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London's best character hotels
London is a city with a lot of different facets to her appeal, but there's no doubting that this grand old lady is a charmer with plenty of character. She can be regal and haughty, treading a wonderfully British line between opulence and austerity, she can be forward thinking and fashionable in places and downright historical in others. She's a stalwart for traditions, but can also be up for all sorts. So part of the challenge of choosing London's best character hotels is in choosing the facet of her character.
Price is another issue when it comes to making accommodation recommendations in London. Finding an affordable and half way decent bolthole has always been a challenge, and many visitors resort in desperation to the serried ranks of uninspiring hotels around Bayswater, Earls Court and Victoria just to ensure they have enough money left over for the price of the entrance fee to the Tower of London or a ride on the London Eye. But recently prices have steadied somewhat, and it's now possible to find a room in one of London's best character hotels that's in line with similar types of accommodation in the countryside.
To address the questions of price and character our gurus have collected a clutch of little places with heaps more charm than the norm, then thrown in a couple of traditional luxury options. One facet of London's character is her traditional grand hotels after all.
Grand and Traditional Five Star Character
Let's start with the luxury grand dames, hotels which have names known far and wide.
- While this list isn't in order other than by type, no one would argue the case against Art Deco masterpiece Claridge's appearing at the top of a list of London's best character hotels. Her recent makeover served to highlight her wonderful original assets and polish up this old dowager duchess's glamour. The dimly lit bar now has a bit more flair, the restaurant a celebrity chef - Gordon Ramsay, but high tea is still served with wonderful attention to detail in the Grand Foyer.
- The Goring Hotel is another wonderful London institution, with its credentials as a family-run country house affair tipping it into the list of London's best character hotels. Now on the fourth Mr, Goring, but still offering a wonderful traditional English experience, with magnificent breakfasts, private gardens and long serving staff. This is where Kate Middleton spent her last night as a single gal, and the hotel's fame hasn't stopped growing since - yet it's still the very heart and soul of English understated discretion.
- The Connaught Hotel is another brilliant bastion of Britishness, which has also recently been given a 'freshen up', this time with more modern results - think light and airy replacing ever so slightly slightly stuffy.
West End Charms
The West End is a lively place to be at all times of the day and night, and one of the London locations most visitors want to stay in. Visit the galleries and museums, shop Regent and Oxford Streets, take in a play, or the opera, dine in some of London's best restaurants, and stay in one of London's best character hotels…
- The Stafford London by Kempinski in Mayfair makes the list because of its wonderfully quiet cul-de-sac location and Edwardian style. The decor is traditional without being heavy and there's plenty of good value luxury for those who want it.
- Soho is the West End's more lively side, but Hazlitt's, with its Georgian period grandeur sits peacefully above the action. Hazitt's does a great line in elegance with flair and each of the 27 rooms has its own character, and treasures. This is one of London's best character hotels for people who appreciate the benefits of staying in a smaller hotel.
West London Charm
- The Portobello is the quintessential shabby-chic boho London bolt hole. A favourite of musicians in the 70s, the Notting Hill location now means it can charge a bit more for its rooms than it used to. And this is Notting Hill shabby-chic - but there's round the clock room service, so if you ever dreamed of ordering scrambled eggs and champagne at four o'clock in the morning this is London's best character hotel for you.
- The Gore in Kensington couldn't have a more different vibe. This hotel has been around since the 1980s and has long been a favourite with stars who like a bit of respectful distance. Each room is different, but all are beautiful. There are lots of prints and paintings and some real treasures when it comes to antiques. There's been a conscious decision here to put character before mod. cons..
- Whether or not the The Petersham qualifies as one of London's best character hotels depends largely on whether you consider Richmond to be part of London. But for the sake of the argument lets call it Far West London. It's only zone four anyway, but there's a country feel to Richmond, what with Richmond Park, Kew Gardens, Ham House and Hampton Court so close. The views are marvellous and you're right by the Thames.
