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Top 5 “design hotels” with flair AND service.

by Rajul on September 22, 2010

One Aldwych is an icon among London's "design led" hotels...and was very much the trendsetter

From Christopher Wren’s magnificent St Paul’s Cathedral to Norman Foster’s iconic ‘Gherkin’, the UK capital certainly has no shortage of architectural and design flair (and its fair share of ugly buildings too!).

But away from such well known sites of photogenic splendour, London’s hotels also have a lot to offer anyone with an eye for design.  I don’t personally like the term “design hotels” but it is useful shorthand to describe hotels which have a contemporary and minimalist vibe.

What I dislike particularly though is hotels which put style over substance.  I’d actually prefer to stay in boring hotel buildings where there is decent service rather than beautiful ones which feel completely sterile.

So in this spirit we’ve identified several London hotels that tick all the boxes… delivering inspiring design and good, old-fashioned service representing the very best hospitality that London hotels can offer.

One Aldwych

One Aldwych near Covent Garden is a stunning example of modern interior design, coupled with a sumptuous early 20th century exterior.   It really is the city’s original “design hotel” which has spawned lots of imitators.  And the One Aldwych sense of style is timeless and doesn’t seem to age at all.

Check the best rate for One Aldwych from 30+ hotel booking sites

Many "design hotel" style cues we now take for granted originated at One Aldwych - which in many ways proves that the "original" is best

From its spacious minimalist lobby to its chic modern restaurants and bars, One Aldwych is an ideal setting for its owner’s superb contemporary art collection.  It does also benefit from a great location – handy both for Covent Garden and to explore the historic pubs of Holborn.  It’s not far too from the cultural attractions across the bridge in the vibrant South Bank.

The Mandeville Hotel

Over in Marylebone meanwhile, the Mandeville offers boldly-decorated rooms with a subtly elegant boutique feel, orchestrated by internationally-famous ARA design in conjunction with furniture designer Julian Chichester.

Check the best rate for the Mandeville Hotel from 30+ hotel booking sites

A beautifully-furnished deluxe room at the Mandeville

Marble bathrooms and modern touches, such as LCD flat screen televisions make a stay at the Mandeville a sumptuously aesthetic and luxurious treat.

The hotel is just off Oxford Street and perfect for London shopping.

The Zetter

Further out of the centre in Clerkenwell, the Zetter first opened its doors in 2004.  It was voted into the list of the world’s ‘50 coolest hotels’ by Conde Nast Traveller magazine soon after.  The Zetter has continued to uphold its reputation since then as one of London’s finest design-led hotels.

Check the best rate for the Zetter Hotel from 30+ hotel booking sites

The Zetter has rooms with a quirky designer style very much its own

Originally a Victorian warehouse, a multi-million pound renovation saw the Zetter become a spaciously modern boutique hotel.  The management has also gone to extraordinary lengths to make it an eco-friendly hotel.

Its rooms are not always spectacular but certainly offer attractive value for money and include some innovative designer touches.

The Bistrot Bruno Loubet restaurant is a charmingly urbane yet cosy affair, full of light colours to lift the mood of even the most sombre culinary critic.

The May Fair Hotel

Opened by King George V in 1927, the May Fair Hotel brings its own unique brand of luxury five star comfort into the 21st century.

The official hotel of London Fashion Week, the May Fair has hosted numerous exclusive parties and events.  Its luxurious screening room is one of the capital’s largest private cinemas and its hotel bar one of London’s most popular celebrity haunts.  This is a hotel that always has a buzz.

Check the best rate for The May Fair Hotel from 30+ hotel booking sites

The May Fair Hotel houses some properly stylish rooms and suites in London's celebrity heartland

The hotel’s bedrooms meanwhile are stylishly understated, yet wonderfully appointed with Catalan furniture and Sicilian marble bathrooms.

Those seeking relaxation will find it in abundance at the May Fair Spa – one of the better London hotel spas – where ultra-modern minimalist chic blends with ancient eastern charm.  And you might spot someone famous!

Soho Hotel

Finally, The Soho Hotel is perfect for anyone seeking a quiet base within the beating heart of London’s entertainment and nightlife epicentre.

Guests entering the lobby for the first time will be impressed by Colombian sculptor Fernando Botero’s distinctive bronze cat sculpture.  Visual treats continue throughout the hotel which is furnished with exquisite taste.

Check the best rate for the Soho Hotel from 30+ hotel booking sites

The bronze cat is an icon of the stylish Soho Hotel - but great service has kept it in London's top 5 TripAdvisor hotels for a while

Opened six years ago by top London hoteliers Tim and Kit Kemp, the Soho’s decor is a testament to designer Kit’s keen eye for detail, and each of the hotel’s 91 rooms is uniquely furnished in a bold contemporary style.

We’ve enjoyed several lovely Soho evenings in the hotel’s Refuel Bar with its winning combination of creative cocktails and friendly service.

If you don’t like design hotels, you may prefer to read our listing of the best townhouse hotels in London.  Alternatively, you may enjoy discovering our selection of London hotels with 5 star service but not prices.

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Photo credits: One Aldwych, May Fair Hotel, Mandeville Hotel, Soho Hotel, Zetter Hotel.

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