Even during—and despite—the pandemic, London in 2021 saw the opening of dozens of new hotels across the city, from Shoreditch to Soho. In addition, long-standing hotels took advantage of the pause to revamp interiors, expand spas, add new food and beverage offerings, and debut different programming. Taken together, it means the city has no shortage of exciting new options—here’s where to stay the next time you’re in the Big Smoke.
- What to expect: A hip hideaway in one of London’s busiest areas
- Neighborhood: Soho
- Book now
London’s West End is akin to New York’s Broadway district: bustling, busy, teeming with theatergoers. But step inside the Londoner, a warren of quiet spaces set across 16 stories on the southwest corner of Leicester Square, and that busyness seems worlds away. This flip from chaotic to quiet isn’t the only contradiction. Impossibly, the Londoner is a big hotel that manages to feel small.
Dubbing itself the world’s first “super boutique” hotel, the Londoner opened in September 2021 with 350 bedrooms and suites. Minimalism is the name of the game across all rooms, which have been done up in neutrals and pastels—tan, cream, rose—and sport floor-to-ceiling windows and plush, curved seating beneath artwork commissioned specifically for the hotel. Suites include living and dining areas, and the crown of the Londoner—the 2,153-square-foot Tower Penthouse—has a stunning wood staircase, skylight, and its own bar made of Calacatta Tucci marble.
The Londoner also houses seven meeting spaces, a sprawling ballroom, a private guest residence, and six restaurants and bars: Whitcomb’s, the hotel’s signature restaurant, is on a terrace overlooking the square and serves breakfast as well as French-Mediterranean fare. There’s also Joshua’s Tavern (more than 50 regional gins; light bar bites), the Stage (emphasis on vintage and prestige champagnes), and 8 at the Londoner, a cool indoor-outdoor space with retractable roofs and modern Japanese fare overseen by chef Kuenhi Won, formerly of Nobu.
One of AFAR’s favorite features at the Londoner: the Residence, a 24-hour lounge exclusive to hotel guests that feels like a living room in large part thanks to its offerings (board games, Assouline books, international newspapers, complimentary tea, coffee, soft drinks, and antipasti) and aesthetic touches (hand-painted mural by New York–based creative duo En Viu, workspaces with plenty of plugs, a well-stocked bar). Whiskey lovers will want to wander down the hall just off the Residence to the 14-seat Whisky Room to sample the wares and splurge on a tasting.
For more, er, healthful pursuits, descend to the Retreat, the subterranean wellness floor with a gym, juice bar, nail salon, spa, steam room, sauna, and beauty and grooming services. Reserve a cabana (read: private couch) poolside and bliss out.
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
- What to expect: Familiar, five-star service with lots of new appeal
- Neighborhood: Knightsbridge
- Book now
Mandarin Oriental hotels are known for their intuitive, gracious, discrete service, and this Knightsbridge property is no different—but it also has quite the setting and history. Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park is directly across from Hyde Park—a Royal Park that was once the hunting grounds of Henry VII—and west of Buckingham Palace. (If you hear horses in the morning, that’s the royal cavalry passing by.) Originally opened in 1908 as the Hyde Park Hotel and then in 2000 as a Mandarin Oriental, the hotel closed in 2016 for a makeover—and a fire broke out in June 2018, delaying what Mandarin Oriental management called the “most extensive restoration” in the hotel’s history. In April 2019, the property reopened with 141 renovated rooms and 40 revamped suites, an enlarged spa, a transformed lobby, and redone restaurants—including the Roseberry tearoom and its restaurant with two Michelin stars, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal.
Throughout earth-toned rooms and suites, designer Joyce Wang incorporated nods to the park with an art deco twist: Gilded acorn chandeliers, wooden floors, and ceilings with curved lines mimic the park’s walkways; bathrooms are done almost entirely in white marble. That said, the hotel has been smart to keep—and highlight—elements of its past, including a dedicated royal entrance originally used by Queen Victoria (today most often used for weddings) and a ballroom where Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret took dance lessons as children (delightfully, the wood floor—though covered—still squeaks).
