London’s most iconic hotels

By Lucy Thackray

Main image courtesy of The Corinthia hotel

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September 2017

The world’s leaders, artists and trendsetters are spoilt for choice on a trip to London – with historic grand dame hotels, edgy boutiques and slick architectural masterpieces all vying for their booking. Here are six of the capital’s most storied stays

The Savoy

The lowdown

This palatial riverside hotel was opened in 1889, purely to attract the stars that flocked to its neighbouring Savoy Theatre. It’s lost none of its glitz today, keeping its quirky roundabout approach on the Strand and cult bars and restaurants; in fact a huge 2010 refit freshened up the interiors for the next century of star guests.

Who’s checked in

Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Coco Chanel

Aside from that spherical crystal chandelier in the lobby lounge, there are themed penthouses (a musician’s suite, a writer’s suite) with roof terraces, and a subterranean, marble-clad spa that’s quickly risen to the top of London’s top 10 lists

What to check out

A show at the Art Deco beauty of a theatre next door (wow-factor musicals such as Dreamgirls, Gypsy and Funny Girl); or the starry ‘character cocktails’ inspired by past guests in the American Bar (one’s based on Marlene Dietrich’s check-in requests - pink roses and Dom Perignon).

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  • Many a celebrity and well-heeled socialite has swept down the staircase at The Dorchester © Press Image

    Who knew… ?

    Once the stomping ground of Henry VIII and his cronies, the building was catapulted into the limelight in the 18th-century when it was used as a base from which to stroll ‘The Row’ in Hyde Park, an exclusive promenade frequented by the crème de la crème of high society.

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  • Those who like a bit of pink will love the Schiaparelli Suite at The May Fair © Press Image

    Life is rosy

    Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli was one of the most prominent figures in fashion between the two World Wars; her particular passion was shocking pink hence the fuchsia Schiaparelli Suite at the May Fair, a loving tribute to a colourful character.

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  • The Savoy’s exterior has to be one of the most iconic sights in London © Press Image

    The right stuff

    A winning combination of English Edwardian design and Art Deco style, The Savoy stands out from the crowd. Not to mention the private thoroughfare that leads up to the hotel’s front doors - it is one of the only places in the UK that allows you to drive on the right.

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The Corinthia

The lowdown

Just upriver from The Savoy, much-younger upstart The Corinthia has seduced many an A-lister with its sumptuous interiors. Aside from that spherical crystal chandelier in the lobby lounge, there are themed penthouses (a musician’s suite, a writer’s suite) with roof terraces, and a subterranean, marble-clad spa that’s quickly risen to the top of London’s top 10 lists. And its history has always been juicy - this building was a spy agency during WWII.

Who’s checked in

George Clooney, Oprah Winfrey, Beyoncé and Jay-Z

What to check out

Cult riverside bar Gordon’s not far from its door; the West End’s top theatres around the Strand and Covent Garden; and the hotel’s edgy spa treatments such as its ‘Brain Power’ package, dreamed up by its resident neuroscientist.

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The Dorchester

The lowdown

Few people know that this Park Lane landmark was once Henry VIII’s Hyde Park hunting lodge. After more than 80 years as a hotel, it still echoes with the swish of the 20th-century’s debutante balls and the gossip of its literary luncheons. The Duke of Edinburgh had his stag night here; General Eisenhower made it his base during WWII… the tales here are endlessly fascinating.

Who's checked in

Elizabeth Taylor, Barbra Streisand, Karl Lagerfeld

What to check out

A slap-up Park Lane meal (the hotel has a legendary Alain Ducasse restaurant, or try retro steak joint 45 Park Lane, a few doors down); cakes and cocktails at the hotel’s candy-toned ‘Spatisserie’; or a Hyde Park jog with London’s power set, just across the road.

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Brown’s Hotel

The lowdown

Few hotels can say that Agatha Christie wrote a novel while in residence, but the understated Brown’s of Mayfair is one of them (her mystery At Bertram’s Hotel is recommended reading during your stay). It’s on a quiet grid of streets between Green Park tube station and Berkeley Square, home to micro-galleries and fashion boutiques - not to mention some of London’s most discreet and exclusive dining spots.

  • The verdant Kipling Suite at the iconic Brown’s Hotel is pretty as a picture © Press Image

    Jungle fever

    Since opening on Albemarle Street in 1837, the five-star Brown’s Hotel has hosted everyone from royals and presidents to world-famous authors. Talking of which, the Kipling Suite is so named because Rudyard Kipling once stayed at the hotel - it’s where he penned The Jungle Book.

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Who’s checked in

Rudyard Kipling, Alexander Graham Bell, Theodore and Eleanor Roosevelt

What to check out

Forward-thinking exhibitions at the grand Royal Academy of Arts; equally arty dining at multi-restaurant and exhibition space Sketch; the best of London’s designers, with Stella McCartney, Victoria Beckham and Paul Smith shops all nearby.

The May Fair Hotel

The lowdown

Its eponymous neighbourhood is the one where the world’s rich and famous have let their hair down for centuries - and after some flush Mayfair shenanigans, this is the lavishly-decorated pad to crash at. Its unique look and glamorous location have made it an official hotel for both London Fashion Week and BFI London Film Festival, and the hot-pink hued Schiaparelli Suite is a particular favourite of star guests.

Who’s checked in

Paris Hilton, Keira Knightley, Whitney Houston

What to check out

Even more celeb sightings at Mayfair ‘it’ restaurants Scott’s and Sexy Fish; old-school London shopping at Fortnum & Mason and Savile Row; or a stroll across Green Park to see Buckingham Palace.

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The Langham

The lowdown

A stunner of a building, mere steps from shopping-heaven (aka Oxford Circus), The Langham is the one for special-occasion dinners and drinks. Charles Dickens wrote in his 1879 London guide that there was nowhere else to be seen for a dinner party - and its elegant Roux at the Landau restaurant does British classics with a luxurious twist (truffled eggs, whisky-cured salmon) to this day.

Who’s checked in

Princess Diana, Oscar Wilde, Lady Gaga

What to check out

The cocktail list at four-time ‘World’s Best Bar’ champion, Artesian, afternoon tea in London’s original tearoom, the Palm Court; and Marylebone’s boutiques (far more tranquil and Brit-chic than Oxford Street’s megastores), just to the west.

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