Destination: England: London
45 Park Lane
Vibe: Sophisticated, hip, modern
At a Glance: The newest U.K. property to join the Dorchester Collection, which owns such landmark hotels as the Plaza Athénée in Paris and the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles, offers a more subtle, contemporary take on luxury.Indagare Loves
- Sleek decor and contemporary art, including work by Damien Hirst
- Late-night cocktails and snacks at hip Bar 45
- Views of Hyde Park from every room
Located next to the Dorchester Collection’s flashy, eponymous flagship in Mayfair, the 45-room boutique Park Lane occupies a restored historic building, which used to house London’s Playboy Club but is now a far cry from 1960s bunnies. French designer Thierry Despont (interior designer for Bill Gates and the Carlyle among others) created lavish but cool interiors, with original contemporary art, including works by Damian Hirst, chocolate-brown suede walls and pretty limed mahogany.
The views of Hyde Park of the rooms look onto the green expanse—are a lovely destination-specific detail. The only “event” space in the hotel is a media room, of course, with super-comfy chaises and an intimate vibe (it seats a mere ten people). With no reception and its intimate interiors, 45 Park Lane doesn’t feel like a hotel and maintains the vibe of a cozy club. The only real glitz factor at 45 Park Lane is an outpost of Wolfgang Puck’s Cut restaurant franchise, which has received some mixed reviews for its high prices and noisy rock n’ roll soundtrack (selected by Puck himself). More winning is the cool Bar 45, on the first floor, which stays open until 1:30 am and serves innovative cocktails and popular bar snacks, like mini Kobe sliders and steak or tuna tartar.
Who Should Stay: Those who love the five-star trappings of the Dorchester but prefer a more discreet vibe and modern decor.
Vibe: History meets hip
At a Glance: London’s “first ever hotel” sits in the heart of Mayfair just steps from Bond Street and has been snazzed up by Olga Polizzi for the 21st century.
Indagare Loves * The light filled suites facing Dover Street * The location just steps from Bond Street and Piccadilly * The historic and hip details in the Donovan Bar
If the walls of this historic hotel, which opened in 1837, could speak, they would tell a colorful story of London. Its beehive of rooms (in eleven joined Georgian townhouses) has hosted writers (Rudyard Kipling and Agatha Christie) and presidents (Roosevelt) and dozens of dignitaries, royals and movie stars. Among the historic moments memorialized in the landmark property: Alexander Graham Bell’s placing of the first phone call in Britain and Rudyard Kipling penning The Jungle Book here. During World War II a special exit to the bomb shelter had to be built for Churchill who liked to dine here for lunch. When Sir Rocco Forte’s hotel group took over the hotel, he brought in his stylish sister Olga Polizzi to clean up the quaint chintz rooms and bring a more modern sensibility to the place. Though many of the antique details like the grand front stairs were preserved, all of the 117 guest rooms and twenty-nine suites were given a contemporary makeover. The most successful ones are the suites facing Dover Street with their floor to ceiling windows and residential touches. Some rooms like 425 work for families as they are large one bedrooms with a living area with a sofa that easily converts to another bed for a child. The least successful rooms are the ones facing the interior courtyards as the grey palette of the rooms can create a dreary atmosphere and make you understand why the old decorators played up the floral patterns in the smaller rooms. And despite the charming, homey feeling of the hotel, it does come with all of the amenities of the larger, grand hotels nearby such as a spa, fitness room and business center. Hix, the main restaurant, celebrates British cuisine and all of its traditions with heaping breakfasts of bacon, eggs and scones and a carving trolley at lunch. But the more modern action comes across the foyer in Donovan’s Bar when the afternoon tea is over and the cocktail crowd comes for martinis. Should Agatha Christie reappear she would have a whole new cast of characters with whom to play.
Who should stay: Those who want to be a stone’s throw from Sotheby’s and Bond Street and those who like apartment like suites in Mayfair.
