Boutique hotels in London are the opposite of ‘a place to put your head down’. They offer an extra layer of charm that many of the larger chain properties lack. Often independent or part of a smaller hotel group, they have intimate spaces with a lot of attention to detail. Or at least the best do. We’re talking artsy interiors, classic cocktail bars, lively restaurants and inventive breakfasts.
When it comes to small hotels in London, of course, you’re spoiled for choice (and there’s something for every budget). Whether it’s a rooftop-view oyster happy hour, art installations reflecting a building’s past, or hip chef residences that float your boat, we’ve got recommendations ranging from central London (and the famed West End ) in Notting Hill and Hackney. Here is our selection of the best boutique hotels in London: all you have to do is choose and book.
For a central London boutique hotel, the design-to-price ratio is wonderfully favorable at the Lime Tree Hotel, with off-season rooms from £125 a night and interiors as fresh and fresh-looking as any Firmdale property. With funky wallpaper, cool grays and pastel pinks, they’re incredibly inviting, although all 25 are quite small given the layout of the Georgian terraced houses (which can be forgiven when you could be getting £150 change for this location) . Dinner is a recent addition to The Buttery, her restaurant, but breakfast is the real highlight with everything from a simple bacon butter to grilled mushrooms and creamy stracciatella on toasted sourdough.
When it comes to boutique hotels, East London is full of characterful options that put style, design and personality at the heart of everything they do. This particular place is an interior lover’s (or Instagram snapper’s) paradise where every detail has been carefully thought out. The 17 rooms are all individually decorated after a different 20th-century designer or design movement (from the Bauhaus to young British designers, via Scandinavian, Le Corbusier, Eames, and others). But when it comes down to it, it’s truly a ‘wow’ rooftop with rooms. The outdoor space is so popular that even in the winter people curl up under the covers, while in the summer, of course, it’s great rooftop real estate, with stunning views over the city. The ability for guests to bypass the queues that snake along the road is a huge plus.
One of Soho London’s prettiest boutique hotels, this whimsical period enclave was formerly the home of author William Hazlitt and is like being plunged into the upper-class Victorian era: all caressable red velvet and rich, glossy mahogany with delicate tea sets. Named after the people who frequented the houses in Hazlitt’s day, the rooms are (as to be expected in a boutique property like this) all individually furnished, with freestanding bathtubs, and decorated with antiques, busts, and prints. Anything considered ‘modern’ is well hidden (such as the television hidden within a gilt-framed mirror) or even the loo, hidden within a Jacobean seat.
The reinvention of boutique hotels in London some 18 years ago could arguably be attributed to this forward-thinking hotel group. The stylistic details (like not having a reception for example, just walking into a weird and wonderful ‘front room’) were then copied around town and the slightly quirky interior (a full Victorian theme) was loved from industry. There’s also a big, albeit fictional, backstory that the Georgian townhouse was owned by a 19th-century party-crazed great-aunt named Wilhelmina, hence the extravagant decor and emphasis on the cocktail bar where the drinks seem having been made with ingredients by a pharmacist. The nettle gimlet is really good: mirabeau gin, nettle cordial and lemon.
The story-inspired Georgian style of Batty Langley’s (along with its sister hotels The Rookery in Clerkenwell, below, and Hazlitt’s in Soho, above), seems almost radical at a time when many hotels are converging on a low-key, hued downtown – hanging furniture. This is what makes it one of London’s best boutique hotels; it’s a little whimsical, unashamedly eccentric (much like its namesake, Bartholomew ‘Batty’ Langley, an 18th-century architect) and a lot of fun (the Kitty Fisher suite is named after a famous courtesan). While the over-the-top furnishings and dramatic colors certainly aren’t understated, the hotel has a serenity and you’ll hardly notice other guests.
