The best, and most memorable, hotels are reflections of the neighborhoods and cities they inhabit. But in massive cities like London, it can be tough to find the perfect fit.
Here are four neighborhoods that make great home bases in one of the greatest cities in the world—and hotels to match:
> Covent Garden
Why Here: Just as Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, and even the former industrial wilds of Stratford have morphed into hip areas, Covent Garden—yes, home to the touristed theater district and blaring street performances, but also to a rich history—is an area to watch. The neighborhood grants equal access to the Thames and the heart of the city—a rarity in London—as well as more than 20 theaters, including the Royal Opera House, within a ten-minute’s walk, making it an ideal home base for visitors.
The Hotel: Independently owned One Aldwych opened in 1998, before Covent Garden began seeing substantial changes. “Fifteen years ago, [locals] wouldn’t stay for a drink or to shop [after seeing a theater show],” Howard Rombough of One Aldwych told me. “[Now] Londoners are back in love with it.”
Housed in the former home of the Morning Post (which merged with the Telegraph), this boutique hotel exudes a sense of calm—from the double-height ceiling in the lobby to the tucked away reception desk—the moment you walk in. Many rooms overlook area landmarks, including the impressive Lyceum Theatre, which lends a wonderful sense of place. There are no disruptive housekeeping trolleys in the halls; all the bed linens and towels are carried in.
Tip: Check out the hotel’s London Tips cards which offer up-to-the-minute insight into the neighborhood and Voices at One Aldwych, a video series featuring influential locals like actress Joanna Lumley and Paralympic athlete Sarah Storey who reveal their favorite spots in Covent Garden.
> Little Venice
Why Here: This charming neighborhood is brimming with canal-side cafes and pubs and puts travelers minutes away from Central London (the closest Tube station is Warwick Avenue, one stop from Paddington). Plus, where else can you take a boat to the zoo?
The Hotel: The Colonnade is big on English charm—and reasonable rates (rooms can often be booked for less than 100 pounds). “It used to be a beautiful old house,” says London-based author Jerramy Fine. “Alan Turing [whose life inspired the Oscar-winning The Imitation Game] was actually born there.” Fine also recommends the pub beside it, The Prince Alfred. “There are secret entrances for when the nobility chose to sneak in their mistresses,” she says.
Why Here: This is a quiet, upscale neighborhood in the heart of Central London, with easy access to some of the city’s best-loved cultural institutions (the Victoria & Albert and Natural History museums among them) as well as South Kensington’s idyllic shop-filled streets. Plus, you’re a short stroll from Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.
The Hotel: If you know where Harrods is, you’re a stone’s throw away from it at the Egerton House Hotel. “I love it because it’s so personal and they give all guests such a great welcome,” Susie Worthy, founder of of NoteWorthy UK told me. “It’s a delightful, comfortable townhouse in a quiet location but within walking distance of 30-40 restaurants.”
Why Here: Because it’s home to Colin Firth, of course! That and the fact that it’s a leafy neighborhood full of boutique shops, bakeries, and sidewalk bistros. The closest Tube stop, Turnham Green, is just three stations away from Earls Court, providing easy access to all the Central London sights.
The Hotel: High Road House is part of the Soho House family of private clubs, so you might think it’s elite and exclusive. But you don’t have to be a member to book a room (or access the entire private club, for that matter, provided you’re a guest). And, because the High Road isn’t in Central London, the prices are reasonable. “The standards are high and the decor is hip,” Fine says.
Tip: A word to the wise from Jerramy Fine: “Don’t miss the famous breakfast on the patio downstairs and ask for a passion fruit and chili martini in the evening.”