The Best Hotels in London to Take Your Other Half

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 Esquire Editors
Published: 29 May 2023

Where to wow your partner on your next visit to the capital.

London can be an expensive place, but if you're coming for a relatively short stay suddenly the luxury hotel scene opens right up to you. There are few better cities in the world to have a short term blow out, where the building you're staying in is as memorable as the city around it. The best hotels in London are an experience in and of themselves.

Or maybe you're a Londoner who just needs to step outside of your own four walls, away from your own bed, for a night or two? If lockdown taught us anything, it’s that a change of scenery does us good every now and again.

Here we round up the best London hotels for a short, romantic stay. They range from the reasonable to the high end of the price scale, but they all have a special something to recommend them above the rest.

The one with Seventies cool: The Standard

A red bubble lift is the only pop of colour on the beautiful brutalist facade of The Standard Hotel in King’s Cross (the group’s first London outpost), but it’s a sign of things to come. Walk inside, straight through to the open plan lounge/bar/restaurant, and you’ll be met with a tribute to confidently cool Sixties and Seventies interior design – Austin Powers' swinging London with a dash of counterculture Hollywood Hills; walnut panelling, soft leather sofas, furry walls and shag carpeting, geometric shapes and optical-art murals – all conceived by American designer Shawn Hausman. He was inspired by the building’s previous life as a library during that period, so you’ll find a selection of carefully curated books in the lounge too.

Venture up into one of the 266 rooms, and you’ll discover tastefully kitsch homages to London transport designs (in the rooms facing St Pancras), minimalist mixes of relaxing wood furnishings and plants (in the windowless Cosy Core rooms at the centre of the building), and in some of the suites towards the top of the building, an al fresco bathtub and private bars (as well as complimentary raincoats. Not quite as glamorous, granted, but very, very useful in London).

The luxurious suites would be a worthy location for a cocktail party, but there are already plenty of places to do that within the hotel: walk past the DJ-booth in the lounge and you’ll find the swanky Double Standard and Isla bar/restaurants (the former sells delicious dive bar staples, the latter seafood and small plates). Then there’s Decimo on the 10th floor, where Michelin-starred chef Peter Sanchez-Iglesias merges the Spanish food of his upbringing with the Mexican food he’s grown to love. And last but certainly not least, you can shoot up to the rooftop bar, which provides panoramic views across the capital (and a top tier cocktail menu, of course.) There are plenty of specials on, too, including a self-care suite and a 'stay for three, pay for two' deal.

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The one with the stunning rooftop pool: Art'otel Battersea

It’s strange to think that Bethnal Green Town Hall, the grand neoclassical building that looms over Cambridge Heath Road in East London, laid vacant for quite so long. The council moved out in 1993 but, bar some starring roles in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Atonement, it wasn’t until 2010 that the sprawling space was opened to the public again in the form of a five-star hotel.

The art deco interior has been largely maintained – a green and white marble staircase greets you as you enter the reception and, like so many British civic buildings that cropped up in the early century and ultimately aged out of use, there’s an interesting balance of the majestic and the everyday in its design. The rooms – there are 96, though only 12 are double rooms and the rest are suites, studios and apartments – are bathed in natural light thanks to the high windows, with innovative layouts that set the hotel apart from competition and serve as a constant reminder of the building’s former life – the most striking room, by far, is the grand triple-height De Montfort Suite, with its arched windows, stained-glass panelling and abundance of space. Then there’s the heated indoor pool, a rarity for luxury London hotels, and an in-house restaurant, too.

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The one with an unbeatable location: ME London

It's hard to imagine a slicker all-round package for a one-night weekend stay than the Foster & Partners-designed ME hotel in the old Marconi building at one end of the Aldwych opposite Waterloo Bridge. From the moment you arrive in the reception area which features an impressive 30 metre atrium, it's hard not to feel as if you have docked onto a luxury space station. The minimalist and monochrome rooms are cleverly kitted out and include various light settings which only add to the sci-fi feel. Upstairs is a very cool terrace which serves brunch during the day and becomes a destination bar by night.

The STK steak restaurant is glamorous and buzzy, while the in-house Italian is a little more laid-back. Oh, and did we mention the location that perfectly straddles East and West, and is within throwing distance of a post-checkout stroll along the Thames or shopping trip to Covent Garden. A booking you won't regret.

