up by the designers called Great Aunt Wilhelmina. She’s an eccentric, well-traveled old woman who decorated the Zetter with a collection of curiosities—taxidermy, Oriental rugs, eccentric Victorian antiques—which occupy every nook and cranny. Guests are greeted with cocktails at the apothecary-style counter, then directed upstairs to their cozy yet theatrical quarters, where they might find oddities like hot water bottles in hand-knitted covers or Victorian carousel headboards alongside modern decor details like British-themed pop art.
This former 1884 pub minutes from Brick Lane is now East London’s hottest hangout. The cozy Scandinavian-style rooms, outfitted with Sisal carpets, distressed walls, and colorful patterned throws, are cute and cozy, but you’re really here for the scene. There’s a first-floor restaurant, which turns out the neighborhood’s finest breakfast spread; a buzzy ground-floor pub that’s perennially packed; and a rooftop terrace, with an herb garden and bar located in a makeshift greenhouse.
It’s impossible not to be charmed by this 51-room gem, which is spread out over five connected Victorian townhouses in Notting Hill. The interiors look like an author’s quaint pied-à-terre: a lending library takes up most of the lobby, clusters of art cover what space is left of the walls, and nightstands are stacked with dog-eared paperback novels. There’s also an intimate breakfast room and a public living space that transforms from a café to a bar depending on the time. Keep a weathered eye out for the roaming cocktail cart, which serves rum-based drinks inspired by the area’s Caribbean communities.
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