One of the newest additions to the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park is the Aubrey, which opened in March 2022 on the hotel’s ground floor. Billed as an “eccentric izakaya (pub),” the Aubrey consists of five separate dining areas, all of them cozy, low-lit, and featuring low-slung seating. Formal Japanese ukiyo-e prints line the walls, but this is no formal space: When there isn’t Japanese trap music playing, a DJ spins live here from Thursday to Sunday, and the cocktails—delivered quietly from the wood-paneled bar—are equally as lively, with Japanese ingredients like umeshu (plum liquor) incorporated inventively. As with a traditional izakaya, plates are designed for sharing. Standouts include the wagyu beef sando, gomae (cold baby spinach and sesame), and oxtail and bone marrow fried rice. However full you are, don’t miss the white miso soufflé.
Come winter 2022, Mandarin Oriental will double its footprint in London when it opens Mandarin Oriental Mayfair, which will sit on historic Hanover Square and include 50 guest rooms and 78 private residences. In addition to a spa focused on “renewal and recalibration,” the hotel will include an eponymous restaurant from Michelin-star chef Akira Back, making his U.K. debut with the brand.
- What to expect: A classic with a facelift—and new drinking options
- Neighborhood: Mayfair
- Book now
Once a former parking garage meant to serve customers of nearby department store Selfridges, the Grade II-listed building housing the Beaumont is striking: bone white, neoclassical, lined with columns and sitting just across Brown Hart Gardens in London’s tony West End. When former owners/restaurateurs Chris Corbin and Jimmy King decided to turn the space into a hotel in 2014, they settled on interiors that evoked a prewar Mayfair, all understated glitz and glamour.
Inside, that translates as warmly lit public spaces with checkerboard floors, cherrywood paneling, mahogany-shell sofas, a humidor, black-and-white photos of the Roaring ’20s, and more than 1,500 original pieces of art. The theme continues throughout the hotel’s 50 rooms and 22 suites, which have bronze mirrors, oil paintings, large wooden desks, and silk curtains. Suites include a living room, library, and terrace overlooking the gardens.
Though the Barclay brothers (the Ritz) took over the hotel in 2018, rooms—design, decor—remained largely unchanged until 2020, when the Beaumont closed for 17 months due to the pandemic. Sensing an opportunity, the hotel enlisted New York–based designer Thierry Despont and London-based architects Reardon Smith to rethink and refurbish its art deco interiors.
Among the new offerings? A sheltered outdoor terrace facing Brown Hart Gardens, an entirely new Mayfair Suite, and an enlarged spa (now with four treatment rooms). Perhaps most exciting are the Beaumont’s dining options: The 30-seat Le Magritte bar—inspired by a 1920s American bar—specializes in bourbons, American whiskies, and cocktails. The Colony Grill retains its club atmosphere, with banquettes reupholstered in red leather and new art. It remains a top draw: On a recent spring visit, we spotted one of the world’s biggest pop stars eating breakfast in the lounge by the Grill.
East of Hyde Park and north of Buckingham Palace, the Beaumont also has location going for it. Bonus: If you want to travel somewhere within two miles of the hotel but don’t feel like walking, the hotel’s chauffeur will drive you in an emissions-free Mercedes for no added cost.
- What to expect: Cool cruise ship vibes on land
- Neighborhood: South Bank
- Book now
Formerly home to the Mondrian London, Sea Containers London was established in January 2019. Dubbing itself a London “anchor on the River Thames,” Sea Containers gives the impression of a 1920s cruise liner stranded on shore—all the trappings of luxury remain, of course. Mere minutes by foot from the Tate Modern (7–8 minutes at New York City speed) and the London Eye (11–13), Sea Containers is an excellent jumping-off point for the cultural hub that is the South Bank. (Indeed, you can also access the hotel from the riverside walkway.)
The first thing you’ll notice at the entrance is the massive copper hull that frames the reception desk, as well as three giant blue chain links. As you ascend and descend the hotel floors, the color schemes mimic being on a ship: the spa, below river level, is done in shades of white and neutral; the hotel’s 61-seat movie theater on reception level is themed with blue. The “top deck” of the building is host to the rooftop 12th Knot Bar, an indoor-outdoor space with panoramic views of the city and the Thames below.