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The one for relaxation: Pan Pacific London

A mere stone’s throw from Liverpool Street Station, amidst all the swinging briefcases and beer-swilling commuters, sits an unexpected oasis of calm. You’ll get the vibe as soon as you look up to see swimmers perched up at the Pan Pacific’s 18.5m infinity pool: this is a hotel to relax in.

The neutral tones and soft interiors, aided by an abundance of natural light, immediately make you feel at ease, but that’s the least of it. Beyond the aforementioned swimming spot, loungers and accompanying spa sessions, you’ll have the chance to take part in the hotel’s new innovative Rest, Recharge and Rejuvenate sleep program.

The big attraction is the revolutionary Ooler Sleep System, which you can use to heat up each side of the bed to different temperatures (underneath a Mela weight blanket, for good measure.) Then there’s the Pañpuri aromatherapy oils, to ensure you’re properly loosened up. If you want the meditative calm of a spa getaway but still want to be surrounded by the buzz of the capital, then this is a top choice.

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The one with the unforgettable rooms: Blakes

This magnificent 5 star Kensington boutique can lay claim to being perhaps London's most stylish hotel for numerous reasons - from the Victorian town house exterior to the gorgeous bar area - but it is the rooms that really stand out. Originally established by the celebrated designer Anouska Hempel, each one is the essence of unfussy sophistication full of delightful details. Not for nothing is Blakes a cult choice among many of the capital's visiting artists and designers.

Food-wise you're onto a winner too. The restaurant, freshly renovated as of last summer, aims to conjure up the interior of 'a beautiful old fashioned steamer sailing up the Bosphorus'. Quite how accurate that is we're not sure, but the contemporary, Mediterranean-influenced menu attracts non-guests from all around the city for good reason (we recommend the grilled octopus and lobster paccheri pasta) - intimate and cheerful yet glamorous, it is one of the best dining spaces in London.

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The one with the cheese: No. 10 Manchester Street

From its glorious West London red brick façade through to its smart, chic rooms and excellent in-house restaurant, No. Ten Manchester Street is a classic example of a four star hotel that feels by and large like a five star. Throw in one of the best locations imaginable for a relaxed exploration of the city away from the chaotic tourist beats of Trafalgar Square et al, and you’ve got a great option for any weekend stay.

Even more so, at the moment. The hotel has rustled up a package deal in which guests can enjoy a two-night stay in an executive room that includes an experience at nearby cheese mecca La Fromagerie. The small, charming restaurant is a perfect romantic spot to dip some charcuterie and potato in a classic Fondue Savoyarde – washed down with a crisp Chignin Vers les Alpes. It’s an Alpine treat, only with no mountains outside. Unless you decide to climb the Tower of London afterwards, we suppose. Hurry, though: the £315 package ends this year.

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The one for serious shoppers: The Gantry

If you like to shop, this is by far the best (and nearest) place you can drop. Situated just around the corner from the UK’s biggest shopping centre Westfield Stratford City, The Gantry’s sleek, dark, and lightly industrial interiors make it the ideal place to unwind. The thoroughly modern hotel is kitted out with smart TVs and waterfall showers, while floor-to-ceiling windows allow incredible views of the surrounding skyscrapers.

The jewel in the hotel’s (mid-century modern) crown, however, is the Union Social terrace, complete with comfy armchairs and fire pits that allow you to eat and drink while watching the sun sink behind the skyline. A Sicilian chef heads up the hotel’s Union Social restaurant, which serves an abundance of pasta and fish dishes, as well as salads and small plates. The hotel even has a set menu for fans attending the nearby ABBA Voyage concert in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (yes, Swedish meatballs are on the menu).

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The one with the good lighting: Nobu Hotel, Shoreditch

You could convince us to book a stay at just about any hotel with the suggestion that Robert De Niro might, maybe, almost-definitely-not-but-who-knows, be checking in too. The American actor co-founded Nobu in 1994; first as a Japanese-Peruvian restaurant in New York with celebrity chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa and film producer Meir Teper, then as eight luxury hotels spread across five continents (and 38 more restaurants for good measure.) What better chance to hand him your game changing screenplay (“Goodfellas in space”)?

But Nobu has a lot more going for it than the occasional sight of De Niro picking at some black cod. London’s original outpost landed in Mayfair in 1997, but it took twenty years until a hotel would arrive in the capital – first in Shoreditch, then another in Portman Square, during the uncertain days of lockdown. The latter is inspired by the pale wood Japanese minimalism of the since-closed Berkeley Street restaurant, while the 164-room East London location, a former multi-story car park, is a characteristically edgier offering. Brutalist-inspired concrete abounds; an orthogonal series of rooms recline over Willow Street, metal fixtures jutting out of the building’s façade. The dark wood suites are beautiful and spacious, the standard rooms tastefully designed. It recently enjoyed the addition of two skyline suites and a private rooftop terrace.