Tucked away down a tiny alleyway off St James’s Park you’ll find Dukes standing proud, his distinctive Great Britain flag flying gently above the door and sash windows framed by pruned trees. Reassuringly old-fashioned, the hotel dates back to 1908 and heritage is key to its success; oil paintings line the walls in the lobby and in the bar and the original wood-paneled lift (with bench for the weary) is great fun. However, he is always tweaking his offerings, deftly pushing the hotel into a new era with each update, his restaurant GBR being a prime example. Once perhaps slightly stuffy, it’s now an all-day accessible brasserie with monkfish scampi, mushroom and chestnut risotto and a choice of steaks.
While the name “Rookery” in this instance is taken from Smithfield’s heritage as a desolate slum, it also refers to a cluster of nests high in a tree, and this labyrinth of cozy rooms (particularly the two-bedroom penthouse suite floors hidden in the beams) feels very similar; a cozy retreat away from the busy city streets. There is no restaurant, only room service which adds to the ‘holed out’ atmosphere. You’ll find open fireplaces and carved oak four-poster beds rubbing against dark wood walls, thick red silk curtains, and gold-leaf gilded oil paintings. It’s not trying to be anything too ‘cool’ or ‘trendy’, it’s a refreshingly authentic hideaway with good value to boot.
Small London boutique hotels often have limited, if any, outside space, but this family-run place (it’s been in the same family for over a century) has a delightful private garden, surrounded by flower beds and shrubs, with a bright green lawn to strips on which croquet is played in the summer months. But that’s not the only thing that makes it so special; it may be bijou, but its sense of occasion is undeniably grand – perhaps it has to do with its location opposite Buckingham Palace. It means that whatever the event, a negroni in the Cocktail Bar and a dinner in the Michelin starred restaurant is always impressive enough.
London was the original destination for this small group of independent hotels. There are only 10 bedrooms here, each with its own charm. Vintage furniture, distressed leather, and exposed brick are the ingredients of the shabby-chic interior, but note that the “shabby” here has been carefully curated for a wonderfully elegant retro vibe. Walk into your room and a Roberts radio will play, one of his signature “Artist Residence” stamps. Locals pop into the café for a quick morning coffee, while Pimlico office workers stop by for ice-cold glasses of Whispering Angel under the red-and-white striped awnings in the late afternoon. The breakfast is sensational, the stack of buttermilk pancakes is the hero dish.
Named after the founder of the Notting Hill Carnival, Rhaune Laslett, who was (unsurprisingly) known for his fun, creativity and community spirit, this is one of the best boutique hotels London has to offer. While it’s modern and extremely fresh (for example the art is by Londoners, from Barbara Hulanicki of BIBA fame to artist-novelist Harland Miller) it’s also made deliberate decisions like keeping the standard wall light switches (no swish iPad controls ) and allow guests to actually open their windows… Simple choices that cleverly give it a down-to-earth feel. Bathrooms are especially cheery, with subway tile, Belgravia fixtures, full-size REN toiletries, and black-and-white tiled floors.
Small hotels in London don’t get much fancier than the Cadogan Hotel, which has long been a fixture of Sloane Street, home to many generations of London’s upper class. Perhaps because it has lent its solid reputation for so many years, it was definitely in need of a bit of a refresh, so it was fortunate that a sensible brand like Belmond came along to breathe new life into the grande dame (with a 28 million refurbishment). of pounds). in 2019). However, the restaurant remains the beating heart of the operation; the spirited LaLee is a bubbly, busy throwback to Chelsea’s glory days with a wine list the size of a small novel.
A shining example of a boutique hotel sensitively updating a building, but also restoring and celebrating its history. Housed in a fire station dating back to 1887, the original facade has been restored, the former staircase shed is now the guests’ entrance hall and engine room housing the restaurant, with bedrooms above. In between is the horseshoe bar and a courtyard for outdoor seating. It’s compact, but it works. And because it’s quite small and intimate, it’s obviously also quite exclusive. The institution still draws celebrities years after its publicized launch (Lily Allen was spotted on our most recent visit).
Contributions by Emma Beaumont, Sophie Campbell, Fiona Duncan, Lizzie Frainier, Simon Horsford, Charlotte Johnstone, Hugh Morris and Penny Walker