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Best boutique hotels in London 2022: where to stay for character and charm

Discover some of London's best boutique boltholes

Cathy Adams,Lizzie Pook
Tuesday 05 April 2022 15:31

Choosing where to lay your head in London can be a tricky affair. With a plethora of snazzy design hotels, some of the grandest, oldest establishments around and a frankly bewildering array of so-so spots offering cheap-as-chips theatre dinners to baffled tourists, it can be tempting to book into the nearest Premier Inn and be done with it.

Well, don’t. Opt for one of these beautiful boutique hotels instead and you’ll be laughing. Trust us.

The best hotels in London are:

Best for flamboyant design: Zetter Townhouse

Neighbourhood: Clerkenwell

The Club Room at the Zetter: perfect for royalists and Britpoppers

The fashionably eccentric interiors at Zetter Townhouse extend from four-poster beds fringed with garlands of union jacks, to stuffed kangaroos and miniature wooden boats. Known to some as the home of the Zetter’s “Great Aunt Wilhelmina,” the snug boutique bolthole housed in two grand Georgian buildings also serves some truly terrific cocktails.

Price: Doubles from £201, room only

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Read the full Zetter Townhouse review

Best for an urban setting: The Ham Yard Hotel

Neighbourhood: Soho

The leafy Orangery at the Ham Yard is the perfect place to enjoy a bite to eat

If you need to be in Mayfair or Soho, Ham Yard is perfectly located as it’s housed in an “urban village” setting at the bottom of Regent Street. The light-filled modern building is decked out with signature Kit Kemp interiors (all neon lights and furniture the colour of highlighter pens). Make sure you stop by the dazzling wall of 135 interconnected clocks, and the beautiful fourth-floor roof terrace, which is filled with olive trees, puffs of lavender and vegetable beds.

Price: Doubles from £700

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Read the full Ham Yard Hotel review

Best for modest budgets: The Hoxton Hotel

Neighbourhood: Shoreditch

The Hoxton Hotel: boutique touches at budget (for London, anyway) prices

East London’s first “destination” hotel opened in 2006 and it’s since won legions of fans for its affordable rooms in a great location. Sure, its “shoebox” rooms are on the small side, but they’re smartly designed and you’ll get a fridge stocked with snacks, a cool retro phone to use, fast wifi and access to some of Shoreditch’s coolest street art sites on your doorstep. The enduringly popular Hoxton Grill also serves up pretty great American comfort food from its red leather booths.

Price: Doubles from £269

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Best for quirky artwork: Artist Residence

Neighbourhood: Pimlico

Art fans will love the original works on display at Artist Residence

Occupying a handsome five-storey regency terrace in Pimlico, this hotel’s grand surroundings belie its quirky cool interiors. You’ll find other Artist Residences in Brighton, Penzance and Oxfordshire, but the rakish touches to this London branch – scattered kilner vases and bedside tables made from milking stools – as well as a buzzy cocktail bar downstairs and pop art pieces scattered throughout its 10 rooms, make it a must-visit.

Price: Doubles from £215, room only

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Best for the fashion crowd: The Mandrake

Neighbourhood: Fitzrovia

Find your zen at The Mandrake

Remodelled from a Riba-winning building in swanky Fitzrovia, the Mandrake is inspired by its medicinal botanical namesake. When it opened its doors in 2017, the luxury spot (which pays homage to “healing and positive energies”) was an instant hit with the capital’s fashion crowd, who flocked to its moody dark corridors and Instagrammable, foliage-filled inner courtyard. Its 30 texture-filled rooms, set over four floors are some of London’s sultriest.

Price: Doubles from £405

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Best for pared-back chic: Boundary Hotel

Neighbourhood: Shoreditch

Head to the Boundary for clean, contemporary design

Unsurprisingly, rooms at Terence Conran’s design hotel Boundary are easy on the eye. Each comes with a handmade bed, clean-lined furniture from Eames, Mies Van de Rohe and Le Courbusier, and original artwork on the walls. You could do worse than to spend an evening on the rooftop bar and grill (with views across London’s East End skyline), and there’s always Redchurch Street round the corner, if you’re in need of some retail therapy.