Rooms also nod to the cruise ship narrative, with maritime-themed metallic pieces, cubby-like closets, and pendant lighting. All come in a gray and hot pink color scheme, with custom Tom Dixon seating. Suites have generous balconies with a variety of seating and plants, and it’s fun to sit and watch the (London) world go by.
If you need a nightcap, you would be hard pressed to find a better hotel bar than Lyaness, which is on the ground floor and led by celebrated mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka Mr. Lyan. (The space formerly housed Chetiyawardana’s Dandelyan, which was named World’s Best Bar in October 2018 and closed in March 2019, to make way for Lyaness.) With five signature base ingredients—including oyster honey and fruit furikake—the menu is as dizzying as it is dazzling. On a recent Tuesday spring night, staff were turning away those without reservations, while the lucky few sat enjoying the view.
One Hundred Shoreditch
- What to expect: Hip hotel, hip location
- Neighborhood: Shoreditch
- Book now
Like travelers, locals seem to love One Hundred Shoreditch. On a recent visit, they were seemingly everywhere: plugged into charging ports, sitting at the long wood table (leftover from the hotel’s former home as an Ace Hotel), and nursing iced lattes in the hotel’s very good coffee shop (aptly named: Coffee Shop). The hotel opened in March 2022 with 258 rooms and suites and clearly hasn’t lost its buzz.
Rooms face the bustling Shoreditch high street, but the hotel is surprisingly quiet. (Oriel windows made it easy to sit and watch the action.) The ample natural light and minimal design (lots of white and light wood) enhance the calm feeling. There are pops of color thanks to a tapestry wall and custom artwork by Jacu Strauss.
Elsewhere, in common spaces, the white is abandoned for colors that sing: The new rooftop bar offering views across East London conjures up playful Palm Springs with pink terrazzo tables and green plants galore, while a cozy red-themed bar from Mr. Lyan, called Seed Library, serves the classics with a twist—a martini with a Szechuan leaf instead of an olive, say. Also of note is the hotel’s signature restaurant, Goddard and Gibbs, an all-day seafood restaurant inspired by England’s seaside villages.
If you do manage to pull yourself away from the calm and cool of the hotel, you’re in a good location for exploring: One Hundred Shoreditch is a stone’s throw from the popular Columbia Road Flower Market (Sundays) and a walkable 20 minutes or so from Broadway Market, where travelers can find everything from antiques to some of London’s best street food.
Nobu Hotel London Portman Square
- What to expect: The Nobu brand expands in London with a second property
- Neighborhood: Marylebone
- Book now
When it debuted in December 2020, the hotel was open a mere two weeks before closing due to the pandemic. After reopening in May 2021, this 249-room hotel—anchored by its enormous signature restaurant—feels very much like a Place To Be: an urban watering hole for cocktails in the dimly lit Nobu bar or a morning coffee and the paper in the Lobby Lounge, whether you’re staying or not.
You’ll want to book far in advance for a table at the restaurant—Londoners have filled every prime dinner slot to indulge in the signature dishes like yellowtail jalapeño, crispy rice with spicy tuna, and black cod miso.
Throughout the public spaces, the design is Japanese inspired—sleek, neutral, and calm—but with showstopping elements like a 16-foot kinetic sculpture in the high-ceilinged lobby, mesmerizing as it turns. Interiors were designed by David Collins Studio, a firm specializing in hotels like Gleneagles in Scotland but also spaces like Harrod’s dining hall and the Alexander McQueen flagship store in Paris.
The defining feature of the hotel is the Nobu Pilates studio, the first of its kind from the brand. Led by former Equinox instructor Marsha Lindsay, and with three signature classes—Power, Pure, and Precision—the studio, like the restaurant, feels very Los Angeles in London. It’s already a big hit with Marylebone locals. There is also a large gym and juice bar. Here, you’re just a short walk away from the charming Marylebone high street and one of London’s special smaller museums, the Wallace Collection.
The Mayfair Townhouse
- What to expect: A stylish new social hub in London
- Neighborhood: Mayfair
- Book now
In London’s Mayfair, Half Moon Street was Oscar Wilde’s social stomping ground. He belonged to a nearby men’s club and set his play The Importance of Being Earnest on the town house–lined street. Today, the new 172-room Mayfair Townhouse there has a whimsical and smart vibe—the owners describe it as “Oscar Wilde meets Alice in Wonderland.”
