Mini-Guide to London Hotels

While I’m in New York, where I’ve never really stayed in a bad hotel, I thought I’d write a few notes about hotels I’ve used in London. I live a long way from London (where I work) so I often have to stay overnight if I’m working late. I usually book a room on because I’ve never found a cheaper way of doing it. I pay around £90 a night in the winter, £120 in the summer when there’s more pressure on rooms from tourists. You can certainly get a room for less but I’ve never found one that I would want to stay in again for less than this.

Even in this price range there are hotels that I wouldn’t want to use again. Let’s start with four:

The Park Lane Hotel. About 20 years overdue for a makeover. Carpet was dirty. Staff were not interested. This claims to be a 5-star hotel: all I can say is it is giving 5-star hotels a bad name, and in the process it is giving London a bad name. See Joi Ito’s post on the same hotel and the comments it provoked. It comes up on regularly for £120 or less: maybe one should be suspicious of any 5-star hotel that charges this little.

10 Manchester Street. This is just a flop-house. It reminded of those films where the hero is travelling in some unspecified central European country and checks into a hotel where the clerk is unshaven and unwilling to be torn from his TV. Go there for the comedy value, but don’t stay.

Holiday Inn Regent’s Park. They lied to me. I booked a superior non-smoking room. Turns out all the rooms are the same, but you can pay more if you want. You get a bathrobe or something if you book a superior room, but they didn’t bother in mine. They gave me a smoking room anyway. It stank. To be fair to them they refunded my money when I complained. The duty manager was excellent, but the desk staff were liars and cheats.

Russell Square Hotel. A once-mighty hotel now sadly down at heel. A few of the rooms have been refurbished and I’m sure they are fine. The ones that come up cheap on are the unrefurbished ones. The rooms are OK but the corridors look positively dangerous.

But it’s not all bad news. Here are some hotels I use regularly:

Kingsway Hall. Getting more popular now so it’s often full and often out of my price range. Occasionally it still comes up at £99 though. At this price it’s a bargain. Newly refurbished and conveniently located for me, I beg you not to stay there so I can.

Harrington Hall. Owned by the same people as Kingsway Hall, which I didn’t know until I started writing this. This is a bit out of the way for me as it’s in South Kensington, but it may be perfect for you if you’re visiting the museums and Harrods. Clean and reasonably priced.

The Rookery. Quaint. Sorry, but it’s the only word for it. Unless you are staying in the Rook’s Nest suite when "spectacular" would be the word. Hardly ever comes up below £150 these days but it is definitely somewhere to stay if you can afford it. Note that it’s near the City so most retail places near it are closed at the weekends. Smith’s of Smithfield is just round the corner though so you won’t go hungry. The rooms are quirkily decorated with original Victorian stuff like copper baths and four-poster beds. Some rooms are quite small and there is a small bar but no restaurant.

Jury’s Great Russell Street. Yep. It’s fine. Would stay here anytime.

Here are some hotels I’ve stayed in once, so my opinion is not authoritative:

Swissotel The Howard. In fact I’ve tried to stay here twice, but the first time I checked in late and the hotel was full. They booked me into the Renaissance Chancery Court (! see below) at no extra cost and paid for my taxi round to the other hotel. The next time I booked was just last Saturday. I paid a few pounds extra for a river view room. When we got there there were no standard river-view rooms available so…they gave me a penthouse suite with a river view and a large private roof terrace. I would happily have lived there. Maybe they think I am a celebrity or something. Maybe I am a celebrity in Switzerland, who knows? Anyway, the staff on both occasions could not have been more helpful. This is the sort of hotel where the myth of bad British service is dispelled. Except the staff are Swiss.

The Renaissance Chancery Court. Quite magnificent. Should be a tourist attraction in its own right. I could never afford this hotel myself so thanks to The Howard for booking me in here that one time (see above).

Well I’ve enjoyed writing this. I have stayed in quite a few more hotels so I may write about them in the future. Bear in mind that my requirements from a hotel may not be the same as yours. I don’t want an evening meal or breakfast. Just a comfortable room, a nice bed and a clean bathroom. Hope this helps you.


1 Response to “Mini-Guide to London Hotels”

  1. 1 Suw June 29, 2004 at 09:12

    I usually use Although I’m going for rooms that are quite a bit cheaper than those you stay in, they seem to be pretty good for finding stuff in London, at least. That said, you get the worst room in the hotels.

    Last time I hotelled it in London I stayed at the Sherlock Holmes Hotel on Baker Street – a hotel that is not worth its stars at all if the room we had was anything to go by. Staff were surly, the towels were dirty, and they gave us a double instead of a twin despite checking twice that they had the booking right.

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