Price: Doubles from £231

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Best for theatre lovers: Henrietta Hotel

Neighbourhood: Covent Garden

The stylish Henrietta Hotel is well located for Theatreland

Want to be in the thick of it but don’t want to compromise on style? The Henrietta – the first London outpost from the Paris-based Experimental Group – gives great access to London’s bustling West End, without feeling like a tourist trap. Rooms are a zingy mix of leopard print wallpaper, marble skirting boards and geometric floors, and there’s also an 80-seat restaurant on site for a thoroughly decent pre-theatre dinner.

Price: Doubles from £357

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Best for history buffs: Great Northern Hotel

Neighbourhood: King’s Cross

The grand exterior of the Grand Northern Hotel

Dating back to 1854, the charming Great Northern Hotel now stands proud between the Eurostar’s St Pancras terminal and King’s Cross. Mini rooms modelled on sleeper carriages sit alongside pantries filled with tea, coffee and cakes (it’s more “help yourself” than “room service” here), but the main draw is the extra sleep you’ll get being so close to the train platform – we calculate it as a breezy three-minute dash.

Price: Doubles from £249

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Best for business travellers who like to unwind: South Place Hotel

Neighbourhood: The City

The City is chocka with places to stay for frazzled business travellers, but there’s nowhere quite like South Place Hotel. Occupying an unassuming spot between Moorgate and Liverpool Street (and therefore right by the new Crossrail station) is this Conran + Partners-designed boutique hotel with big ambitions. For starters, there’s the art: a canopy of flowers dangles at the entrance and in the bar area, while screens in the lobby and lift blare out kaleidoscopic digital art.

The bedrooms are no less singular, with handpicked artworks from nearby Hoxton Art Gallery and cosy faux-fur throws and 100ml “oranges and lemons” toiletries from perfumer James Heeley. South Place Chop House, the steakhouse on the ground floor, has long been a firm favourite for brunch and dinner, with a lively atmosphere to match; while rooftop restaurant Angler has long closely guarded its one Michelin star. If you’re after a well-placed hotel to go from suit to sundowner, look no further.

Price: Doubles from £306

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Best for museum visits: Number Sixteen

Neighbourhood: South Kensington

The private garden at Number Sixteen is the perfect spot for afternoon tea

Number Sixteen is actually a row of four early 19th-century townhouses, just two blocks from South Kensington tube station – putting you within striking distance of some of London’s most incredible museums and galleries. The entrance is discreet (you may need a helping hand to find it), but once inside you’ll find a smattering of classic Kit Kemp touches, from the beautiful driftwood chandelier in the drawing room, to the striking Quality Street-purple and sunflower yellow pops in the library. Rooms are classy-cool and there’s also a tree-filled private garden for al fresco cocktails.

Price: Doubles from £342

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Best for a proper London view: Hotel Cafe Royal

Neighbourhood: Piccadilly Circus

The Regent suite at Hotel Cafe Royal has balconies that look directly over the billboards of Piccadilly Circus

Few hotels have as “London” a location as Hotel Cafe Royal, tucked discreetly away in a very indiscreet place: Piccadilly Circus. This gorgeous heritage property has retained its historic features (check out the old-school lifts) as well as some seriously starry guests that have included David Bowie and Sir Winston Churchill.

The suite to ask for is 202 (the Regent suite), a vast space with three (three!) balconies overlooking the flashing billboards of London’s most OTT public space, which make the most wonderful, surreal place to enjoy a drink before shuffling downstairs to sip champagne and nibble a posh dessert at three-Michelin-star chef Albert Adrià’s Cake & Bubbles.

Price: Doubles from £829

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Best for a sexy vibe: Blakes Hotel

Neighbourhood: Chelsea

The Beidermeier Suite at Blakes

At the end of a gorgeous residential street in Chelsea is matte-black Blakes, one of London's most coy hotels. Designed by interiors superstar Anoushka Hempel, this five-star boutique toes a cosy line between discreet, sexy and outrageously eclectic: each of the rooms and suites are individually designed (the Biedermeier suite, above, is all black wood, antique furniture and mountains of satin cushions), many with four-poster beds and thick, billowing drapes. Things get racier still in the dim-lit, mirrored Blakes Restaurant downstairs, which at the weekend becomes a Chelsea institution serving decadent plates of burrata, grass-fed rib-eye steak and lobster pasta. The subterranean Blakes Below members' club, also designed by Hempel, is where things ramp up a notch on weekend evenings with a DJ and beautiful crowd.