Set across 15 town houses, the property has shed anything corporate from its former life as a Hilton. After an initial launch in December 2020, it officially opened in May 2021.
The first thing you see when you walk in is Alfie, the hotel’s sparkly peacock sculpture, encrusted with 26,000 Swarovski crystals. It’s a first feel of the hotel’s celebration of the “dandy lifestyle,” a term that historically meant the pursuit of the finer things in life—and there is a lot of pleasure here, including the brilliant Dandy Bar, where the signature cocktails have names like the Casanova, the Earl of Mayfair, and Madame Fox.
A mischievous and chic fox is the hotel’s mascot, adorning every room door. And the artwork throughout is the opposite of musty town house—contemporary fine art portraits of the fictional Renard (“fox” in French) family by Miss Aniela feel amusing and peculiar, a mash-up of the 19th and 21st centuries.
Some of the rooms, peaceful and deep-hued in blue, green, and gold, have gardens and balconies. Late night cravings can be satisfied with British snacks from the free minibar offerings, like Mr. Filbert’s olives and cheese and onion potato chips from British Crisp Co. If you’re solo, don’t discount the wonderful entry-level cabin rooms—they’re one of the best small-room offerings in the luxury London market.
The Mayfair Townhouse is a part of Iconic Luxury Hotels, which includes country hotels Chewton Glen in Hampshire and Cliveden in Berkshire. You get a hint of country life with the Noble Isle bath amenities, which smell like a sweet British summer day.
- What to expect: An exclusive-use property with top design and Jane Austen vibes
- Neighborhood: Marylebone
- Book now
Henry’s Townhouse is another splashy town house opened in 2021, but it’s only one Grade II-listed house in Marylebone—and its seven bedrooms are exclusive-use only. For a family reunion, wedding party, or holiday gathering, this is a great new option in London’s hospitality scene.
Who is Henry? He was Jane Austen’s brother, and he lived in this house for about five years. (Jane did visit him here.) He managed her estate after she died. Today, the narrow town house has one staircase going up five floors, a cozy front lounge, a state-of-the-art kitchen and dining room for breakfast, and a “snug,” a slim space to read or enjoy late-night conversation. While the kitchen is perfect for cappuccinos and eggs, it also works equally well for a corporate retreat with big-screen tech.
Each room is Georgian in style and named for a member of Jane Austen’s family—pink-themed Eliza is the most romantic room with a dramatic four-poster bed, while the James feels slightly more modern with its chartreuse couch.
You can easily become absorbed in the artwork and books, from Jane Austen first editions costing thousands of pounds housed in a glass bookcase, to an antique painting that owner Steven Collins told AFAR he “found for 20 quid” at a market in Nice. Collins and his wife, Jane, an interiors and antiques expert, designed the town house with Russell Sage Studio, incorporating their personal art collection and taste
- What to expect: An iconic New York City brand in London
- Neighborhood: Covent Garden
- Book now
New Yorkers will feel familiarity at London’s outpost of the Roman and Williams–designed NoMad, its first outside the United States. (It opened in May 2021.) To start, the library is filled with New York books on the shelves.
“It is a conversation between New York City and London,” Sydell Group CEO Andrew Zobler told AFAR. But it’s very London, built in a former police station and Magistrates’ Court, right in the middle of Covent Garden and across the street from the Royal Opera House. That location, in the center of the city’s nightlife, drives the hotel’s offerings.
The Royal Opera Suite, one of the hotel’s 91 rooms, feels fit for an diva with gold bathtub, rich fabrics, and light streaming in through tall windows.
The NoMad restaurant is set in a soaring atrium filled with greenery and light—it will appear on Instagram feeds everywhere. At New York’s NoMad, the roast chicken has long been a famous menu item. The London version is a chicken dinner for the whole table, at £70 a person, including starter and dessert.
