Destination: England: London
Vibe: Grande dame, buzzing scene, timeless classic
At a Glance: If you want to live large, Claridge’s is the place to do it.Indagare Loves:
- Buzzing lobby is the ultimate London power scene
- Spacious rooms, even in entry-level categories
- Sixth floor gym and spa with city views
Popular with presidents, kings, prime ministers, and movie stars, the 203-room hotel artfully combines history, Art Deco charm and top-notch service, all under one opulent roof. The English Old Guard especially love it. My mother left the hotel for a few years, staying at the Ritz instead, but one day walked into Claridge’s lobby. The first thing the head porter, Thomas, said was, “When are you coming home, Mrs. Bowes?” Have a glass of Champagne at the bar, enjoy the few modern touches, such as Dale Chihuly’s fantastical light sculpture in the foyer and the sleek Reading Room by renowned designer Thierry Despont, and you’ll see why the hotel has such loyal fans.
Rooms and suites come in a variety of styles, ranging from traditional English to Art Deco to the signature suites, designed by Diane Von Furstenberg and David Linley. Von Furstenberg’s Grand Piano Suite features signature bold prints and bright-colored fabrics, as well as original one-off furniture pieces, like vanity tables, cocktail cabinets and drawer sets, so those in search of more contemporary decor – at a price – might consider a splurge. For those in search of something more standard, even the entry-level rooms are spacious, starting at 400 square feet and up.
Claridge’s amenities are appealing enough that even locals flock here to join the health club and spa, located on the sixth floor and with views across the city. The restaurant is perennially packed, and afternoon tea is so popular that it sells out months in advance (bookings can be done online). And though the hotel has a reputation as one of London’s most prestigious grande dames, it’s family-friendly as well, even stocking the latest Nintendo Wii games and delivering a children’s magazine along with mom and dad’s morning paper.
Who Should Stay: High rollers, well-heeled families and anyone else who wants to experience the ultimate London power (see and be) scene.
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
Vibe: Old World rooms, New World crowd
At a Glance: Housed in a historic building originally constructed as an exclusive Edwardian gentleman’s club, the Mandarin Oriental now welcomes equally powerful but much more chic patrons.Indagare Loves
- Cocktails with the in crowd at the Mandarin Bar
- Romantic suites built into the turrets of the building
- Asian-influenced Mandarin Spa for post-shopping relaxation
The Mandarin Oriental brought its Asian standards to bear on the service, and now the hotel, which overlooks Hyde Park,, compares to the best in London—but what really got the buzz going was the bar and the spa. The Mandarin Bar has become one of the coolest places to meet for a drink after work or before or after dinner; its sleek stools and sitting corners seem to be constantly draped with pretty young things in Jimmy Choo heels. Maybe even hotter than the bar scene, though, is the Mandarin Spa. An afternoon appointment for one of its Asian-influenced mind-body-spirit rituals immediately became one of the toughest reservations in town and remains so. When I last stayed there, I found the very traditional room decor a bit at odds with the chic of the bar and spa but was impressed with the service and loved the central location. If you have a few minutes free, you can dart across to Harvey Nichols for a quick fix of cool Britannia shopping.
Who Should Stay: Travelers who want proximity to Knightsbridge shopping and a hip bar scene but prefer a more Old World look upstairs.