Character and Convenience
- If you want to stay in The City of London, The Rookery is one of London's best character hotels for you. Three adjacent 18th Century house have been converted into one faithfully restored Georgian townhouse hotel, with plenty of period features, like roll top baths, traditional shutters, flagstone floors and copper plumbing.
- No 11 Cadogan Gardens is in a great spot for both the shopping on the Kings Road and the museums in South Kensington. And it's a good example of traditional decor with modern flair - think Murano chandeliers and lashings of brocade. And a library… And open fires, when appropriate...
Great Value Character
While some of the hotels on this list of London's best character hotels will set you back more than a pretty penny per night, not so all.
- Twenty Nevern Square has 20 rooms, starting from just £115 per night, in busy, buzzy Earls Court. A converted Victorian charmer, this hotel has deceptively generous proportions. And the Asian influence of the decor has a treasured colonial feel to it. The bright bar with its exposed ceilings and huge skylight is the kind of place you choose to hang out in.
- If you believe part of the experience of staying in a city is using its public transport then the Church Street Hotel is for you. Totally charming, with a bit of Mexican colour and kick to it, the hotel is on a fantastic street, just not the most central one. The compromise on travel means you'll pay as little as £90 per night though, so if your idea of character includes bright colours and quirky features then this is London's best character hotel for you.
The Goring Hotel 69 rooms from $399London
A family-owned luxury hotel in the heart of Belgravia with manicured lawns, award-winning high tea and proximity to some of London's most famous sights. Plush carpets, antiques and designer fabrics make up the rooms. Do not miss fine dining at the newly awarded Michelin star restaurant. Magical staySights nearby - Great for Buckingham Palace, Westminster, Mayfair, Knightsbridge, Sloane Street and the Royal Parks.Great walks - Green Park in the summer is a sea of green with deck chairs for people to lounge in and relax.Full of characterRomantic - Good for couples.Recommended by - Frommers, Good Hotel Guide, Small Luxury Hotels, Michelin Travel, Tablet
The Stafford 105 rooms from $378London (Mayfair)
Edwardian townhouse in Mayfair come luxury hotel making for a quiet, intimate stay in the heart of London. Classically decorated rooms come with seamless service. Enjoy The Lyttelton, known for its brilliant menus and the American Lounge for its infamous cocktails.Sights nearby - Buckingham Palace at one end of The Mall, and Trafalgar Square at the other.Local markets - Southbank is home to food markets all year around.Four poster beds - For romantics.Full of characterRecommended by - Frommers, Kiwi Collection, Michelin Travel
The Portobello 21 rooms from $254West London
Legendary, laid-back chic boutique in Neo-Classical mansions loved by an eclectic clientele of business travelers, fashionistas and musicians. Varied, funky styles are adopted for the rooms and with delicious breakfast. Location in the heart of Notting Hill, for boutiques and food, is perfect.Sights nearby - Madame Tussauds and the amazing wax works is a memorable day for all the family.Local markets - Come Saturday be sure not to miss Portobello Road Market.Romantic - Good for couples.Full of characterRecommended by - Frommers, Good Hotel Guide
Hazlitt's 27 rooms from $280London (West End)
This charming Georgian boutique is full of character and literary associations since 1718. This townhouse is in thick of it on vibrant Frith Street, home to lively bars and popular restaurants. Elegant wood paneled rooms are the perfect base, relax with a book or explore town as and when you wish.Lively area - In the thick of the action.Full of characterRomantic - Good for couples.Four poster beds - For romantics.Recommended by - Mr & Mrs Smith, I Escape, Tablet, Frommers, Good Hotel Guide
The Gore 50 rooms from $247West London
A quintessentially British 1892 townhouse that prides itself on spectacular service with laid back vibes. Classic-styled rooms house period pictures, antiques and comfortable beds. 190 Queen’s Gate restaurant offers classic dishes and an eclectic range of drinks. Spot on location for city exploringSights nearby - Great location for the Royal Albert Hall and Hyde Park.Full of characterQuirky - An experience!Romantic - Good for couples.Recommended by - Tablet
