City Escape: London

London, 5 Ways

Whatever your travel personality, find a hotel to match.


By Amy Laughinghouse

1. Gourmets
Diners at the 214-room Berkeley in Knightsbridge witness culinary theatrics from a kitchen-front chef’s table in Marcus Wareing’s eponymous two-Michelin-starred restaurant. Those who prefer hearty French fare can catch Pierre Koffmann of La Tante Claire fame whipping up his signature pig’s trotters and pistachio soufflé in Koffmann’s open kitchen. The nightcap: Blue Bar, reportedly Madonna’s neighborhood favorite, pops with a white onyx bar on black leather flooring.
  • All dressed up: Prêt-à-Portea, The Berkeley’s chic take on afternoon tea, features runway-worthy cakes and cookies in the shape of clothes and accessories. 44-20/7107-8866.
  • Local favorite: Need a break from fussy fare? Walk over to popular Pantechnicon pub for dishes such as venison and rock oysters, braised pork belly, Devon lamb, and fish-and-chips. 10 Motcomb Street; 44-20/7730-6074.
2. Art & Culture Fans
An enticing blend of Edwardian and art deco architecture, the 268-room Savoy places guests at London’s cultural crossroads, close to the West End’s stages, National Gallery, Royal Opera House, and National Theatre. Monet and Whistler painted views from their Thames-side rooms, and a museum off the lobby enshrines memorabilia from this 123-year-old grande dame’s most illustrious guests.
  • Bring it back: West End stars host signings at Covent Garden’s Dress Circle, which sells musical soundtracks, posters, songbooks, and collectibles. 57-59 Monmouth Street; 44-20/7240-2227.
  • Belly up: In the Edwardian era, Gilbert and Sullivan regularly performed at The Coal Hole, a traditional pub next to The Savoy with a high oak-beamed ceiling, wood-paneled walls, and variety of real ales. 91-92 Strand; 44-20/7379 9883.
3. Romantics
Butlers pull double duty as romance concierges at the 93-room Lanesborough. After welcoming you with complimentary Champagne, the 24/7 staff can draw a bath complete with candles, music, and essential oils; coordinate couple’s massages in the spa or in room; and arrange everything you need for a big night, from dinner reservations to theater tickets to new duds to don on the town.
  • Say it with flowers: A rose by any other name can probably be found at the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show, one of the world’s most famous floral showcases, held on 11 acres in Chelsea each spring. Royal Hospital Chelsea grounds; 44-08/45260-5000.
  • Eye do: Few can resist a whirl on the London Eye. Book a private pod for a Champagne toast and twilight views of the city. Riverside Building, Westminster Bridge Road; 44-08/71781-3000.
  • Hot night: Sip cocktails to the bendy burlesque antics of performers at Circus, Covent Garden’s cabaret bar and restaurant. 27-29 Endell Street; 44-20/7420-9300.
4. Style Seekers
Rocco Forte’s Brown’s Hotel counts Karl Lagerfeld and Tom Ford among its clientele and is so close to chic Dover Street boutiques, Bond Street’s power labels, and men’s fashion go-to Jermyn Street, you could mince your way to them in your most impractical Manolo Blahniks. If this sartorial smorgasbord makes your head spin (or goes right over it), take note: The 117-room hotel can introduce you to a personal shopper who will help you shop till you cry uncle or max out your card. Bets on which comes first?
  • Six degrees of sensational: Comme des Garçons founder Rei Kawakubo mixes funk with fashion labels like Givenchy, Azzedine Alaïa, and Yves Saint Laurent over six floors at the Dover Street Market, a warehouse that treads a fine line between cheeky art installation space and couture emporium. 17-18 Dover Street; 44-20/7518-0680.
  • New arrival: McQ—Alexander McQueen’s younger, more affordable offspring—debuted its flagship store in a Georgian townhouse on Dover Street, a short stroll from Brown’s back door. 14 Dover Street.
5. Families
The family-run Goring’s general manager and proprietor both have wee ones of their own, so they know how to keep it fun and engaging. For starters: Welcome them with a kit that includes games, toys, and an official-looking passport to fill with stamps and win a prize. Nearly every aspect of the 69-room property gets in on the game, from the in-room Nintendo Wiis and milk-and-cookies turndown service to the children’s library to the invitation to bake cookies with the chef and shake (nonalcoholic) cocktails with the bartender.
  • Park it: Navigate Hyde Park’s Serpentine lake by row- or pedal-boat and let the kids splash in the Diana Memorial Fountain. In adjacent Kensington Gardens, a playground pirate ship motivates mini-swashbucklers.
  • Fast fun: Take a break from museums and guidebook sights to whiz along the Thames in speedboats with Captain Kidd’s Canary Wharf Voyage, a 50-minute thrill ride for all ages. London Eye Millennium Pier, South Bank; 44-20/7928-8933. 
Originally appeared in Virtuoso Life magazine, March 2012.