When it comes to grabbing dinner at the restaurant, let the waiter take the lead on menu choices (it’s a big one, and they’ll make sure you get a taste of the classics). Just rest easy... and leave Robert De Niro alone.

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The one with the atrium: The Landmark London

In a city not exactly short on impressive dining spaces, the restaurant at The Landmark London still manages to be breathtaking. Positioned beneath an eight-storey glass roof and lined with palm trees and balconies, the effect is feeling like you're in an exotic outdoor plaza in sunny climes rather than a 5 star hotel a stone's throw from Baker Street.

Luckily, the food matches the setting, with sumptuous modern-European cuisine served by night and one of the best breakfasts in the city come morning. The rooms, too, are delightful: tasteful and spacious.

The Landmark London is charmingly old-fashioned (afternoon tea is still a cornerstone of its appeal, as is the slightly chintzy decor), a quality that extends to a quietly luxurious atmosphere and impeccably attentive staff.

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The one that stands tall: The Stratford

Walk out of Stratford International Station, look up, up and up again, and you’ll be met with one of London’s most unique skyscrapers: the Manhattan Loft Gardens. Opened in the summer of 2019 and dreamed up by the architects behind the Burj Khalifa and One World Trade Centre, this double-cantilevered tower is sliced open by gravity-defying sky gardens and features both apartments and a hotel, which is all part of an ambitious plan to create a ‘vertical community’ in the skyline of the rejuvenated postcode.

The hotel is called The Stratford, and it occupies the first seven floors of the building. And while you’d expect the glass-panelled drama to follow you inside, things become far more calming as soon as you enter. Danish design studio Space Copenhagen, who were responsible for the first Noma restaurant, have given the interior an airy Scandinavian feel, with high ceilings, mid-century furnishings and earthy tones throughout. The impressive rooms are just as understatedly luxurious and soothing, with stone bathrooms, soft bedrooms and floor-to-ceiling windows – which means plenty of great natural lighting for all those braggy Instagram photos you’re bound to take.

In terms of food options, there’s the much-raved-about Allegra restaurant on the seventh floor and Kitchen E20 by the entrance. The latter is overseen by Head Chef Josh Deacon (formerly of the Rail House Café), who arrived after lockdown and has crafted a modern British menu with an Australasian influence. Like everything else at The Stratford, it is unpretentious and impressive. Then there’s the sky terrace on the seventh floor – well worth the entry price alone.

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The one with the must-have tasting menu: St. James Hotel

If you’re looking for luxury, why stay anywhere but the most expensive square on the Monopoly board? Situated in the aorta of Mayfair, St. James is a five-star boutique hotel with classic British charm: it’s impossible not to feel like an old-school aristocrat when walking up its red-carpeted stone steps. The hotel is small enough that service feels personalised and attentive, and with Buckingham Palace just a ten-minute walk away, this is the perfect place to gain royal pretensions for a weekend.

Having the king for a neighbour is one thing, but on-site Michelin star restaurant Seven Park Place is the hotel’s real selling point. Head chef William Drabble serves up seasonal French menus – the £140 Gourmand tasting menu is an unmissable experience where you can sample everything from scallops to pheasant to Baron Bigod brie, all served in a light, bright dining room.

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The one with the best views: Shangri-La

The real reason to pick the Shangri-La over any other luxury hotel in London is, of course, the breathtaking views. Located at the top of The Shard – the capital's tallest (and increasingly iconic) structure – the whole of the city is on display, whether you're eating, swimming or propped up on your bed. Watching the light change in the sky as London sleeps, wakes, works and plays is really something special. Luckily, the hotel and its staff do not rest on their laurels as a result of the Shangri-La's huge advantage – the rooms are immaculate, the European-Asian food and inventive cocktails superb (at TĪNG and GŎNG respectively) and the indoor pool at (almost) the very top is a small slice of heaven. Then even run regular Cultural Salon events too – the first was with designer Paul Smith, with many more exciting speakers planned for the year ahead.