Covent Garden Hotel
Vibe: Boutique, hip, theater crowd
At a Glance: Divine, not too pricey and situated in the heart of London’s theater district, Covent Garden has an intimate and clubby atmosphere that draws a star-studded crowd.Indagare Loves
- Individually designed rooms and suites each with whimsical Kit Kemp look
- Buzzing scene at Brasserie Max
- Convenient location to theaters and main London attractions
Owned by Kit and Tim Kemp’s Firmdale Group, which has six other hotels in London and one in New York, Covent Garden can claim Scarlett Johansson, Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet as fans. Designed by the talented Kit Kemp, who lovingly decorated each of the fifty-eight bedrooms and suites in a different style, the hotel’s appealing touches include fabric-covered mannequins that complement the rooms, oversize headboards towering above plush four-posters and top-of-the-line Miller Harris bath products. Giorgio Armani likes Penthouse 303, and John Malkovich always books Room 201 (though Junior Suite 5, all red toile and high ceilings, would be my pick).
Despite Covent Garden’s small size, it boasts the amenities of a larger property – an excellent restaurant, a gym, the Soholistic beauty treatment room, even a screening room that can accommodate up to 47 guests. Indagare members have commented that this is a great choice for theater-going visitors as well as for families (it’s central to many tourist sights). But do not expect the neighborhood to feel quiet or tucked away; you are staying in the middle of bustling Covent Garden.
Who Should Stay: Fans of the fun, cheeky Firmdale design who want a bustling, central London location.
Metropolitan by COMO
Vibe: Contemporary, hip, spa
At a Glance: The sister hotel of the Halkin , also owned and run by the Como Hotel Group, the Metropolitan is a fashion darling.Indagare Loves:
- Access to members-only Met Bar
- Serene, minimalist rooms a restful escape from busy Mayfair
- On-site COMO Shambhala Urban Escape one of London’s best spas
With hip but minimalist interiors, a Zen vibe, a branch of Nobu and one of London’s most acclaimed spas on the premises, the Metropolitan is a hot spot for a reason. Many of the 144 rooms overlook Hyde Park, and those on higher floors are veritable cocoons of serenity floating above the green expanse. The members-only Met Bar remains one of London’s trendiest meeting spots, and guests have automatic access. Although the Metropolitan doesn’t immediately appear family friendly, they offer serviced apartments – two- and three-bedroom options – that are ideal for parents in search of space.
Who Should Stay: Fans of contemporary design seeking an oasis of calm in Mayfair.
Vibe: Traditional, romantic
At a Glance: This elegant boutique hotel near Buckingham Palace in Belgravia is where Kate Middleton decided to spend the night before her wedding.Indagare Loves:
- Traditional decor that feels quintessentially English
- Excellent service reminiscent of another era
- Pretty patio for outdoor breakfast or high tea
The vibe at the Goring is traditional English, particularly in its excellent service. In fact, the Goring is one of the few truly old-school English hotels left in London. Interiors boast silk wall coverings and lovely whimsical touches (a toy sheep on every bed) that give the Goring a lot of character. Each of the sixty-eight rooms has a different decor. In good weather breakfast is served on a patio overlooking the croquet lawn. This is a great option for those who want a larger hotel without the luxury label or who prefer a property that feels English through and through. Belgravia’s excellent cafés, restaurants and shops are all within walking distance.
Who Should Stay: Aristocrats, royals-in-waiting and anyone who wants a truly old-school English experience, from the excellent service to the classically decorated rooms.
Vibe: Design-conscious, chic, boutique
At a Glance: Founded by Singaporean hotelier Christina Ong, this boutique hotel, on a quiet street in Belgravia, is a favorite retreat for the fashion crowd.Indagare Loves:
- Contemporary, minimalist decor
- Stylish, well-heeled crowd
- Desirable Belgravia location
The Ongs, who own Parrot Cay in Turks and Caicos and the Four Seasons in the Maldives,, study design trends; they built an empire on importing such labels as Giorgio Armani to Asia, so it’s not surprising that they know how to cater to fans like Donna Karan and Donatella Versace. In the sleek, 41-room COMO property, the staff wears Armani uniforms, the rooms have cherry wood paneling and the restaurant menu emphasizes fresh local ingredients. The rooms, with their minimal decor, cream-colored fabrics and subtle touches, such as taffeta curtains, feel like experiments in inducing serenity—fittingly, they were designed by a Milan firm called Laborati Associati. One major drawback for the fabulous-looking people who tend to stay there: If working out is part of your daily ritual, you will have to hoof it to the Halkin’s sister hotel, the Metropolitan, to use its small basement gym, which is decidedly less glamorous than doing yoga back in your meditative room.