Vibe: Family-friendly, elegant, updated classic
At a Glance: This is the kind of discreet, elegant hotel preferred by people who like to be well taken care of but don’t like a lot of fuss or fanfare.Indagare Loves
- Fantastic rooftop pool for year-round swimming
- Convenient Knightsbridge location, steps to Hyde Park
- Ever popular Blue Bar, where celebs and fashionistas flock to drink vintage champagnes and cocktails
When the staff calls up to a room to tell a guest that a lady is there for a visit, they often mean a titled Lady. You will see elegant women of a certain age who remain loyal to the hotel even if they mourn the loss of their dowagers’ watering hole, which has been replaced by more modern cuisines and scenes. (In the early 1900s, the Berkeley’s main dining room was one of the only places in London where respectable young women could eat unchaperoned, and their fondness for it has remained for decades.) To keep up with the changing times and to draw a younger, more fashionable crowd, in 1995 the hotel invited Jean-Georges Vongerichten to open a branch of Vong there. Then, in 2003, Vong was replaced by Gordon Ramsay’s vision of an understated urban eatery, in the form of the Barbara Barry–designed Boxwood Café. Those who check in, though, are less concerned with the dining options than with the old-fashioned comme il faut service, which guarantees that a stay there will be one with few surprises. The 214 rooms were recently redone but remain conservative and comfortable. As a third generation of regulars now stays at the property with children in tow, rooms can be outfitted by request with everything from high chairs, Game Boy Advances and bottle warmers to child-size terry robes and slippers. Another appeal for families, especially those visiting in the summer months, is the fantastic rooftop pool.
Who Should Stay: Families as well as couples who value service, location and stylishly elegant rooms. Anyone who wants a great pool.
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The Savoy, A Fairmont Managed Hotel
Vibe: Grand, glitzy, iconic
At a Glance: Having undergone one of the most laborious and ambitious restorations in hotel history, the Savoy reopened its doors to rave reviews.Indagare Loves
- Spectacular views of the Thames and the London Eye
- Glamorous suites that celebrate notable Savoy guests of the past, including Monet and Hepburn
- Fantastic personal shopping service
The genius behind the revitalization of this iconic property, designer Pierre-Yves Rochon, seamlessly blends the Savoy’s storied past with the present. Many original details have been preserved and beautifully refurbished. Original moldings, fixtures and furnishings bring to life the Edwardian and Art Deco eras of its heyday, while such fabled public spaces as the American Bar,, Savoy Grill and River Restaurant have been stylishly updated with a modern twist.
Once the stomping grounds of celebrities and heads of state, these areas now bustle with more energy than ever before. Weekend tea times are booked months in advance. At the same time, the Savoy also boasts new over-the-top additions, including the Beaufort Bar, the Shop at the Savoy and £10,000-a-night Royal Suite.
While maintaining their original Edwardian and Art Deco aesthetics, the Savoy’s 268 rooms have been completely refurbished and outfitted with Mascioni bed linens, flat screen LCD televisions, Murano chandeliers and 24-hour butler service for suites. Designer Pierre-Yves Rochon introduced nine Personality Suites, honoring a few of the Savoy’s high-profile guests of the past. Suites in the Art Deco Wing are dedicated to Marlene Dietrich, Noel Coward, Frank Sinatra and Richard Harris, while the Edwardian Wing celebrates Maria Callas, Katherine Hepburn, Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin and Monet, who painted a number of works from his bedroom window. I stayed in the glamorous Hepburn Suite, filled with photographs, portraits and sketches of the actress, as well as memorabilia collected during her stays. My favorite touch: A life-size sketch of her above the claw-foot bathtub. The 38 river-view rooms and suites, meanwhile, have been reconfigured to offer more space and spectacular vistas of the River Thames and London Eye.
Guests of the Savoy should not miss The SHOP, a unique personal shopping experience introduced last February. With a black book of retail contacts, theSHOP’s team can arrange everything from half- and full-day personal shopping itineraries to behind-the-scenes access to leading designers and artisan showrooms. Whether looking for a limited-edition Birkin Bag or iPad 2 the SHOP can obtain it, often within twenty-four hours.
Who Should Stay: Families and first-timer visitors. Reminiscent of New York’s Plaza Hotel of yesteryear, the Savoy is very grand, very opulent and buzzing with action (envision tourists snapping photos of the lobby). Its location on the Strand in Covent Garden is ideal for sightseeing, with most major sites – National Gallery, Big Ben, House of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and London Eye – within walking distance.
Who Should NOT Stay: Anyone seeking a more intimate experience. Covent Garden is very commercial, often likened to New York’s Midtown or Times Square. Travelers looking for a posh, residential vibe should skip the Savoy and settle in Mayfair or Knightsbridge.
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