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The grandiose exterior of Luton Hoo hotel
The grandiose exterior of Luton Hoo hotel

The best London airport hotels

Staying conveniently close to the runway doesn’t have to mean a tiny box room and soggy morning omelettes, as these handy-yet-handsome airport hotels prove

Lizzie Pook,Cathy Adams
Wednesday 05 February 2020 15:57
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There’s little more sweat-inducing than the anxious rush to the airport to catch an early morning flight. Often, public transport isn’t running. Always, a 3am shower before you de-ice your car (as owls hoot nearby) is joyless. Which is why overnighting at or near the airport is a wise way to make your holiday stress-free. Plus, with these flight-friendly gems, there are no insipid grey walls or lacklustre breakfast buffets in sight.

These are the best hotels at London Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and City airports.

The Independent’s hotel reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and book, but we never allow this to affect our coverage.

Heathrow

Distance from terminal: 15 minutes

Ibis Styles Heathrow features kooky design

Now this is a budget hotel that doesn’t scrimp on personality. Overlooking Heathrow on the busy Bath Road (which runs parallel to the airport), even the lobby of this Ibis bulges with kooky design touches, from hot-air-balloon lamps to wallpaper festooned with clouds. Upstairs, the wackiness continues, with minibars that resemble air stewards’ trollies and animal-themed prints in the bathrooms. Amenities are sound, with a restaurant serving up decent comfort food (think burgers, lasagnes and bangers and mash) and helpful additions like printers for boarding passes, departures screens and a long-stay car park (at a cost) if needed. The breakfast buffet is functional and included in the cost of your room, and after that, you can take the shuttle bus directly outside to Terminals 2-5, which should get you there in around 30 minutes (taxis take half the time but are costlier than the £4.50 bus fare). LP

From £47 per night; accor.com

Distance from terminal: 5 minutes

Sofitel Heathrow's communal areas are decked out in soothing shades

Convenience is key at this Sofitel, the only on-site hotel at Heathrow Terminal 5. Looking a little like a series of greenhouses, buildings here are divided into a series of glass atriums, in which you’ll find the main accommodation blocks. Rooms are spacious (the bathrooms slightly less so) and you’ll have all you need for a comfy night’s sleep. Design-wise, the spa is soothing enough to calm any pre- or post-flight jitters. The lobby is replete with restful marble sculptures, Japanese potted trees and wood and stone panelling, and the main Belle Epoque restaurant (filled with velvet booths and heavy aubergine curtains) is genuinely lovely, serving up fine dishes – from express lunches to chef’s table experiences – to bleary-eyed business travellers. There’s also a champagne bar and fitness centre, and a sprawling breakfast buffet to fill-up with before your flight. LP

From £159 per night; accor.com

Distance from terminal: 6 minutes

The huge glass-sided main atrium at Hilton Heathrow

If you’re flying out of Heathrow’s Terminal 4, the Hilton will put you in a great position (it’s the only hotel with pedestrian access to the terminal). It’s an airy, calming sort of place – decked out in brown leather, soft greys and dark woods – with a huge glass-sided main atrium, frosted glass lifts, open plan restaurants and a criss-crossed network of overhead walkways providing plenty of light and space. Facilities are top-notch for an airport hotel, including a business centre for printing out last-minute paperwork, a pool, sauna, steam room, open-all-hours fitness centre and slick concierge services such as early morning newspapers, wake-up calls and transfers. Dining options are bountiful, including Chinese restaurant Zen Oriental (you’ll find it in the Michelin guide), Italian restaurant Aromi, and Oscar’s which serves up sandwiches and burgers. Breakfast is a continental buffet, with a juice station, cold cuts and a pancake station to boot. LP

From £118 per night; hilton.com

Gatwick

Distance from terminal: 4 minutes

Bloc sits directly above Gatwick's terminal building

You can’t get much closer to Gatwick’s South Terminal than Bloc Hotel, a converted office block which sits directly above the terminal building (just a quick hop from the departure lounge). Rooms here are small but tech-forward, based around the Japanese capsule-hotel concept, with bedside tablets allowing you to operate lights, electric blinds, air conditioning and even check-out, which makes speedy departures a given. Beyond that, facilities are sparse – there’s no restaurant or communal areas and room service is not available. There is a 24-hour front desk on the second floor but other than that, you won’t have to talk or interact with any other human beings, should jetlag or early mornings turn you into an antisocial grump. Bloc also puts you within easy access of the Gatwick Express, which runs to London Victoria, and the interconnecting monorail to the North Terminal is just a floor below. LP

