London may be famous for its grand historic hotel buildings, but the city’s top boutique properties prove that small can be beautiful, too. Perfect for travelers who prefer that home-away-from-home feel, these smaller addresses can be found across town, from shopping meccas like Knightbridge to hip locales like Fitzrovia. Here are our favorites.
The Milestone Hotel
If the Milestone has the feel of a luxurious family home, that’s because it once was exactly that, having been converted from three Victorian townhouses back in the last century. Original period features abound in the public areas, and each of the 44 rooms, 12 suites and six long-stay, full-service apartments has a different layout. What was once a real life stable is now The Stables Bar, a cozy place to try a cocktail made with house-infused spirits. There’s a small gym and spa, complete with resistance pool, in the basement — a rarity among London boutique hotels. Runners can take advantage of beautiful Kensington Gardens, just across the road. Those of a less athletic disposition might enjoy a ride in the Milestone’s chauffeur-driven Bentley for shopping trips and tours.
Belgraves – A Thompson Hotel
Not far from the shopping paradises of Sloane Square and Knightbridge, Belgraves is an ideal choice for visitors with fashion on the brain. The first London outpost of the Thompson group, the hotel has all the elegance of the Belgravia district with none of the stuffiness. Warm bedrooms and suites feature bold modern design, Ralph Lauren fabrics, splashes of color and contemporary artworks on the walls. The coolness extends into the hotel’s food and beverage offering as well, thanks to rock star chef Sophie Michell’s Pont St., a delightful eatery with a menu that’s influenced by the Mediterranean, Melbourne and Monterey. Ask for a bedroom on the ninth floor to take advantage of wonderful views over the British capital.
The atmosphere at this residents-only establishment just opposite the stables of Buckingham Palace is reminiscent of a private member’s club, with socializing, eating and drinking all taking place in the snug Executive Lounge. A bold black-and-white color scheme can be found throughout the 28 rooms and suites, while the hotel’s two self-contained apartments have more of a homely look. Most rooms have open fires, and all have marble bathrooms whose decadence comes as a pleasant surprise in a hotel of this size. Hotel 41 makes up for the lack of an in-house gym and spa by providing guests with everyday access to the nearby L.A. Fitness health club, which has its own indoor pool, gym and fitness studios.
One of the first purpose-built fire stations in London, dating from 1889, this Victorian Gothic building is now home to 26 rooms and suites, all of which boast — ironically enough — working fireplaces. Interiors are all about stripped-back style, white walls and crisp sheets providing a stunning counterpoint to statement furniture. With so few rooms, service is the star, each guest benefitting from a dedicated personal concierge. Nuno Mendes’ restaurant is a top celebrity hangout, popular with the likes of the Beckhams and Lindsay Lohan. Make sure you climb the fire station’s former watchtower — the views over Marylebone and beyond are just fantastic.
Charlotte Street Hotel
As cool as Soho, but a good bit more refined, Fitzrovia is a great option for visitors who want to be central but not right in the thick of things. And the Charlotte Street Hotel is Fitzrovia epitomized, hip but not trying too hard, stylish but not stuffy. Each of the 52 bedrooms and suites is different, with bold patterns, quirky artworks and comfortable furnishings characterizing design director Kit Kemp’s modern English styling. The comfortable private cinema hints to the neighborhood’s media focus, but this is no industry-only amenity; movie screenings are held on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons, with filmgoers treated to a three-course meal at Oscar’s restaurant before or after the show.