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The one with the hidden secrets: Batty Langley's

It's hard to know where to begin describing this boutique hotel in Shoreditch, so let us start by listing some things it is not: modern, sleek, minimalist, boring. Instead, it's a slightly bonkers, absolutely beautifully designed and fantastically original Downton Abbey-esque bolthole situated (somewhat incongruously) on the cusp of East London's trendiest quarters. Full of books, fireplaces and ornate touches, it bucks every contemporary trend for hotels and is all the better for it.

There is no restaurant at Batty Langleys (although a wonderfully cosy and well-stocked honesty bar is free to use and they will deliver an A+ bacon sandwich to your room for breakfast), meaning most of the focus has been put onto the rooms. They are uniformly stunning - lavishing appointed with cheeky and surprising design details (one has a toilet accessible via hidden door in the book case). It really is like stepping into another era, and yet the feel is fun, not stuffy. For an imaginative choice in a great part of town, look no further.

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The one that takes you by surprise: The Mandrake

This five-star boutique hotel might sit minutes from Oxford Street, but The Mandrake mercifully feels like a world away from that long drag of American candy stores and closing down sales. It sits inconspicuously on Newburgh Street, easily missed if not for the waiting doorman and the feathered eye that looms above the entrance. A quiet locale gives way to a dark, club-like lobby that continues into the slim bar and around to Yopo, the Latin-American fusion restaurant. The food is very good, particularly the crudo, and the music isn’t as conversation-crushing as you might fear. There’s a open-air courtyard too, boasting palm trees and nice tiles and a bunch of other stuff that will help you forget that you’re within axe-throwing distance of an axe-throwing bar; walk out and look up, and you’ll find its surrounded by a beautiful three-story hanging garden, divided by wooden terraces that host most of the hotel’s 34 diminutive but distinctively designed rooms, as well as a greenhouse. From the library to the bar, it’s a social hotel at heart.

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The beautiful one: 11 Cadogan Gardens

From the entrance onwards, it is clear that a visit to 11 Cadogan is a visit to one of London's most aesthetically pleasing boutique hotels. Inside the sumptuous drawing room, library and terrace only enhance this impression, as do the glorious staircases. Classically British in design, you'll fall for the place right away - and that's before you've even reached the stunning bedrooms - feeling for all the world like the head of an important Victorian townhouse. If you're looking to explore Chelsea and Knightsbridge, you won't find a more relaxing and satisfying base than this.

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The one with the whisky: Athenaeum

This family-run 5-star hotel in Mayfair is as charming and perfectly located a spot as you could wish for, with one significant upperhand over most its rivals. 270 bottles decorate their specially appointed whisky bar, manned by an expert Sommerlier. Walk in an amateur, leave an expert in the greatest drink of them all, and what foods to pair it with.

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The one with the history: The Savoy

The name alone conjures the height of British glamour, as it has more or less since the doors first opened in 1889 when it was London's first and only luxury hotel. Today, the rich history of The Savoy sits comfortably alongside first class modern service and facilities – the art deco of the famous American Bar is joined by the contemporary luxury of the Beaufort Bar, and a traditional roast – still one of the best in town – is available, besides the best in modern seafood at Kaspars. Decades on, The Savoy is still among the very best places to stay in town, and no where else can match it for basking in the sense of historic splendour, and thinking of the innumerable famous faces who have passed through it before you.

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The one the royals love: The Ritz

The name of this hotel is so tied up in our idea of luxury and British history, it can be hard to believe it actually exists. That sense of unreality is only heightened by actually walking through the doors, where you enter another, far more refined world in which every corner of the building is lavishly appointed and the staff - understandably - ooze with pleasure at where they work. Not for nothing is the Ritz where the royal family prefer to stay: within seconds you feel like royalty, too.

The stunning dining areas - topped by the main restaurant which ranks among the grandest in London - serve peerless British fare, while our favourite spot is definitely The Rivoli, a small bar made up of conspiratorial hubs and corners where the cocktails hit the sweet spot (so often missed in London) between classic and inventive. The rooms are as you'd expect: huge and traditionally glamourous. The Ritz is in one of the best posts in London. Plus there's plenty of shopping options nearby – and if the stay has already put a big dent in your bank account, then you can bypass Mayfair for the relative affordability of Soho, which hosts many of our favourite menswear brands (Sunspel, Oliver Spencer, Universal Works) as well as brilliant restaurants and historic pubs (The Coach & Horses on Greek Street is a particular highlight, ditto The French House on Dean Street).

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Originally published on Esquire UK

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