From £73 per night; blochotels.com

Distance from terminal: 5 minutes

Futuristic cabins at Yotel Gatwick

The Yotel model revolves around "smart design" at "smart prices" in city centres (including central New York, Singapore and Amsterdam) and airport terminals. What this means in practice is small but ergonomic rooms, with beds that switch from upright sofas to flat double beds with a flick of a bedside switch. The futuristic Yotel Gatwick – bathed in a purple glow – is on the basement level of the South Terminal, and just a few minutes' walk to departures. Cabins are rented by the hour (although there's a four-hour minimum), and come with surprisingly generous shower cubicles, a table and chair that handily folds away and TVs in every room. Food and drinks (hot drinks are free) and available from the equally spacily-named Mission Control at the entrance. CA

From £112 per night, four hours from £42; yotel.com

Stansted

Distance from terminal: 5 minutes

Radisson Blu Stansted has a pool and spa area

Just a five-minute walk from Stansted airport’s main terminal, the Radisson Blu is well-equipped, well-located and home to a pretty spectacular wine bar featuring a tower of over 4,000 bottles (just don’t get too carried away and miss your boarding call). It’s not the most characterful hotel around, but comfy beds, black-out blinds and a banquet of a buffet breakfast mean it’s a failsafe choice for you pre or post-trip slumber (all 500 rooms come with tea and coffee making facilities, a safe and a minibar). There’s a fitness centre and spa on site (treatments include knot-busting massages and Murad face and body treatments), as well as two restaurants – British brasserie, Collage, and Station 169 for steaks and grilled fish. A series of sheltered walkways link the hotel to the terminal, meaning you won’t have to board a flight in soggy clothes if the heavens open either. LP

From £84 per night; radissonhotels.com

Luton

Distance from terminal: 10 minutes

Relax in the opulent surrounds of Luton Hoo's lounge

Luton Hoo feels like a bit of a trick. It’s a gloriously stately country-estate hotel, yet it’s only 10 minutes by car from the frenetic Luton airport. You’ll feel like you’re in an episode of The Crown rolling up to its Grecian columns with your suitcase (this is, after all, where the Queen and Prince Phillip spent part of their honeymoon) and the regal vibes continue inside. The historic suites (named after their famous temporary residents, including Queen Mary and Winston Churchill) are cavernous, with giraffe-high ceilings, hefty mahogany furniture, plenty of red velvet and grand four poster beds with silk drapes. Otherwise, standard rooms are restful and well-equipped, with Molton Brown toiletries, tea and coffee making facilities and views of the sprawling grounds. Breakfast is – quite literally – fit for a queen, with smoked kippers, full English breakfasts and tasty eggs benedict served alongside continental croissants and juices. If you want to stretch your flight-weary legs, take a stroll around the Capability Brown-designed gardens and venture onto the secret rock garden. Or take a Luton Hoo cab to its spa and country club, around which resident peacocks waft. LP

From £189 per night; lutonhoo.co.uk

London City

Distance from terminal: 4 minutes

Aloft is next to the Excel exhibition centre

Aloft couldn’t be handier for City Airport – you’ll find it right next to the Excel exhibition centre and the Prince Regent DLR station, and within striking distance of Canary Wharf (you can simply cross the bridge and get to the airport on foot in about 20 minutes if you don’t want to wait for a taxi). Loft-inspired rooms are high-ceilinged, with vast windows offering views across east London and the buzzy Docklands and bathrooms with walk-in showers and Bliss Spa toiletries. There’s also plenty to do here if you prefer socialising to slumbering. The indoor pool comes with city views, sauna and steam room; the lively W XYZ bar has karaoke and music performances three times per month; and there’s fast wifi plus ‘grab & go’ food 24 hours a day (the Docksider restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner). LP

From £101 per night; marriott.com

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