If you’re keen to mix with the locals and see the real London, stay at these top-rated neighborhood hotels. The city comes alive outside Zone One.
San Domenico House 82 Chelsea
This Italian-owned haven for the well-heeled of Chelsea isn’t cheap, but for a neighborhood hotel, it is something special. The 19 rooms are styled like scenes from the Renaissance, with rag-painted walls and voluminous drapes in vibrant colors. Antique furniture and four poster beds complete the look.
All the shops you could ever want are on the doorstep, as well London’s top museums and the Royal Albert Hall. The Five Fields 82 which critics have tipped as one of London’s top restaurants for 2020, is just around the corner. Frommer’s says this hotel delivers, “divine Italian luxury at its most romantic and English-accented.” In other words – it’s got wow factor.
+44 (0)20 7581 5757, from £250 per room per night, www.sandomenicohouse.com
Portobello Hotel 84 Notting Hill
At the height of the punk rock era, some legendary showbiz moments happened at the Portobello Hotel. The Beastie Boys were arrested there, the Sex Pistols were thrown out, and Patti Smith was a regular. Later, it was where U2 signed a record deal, and Damon Albarn was a bartender. Despite this, the hotel remains low-key – apart from the décor, which Travel + Leisure describes as, “seventies Marrakesh madness meets faded country-house glamour.”
Located in the heart of Notting Hill, the antique shops and artisan bakeries of Portobello Road are on the doorstep. And you can walk to Hereford Road 84 a popular neighborhood restaurant where the menu is as intriguing as your accommodation.
+44 (0)20 7727 2777, from £190 per room per night, www.portobellohotel.com
Town Hall Hotel 86 Bethnal Green
You know your hotel is cooler than you when events – sorry – “happenings” include life drawing classes of… wolves. But don’t let that put you off, because this former Edwardian town hall is a beautiful design hotel, with some fabulous restaurants, and being this far from Central London, feels like a steal.
Explore the arty neighborhood of Bethnal Green, which has character, grit and great nightlife. On a sunny Sunday, walk to Columbia Road, which is full of independent shops, cafes as well as Columbia Road Flower Market 79 A word of warning – this isn’t the best hotel if you’re seeking peace and quiet. There are frequent hipster weddings and photo shoots and you might also find instagrammers running riot.
York & Albany Hotel 78 Camden
An eight-room hotel owned by Gordon Ramsey, the York and Albany has tasteful décor – original fireplaces and four poster beds – and a buzzy restaurant. The hotel just pretends to be in Camden – in fact, it’s on a lovely hill (with a Whole Foods, no less) leading directly to Regent's Park 88 But it’s in easy reach of the grungier side of Camden if you’re keen to explore.
This hotel is a good choice if you have children and animals in tow. Kids eat free in the restaurant, and the park and ZSL London Zoo 87 are within strolling distance. For live music-fans, The Blues Kitchen is just down the street, as is, of course, The Jazz Cafe, which everyone should visit at least once.
+44 (0)20 7387 5700, www.gordonramsayrestaurants.com/york-and-albany/hotel/, from £230 per room per night.
Fifteen years ago, Shoreditch was a hinterland. At night, you didn’t stray far from Great Eastern Street. But then, prices shot through the roof, and soon cocktail bars began appearing on every corner. The hugely popular Hoxton Hotel, built out of a converted car park, was one of the first cool places to spring up and it’s still cool, years later.
Considering the Hoxton is located in what the Telegraph calls “the heart of hipster heaven” it’s surprisingly affordable, friendly, and has great perks for travelers like free phone calls all over the world. There are dozens of places to eat nearby, but for a magical lunch or dinner, head to Rochelle Canteen 82 – a restaurant in a converted school bike shed that is worshipped by locals.
+44 (0) 207 550 1000, from £130 per room per night, https://thehoxton.com
The Milestone Hotel and Residences 87 Kensington
Opposite Hyde Park and Kensington Palace 89 the Milestone is a traditional English hotel with elegant furnishings, and a quirky horse-racing themed bar. Known for its exceptional service, there are two members of staff for every guest, which says it all really. There is a suite named after Meghan Markle, and if you stay here, expect to be treated like royalty too.
With grand white stucco fronted houses, and more than a dozen imposing embassy buildings, Kensington might feel intimidating at first. But wander down the cobbled streets and you’ll find classic pubs, all peeling paint and chandeliers, and some pretty garden squares. On the street behind the hotel is Launceston Place 80 a fine dining restaurant loved by well-to-do locals.
+44 (0)207 917 1000, from £350 per room per night, www.milestonehotel.com
40 Winks 78 Stepney Green
This two-room bed and breakfast is owned by flamboyant interior designer David Walker, described by Elle Decor as the “enfant terrible of British design.” As you might expect, staying here is like walking into an exploded jewelery box. The idea is to offer guests a fairy-tale experience. Rooms are filled with objects and curios (each one has a story) given to the designer by photographers, artists and the like.
Once you’ve recovered from this overdose of English eccentricity, have a wander around Stepney Green. A little rough around the edges, it has some good pubs and Bangladeshi, Turkish and Pakistani restaurants. The Tower of London 95 the City, and Spitalfields Market are all nearby.
single room £115 per night, double £185 per night. Both rooms can be hired together, www.40winks.org