Blakes is closed for refurbishment until summer 2022.

Price: Doubles from £480 a night

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Best for business travellers: Vintry & Mercer

Neighbourhood: The City

The plant-filled Vintry & Mercer lobby

Vintry & Mercer is part of a growing band of contemporary leisure hotels in London's businessy heart. The sister property to Kensington's Ampersand Hotel is buried amid the narrow streets just behind Mansion House station, home to the City of London's historic livery halls. It's from this plum location that Vintry & Mercer takes its name and inspiration: Vintry for the wine heritage, Mercer for fabrics.

Despite its historic location, this 92-room property makes a seriously modern statement: there are plants sprouting from the lobby, bulb lamps and cosy leather armchairs tucked into every corner. Rooms are compact but jauntily decorated, with each design detail reflecting the hotel's heritage: there's bespoke fabrics in popping jewel tones, palm leaf wallpaper and antiquated maps of the area (plus a free minibar and upscale C.O. Bigelow toiletries in the bathroom). The Mercer Roof Terrace provides spellbinding views of a City sunset alongside its farm-to-table steaks and fish; while sexy-cosy downstairs speakeasy DND wows with its jewelled photographs and playful barrel-aged cocktails. Insider tip: the Martina, made with rum, lemon juice and soy sauce, is named after the owner's girlfriend and a solid-gold bet.

Price: Doubles from £335

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Best for film buffs: Victory House

Neighbourhood: Leicester Square

One of Victory House's executive queen rooms

Sandwiched between the Prince Charles Cinema and Leicester Square is Victory House, an 86-room boutique overlooking the Odeon cinema. The hotel, housed in a late 19th-century building that was once L'Hôtel de l’Europe, is very much inspired by the area: silent films are projected onto the deep purple walls, while cinematic black-and-white photos everywhere give it a whiff of Parisian glamour. The rooms and suites aren't deluxe in size, but rather thoughtfully designed with gold lamps and hooks; some suites on the sixth floor, the highest in the hotel, come with characterful round portholes and drooping eaves.

Overlooking Leicester Square might not be everyone's idea of a good night's sleep, but there's an answer for that too. Everything inside the rooms and suites at Victory House is included in the rate, including a set of earplugs.

Price: Doubles from £250

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Best for afternoon tea: 100 Queen's Gate

Neighbourhood: South Kensington

The light, plant-filled Botanica where afternoon tea is served

Hotel and embassy-strung Queen's Gate runs between groomed Kensington Gardens and South Kensington, meaning some of London's best museums and galleries are almost on the doorstep (the V&A and the Natural History Museum to name just two). Technically part of Hilton's Curio Collection, this boutique-style property is housed across grand townhouses that were the former home of aristocrat William Alexander.

The rooms and neat and plush, with velvet soft furnishings, fun additions like old-style telephones and cosy fireplaces. Downstairs, suntrap atrium Botanica serves an Instagrammable afternoon tea of traditional sandwiches and scones; while in-res restaurant W/A (named after the building's former proprietor) serves a menu of French fusion dishes. The hotel's various artefacts – tweezers in a glass cabinet, a portrait of Virginia Woolf – add to the ever-so-slightly cerebral feel.

Price: Doubles from £241

Best for an eco stay: Treehouse London

Neighbourhood: Fitzrovia

Treehouse's cosy-sexy bar, The Nest

On the upper floors of a nondescript office building in the triangle between All Souls Church and the BBC on Langham Place is Treehouse London, which, like its sister brand 1 Hotels, places its eco credentials centre stage. The plant-overflowing lobby leads off to clubby Mexican Madera, the first outpost of the LA original, which comes with superb views across the roofs of the West End from its cushion-lined wicker bucket chairs. The food's worth hanging around for too: choose from dishes served on the "rocks", a raw bar and a traditional tacqueria. Rooms host cloud-like beds and fun accoutrements (in my room I found a childlike kaleidoscope and a piggy bank) alongside almost no plastic. Instead, there are bulk-size amenities, colourful wooden bird motifs nailed to wooden beams in the bathroom and a wall of glass windows complete with cosy nook to peer over the nearby church. This is a hotel with sky-high views as well as aspirations.

Price: Doubles from £376

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