Experience London’s greatest hotels – even if you can’t afford to stay there!
London is full of luxury accommodation, but a small number of famous London hotels are tourist attractions in their own right.
The Savoy, The Ritz, Claridge’s, The Dorchester – just the names of these great hotels evoke the elegance of a bygone era, an old-world opulence and charm.
A single night’s stay in any one of these famous London hotels will most likely set you back several hundred pounds, even in a standard room.
However, taking out a second mortgage to actually stay at one of these luxury establishments isn’t the only way of getting a peek inside.
For a fraction of the price, you can have breakfast, lunch or dinner in one of their restaurants (most offer fixed-price set menus that are excellent value), a cocktail or glass of champagne in one of their bars, or partake of that most British of institutions – afternoon tea.
Address: Strand, WC2
Tube: Charing Cross
Size: 268 guest rooms & suites
Famous London hotels don’t come any more prestigious than The Savoy, which opened its doors in 1889 and is still regarded as one of the most upmarket addresses in the capital. A couple of minutes’ walk from Covent Garden, its rooms are decorated either in Edwardian or Art Deco style and some have views of the River Thames. Many people have described the beds at the Savoy as the best they’ve ever slept in.
There are two restaurants: the Savoy Grill, overseen by Gordon Ramsay, and the River Restaurant. Additionally, Simpson’s-in-the-Strand, famous for its traditional roast joints, is just next door.
You can sip cocktails or champagne in the legendary American Bar or try the newer Beaufort Bar, which has nightly cabaret, and afternoon tea is served in the sumptuous Thames Foyer, to the accompaniment of a live pianist.
Address: 150 Piccadilly, W1
Tube: Green Park
Size: 133 guest rooms & suites
Chandeliers, rococo mirrors, marble columns… The Ritz is old-world opulence at its grandest. Located in Piccadilly and overlooking Green Park, it opened in 1906, the creation of Swiss hotelier César Ritz, and has remained one of the most famous London hotels.
The rooms are decorated – some would say overdecorated – in the style of Louis XVI. They have been described as both beautiful and chintzy; it’s all a matter of taste.
The public areas are even more ornate: the chandelier-heavy Ritz Restaurant has been lauded as one of the most gorgeous rooms in Europe; the Art Deco Rivoli Bar was modelled after a bar on the Orient Express; and the stunning, cream-colored Palm Court is the venue each day for several sittings of afternoon tea.
Address: Park Lane, W1
Tube: Hyde Park Corner
Size: 299 guest rooms & suites
The Dorchester, which opened its doors in 1931, is situated on Park Lane in Mayfair, overlooking Hyde Park.
It has always enjoyed a somewhat glitzier, slightly less old-world reputation than certain other famous London hotels, playing host to movie stars, rock stars, and figures from the fashion world.
Rooms have a country-house feel and marble bathrooms that feature what are reputed to be the deepest bathtubs in London. The most luxurious rooms overlook Green Park.
There are three restaurants: The Grill, serving modern British cuisine and classic dishes; the three-Michelin-starred Alain Ducasse; and China Tang, featuring authentic Cantonese food and a cocktail bar.
There are two additional bars, one of which is located at the far end of The Promenade, a gorgeous room at the heart of the hotel where you can take afternoon tea and listen to live music.
Address: 55 Brook St, W1
Tube: Bond Street
Size: 203 guest rooms & suites
Class and intimacy reign at Claridge’s, a Grade-II-listed building in Mayfair, which was purchased in 1894 by impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte, who also founded the Savoy. To this day, the centerpiece of the Royal Suite is a grand piano that once belonged to Gilbert & Sullivan, whose operettas made D’Oyly Carte his fortune.
Like many other famous London hotels, guestrooms and public areas at Claridge’s reflect the Art Deco style of the 1920s. Beyond the black-and-white-checkered floor of the lobby, with its spectacular Dale Chihuly chandelier, is The Foyer, where you can enjoy afternoon tea.
You can eat either in the main restaurant, Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s, or in the cosier Reading Room, which seats just 40 people. Or you can relax over a drink in the elegant Claridge’s Bar, with its red-leather banquettes and round tables decorated with a single red rose, or the tiny Fumoir, where thirties-themed cocktails are served in Lalique glasses.