For a more casual dining option, Side Hustle feels like a pub but serves Mexican street food like tacos and tostadas, something scarce in London. Another plus: the late-night cocktail lounge called Common Decency, which pairs inventive libations with nightly dancing, entertainment, and “unscripted surprises.”
- What to expect: A refurbed and renamed grande dame
- Neighborhood: Piccadilly
- Book now
In early 2021, the Dilly, previously under Marriott management, debuted a refurbished look and new name on London’s Piccadilly, walking distance from Piccadilly Circus, Soho, Chinatown, and the theater district to one side, and on the other, shopping emporium Fortnum & Mason, Hatchards (the oldest bookshop in the U.K.), and the Royal Academy of the Arts. Of the 283 rooms, the 12 Dilly suites shine, some with views of Parliament and Big Ben.
While many hotels erase history in favor of modernity, we love the slightly creaky floors and the gilded, original ceilings. There is a dance studio—the only one at a London hotel—where guests can take classes like ballroom, two indoor squash courts, the only outdoor terrace on Piccadilly for breakfast, and a greenhouse restaurant for its Peter Rabbit–themed afternoon tea.
London touches include partnerships with brands like flower shop Pulbrook & Gould and local perfumery Floris. Guests can hire a bike for £10 a day and take a picnic basket to Hyde Park or St. James’s Park. This is a fine choice for families who want to be in the center of London—and for dog owners, as it’s very dog friendly.
Beaverbrook Town House
- What to expect: A maximalist, residential-feeling Chelsea town house
- Neighborhood: Chelsea
- Book now
The former home of late press baron Lord Beaverbrook is now one of the most exciting new stays in posh Chelsea’s burgeoning hotel scene. Two restored 18th-century Georgian town houses, which sit opposite leafy Cadogan Place Gardens, were imbued with an art deco flavor, with colorful stained glass and lacquered walls. For the interiors, Beaverbrook creative director Sir Frank Lowe tapped London-based designer Nicola Harding, who also created the 11-room Garden House sister property at the Beaverbrook Estate in Surrey Hills, located about an hour’s drive outside of the city.
Referencing Lord Beaverbrook’s adoration for West End theater, the 14 oak-floored suites are each named and themed after a prominent London playhouse (the Old Vic; the Garrick), with posters and other memorabilia on the walls. The interiors are awash in bright colors and textures; furnishings nod to the 1920s with four-poster beds, lacquered mirrors, antique tables and armoires, patterned wingback chairs, and tufted velvet sofas.
Indeed, Beaverbrook Town House feels like a stay at a stylish friend’s home: The hotel did away with a formal reception area and instead welcomes guests in a cozy library lined with books about London. The hotel’s onsite Fuji Grill, lined with 19th-century woodblock prints from Japan (note the Hokusais and Hiroshiges), turns out tender grilled beef tenderloin and yuzu miso-spiked black cod, while the Omakase Sushi Bar offers a tasting menu of top-grade sushi and sashimi.
- What to expect: Live like an ecofriendly local in West London
- Neighborhood: Chiswick
- Book now
Billing itself as the world’s first net-zero hotel, the Room2 Chiswick, located in a riverside suburb in West London, aims to raise the bar on sustainable hospitality—and ensure that it’s accessible to all, with gently priced rates (from about $160 per night). The property uses close to 90 percent less energy than a comparable hotel, thanks in large part to renewable energy. Interiors and water are heated and cooled through solar and ground source heat pumps, while guest rooms have low-flow pressure showers and energy-efficient lighting. Water, energy use, and air quality are all monitored onsite for opportunities to improve efficiency.
The 86 guest rooms immerse guests in Chiswick’s rich arts and crafts heritage, which dates to the 19th century. The custom-designed furniture was made within 10 miles of the property with English timber approved by the Forest Stewardship Council, while an area workshop fashioned all the blue vitrified ceramic bathroom tiles. Colorful prints are the work of Roberta Fox, a West London–based artist known for her bold and playful style. For Anglophiles who want to get a feel for what it’s like to live like a true Londoner, the hotel is set up well for extended stays, with such features as kitchenettes, a laundry room, and a gym with Pelotons.
Products we write about are independently vetted and recommended by our editors. AFAR may earn a commission if you buy through our links, which helps support our independent publication.