Who Should Stay: Fashionistas and media moguls who love a hip crowd and stylish rooms with staff that knows how to handle bigwigs.
Vibe: Cozy, charming, stylish
At a Glance: This forty-four-room boutique property, part of the Firmdale empire, resembles an haute version of a bed and breakfast.Indagare Loves:
- Stylish Kit Kemp-designed rooms
- Pretty library and drawing room for afternoon tea or evening cocktails
- Short walk to Harrods, Harvey Nichols and V&A Museum
Interiors at the Knightsbridge, courtesy of Kit Kemp, are stylish and contemporary while still quintessentially British: snug sitting rooms, sandstone fireplaces, a library for afternoon tea. There’s no restaurant, but a wonderful breakfast is served in the sitting rooms, and 24-hour room service is also available. Tucked among elegant, residential townhouses, the Knightsbridge is also very well located for first-time visitors: down the street from Harrods, Harvey Nichols and the V&A Museum.
Who Should Stay: Couples in search of a stylish Knightsbridge hideaway.
The Stafford London Kempinski
Vibe: Old-fashioned, cozy, family-friendly
At a Glance: The 109 rooms of this historic hotel are scattered throughout three distinct buildings in the Edwardian St. James neighborhood, steps from Mayfair.Indagare Loves:
- Quiet location just steps from the action of Mayfair
- Range of room decor, from traditional to contemporary, in various buildings
- Quirky American bar hung with memorabilia dating to the 1930s
The Stafford encompasses three buildings, including the recently refurbished main house, the romantic Carriage House, a former stables with country home interiors, and the Stafford Mews, which were added in 2007 and houses surprisingly modern suites. A quintessential British vibe prevails, and even though the hotel is just steps from Piccadilly and the area’s acclaimed contemporary art galleries, it feels wonderfully tucked away and quiet. With a large repeat clientele, it is no surprise that there is a clubby atmosphere but staff bends over backwards to make newcomers feel at home. The American Bar has been one of London’s most famous watering holes for visitors since the 1930s.
Who Should Stay: Families and couples who want a hotel with a sense of history and classic design.
Search By Keyword
Change comes slowly to this small Bahamian island, and that’s...
Home to dozens of unsolved mysteries, the island known as...
New on Indagare
Give the Gift of Indagare The perfect present for travelers: a membership to Indagare. Buy now
Indagare Insider Trips: Cuba, Myanmar and India: We’re planning trips throughout the year. Contact Indagare (212-988-2611) to be added to the wait list.
- Community: Share advice with fellow members asking about your favorite travel discoveries.
- Indagare Insiders: Three-day itineraries for families in London and art lovers in Vienna. Plus, fashion insider Chiara Ferragamo’s picks on what not to miss in Florence, Bonnie Gokson, owner of Hong Kong’s lofty Sevva on Hong Kong, Culinary Insider: Budapest.
- Rant & Rave: Indagare members can share their advice with the community by logging in first, then clicking here: Rants & Raves.
- Give the Gift: Indagare: Give the gift of travel intelligence with a membership to Indagare. For details or to order, call us at 212-988-2611 or click here: Gift Membership.
- Indagare Plus: Remember that hotels marked by an Indagare Plus symbol offer preferential rates and benefits to members.
- Indagare Share Feature: Share articles, postcards and reviews with family and friends on such networking sites as Twitter, Facebook and Delicious. Simply click on the three small dots that symbolize our connect icon, at the end of every article, and follow the link to the networking site of your preference.
- Sample Indagare: With free bi-weekly email blasts on new hot spots and insider tips when you sign up for our mailing list.
- Profile feature: Members share your profiles, comments, favorite articles and IQs. Just click on the Profile tab on the upper right of your screen and look for the Edit My Profile blue tab.
- Indagare means to discover, explore, seek, scout in Latin.