There are lots of potentially ‘romantic’ hotels in London, by which I mean luxurious places suitable for a romantic, self-indulgent break with your partner. But what if you’re looking for something a bit special? For a hotel whose romantic qualities are somehow ingrained in its very walls?
Intimate, historical, atmospheric… here, chosen from a very personal perspective, are five of my favourite romantic hotels in London.
Do you fancy taking a step back in time to Georgian London, to a place where free-standing, claw-footed bathtubs, antique beds, wooden panelling and open fireplaces are the norm? If so, Hazlitt’s could be just the place for you.
Spread across three historic houses in the heart of vibrant, bustling Soho, and entered via a front door so discreet you’d miss it if you didn’t know it was there, it takes its name from William Hazlitt, the 18th-century essayist who lived and died there and is still popular with writers.
The place simply oozes old-world charm, complete with creaking stairs and slightly sloping floors – the result of woodwork that has been slowly shifting for the past 300 years. All the modern conveniences are there as well, of course – it’s just that they’re artfully concealed to maintain the illusion of being inside a time warp.
The Rookery, Clerkenwell
Owned by the same people as Hazlitt’s, and with a similar period character, the Rookery is located in the fashionable area of Clerkenwell, between the West End and the City, close to St Paul’s and the Tate Modern.
Back in the 19th century, Clerkenwell was a notorious ‘rookery’ – a city slum, a place teeming with thieves and scoundrels – but things have changed a lot since then and it’s now gone decidedly upmarket, with restaurants, bars and gastropubs to match its new image.
Inside the Rookery, however, time seemingly came to a standstill a couple of centuries ago, with polished wooden panelling, stone-flagged floors, open fires, heavy silk curtains, Georgian four-posters, and even a prowling cat completing the aura of homely historical warmth.
San Domenico House, Chelsea
Created from two 19th-century, red-brick townhouses in Chelsea, a stone’s throw from Sloane Square and the shops and restaurants of the King’s Road, the interior of San Domenico House could almost make you believe you were inside an Italian palazzo of days gone by.
Not for minimalists, its interiors are sumptuous, overstuffed and over the top – chockfull of antiques, portraits, cushions and gilded mirrors, with marble bathrooms, stairways and landings that lead to hidden rooms, and a small rooftop terrace.
Church Street Hotel, Camberwell
This may well be the most surprising and unexpected lodging in the whole of London. A Spanish-American styled hotel in the nether regions of Camberwell.
Vivid colours, arched doorways, beaded crosses, startling icons, and exquisite. Handpainted tiles all conspire to convince. You that you’re not actually in London at all but in Mexico. There’s even a reception desk that used to be a church. Altar plus complimentary chocolate in the rooms. (a touch that I, for one, particularly like) and a very popular tapas restaurant. Serving some of the best Spanish food you’ll eat outside Spain.
It’s pretty much off the beaten track compared with the other hotels listed here, and Camberwell has its rough edges. But for the experience of a unique hotel and a slice of the ‘real’. Multicultural London, this is a real jewel of a place. The kind of hotel Londoners would choose to spend a night. In just for the experience of it.
The Fielding Hotel, Covent Garden
I couldn’t resist including this one, even though it’s neither a luxury hotel nor a boutique one. Nevertheless, there’s something magical about it. If I didn’t live in London but had to stay here overnight, this might well be the place I’d pick.
First of all, there’s the location right in the heart of Covent Garden, on a quiet. Pedestrianised street that’s illuminated with gas lights at night.. And secondly, there’s the appealing look of the place. Which, from the outside, rather resembles. The kind of family pensione you might find in Italy.
Facilities and services are basic. Although the front desk is manned around the clock, there’s no bar, breakfast room, concierge, or room service. And there’s no lift. But does it matter when you have Covent Garden Piazza on your doorstep? Early in the morning, before the crowds arrive, and late at night. Once they’ve gone home, it’s hard to imagine a more evocative and romantic place than this!