When you think of high-class service, sophistication, and refinement, one can't help but think of the English. (I mean, who is Bruce Wayne without Alfred? The archetype of the proper and adept English butler is a near-universal sign of wealth and status). It's no wonder, then, that some of the finest small and large luxury hotels are in London, England
. From Hyde Park to Leicester Square, Victoria to Mayfair, you won't find this fusion of urbanity and history anywhere else in the world. Here are five favorites.
The inauspicious exterior of this 251-room-and-suite hotel across from Hyde Park belies its sumptuously extravagant interior. Frequented by princes and princesses, military generals, and famous actors, poets, and writers, The Dorchester has been a quiet paragon of sophisticate style since its construction in the 1930s. Known for its strong staff-to-guest ratio, exceptional service, and an afternoon tea that has won "best of" plaudits from the Tea Council of Great Britain several times in the last decade, this is the place to go if you want to feel a piece with "classic" London.
Top Five Luxury Hotels in London – "41"
Everyone talks about the "private club" feel of Red Carnation's "41" Hotel (including the hotel itself), and it's easy to see why: this 30-room boutique strikes a gently austere profile on Buckingham Palace Road in Victoria, warm light entreating guests through its large wooden arch and polished pilasters. Inside, black-and-white floor tiles pop against rich hardwood walls decorated with neoclassical filigrees. With a two-to-one ratio of staff to guests, you'll be attended to with great care, but what really hammers home the "club" aspect is the hotel's Executive Lounge. A high-ceilinged room styled like an elegant study, it's the kind of place you can have a full meal, eat a midnight snack from their 24-hour fridge, or quaff a cognac by the fire without a thought to the outside world.
The rooms are small as a result of its architectural history, but as with many of the finer things, its value lies in the quality, not the quantity. 41 exudes refined intimacy.
Mayfair Village, home to haute clothiers and fashion boutiques have a sympathetic neighbor in The Connaught, a grand dame of the district built in 1897 as the Coburg Hotel, named for the late Prince Albert (and lover of Queen Victoria). The name was changed to The Connaught in 1917, though the echoes of its history remains, both in the elegant interior design (spruced up with a $105 million renovation in 2008) and its super popular India Mahdavi-designed Coburg bar bearing the hotel's former nomenclature. With 117 rooms and suites, The Connaught straddles the line between boutique and full-size hotel, which pays off in being able to offer amenities like a full service spa, including swimming pool and steam room, while still offering full concierge and butler service to all guests.
If you have a heavy wallet and an adventurous palate, you'll want to try the hotel's restaurant, Hélène Darroze at the Connaught
, named for its multiple Michelin-starred chef trying to replicate her Parisian magic on London's city streets.
Top Five Luxury Hotels in London – The Ritz
Modeled after its Parisian counterpart, The Ritz London imports the decadence of 18th century France to Piccadilly. Where many of the other hotels on this list have a simple elegance, The Ritz embraces its scale – sparing no Romanesque statue nor thick brocade, high ceiling, or gilt molding wherever possible. Whether sipping their renown afternoon tea, having a cocktail at the Rivoli Bar, or enjoying a four-course supper at the Ritz Restaurant, it's impossible stay The Ritz without feeling like royalty.
Luxury hotels in London often wear their Edwardian or Victorian roots on their sleeves. Not so with the Soho Hotel. Opting for a funky and chic modern interior design by Kit and Tim Kemp, Soho feels fresh and inviting without ever seeming gaudy (even when you turn a corner and come face to face with a giant cat
). Located a block from Soho Square, the hotel is ideally located in the heart of the restaurant and entertainment district
while still managing to feel quaint and insulated from the hustle-and-bustle. Amenities include a full gym, two movie screening rooms (including a 3-D theater), and Refuel, a combination bar and restaurant perfect for small groups. The service is five-star exemplary and the hotels 91 rooms are spacious, especially for London accommodations, making the Soho Hotel a perennial favorite for young trendsetters, business people, and families alike.Photo by Herry Lawford via Flickr