The Rookery 33 rooms from $367London (The City)
Fashionable Clerkenwell is home to this intimate, period charm City bolthole which prides itself on homely atmosphere across three 18th Century houses. Rooms are full of character, classic antiques, open fires and roll top baths. Breakfast in bed or in the garden is the perfect way to start the day.Exclusive offerSights nearby - Barbican is a cultural hub worth checking out for performances, screenings and more.Lively area - In the thick of the action.Full of characterRomantic - Good for couples.Recommended by - Mr & Mrs Smith, I Escape, Tablet
Twenty Nevern Square 20 rooms from $150London (South West)
Chic tranquility meets a West London colonial-style townhouse. Good value. Fantastically well connected by tube, train and bus. A wide range of different rooms and a breakfast worth getting out of bed for.Local markets - Food markets are taking off in the city, so be sure to explore the local ones on the weekends.Full of characterFour poster beds - For romantics.Romantic - Good for couples.Recommended by - Good Hotel Guide, Johansens
Claridge's 203 rooms from $442London (Mayfair)
Art Deco inspired, luxury-centric hotel in the heart of Mayfair offering seamless service, spa treatments and gym facilities. Large, contemporary rooms exude comfort. Whether it is the famous afternoon tea in the 1930's Reading Room or a gourmet meal at the restaurant, be ready to be spoiled.Sights nearby - Nestled in the embassy district of town, you will see many old grand buildings.Romantic - Good for couples.Full of characterOutstanding locationRecommended by - Tablet, Frommers, Kiwi Collection, Michelin Travel
Church Street Hotel 31 rooms from $117London
This wonderfully vibrant Mexican themed hotel is a shining light in Camberwell. Bright, cheerful rooms are full of character and thoughtful touches. Make sure you sample the to die for tapas, as well as the knockout cocktails in the Havana Lounge. A new wave of affordable and stylish hotels.Exclusive offer - London bargainCity Style - A totally unqiue experience with quirky and meticulously thoughtout design, bold colours and unique charm.Value chic - Excellent value for money- top quality service, decor, cuisine and vibes for a reasonable price tag.Local markets - Borough Market on the weekend is a fantastic food heaven with stalls from all over Europe and places to catch a quick bite.Great walks - South London is full of parks, walk ways and beautiful buildings full of history.Recommended by - I Escape, Fodors, Good Hotel Guide
The Connaught Hotel 121 rooms from $782London (Mayfair)
The discreet and understated ‘grande dame’ of Mayfair. This hotel is the epitome of old world Britishness meets contemporary elegance and design. Impeccable service from the fleet of butlers, the ultimate in traditional comforts. Chic restaurants and bars match the world class Aman spa. A must stay.City Style - The last word in luxorious London hotels- a sleek revamp to Mayfair's finest has sharpened the edge of this historic hotel.Spa breaks - World renowned Aman spa offering green-tea foot baths, Oriental oil massages and red clay body wraps with Navajo herbs.Sailing - During the summer months rowing and pedal boats are available for hire in nearby Hyde ParkRomantic - Good for couples.Recommended by - Mr & Mrs Smith, Tablet, Fodors, Frommers, Johansens, Kiwi Collection
The Petersham 58 rooms from $215London (Surrey)
Country house feel by the river in leafy Richmond village. Award-winning restaurant, traditional bedrooms, fine views and a sit out terrace. Good wedding and business venue.Restaurant - Recommended.Sights nearby - Great for Richmond Park, Royal Botanic Gardens and Twickenham StadiumViews - Over the River ThamesLocal markets - Good for local colour.
No 11 Cadogan Gardens 54 rooms from $261London (South West)
Located just behind Sloane Square a stone's throw from Knightsbridge, No 11 Cadogan Gardens is a hidden gem. Eclectic style with lavish decor including Murano chandeliers, sumptuous fabrics and gilt edged mirrors. Ideal if you're looking for a Central London location, yet away from the crowds.Sights nearby - Walking distance to Buckingham Palace or Houses of ParliamentFour poster beds - For romantics.OpulentRecommended by - Tablet, Small Luxury Hotels